Photo: Harpo Inc./George Burns
I thought I I had myself pretty well figured out—until I started the arduous climb of building a network. Every day presents me with another opportunity to learn a new way of creating a business, course-correct when necessary, and keep moving on.
I remember back in 1988 when I first took ownership of the Oprah show, buying a studio and hiring all the producers. I was laying the groundwork for now, but I didn't know it. In fact, there were a million things I didn't know. I made a lot of mistakes during those early years (including one so big we had a priest come in to cleanse the studio afterward). Fortunately for me, I wasn't so well-known back then. Nor was the world as media saturated as it is in 2012. I could learn a lesson, and grow from it, privately.
Today part of the price of success is that my lessons are public. My errors show up on Access Hollywood and the CNN ticker!
Every day it's like taking a real-life quiz as I try to figure out what works and doesn't on a cable network. What do you want to see? What makes you laugh, lifts you, touches you, sends your heart soaring, means something?
Figuring it all out is a tall order. Some days I want to scream out loud (SOL) when dealing with the complexities of getting good shows on the air, then getting you to know about them and watch. But one thing I know for sure: I am not a screamer. I can count on one hand the number of times in my life—four—when I've actually raised my voice at someone.
So when I want to SOL, I usually go to a quiet place. A bathroom stall works wonders. I close my eyes, turn inward, and breathe until I can sense the still, small space inside me that is the same as the stillness in you, and in the trees, and in all things. I breathe until I can feel this space expand and fill me. Then I usually do the exact opposite of SOL: I smile at the wonder of it all.
I mean, how amazing is it that I, a woman born and raised in Mississippi when it was an apartheid state, who grew up having to go to town to even watch TV, can have a network and call it my OWN? I get to create whole shows that can impact the way people perceive themselves and the world.
What's even more exciting: At 58—after believing I had the knowing of myself all nailed down—life is reminding me that new ways of seeing things can still show up. Wherever you are in your journey, I hope you, too, will keep discovering unexpected challenges and rewards. It is a blessing to be able to keep putting one foot in front of the other, to be in a position to make the climb and to know the summit is still up ahead.
What Oprah Knows For Sure About...
From the August 2012 issue of O, The Oprah Magazine
We Hear You!