Like most 20-somethings, I associate Oprah with sweet childhood memories: floor play after a morning nap, snack time, and tea parties with mom. Hearing Oprah’s voice has always been reminiscent of these incredibly early and sweet memories; at the time, even if I didn’t quite totally understand everything that she said, I understood how her words made me feel.
So when WBEZ came out with the “Making Oprah” podcast, I jumped right in. This time, though, it was much more about what she said (though it did conjure up all the feels). And what she said, in a nutshell, was that regardless of your gender, race, or color, being purposeful in your business endeavors will bring you success. Here’s how:
Run your own race. Oprah was always giving her team this advice, and when it wasn’t this arrangement of words, it was “stay in your own lane”. It’s the same thing said differently: do what you do best. Don’t worry about what your neighbor, your friend, or your competitor is doing. You do you.
Pursue business with intention. The early years of Oprah’s show often relied on tabloid-y topics. The shift in the Oprah show came when she wanted to be a force for good instead of just doing no harm.
Oprah’s staff was charged with writing down show ideas and submitting them. All ideas were to be accompanied by an intention so Oprah herself could find a thread of truth in the show and hold herself in the center of that truth as the development of the show progressed. She wanted to be more than a daytime talk show - she wanted to be a positive force.
The results were incredible, and the message is simple: be intentional in your professional truths. There’s a difference between being “good” and “good enough.”
Go head-first when you try something new. We’ve all heard of the Oprah Winfrey book club -- perhaps the only book club ever that didn’t take place at your best friend’s house over wine and conversation about everything apart from the book itself that you’ve all claimed to have just read.
Yes, unlike you, she actually helped so many authors earn the bestseller list and is credited for getting the whole country reading again (no big deal).
What’s striking to me about this endeavor was the excitement and grit Oprah displayed in launching this initiative. Charging your entire audience (and the country, for that matter) to participate in a virtual book club is something that could have easily fell flat on its face. But in the podcast, Oprah herself said her most favorite moment was introducing her book club concept.
She dove right into this idea and didn’t look back even when uncertainty was at bay. You shouldn’t either.
The details matter. A whole heck of a lot. The beloved “you get a car, you get a car, you get a car!” episode is magic. If you haven’t yet listened to the recording of this show, or more specifically, this moment, I highly encourage you do so.
Oprah’s staff worked tirelessly to tie bows around as many cars as there were people in the audience. And when Oprah saw the finished product, she told everyone who had just pulled an all-nighter, “they’re too small.” And when she shook the boxes that held the keys to these cars as they clinked around inside, she said, “they’re not right.”
Oprah was obsessed with the details. And you should be too.
Know when it’s time to end the chapter. Eventually, it became too difficult for the Oprah show to top what it had done. Oprah joked that the team was starting to suggest ideas like, “what about outer space?”
She loved the show enough to know when it was time to say goodbye. Honor the life of your company by ending it at just the right time.
What Oprah offered women, the African-American community, and mothers and girls everywhere was the knowledge that, with a little grit, perseverance, and passion, you can achieve anything. She did. And in many ways, because of her, now so can you.
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