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Advice / Succeeding at Work / Getting Ahead

In Very Exciting News, Oprah Just Shared Her Secret to Success

Oprah Winfrey

Yesterday, Oprah Winfrey delivered the commencement address at Smith College. And when Winfrey, who rose from humble beginnings to become a media trailblazer and billionaire, said “...that truly is the secret to my success,” it’s fair to say we all wanted to know what exactly she was referring to.

The secret, she explained, is “the power of service.” But you have to hear her out or risk believing she thinks success equals serving others.

Rather, she goes on to recall how, when she asserted that she’d “only do shows that were in alignment with [her] truth,” she became truly successful. She references best-selling author Gary Zukav, who believes that you have to be aware of what you’re good at and what you’re therefore meant to do—that’s what you’re in service of.

In other words, she’s not making a point about selflessness: She’s talking about self-discovery.

The question that Winfrey would have each of us ask ourselves is:

How can I be used?

Translation: What are the unique talents I have to offer? What am I specifically meant to be doing?

In many ways, her speech is the roadmap to follow the age-old advice to do what you love.

Step 1: Believe in the “why” behind whatever it is you do. You have to believe you’re doing something meaningful.

Step 2: Find your unique talents and invest your whole self “in service” of your goals. You shouldn’t feel like you could do your work mindlessly: You should be actively using your gifts.

Step 3: Prioritize self-care. If you put yourself last and burn out, you won’t have anything left for others, let alone the goals you’re striving to achieve.

That’s how, according to Oprah Winfrey, you too will find “fulfillment”—which is how she defines success.

If you’re now in the mood to watch even more inspirational speeches, check out:

  • Will Ferrell on why you can’t let fear stand in your way in the 2017 address delivered to USC’s graduating class.

  • Howard Schultz on three questions to ask to get ahead in his 2017 speech at Arizona State University.

  • Sheryl Sandberg at UC Berkeley in 2016 discussing the power of resilience.