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Dolly Parton Credits Her Long-Term Success to This 6-Word Piece of Advice From Her Mother

David Crotty | Patrick McMullan | Getty Images

When Dolly Parton was young, her mother gave her a piece of advice: "Always keep something back for you."

Those six words have helped the 76-year-old country music superstar maintain success through six decades of showbusiness, Parton told Apple Music Country's "The Kelleigh Bannen Show" on Tuesday. The phrase, which applies equally to business and work-life balance, essentially means give to others, but meet your own financial and emotional needs first — and Parton said any young person could benefit from that lesson.

"You can give what you've got, but don't give it all away," Parton said. "I pray also that God will, you know, give me enough to share and enough to spare when it comes to my money, but also to myself. Let me share everything I can, but let me keep me."

The 10-time Grammy winner also said the guidance has shaped her career, particularly in the beginning, when she was learning how to connect with audiences while staying true to herself. By keeping parts of her life private, she was able to take ownership in what made her music – and stage appearance – unique.

"Even in the early days, a lot of people told me I should change my look or nobody's going to ever take me serious," Parton said. "I thought, 'Yeah, they will, when they see [the talent] I've got.'"

That self-confidence has paved her way to financial success. In August 2021, Forbes estimated the singer-songwriter's net worth at $350 million. Parton has notably donated millions of dollars over the years, to causes like education, animal preservation and Covid-19 vaccine research.

On Tuesday, Parton said the strategy has led to personal fulfillment throughout her career, too: She only commits to projects that she thinks could benefit from her skillset. This past Friday, Parton released her latest studio album, "Run, Rose, Run." On Monday, she and author James Patterson co-released a new book by the same name, a novel about navigating the music industry in Nashville.

For Parton, her mother's advice even applies to her willingness to keep working hard at age 76. She said she partially still writes songs and wears "paint, powder, makeup" on stage because her fans enjoy it, and it showcases who she is on the inside. But primarily, she said, she works because she finds the process itself rewarding.

"I take myself more serious as a songwriter than anything else," she said. "I always say I've written about 3,000 songs and three good ones, but I just love the joy of writing."

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