Tag Archives: Oprah

Finding your voice is a challenge everyone faces, not just writers. Substitute the term “voice” for one that relates to you – mojo, personality, style, niche. Whether you’re a business person, technical mind, tradesperson or creative type, everyone possesses a distinct uniqueness that’s waiting to be discovered.

I came to this realization last night during the American Idol semi-finals. Before the finalists performed, they aired their audition tapes from several months earlier. As someone who’s been watching the show all season, the transformation from nervous, uncertain amateurs to confident, polished professionals was startling. Early on, the singers were simply trying to prove they could sing, but as the contest progressed they were tasked with showing the world who they are as artists. 

For the contestants, the past several months have been filled with praise, criticism, mentoring from industry heavy-hitters and a whole lot of work. Those who failed to identify their sweet spot fell by the wayside, leaving those who did. There’s Scotty, with the deep, velvety tone who carved out his niche in country  music, Haley, whose throaty growl brings an edgy new life to classic rock and Lauren, whose saccharine sweet voice gives wings to her pop-country renditions. Three very different artists with one thing in common: they’ve found their voices. 

Discovering your voice is like finding a key that can unlock your greatness. Don’t believe me? Look at some of the legends of our day, like renowned chef, Bobby Flay, whose passion for cooking exploded when he discovered his culinary voice in American Southwestern cuisine. Or Oprah, whose broadcast career exploded after she left reporting and became a philanthropic daytime talk show host. Or Tina Fey, who found her niche when she took her playwriting and acting education and honed in on improv and comedy. 

I believe we all have a voice – an element that’s distinctly us – just waiting to be unlocked.

Once it is, anything is possible.

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Do you remember your first job?

Mine was babysitting.

Which is ironic because “good with children” is not typically the first (or second, or third) descriptor people apply to me.

Creative? Sure.

Good writer? Hopefully.

Good with children? Not so much. 

In fact, just the other day my younger brother and sister reminded me that when I used to babysit them, I would call the cops when they were bad. Unbeknownst to them, “the cops” was my BFF, Pam. But apparently, my tough love – which I thought was hysterical - was utterly terrifying for the little monsters and they’re still traumatized to this day. (About which I don’t feel totally bad because BELIEVE ME, they deserved it).

Despite my questionable practices, somehow my babysitting business boomed. I’m not sure if it was my homemade flyers or my eager smile and “cute” freckles that won people over…but I was in demand. So much so that I frequented The Wall (hey, remember when they had actual music stores?!) and Gap with my earnings.

My babysitting business was my first brush with entrepreneurship and – except for the actual act of babysitting – I dug it. I loved spreading the word, drumming up new business and watching as my profits – and music collection – grew.

What’s shocking is that some of the most successful people in the world had humble beginnings just like this. Even billionaires, like Warren Buffet, Oprah, Michael Bloomberg, Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Giorgio Armani and George Lucas weren’t above parking cars and paper routes. In fact, according the MSN Money article, 7 Billionaires’ First Jobs, they all started at the bottom just like you and me. 

If they started out as assistants and grocery store clerks, just think of the potential within all of us…

What was your first job?

As you’ve probably heard by now, Oprah announced on Friday that next season will mark the end of The Oprah Winfrey Show. After I got over the initial shock, I started thinking about dreams and the idea of calling it quits. The whole concept fascinates me because, let’s face it, most of us are so busy simply trying get our dreams off the ground, that calling it quits is the last thing we’ve got to worry about! But I suppose for many people, especially those whose dreams have a shelf life, at some point you might have to ask yourself: when is the right time to say good-bye?

Over the years, we’ve seen many people struggle with the decision. For some, the decision is measured in dollar signs, for others physical ability. But for many who have been lucky enough to live their dreams, it’s likely become the very fabric of who they are and saying good-bye means parting with a very important piece of their identity. One recent example that jumps to mind is football player, Brett Favre, who’s been in and out of retirement numerous times over the last four years. A few years earlier, the world watched as rapper, Jay-Z, ended his short-lived retirement and rejoined the music industry. For most dream chasers, I would guess the decision to call it quits is highly personal and doesn’t come easily at all.

In Oprah’s case, she started The Oprah Winfrey Show in 1986 and in the twenty-four years that followed her career exploded making it the most watched daytime talk show in history, launching Oprah’s fame and wealth into a category very few have ever reached. Before our very eyes, Oprah became the quintessential rags-to-riches sucess story. She’s proof that anything is possible and her accomplishments remind us that no dream is too big. So how did she decide to put an end to it all? Here’s what Oprah had to say about her decision:

“Twenty-four years ago, on September 8, 1986, I went live from Chicago to launch the first national Oprah Winfrey Show. I was beyond excited…and as you all might expect, a little nervous. I knew then what a miraculous opportunity I had been given, but I certainly never could have imagined the “yellow brick road” of blessings that have led me to this moment with you. These years with you, our viewers, have enriched my life beyond all measure. And you all have graciously invited me into your living rooms, into your kitchens and into your lives. And for some of you longtime Oprah viewers, you have literally “grown up” with me—we’ve grown together. You had your families, and you raised your children and you left a spot for me in your morning or your afternoon, depending on when The Oprah Show airs in your town. So I just wanted to say that whether you’ve been here with me from the beginning or you came on board last week, I want you all to know that my relationship with you is one that I hold very dear. And your trust in me, the sharing of your precious time every day with me has brought me the greatest joy I have ever known. So here we are, halfway through the season, 24, and it still means as much to me to spend an hour every day with you as it did back in 1986. So why walk away and make next season the last? Here is the real reason: I love this show. This show has been my life. And I love it enough to know when it’s time to say good-bye.” 

How will you know when it’s time to say good-bye?

For more on Oprah’s good-bye: http://bit.ly/85Sx9O

“I believe that one of life’s greatest risks is never daring to risk.”

- Oprah Winfrey

O Magazine CoverHave you seen this month’s cover of O Magazine? The title of the feature article, “Who Are You Meant to Be?”, practically shouted to me from its shelf in the grocery store. Naturally, I was intrigued since this is a topic we discuss frequently here at Beyond the Gray and, of course, I was eager to see what Oprah had to say on the matter.

One article that caught my attention was, “How Oprah Winfrey Found Her Purpose,” featured on Oprah.com.  I don’t know about you, but Oprah absolutely fascinates me. She is the quintessential rags-to-riches success story; the odds were stacked against her all her life, yet she managed to become one of the most influential people of our time. In the article she admits, “It’s not that I’ve always known who I would be. It was just very clear to me from an early age who I wouldn’t be.” She goes on to describe how, even though she was expected to become a maid or servant, something inside of her told her that her life would amount to more than that. She followed that inner voice and pursued her love of teaching and inspiring others…and look at where it’s taken her.

What’s your inner voice telling you about your purpose?