Paula Abdul shares 3 key lessons that have guided her extraordinary career

Paula Abdul: Make sure to always have a backup plan

After a long career in the entertainment world, former "American Idol" judge Paula Abdul is arguably one of America's most famous performers, and she's learned a lot on her way to the top.

Abdul talked to CNBC about the lessons that most influenced her career. We've highlighted three of them below.

1. You have to prepare

Interestingly, the best business advice Abdul ever got is relatively simple. It came from Gene Kelly, a dancer and actor who influenced her career the most, she said.

"Fail to prepare, prepare to fail," she remembered him saying.

Throughout her career, Abdul said she's always prepared many more ideas to fall back on in case her original plans did not work out.

2. Be persistent

For Abdul, preparation paid off big time years ago when she was trying to catch her first break by auditioning for a spot as a Laker girl. The experience also taught her another important lesson: Persistence is critical.

While Abdul ultimately landed the Lakers spot, it took several tries to get noticed amid a sea of more than 1,000 girls.

"I remember I got cut before I could dance," she said of her first audition. She tried again, this time using a different name. Again, she got cut. It wasn't until the third shot that she finally made it through.

It shows the power of perseverance. "Never give up," she said.

3. Give yourself a timeline

Paula Abdul
D Dipasupil | Getty Images Portrait

Abdul recommends that you chase your dreams — but within reason.

"If you're passionate about what you do and you know that you have some talent, put your all into it," she said. "Give yourself a certain period of time and not a long period of time — like maybe three years to five years — and give it your all."

"And if it doesn't turn out, you have to align yourself with other things that you're passionate about, because you could end up being one of the greatest teachers."

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