Oprah Winfrey
Photo: George Burns/Harpo Studios
I have incredible stamina—the what-do-i-got-that-they-ain't-got kind of stamina. I know this because I go through teams of people and wear them out. I had to get a double shift of security to hang with me—one guy would be dead at the end of the day.

I don't have a lot of "I can't" inside me. That started in the third grade. I turned in my book report early, and it got such a great reaction from my teacher that she went into the teachers lounge and told everyone. I was driven from that point on, because I learned that when you do well, people respond. And then when I was in high school, I heard Jesse Jackson speak. He said that excellence is the best deterrent to racism and that it is a way to keep from being discriminated against. That was part of my drive—the need to be, and do, my best—and the feeling that if I didn't do my best, I had failed.

That drive to be successful is a huge part of my stamina, but it's certainly not the only thing that allows me to keep going and going and going.... I've learned some tricks through trial and error.

To begin with, you have to nourish your body and soul. The first thing I do when I get out of bed is meditate for five to ten minutes. That's the grounding work I must do for myself and what makes everything else possible.

As for the body, I'm careful with my diet—and if I'm not, I can feel it. When I eat too many carbohydrates, I notice it makes me sluggish. I cut out caffeine because I started not sleeping well. Also, I don't eat dinner after 7:30 because Bob Greene, my fitness advisor, says you need to stop eating at least two hours before you go to sleep so that everything digests properly.

When I get home at night, I don't automatically turn on the television. I can go months and not watch TV. When it's on, it's such a startling sound. TV has its own energy field—it's sending energy, but it's also taking energy. So I read.

And every day I do some sort of exercise. I run four miles every other day—in the winter I do it inside; this morning I ran outside. I also work out in a gym, on the elliptical machine.

But the biggest reason I have so much endurance is because I do what I want to do. I stopped trying to please other people. The other day I did something because someone else wanted me to and I was exhausted. Why? Because the intention was wrong. I did it instead of holding on to what I knew was the right thing to do. It's an ongoing lesson for those of us taught to be people pleasers: You said yes, but did you really mean no? Because it's going to come back wearing another skirt.

Next: How to know when it's time for a break
There was a time when I was working 20-hour days—doing two shows and the TV series The Women of Brewster Place. It was a blessing that the series was canceled because otherwise I would have dropped. But I came to understand my own limits. Stamina's not just that you're still standing; it's having the dynamism to work well and with grace.

You also have to listen to yourself. Sometimes you need a break to refuel. Yesterday instead of tackling all the regular things that had to be done, I went for a facial, manicure, and pedicure in the middle of the day with no guilt. There were stacks of bills to be paid but I thought, They will all be there when I am done.

When I really feel exhausted, I go to a farm in Indiana that I call my restoration acres. There's nothing I have to do there; I can piddle around, read, or sit on the porch. That gives "me" back to me.

Also, it's important to build a support system. No one does it alone. I work with a group of people who are like family—and their support allows me to maintain my stamina. We're all staministas here at the Oprah team.

At the heart of it all is finding your passion. The most important goal for me is to let people know that life isn't happening to them willy-nilly, that they're the star, that they're playing a major role in their own destiny. Once I started to see that for myself, I thought, I just have to tell everyone. And all the work I do is about getting people to turn up the volume in their life and to see it in Technicolor. If I did not love the work, I would be drained and depleted. My best advice is do what you love.

More Insight into Oprah's Success


Next Story