Career & Success

The Quotable Oprah Winfrey

The TV star shares her views on failure, luck, and what her own Lean In-style book would be called.

April 30, 2014

| by Deborah Petersen



Oprah Winfrey at Stanford GSB (Photo by Toni Gauthier)

The woman whose name is synonymous with daytime talk shows, Oprah Winfrey, came to Stanford Graduate School of Business recently to discuss leadership, philanthropy, and the secret to her phenomenal popularity. The following are excerpts from her talk, which was part of the student-led “View From The Top” series.

On listening to your instincts:

“I call it your emotional GPS system that allows you to make the best decisions for yourself.”

On failure:

“Failure is just that thing trying to move you in another direction.”

On finding your calling:

“The way through the challenge is to get still and ask yourself, ‘What is the next right move? What is the next right move?’ and then, from that space, make the next right move and the next right move.”

On luck:

“My definition of luck is preparation meeting the moment of opportunity.”

On being a black woman:

“I don’t look at people through color. I didn’t get to be where I am and who I am by looking at the color of people’s skin. I really, literally, took Martin Luther King at his word. “

On what her own Lean In-style book would be called:

“Mine would not be Lean In; it would be Step Up into yourself.”

On leadership:

“I know that one of the things that is so important that 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 cannot do it unless you take the time to know who you are and why you are here.”

On her purpose:

“The real reason I am here is to help people connect to themselves and the higher ideas of consciousness. I am here to raise consciousness. In the beginning, I didn’t realize that. I thought, ‘Oh my God, I have a show.’”

On philanthropy:

“My decisions now are both emotional and logical, meaning that I choose education but I am going to do it in a way that it is actually going to benefit the person that I am serving, and it can’t just be, ‘Oh, I want to help people.’”

On what not to say to yourself:

“Stop the crazy mind chatter in your head that tells you all the time that you are not good enough.”

On what to say to yourself:

“Relax, relax. It’s going to be OK. It’s really going to be OK.”

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