First of all, I unapologetically love Oprah. I know that some people don't feel cool saying they love Oprah, or they need to qualify it somehow, but no. Not me. My love is not ironic. It flows freely. I honestly don't understand how or why you could not love Oprah. If Oprah made a Kool-Aid, I would buy it.
I actually did sample some Oprah Chai Tea at Starbucks during the weekend and this was as close to Oprah Kool-Aid as you can get; it was so sweet, I wound up using it as sweetener in my black coffee. And it was delicious. I felt closer to Oprah for having drunk it, as if I had consumed her essence. Okay, maybe now I'm joking, but only a little bit.
Above is a photo of me (left) with my ticket winner, Laura (right) who flew all the way from California to hang out with me for the weekend. It took a lot of guts to come to New York City alone to spend time with someone who might be certifiably insane! Thanks Laura!
When we first met up on Friday at my brother's apartment, my mind was spinning in circles, and I'm afraid I wasn't being coherent. (Poor Laura.) You see, I'd been invited to participate in an interview on HuffPost Live (I appear in minute 24 of the 28-minute interview if you want a peek.) And media interviews can sometimes make me a little nervous in the moments leading up to them.
The interview was with Oprah's trailblazer, Life Coach and Author Iyanla Vanzant who was promoting the Life You Want Weekend and her TV show. I asked Iyanla if I should blog my book for free, and she said no, all you guys should pay for it. So there you go. Iyanla said y'all need to buy my book. But I did blog the first chapter before Iyanla got to me, so that's out there for your perusal. This is the second time a best-selling author has warned me not to blog the book. This brings me to my first lesson of the weekend:
1. When Life Speaks, Listen
Oprah says that this point is largely the secret of her success. She followed the signs. She stayed connected to God. She listened.
Life is always speaking to us. It starts with a whisper. Just a simple message. Our ears perk up. Yet, if you're anything like me, there have been countless times when you have promptly begun digging a hole so you can bury your head in the sand to ignore the message.
If we don't listen, and we raise our rumps in the air while we keep our heads down in the sand, then life is going to pelt your tuckus with a pebble. The pebble means you've got a problem. You didn't listen to the whisper that could have steered you the right way, and now you've got something to fix. You've got clearer direction, but you also have a little problem to clean up.
If you still don't listen, you get hit by a brick. Now you've got a crisis on your hands. And if you still don't listen, you're going to run face first into a brick wall. Now you've got trauma and disaster. Slow clap, genius.
2. What you put out is coming back.
Call it karma, call it the law of energy, what you put out there in the world -- what kind of effort you make and towards what -- is going to come to you, both good and bad.
For example, if I try to be of service and write helpful blog posts, good things come back to me. If instead I stay self-absorbed and I worry about what everyone thinks of me and I judge others and I gossip, then that's coming back to me.
3. You get to choose your thoughts.
Oprah says, "I am the master of my fate, the captain of my soul." So are you. Choose your thoughts, choose your emotions, choose your actions, choose your life.
We often feel like we're not in the driver's seat. We wonder how we got here or what we did to deserve this. Your thoughts precede everything. Your thoughts are creative, and they create your emotions, which result in your actions. Your actions each day add up to your life.
You might think you can't control your thoughts. Maybe you were conditioned by overly pessimistic or critical parents. We all have to train our brains, no matter our start in life.
Watch your thoughts as a dispassionate observer. My recommendation: try Headspace, an app that helps you learn how to meditate in a painless, easy, simple way. (No, I'm not an affiliate or trying to sell you something, I just really like that app. And if you don't meditate, it's a great way to start.)
4. You become what you believe.
I've seen this play out in my own life. If you want to have a certain belief -- like I am strong, I am powerful, I am a success -- you can look for proof, which will strengthen your beliefs and help you become more of what you want.
I won't even get into all the negative things we tend to believe about ourselves, but it's important you give that stuff the old "heave ho" and to create some empowering beliefs that are going to get you to where you want to go in life.
An old belief I had was that I can't get up early in the morning to write. That was really unhelpful. I'm starting to understand that I can choose to believe that I love early mornings because they feel good and they help me get more out of life. I believe that using my early mornings productively aids in my success.
I think one of the most important beliefs we can hold for ourselves is: I am important.
Because we are! You have no idea the impact you have on people and the ripple effect this causes throughout others' lives, for better or worse.
Sometimes I think back on old coworker who felt powerless and who used to attack her managers (myself included) precisely because she felt like a victim and like she wasn't in control. She thought that she wasn't the captain of her fate and so she struck out in nasty ways. That negative energy she put out still reverbs to this day. If she had put all that energy into positive actions and into understanding that she is important, and that what she says and does matters, then our time together could have been happy and fun and bright, as opposed to the frightening, psychotic, combative mess it was.
5. How to heal your relationships.
Like the last story -- we feel so unimportant and this leads to our pretending our thoughts, feelings, and actions don't matter.
You are worthy. So act like it. I don't mean to go acting all demanding and like you need to be worshipped.
I mean when your daughter asks to sit on your lap, and you want to tell her no because you're working on something you think is "important" -- know that you are worthy of putting aside that work. And that you are so important that it matters whether you turn that child away or whether you gather that kid up into your lap.
You are worthy of that child's love. And of your partner's love. So act like it. Accept their love and give love back.
If you've got a difficult relationship with a friend or a parent and this person just sets you off in all the wrong ways, consider that maybe you are fumbling and scrabbling for a sense of worth. You want to be held with esteem in their eyes and it makes you angry that you don't think they value you. You are coming at the equation from the wrong side; you need to see yourself that way. Hold yourself with a sense of worth. Then give love freely, regardless of their messes and neuroses and their floundering for self-worth.
6. Know what you want.
In one year, how do you want your life to transform? Tell the Universe what you want -- give it clarity. If you're confused and messy, that's what the Universe gives you. Stand in clarity and decide what you want, because that's what the Universe brings.
I wrote about this yesterday in my post 10 Easy Steps to Making Your Dreams Come True: "...start collecting ideas for your life that make you feel excited and enthusiastic about the possibilities... Just keep some kind of simple record of what your dream for your life is."
Go on, make a list!
7. Do all you can, then surrender.
Oprah admits that when you cling to a dream, when you want to force it, things aren't necessarily going to go your way. You need to put it out there -- decide what you want and go for it, but then surrender. Blow a kiss on the wind.
This reminds me of a story about Jerry Seinfeld. When asked how he is so prolific and successful, he said the formula is this: he writes jokes every day, and he marks a calendar with red X's for each day he writes. No matter the roller-coaster of success, whether some of his projects do well while others bomb, he just keeps showing up every day and collecting those red X's, and seeing that string of red X's is all you need to worry about.
Choose what you want to do with your time, and make sure you love it. Make sure when you look at that string of red X's, it was worth doing. If you take stock of your life and you notice a proverbial string of red X's that represents self-destructive behavior or if you're in the habit of something that doesn't bring you to a state of joy or flow, then rethink your thoughts and actions.
I leave you with this quote from musician Jason Mraz that sums up the weekend quite nicely: "Life doesn't come at you. If comes from you."
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