“It’s a big, hard world out there. But you’re ready for it.”
In a commencement speech to the graduating batch of Smith College, 2017, former anchor, TV show host, and actor Oprah Winfrey urged the students to understand, appreciate, and execute their will to become ‘successful’ in life. In a similar speech made at Skidmore College around the same time, the media Mogul listed her own hard-lined experiences to show that real success can only be achieved, when you ask yourself and answer, some extremely personal and introspective questions.
For many of the students and their proud families, the event marked a moment of clarity.
“It is understanding that there is an alignment between who you are and what you do, is what authentic empowerment is.”
Oprah spoke about how on interviewing members of the Ku Klux Klan, she realised that instead of exposing the hate they propagated, the airing of the interview benefitted the Klan. The episode was suiting their purpose as they were using her and the channel to become more ‘popular’. And this, she said, did not settle well with her.
Following this episode, she told her producers that working with this channel and serving someone else’s outlook- was not something that she wanted. Later, when she started her own show, it became the most watched among a majority of the world’s households for several years. Oprah felt one with its purpose and ‘aligned’ with her job, and used the showl to put forth her own identity Her example shows, that it is imperative that your work becomes an extended version of who you are—it will push you to do what you do- all the better.
“…How to be used in the greater service to life. Ask this question and the answer will be returned and rewarded to you with fulfilment, which is the major definition of success, to me.”
To Oprah, fulfilment is directly synonymous with her idea of success. Citing her own experience, she states that one can only understand fulfilment, if they don’t have to approach another for the answer to their questions. It is only when they can fend for themselves, when they become self-reliant, they begin to emerge as the winner in their own stories. While seeking help and recommendations, we often forget that we are our greatest support-system. Next time you need help, look inwards. More often than not, you’ll find that you had the solution all along.
"Everybody has what I call this instinct, this inner voice. Every decision I've ever made that led me to the right space and place in my life, I got there because I relied on that inner voice.”
When Oprah made the decision of leaving the network to go launch her own show, she knew that she was taking a huge risk. She knew that she might fall flat on her face. However, as she said in her speech, she had this inner-voice urging her on, telling her that this was the right thing to do. And so she listened to it, and as a result, she is now one of the richest women in the world. All of us wrestle with making the ‘correct decisions’, no matter how big or small. There is always the possibility that we could make a huge mistake. However, we all have that voice in our head, telling us what we need to do. And more often than not, it helps us make some of the best decisions of our lives. What is your intention?
“I decided that the notion of intention, knowing why you want to do something, not just doing it but understanding the why behind the doing, could also change the paradigm for every show.” Adding to this in a different speech, she said: “The reason we were number one for 25 solid years is because we intended to be."
Inspired by the works of Gary Zukav, one of the greatest influences in her life, Oprah says that without intention, life never picks up and success becomes a far-off dream. However, when you intend to make something of your work, your ambitions, and your dreams, it pays off and you get where you need to be.
Oprah passionately believes that listening to her own desires and acting upon them with great intention got her where she is today. Maybe it’s time, you try the same.