Oprah Winfrey on Career, Life and Leadership (Transcript)

I knew, that in that moment, it was time for me to go, and that I started the process for myself, of preparing myself for – you will not be here long. You are not going to be able to get what you need. I had a boss at the time who was African American, and had just been for the first time, made an assistant news director, and was drunk with power. Drunk with power, and felt it his, I think, I don’t know, I think he woke up in the morning thinking of things he could do to harass me. I decided not to file a suit against it, because I knew, at the time, I would lose. That no good would come of it, that I would be blackballed in television, that it would turn into a major thing, and I knew, I didn’t have long to stay there. I had a vision for what the future was, even though I couldn’t place exactly where my future would be, I knew who held the future. Because I am really guided by a force that’s bigger than myself. I know that my being here on the planet is not just of my own being.

Amanda: So you used that as momentum to just leave, cut your losses and go.

Oprah Winfrey: No, I just said — I filed it away. There will come a time.

Amanda: Huh, it’s going to come back. Yeah, you were right. I think you were right.

Oprah Winfrey: When I will be sitting in the same room. And it happened, like, in the late 90s. I had the Oprah show and I ran into that guy. Lord, Jesus, thank you. Oh my god. Oh, one of the sweetest moments that ever happened. Oh, go ahead.

Amanda: Okay. Here we go. So, right now, as we sit here, we’re about five miles from Facebook and Sheryl Sandberg. And last year, she published the book Lean In. And it’s gotten an incredible traction. It had some, you know, criticism as well. And I was wondering if you were to write a book on women in careers, what would your title be?

Oprah Winfrey: Mine would be, actually. Mine wouldn’t be lean in. It would be Step Up and Into Yourself, because, this is the truth. There is no real doing in the world, without being first. For me, being your presence, your connection to yourself, and that which is greater than yourself, is far more important than what you do. But also, is the thing that fuels what you do. And I know that one of the things that is so important for what happens here at the graduate school, is that you have leaders who are self actualized, and understand what your contribution to change the world can be. You can only do that if you know yourself. You can only do that, unless you take, unless — you cannot do it unless you take the time to actually know who you are, and why you are here.

Now, I happen to know, for sure, that every human being comes, comes called. And that the calling goes beyond the definition of what your job is. That there is innate – there is an innate, supreme moment of destiny, for everybody. And, that’s why when I was in Baltimore, I could feel this isn’t it. This isn’t it. And then in Chicago after 25 years of success on the show, I started to feel, this isn’t it, there is something more, something more, something more that’s calling me to what is the supreme moment. And everybody has that. And you cannot fulfill it, unless you have a level of self awareness, to be connected to what is the inner voice, or the instinct, I call it your emotional GPS system that allows you to make the best decisions for yourself.

And every decision, that has profited me has come from me listening to that inner voice first, and every time I’ve gotten into a situation where I was in trouble, it’s because I didn’t listen to it. I overrode that voice, that instinct, with my own, with my own head, my own thinking. I tried to rationalize it, I tried to tell myself. But, you know, okay, you’re going to make a lot of money oh, no.

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