I have never understood those old videos of women crying and fainting over the Beatles when they came to the U.S. for the first time. Or the tweens that fully hyperventilate when JBiebs walks by. I always thought it was so strange to worship someone that intensely who you don’t even know.
Then Oprah took the stage. And I got it.
I lost my shit.
I wasn’t sure what was going to happen when I walked into Vector Arena in Auckland, New Zealand with my two best friends, but after taking our seats I knew I didn’t stand a chance. Her magic was palpable from the second she yelled HELLLLLLOOOOOO NEW ZEALAND.
The same magic that set me on my path decades ago before I ever knew what a path was sat right in front of me. I’ve watched Oprah from the time I could walk. I’ve written her letters as a young girl (who knows what they said). And as an adult, I watch videos of her speak at any chance I can get—both as a source of inspiration for my own life and as an obsessive student of her magic. My perfect Friday night? Oprah and Chill.
It’s one thing to watch her through a screen, though. And there’s another to literally feel her energy. She gave so many gifts in the form of elegant lessons and soul-busting inspiration that I can’t wait to pass on. So from the Gospel of Oprah, here’s the aha’s that rocked my world…
Everyday is your legacy.
Bam. Oprah relayed this advice she got from her mentor Maya Angelou. Every day, every person, every energy you put out, every word, every smile, every life you touch…that is your legacy. It puts such an emphasis on all of your moments. Yes, the big acts of service and the massive things we create are meaningful, but our legacy is built in how we show up every damn day. Let that #truthbomb sink in.
Obsessively express yourself.
One of O’s favorite letters ever came from an audience member in the late 80’s that said “Watching you be yourself makes me want to be more of my self.” As someone who has some women I really look up to, it’s easy to want to do things like them. Be like them. Create like them. We all have those people. But our success will be a measure of how much we can fully and unapologetically be ourself. And when we do that, we inspire others to do the same.
Let no one keep you from your journey.
Not your parents. Not doubters. Not yourself. There will be so many roadblocks. SO many no’s. So many times you think that you’re crazy and out of your league. But don’t let them win. When you know what you’re here to do, you have to do it in a big (and sometimes crazy) way. When Oprah was leaving Baltimore to go host a show in Chicago (which is where her whole career eventually took off) she was told that she’d tank. It’d be a disaster. She’d fail. If she had let those opinions sway her, we wouldn’t have her gifts. Let no one keep you from expressing yours.
Greatness is determined by service (and this is your purpose).
We have such an emphasis on what we want. What wealth we are creating. It is so massively self indulgent. But that success won’t ever fulfill us. It won’t ever create greatness. Oprah quoted MLK in this one that your greatness is determined by service. So, what is your measurement of success? What can you give…give…give… What’s your why that is bigger than you?
Intention rules the outcome.
Want to know the secret behind Oprah’s massively successful show? She attributes it to intention, which was learned the hard way. She recounted stories of where a man came on her show with a wife and his mistress and on live television told everyone that his mistress was pregnant, horrifying the wife and massively embarrassing Oprah. She said “never” again and told her staff that from now on all the work, pitches, guests, opportunities, etc must be presented with an intention and that intention needs to resonate with her own personal truth. It has to be an intention she can get behind. So whether it’s writing, creating a new product, waking up in the morning, doing a favor, making a call—do it with a specific intention because that’s what rules the outcome.
What you talk about is what you get.
We all remember when the media was shitting on OWN, Oprah’s new network. She spoke of that tough time and said that every time someone asked her about it, she talked about “the struggle.” And what kept showing up for her? A struggle. Quoting Newton’s Third Law of Motion: for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. Meaning, the energy of that thought swings right back around to you. What records do you have on repeat—are you always talking about how bad dating is? Or stressful work is? How much you miss home? How dramatic your siblings are? How expensive the city has become? If that’s what you’re always talking about, that’s what will keep showing up. Change the story and you change the outcome.
Be responsible for the energy you bring into this room.
This is a sign that Oprah has outside of her office. Holy AMEN. Whether you’re joining a meeting, sending a text, or walking into a room. You have a massive responsibility for the energy you bring and the energy you give. It’s really the only thing you can control. And regardless of the energy you’re receiving, she reminded us that the only power you have is over your own personal energy field. Yes. Yes. and YES.
Whispers are messages.
One of the cool things Oprah talked about is how her journey is directly related to how much she listened to and followed her own spiritual GPS, she calls it. And that the messages of the universe are guiding you on your path, they’re telling you what to do and not do, and our success is a direct reflection of how much we listen to the “whispers.” They’re our messages. And the more we listen, the farther we get. The more we ignore, the bigger obstacles and eventually crises we have ahead of us. Listen to the whispers. Recount the whispers you once ignored. Remind yourself of the whispers that meant something to you.
Lessons from things she never said:
As someone who not only loves Oprah’s message, I’m obsessed with how she does what she does – you know, changing people’s lives with her words.
Oprah immediately engages with the room. She had taken the time to learn pronunciations of the Native New Zealand culture. She made comments about the beauty of it and the special nature of the Kiwi mindset. She immediately created intimacy among a massive arena by personalizing her show. She got relational. And it made all of us love her. Note to self—on doing homework. on finding commonalities. on showing you care.
Know “Your Threads” and Share Them… Often
There was only one story in two hours that I hadn’t heard before and it was still the most riveting 120 minutes of my life. Oprah has nailed storytelling, especially her own, and the life events that create the arc of her purpose. Oprah spoke a bit about knowing how the threads of your life get you to where you are and to pay attention to them. It was such a reminder to get clear on the stories that help tell your story—why you want that job, how you got to where you are, why this matters to you, when you “knew”—because that rise allows others to see themselves in your story and feel the energy to create greatness.
Own Your Success
Even though Oprah was so good at being a normal human, it made her superhuman—making fun of herself, sharing her failures, talking about her early hardship—she also was the first person to own her massive success. She said “I have this life because…” I listened (to the forces bigger than her), I followed (the messages she heard), I was always learning and curious. It was amazing to me the way she took such unapologetic ownership for what she had created or done. In a world where so many of us shy away from that directness, it was a reminder how authentic it feels, how inspiring it is, and how good it is to hear. From now on I’ll have “Phuck ya I did this” ready to roll.
Needless to say, Oprah changed my life in a single night. I’m taking these life lessons and figuring out how exactly to implement them in my life and in the coming year. Hopefully one or two of these gifts encourages you to do the same.