"Leadership is the key to everything." That's a running mantra for Stedman Graham. I've heard it in so many conversations over the years; no matter what we're talking about, that's his refrain: "It's all about leadership."
I never fully disagreed but always thought he was generalizing a bit. Recently, though, I found myself overwhelmed by a lack of leadership in almost every area of my life, and now I willingly admit, even say for sure—you are right, Stedman. (He's probably going to frame this.) Without proper leadership, there is always confusion, which eventually leads to crisis and chaos.
I'm still affirming that lesson in the aftermath of the crisis at my school in South Africa last year. I've been on an international search for a new head of school, while also searching for a CEO and president for my new TV network, OWN—while also doing two shows a day, banking radio shows to air in the future, trying to read every page in this magazine before it goes to print, having preshow meetings with producers, dealing with the business of all the businesses, and hearing from Gayle: "Your 'What I Know for Sure' column is waaay
overdue. You're holding up the process!"
I had an LOL moment when I was told that with everything else I have going on, I was supposed to write a column about being overwhelmed.
How about this: I AM OVERWHELMED! Too many answers that need to come from me. Trying to do too many things at once. Flying back and forth from Africa to Chicago to California to New York. Doing. Doing. Doing.
So I stopped. Everything. For one day, I just stopped. Didn't interview anybody. Or take any phone calls. Or return any e-mails. I stopped doing in order to return to the being of myself.
I pulled out my gratitude journal, in which I'd been too tired to write even a sentence for months. I went to my favorite place on earth, the place where 12 oaks form a canopy on the side of my front yard; I call them the apostles. I watched the sunlight filter between the branches and enhance every leaf. I listened to the birds and tried to decipher how many different ones were singing—or were they just talking at the same time?
I let myself absorb the sacredness and dignity of the oaks. I let those trees remind me how to be: still. I took a few deep breaths. I said "Thank you" out loud. I felt like I'd come home.
And I wrote in my journal: "I am grateful for my breath and the recognition that I am here, alive. Breathing. I am grateful for life. And for this time alone. In this moment, I have to do nothing. Yes, there are many things that need to get done, but in this
moment I have to do nothing."
I sat in silence. I prayed. I meditated. I napped. I filled three more pages with praise and gratitude for all that's gone right. And stopped giving my attention to what wasn't working. I watched the sun move across the sky. I went inside and filled a bowl with lemon sorbet and fresh strawberries purchased at the farmers' market that morning. I savored every spoonful, then licked the spoon.
I went for a run with my dogs. I sat in a tub of bubbles until I got crinkly. I put on a new pair of pj's I'd been saving for a special…what? I read myself to sleep with Mary Oliver poems.
The next day, I found the new head of school. Two days later, a president for OWN.
I no longer have a crisis in leadership. I know for sure that what's best for me is already on its way.