10 Rules of Success According to Oprah Winfrey

Oprah Winfrey is a true American success story — a real life rags to riches tale a la Horatio Alger. She grew up poor and moved to different cities several times as a child. However, she believed in herself and worked hard, and she eventually found her way to several television jobs, first in Nashville and then in Baltimore, as an on-screen reporter and anchor.

In the early 1980s, Winfrey moved to Chicago, where a gig hosting a morning show morphed into the first iteration of The Oprah Winfrey Show. It was a huge local success and moved into syndication in 1986. Quickly, The Oprah Winfrey Show became the highest rated daytime talk show in the country, a huge deal given that her main competition was television legend Phil Donahue. Her show ran for an astonishing 25 seasons. Soon, Winfrey branched out into other endeavors like acting and producing, and she starred in movies like The Color Purple and Beloved. She started her own magazine, O, and then her own TV station, OWN, or the Oprah Winfrey Network.

Today, Winfrey is known as one of the most successful television personalities in the country. Her estimated net worth is almost $3 billion! To go from serious poverty as a child to that kind of financial stability as an adult took more than luck; for Winfrey, it took a lot of perseverance and all the wisdom she had acquired. How did she manage to do it? Read on and find out: here are the ten rules of success according to Oprah Winfrey.

1. Rather than overwhelming yourself with the big picture, ask yourself what the next right move is.

It’s easy to feel intimidated by everything on your plate, so instead of facing such an enormous proposition, take things one step at a time. Make the best next move you can, then make the next move, and then the next one, each time going as carefully and as thoughtfully as you can. Winfrey believes that success isn’t one giant leap — it’s a series of baby steps. And, if you make one misstep, understand that your life and your career won’t be defined by that one mistake. You have more steps to take, and you’ll arrive at success eventually.

2. When you see an opportunity, take it.

Oprah does not chalk up any of her success to luck. Instead, she insists there’s been grace and blessings, but there’s also been opportunity. The key to being successful is to recognize when opportunity is in front of you and seize it. So what about luck? “Luck is preparation meeting the moment of opportunity,” Winfrey has said. If you’re not prepared, if you’re not looking for that chance, then luck won’t do you any good.

3. Forgive yourself for your past mistakes.

You’re not the person you were five, ten, twenty, or more years ago. A lot of wisdom just comes with age, so don’t beat yourself up for youthful transgressions. You didn’t know any better — but you know better now! Look at those past mistakes as teachable opportunities, learn as much as you can from them, and then move forward.

4. Never stop improving yourself.

This means continually working on your personality, your skill set, and your network so that you are in the best possible position to make a difference. Others may see your efforts to improve yourself as self centeredness, or being “full of yourself,” but Winfrey believes you should ignore them. You always need to be improving if you want to get ahead. If people are saying that about you, take it as a compliment. You’re doing a lot, and others are noticing.

5. Go as hard as you can.

Beyond that, recognize that you have control only over your own performance. You can’t control the competition at all. When Winfrey was starting out with her talk show, she knew that there were lots of other shows competing for guests, topics, and airtime, but she also knew that she had no control over any of that. All she could do was make the best show she knew how to make. Similarly, all you can do is the best you know how, all the time. It’s like a race: you just run hard until you read the finish line, and all you can do is make yourself run more quickly, not make your competition run more slowly. That’s what brings you success: building yourself up, not looking behind you to see where your competition is.

6. Don’t just dream — believe.

It’s OK to have big dreams for yourself; we all do. But if you’re going to be successful, you’ve got to do more than dream. You have to believe that the life you aspire to lead will one day be yours. Winfrey always knew that she would live a big, fulfilling life; she had that strong belief in what her future held. Do the same, and hold firmly to that belief, even in the most difficult of times, and you’re likely to get exactly where you want to be.

7. Remember that people are more alike than they are different.

We’re all seeking the same thing, Winfrey will tell you: we all want to reach our fullest potential. Sure, we all go about that in different ways, because we all have different skills and different passions, but at the end of the day, we all just want to be true to ourselves and be, as Winfrey might say, the “truest expression” of ourselves.

8. Find your purpose in life.

If you’re going to be successful, according to Winfrey, you need to figure out why you’re here on Earth. Most entrepreneurs already feel like they know their purpose, but if you don’t, stop! Put everything on pause, take some time for genuine soul searching and self reflection, and find your purpose.

9. Keep yourself grounded and centered.

It’s easy to get lost in your work, and it’s easy to let your ego inflate, but if you keep your focus, stay compassionate, and always seek to understand and connect with others, you’ll improve your chances of success substantially. Winfrey attributes much of her own personal success to her ability to keep herself grounded.

10. Try to remember that everything will be OK.

If you’re aiming for big time success, you’ve got to take the long view. Yes, it’s natural to be a little scared, but never lose faith that everything will work out just fine.


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