I am a big Oprah fan. I love and admire both her triumphant personal story and her tremendous professional success. I feel like if I knew her in real life we would be friends. She is a “friend in my head” as Wendy Williams calls it! My best friend Danietra and I often joke that we are like Oprah and Gayle. We switch roles between the two, although I’m usually Oprah lol.
There are so many quotes, sayings, and advice from Oprah that have impacted my life, too many to count. But this particular saying is one that has always stood out. Many people look at successful individuals and think they are just lucky. But what she is saying here is that what appears to be luck is actually being prepared for the right opportunity at the right time. We could use Oprah herself as an example. She didn’t just stumble upon a career in media. Oprah was already doing the news part time as a senior in high school. She also won a beauty pageant and became Miss Black Tennessee at the age of 17. She attended Tennessee State University and majored in communications. After college she became a full fledge news anchor, and then joined a local talk show. She went on to have her own talk show…..and the rest is history. Obviously, that is a very condensed version of her life, it wasn’t meant to be a complete biography. I wanted to show that before she started the infamous Oprah Winfrey Show, she was preparing herself for the opportunity.
We also know that part of her career has been focused on showcasing other successful people. Her insight is not just based on her own experience, but from researching the success of other people from around the world for decades.
I recently read a book called Outliers: The Story of Success by Malcolm Gladwell. Quite a good read. The gist of the book is the same as Oprah’s philosophy. And he actually puts a number on it. Malcolm theorized that it takes 10 years of practice and hard work to reach your Tipping Point (which also happens to be the title of another book of his). He used several examples to prove his theory, one of the most noteworthy was Bill Gates. Oh, people may acknowledge that Bill is smart, but they still consider him lucky in some regards. But Malcolm went all the way back to childhood and showed how Bill had access to one of the first computer systems at his school. When other kids were out playing, Bill was sitting in front of that computer hour after hour. Malcolm also talks about luck in regards to your birthday. Not in terms of astrology, but in terms of the period in history that you are born in. Bill Gates was born and came into age when the first computers were being developed. Just as the children in this current era are being born as social media has developed. What era we are born into may affect the “specific” opportunities that are available, but remember there are always opportunities, we just have to open our eyes to them.
Now you may be thinking, Oprah Winfrey and Bill Gates, these are both billionaires, I can’t relate to them! However, this same concept is true in our own lives, but for arguments sake, think about some people in your own life who were prepared when the right opportunity presented itself. Let’s examine the everyday people, who most people consider successful.
- Your Pastor – He or She most likely studied Theology, or went to some kind of biblical education center. Then He or She started with some speaking engagements, religious conferences, and/or teaching bible class. They also probably worked under the tutelage of an existing pastor as associate pastor, minister, etc. They gained experience and then when a church had a need for a new Pastor, they were ready. Or maybe they were then ready to start their own ministry from scratch.
- Your doctor – Your doctor didn’t just start practicing medicine out of the blue. I don’t care how smart or gifted you are, in this country you have to attend college and then medical school to practice medicine. And once you are in the field, you have to prepare yourself for specific opportunities within the profession, whether it be a specific specialty, administration, or research are some examples.
- The Director, President, or C.E.O. of the company you work for – The person at the helm of your place of employment didn’t just land there by chance. They worked hard to get there. Depending on the industry, they may have a college degree, they may be gifted at something relevant to the company, they may have the “name” or the “face” needed for the company. Let me note that we ALL know that some C.E.O.’s or people in other important positions did not earn them. Some people were born into the right family, some are the right race, some lied, scammed, or slept their way to the top. Yes, there have always been stories like this, and there always will be. However, sometimes we let those stories overshadow the ones who actually worked hard for it. And those are the ones we are focusing on today.
So, what about you? What is your dream job? What is your ideal career? Do you want to be a teacher, nurse, entrepreneur, beautician, business manager, social worker, accountant or chef? How about thinking outside of the box, could you be an astronaut, hospital administrator, fashion designer, buyer at a department store, jewelry designer, make-up artist, set designer, casting director, homicide investigator, forensic scientist, FBI agent, politician, campaign strategist, computer programmer, video game developer, marketing or public relations manager, data manager, luxury car salesperson, college professor, product tester, dentist, oral surgeon, anesthesiologist, zoologist, or a veterinarian? Why did I list so many career choices? Because this is a self-development site for women in poverty, and often women who have been living in poverty their entire life do not know the many options that are available to them. Often they only know the typical teacher, nurse, government job, and the auto plant. I want you to open your mind, expand your options, let your imagination take you places you never imagined YOU could go.
For each of these career options there are things you need to do to prepare. Go to college, take a class, get some training, get a mentor, do some research, read a book, or volunteer. What are you doing to position yourself for when that opportunity presents itself? Will you have the knowledge, do you know the terminology and the lingo of the field, are you dressing or looking the part, can you pass a drug test and background check? If you crossed paths with someone in your future industry today, let’s say the hiring manager, what would you say to him or her? Would you have something to offer? Could you get an interview?
And what about overall life goals, other than your career?
If you want to own your own home – Are you working on your credit score? Are you educating yourself on interest rates and the different types of mortgages?
Want your chid(ren) to go to college – Are you encouraging their academics? Extracurricular activities that could lead to a scholarship? Are you exposing them to the collegiate atmosphere?
Trying to break negative behavior patterns – Are you surrounding yourself with positive people? What is the condition of your thought life? Are you reading the Word of God? Other inspirational materials? Are you still hanging around the same people, doing the same things?
If you want something different, you have to do something different.
I leave you with these final thoughts. Don’t count on luck, start preparing yourself for success. Be prepared for when that golden opportunity presents itself. For the most part, success doesn’t just happen, you have to prepare for it.