Shonda Rhimes is an incredibly successful TV producer and writer, creator of the hit shows Grey’s Anatomy and Scandal. She owns Thursday nights on ABC. But success doesn’t always equal happiness.


We’re exploring Rhimes’ book Year of Yes, about how she started saying yes to the things that scare her and made some powerful changes about herself. One of those changes was discovering the power of play.

Rhimes describes herself as a workaholic and says she finds her joy in work. She describes it as her “hum” in a recent Ted Talk. But she’s also had moments where her job just wasn’t fulfilling. She had lost her hum.

“What do you do when the thing you do, the work you love starts to taste like dust?”

She found her answer when she said yes to playing with her kids whenever they ask, even if she’s walking out the door. Now she’s quick to point out that it’s not some magical cure. She doesn’t like playing. She feels awkward and itches for her phone the entire time. But the love and joy started to do its thing.

She found her hum again, though realized it didn’t need to be rooted in her work. It was simply the joy and love of life:

“My tiny humans show me how to live and the hum of the universe fills me up. … It’s not about playing with your kids, it’s about joy, it’s about playing in general.”

Simply put, “Work doesn’t work without play.”

Rhimes discovered that play allowed her to be open to the joy and love in the world. And that allowed her to rediscover the joy in her work.

“It takes a little time, but after a few months, one day the floodgates open and there is a rush and I find myself standing in my office filled with an unfamiliar melody, a full on groove inside me and around me, and it sends me spinning with ideas. And the humming road is open and I can drive it and drive it, and I love working again. But now, I like that hum, but I don’t love that hum. I don’t need that hum. I am not that hum, that hum is not me—not any more. I am bubbles and sticky fingers and dinner with friends. I am that hum, life’s hum, love’s hum. Work’s hum is still a piece of me, it is just no longer all of me.”

Watch Rhimes’ Ted talk for more:

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