Photo credit: From Iris Apfel: Accidental Icon by Iris Apfel; photograph of Iris Apfel by Bruce Weber. Published by Harper Design, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers; © 2018 by Iris Apfel.
3. When something excites you, go for it
"I never expected people to know my name or recognize my face. I never expected to be called a fashion icon. I never expected museums to exhibit my clothing and accessories. I never expected to be a cover girl or the face of a cosmetics company in my nineties...." Apfel writes. "I never expected anything. I just feel things in my gut and I do them. If something sounds exciting and interesting I do it — and then I worry about it later. Doing new things takes a lot of energy and strength. It's very tiring to make things happen, to learn how to master a skill, to push fears aside. Most people would rather just go with the flow; it's much easier. But it's not very interesting."
4. "To stay young, you have to think young"
"When you get older, as I often paraphrase an old family friend, if you have two of anything, chances are one of them is going to hurt when you get up in the morning. But you have to get up and move beyond the pain. If you want to stay young, you have to think young. Having a sense of wonder, a sense of humor, and a sense of curiosity — these are my tonic," she says. "They keep you young, childlike, open to new people and things, ready for another adventure. I never want to be an old fuddy-duddy; I hold the self-proclaimed record for being the World's Oldest Living Teenager and I intend to keep it that way."
5. Care about your own opinion above anyone else's
"I never tried to fit in. It's not that I went out of my way to be a rebel or do things that were not socially acceptable — unfortunately, I did have to learn how to play bridge when I was younger — but I learned early on that I have to be my own person to be content," she says.
"If you have to be all things to all people, you end up being 'nothin' to nobody.' The way I dress may be 'different' or 'eccentric' to some who feel the need to label, but that's of no concern to me. I don't dress to be stared at; I dress for myself. When you don't dress like everyone else, you don't have to think like everyone else."
6. But don't isolate yourself, either
"Here's the critical part: I know I'm not an island, but rather part of the main, to paraphrase [the poet] Mr. John Donne. I fit in, but in my way. I have never been much of a conformist on any front, actually, and it hasn't hurt me yet in my ninety-some years, so I think I've been doing something right...But if you don't try to be part of things, forget it. That's when your originality is going to work against you. Fit in first and then step out. There is a difference between being perceived of as original and being accepted, even loved for it, and being perceived as different and resented for it. You can have your cake and eat it, too."
7. Money doesn't buy success
"If you're happy, have found love, are surrounded by good people, doing what you like and giving back to others, that's success. Selling your soul for a buck is not worth the real price you pay — not to me, anyways," says Apfel.