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Even at 100 years old, Norman Lear loves to work.
In this week's issue of PEOPLE, the legendary Hollywood writer and producer — who turned 100 on Wednesday — reflects on his extraordinary career, opens up about the lessons he's learned, and shares why he doesn't plan on slowing down any time soon.
"My awards and accolades mean a great deal to me, but they don't mean as much as the drive to the studio today," says Lear, who is celebrating his centennial birthday with family in Vermont. "I still explode with joy, excitement, interest and utter delight every time."
With humor and humility, Lear has spent more than 60 years creating groundbreaking television series and beloved movies.
"I've never chosen anything to do that I didn't wish to do," he says.
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The World War II combat veteran credits his lengthy list of achievements — from addressing social and political issues through '70s sitcoms such as All in the Family, Maude and The Jeffersons to becoming the oldest person to win an Emmy Award at age 97 in 2019 for Live in Front of a Studio Audience: Norman Lear's 'All in the Family' And 'The Jeffersons' — to one thing: persistence.
"I've had my own share of difficult periods," he admits. "I think the essence of what I'm expressing has been with me always."
"I like getting up in the morning," he adds. "I have always liked it because I've always had something to do. I was born that way, and it is a great gift. As I talk about it, I accept it as a gift."
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Currently, Lear has 23 projects in development with Brent Miller, his business partner and president of his production company Act III, including a Who's The Boss? reboot starring Tony Danza and Alyssa Milano and a Good Times animated revival coming to Netflix.
"Bringing joy to people is what it's all about," says Lear, who notes that he has no plans of slowing down any time soon. "Laughter and joy add time to one's life."
Jean Baptiste Lacroix/WireImage Norman Lear
For someone who has been through it all, Lear says he's often asked for advice about how to successfully make it in Hollywood — and he always has the perfect answer.
"The advice I've given younger people in the business, since I've been asked... is, go with your gut," he says. "Listen hard to what other people are saying about something you think you know about, and everything else. When you feel you have listened hard enough and still are convinced about something, go with it. Don't be talked out of it."
For more on Norman Lear, pick up the latest issue of PEOPLE, on newsstands Friday, or subscribe here.
For now, Lear continues to enjoy his fulfilling life — one day at a time.
"I could not be more grateful for sitting here today," he says. "How lucky am I?"