The beloved Shirley Temple passed away on Monday night at the age of 85. She is survived by her three children, as well as grand- and great-grandchildren–all of whom she described as her greatest accomplishments in life. Indeed, she lived a life of exceptional accomplishments, and got started just soon after birth.

Shirley Temple starred in a string of box-office hits catapulting her to superstardom in the 1930s, surpassing the popularity of stars like Bing Crosby, Clark Gable, Joan Crawford, and Gary Cooper according to a Motion Picture Herald poll. Temple performed in over 50 movies, most of which were filmed when she was between the ages of 4 and 10. And while she was never nominated for an Academy Award, she did receive a special juvenile Oscar in 1934 when she was 6 years old. She earned four million dollars from the age of three till the time she was 12 (which is equivalent to $64 million today) and she added her foot and hand prints to the forecourt at Grauman’s Chinese Theatre in 1934 at the ripe old age of 5. In 1960 Shirley received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame honoring her work in films, and she even had a soft cocktail named after her!

What made her such a tremendous star? Was it her smile, her charisma, her adorable curls (all 56 of them)? The truth is she was one of the biggest stars of all time because of her extraordinary skill level, as well as a tremendously mature work ethic. She could sing, dance, and act with unprecedented expertise and mastery, which takes an enormous amount of work regardless of her God-given, natural talent. And it was said, she was a true professional from day one. Shirley is known for exhibiting a work ethic that outpaced most of her adult co-stars. As an adult she explained, “I started working at three and a half, and I learned that time is money, and it’s ‘work,’ not ‘play.’” Even at a young age, she could learn pages of dialogue and complex dance steps with some of the best dancers in Hollywood. Allan Dwan directed Shirley in Heidi and Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm; when he spoke with filmmaker-author Peter Bogdanovich for the book “Who the Devil Made It: Conversations with Legendary Film Directors,” he described Shirley as, “just absolutely marvelous, greatest in the world. With Shirley, you’d just tell her once and she’d remember the rest of her life. Whatever it was she was supposed to do–she’d do it….And if one of the actors got stuck, she’d tell him what his line was–she knew it better than he did.” And she could cry on cue when the scene required it. Shirley did whatever the role called for while always exhibiting that contagiously cheerful personality during the especially difficult economic times of the Depression. President Franklin D. Roosevelt remarked, “It is a splendid thing that for just fifteen cents an American can go to a movie and look at the smiling face of a baby and forget his troubles.”

Not surprisingly, Shirley Temple maintained her work ethic when she left the entertainment industry. She brought all her experience as a child star into the next phase of her life as a political stateswoman. “Politicians are actors too, don’t you think?” she once said. “Usually if you like people and you’re outgoing, not a shy little thing, you can do pretty well in politics.” She was named as a delegate to the United Nations in 1969 by President Nixon, was the U.S. Chief of Protocol, U.S. Ambassador to Czechoslovakia and Ghana, and a Delegate to the United Nations. Is it any wonder she was awarded the Life Achievement Award from the American Center of Films for Children, Kennedy Center Honors, and the Screen Actor’s Guild Lifetime Achievement Award?

So, in Shirley Temple’s honor, start where you’re at now, and work your tuckus off, spirited Thespian! It’s the best way to get to where you need to go. Shirley herself once quipped, “I have one piece of advice for those of you who want to receive the lifetime achievement award: Start early.”