Lesson #1: Set High Goals

“I always knew I’d be a millionaire by age thirty-two,” said Oprah in 1987. “In fact, I am going to be the richest black woman in America.” 19 years later, with a net worth of $1.4 billion, Oprah has become not only the richest black woman in America, but also one of the richest people in the world. She ranks 235 on the Forbes 400 Richest Americans list and almost 30 million American houses tune in to her show daily to hear her talk about everything from relationship problems to business investments to human rights abuses around the world.

This success has not come by chance. Oprah has made her fortune by setting clear and ambitious goals on both the professional and personal levels. “The big secret in life is that there is no big secret,” she says. “Whatever your goal, you can get there if you’re willing to work.”

According to Oprah, the biggest hurdle people need to overcome in order to be successful is their belief that there are limits to how much they can accomplish. Goals need to be set and set high; expectations need to be limitless; and ambition cannot be restrained. “If you believe you can only go so far, it is an obstacle.”

Gut instinct has been one of the largest driving factors behind Oprah’s success. “Be quiet,” she says. “Part of your responsibility is to honour the quiet inside yourself so you can hear the call.” Her prescription for doing so is to “take five minutes to centre yourself in the morning…set your intention every day…if you don’t have five minutes, you don’t deserve to have the life of your dreams.”

Oprah’s gut instinct was responsible for the move of the entire production of The Oprah Winfrey Show from L.A. to Chicago. An impulse decision, Oprah and the crew then dedicated themselves to working around the clock, taping two shows every day, to successfully ensure their ratings did not slip by even one point. “Follow your instincts,” she advises. “That’s where true wisdom manifests itself.”

When Oprah’s impulse also told her to change the direction of the show and take the content to a higher ground, there was a real concern among the others involved who worried the show would drop in the ratings. But, Oprah trusted her gut, saying, “It took a lot of courage to take the high road, but I would rather be significant with six million people watching a show with meaning, than everyone watching a show with no meaning”.

Her desire to set and have control over her own professional goals is evidenced by the creation of Harpo Studios, a production company founded by Oprah herself to produce The Oprah Winfrey Show, among other pursuits. On a personal level, Oprah decided to finally conquer her lifelong challenge with weight by losing almost 70 pounds. “Whatever you fear most has no power,” she says. “It is your fear that has the power.”

When she first began her television career, Oprah established the goal of hosting a successful talk show for 20 years, after which time she would happily quit. That time has since come and gone and Oprah shows no signs of slowing down. She continues to be a hugely successful talk show host, actress, publisher, and producer and is constantly looking to the future for new opportunities. “You get in life what you have the courage to ask for,” she says. “Always continue the climb.”

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