Betty White: ‘You Don't Give Up' and 4 Other Pieces of Sage Advice From the Beloved Star

Gus Ruelas | Reuters

In 2018, Betty White, who died at age 99 on Friday, told Parade that she’d like to be remembered “warmly,” and with a laugh.

White was indeed widely loved for her positivity and sass. But she also had a legendary work ethic: As of 2014, White held the Guinness World Records record for Longest TV Career for a Female Entertainer. She made her small screen debut in 1939 and starred in myriad hits from "The Mary Tyler Moore Show" and "The Carol Burnett Show" to "The Golden Girls" and "Hot in Cleveland." She even hosted "Saturday Night Live" at age 88. According to, White's most recent television role was in 2019, as the voice of character “Bitey White” on TV short, "Forky Asks a Question."

Over the years, the actress had sage advice about both life and work. In honor of White and her long life and career, here are some of her best bits of wisdom.

On passion

“Everybody needs a passion. That’s what keeps life interesting,” White wrote in her 2011 book, “If You Ask Me (And of Course You Won’t).”

“If you live without passion, you can go through life without leaving any footprints.”

On attitude

Be an optimist. "Just looking at the positive side and not dwelling on the downside. Takes up too much energy being negative,” she told People in January. 

And a sense of humor is critical, she said. "Don't take yourself too seriously. You can lie to others … but you cannot lie to yourself.”

On determination

According to Parade, White was repeatedly turned down when she first tried to make it as an actress, as she was considered “unphotogenic.” Obviously, she persevered.  

“You just keep plugging away,” White told Parade in 2018. “You don’t give up.”

On work and interests

White, who once said that the word "retirement” was not part of her vocabulary, told Katie Couric in 2017 that it’s important to stay busy. 

“It's not hard to find things you're interested in, but enjoy them and indulge them, and I think that can keep you on your toes,” White said.

On career advice

White’s career advice to young people was do the work and be prepared, she told Parade in 2018. “Don’t think you can wing it, because you can’t,” she said. 

Even in show business, it’s “fun, but take your business seriously, because it is a serious business,” she said. 

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