Current Obsession: Making Oprah and the Sport of Staying in My Own Lane
To me, podcasts are God’s gift to my earbuds. There’s nothing I love more than turning on a well-crafted piece of audio journalism. It’s my thing and it’s some of the best storytelling known to man. So, my current obsession is Making Oprah, a WBEZ podcast hosted by Jenn White that follows the media queen’s rise to fame and the behind-the-scenes story of her epic TV show.
The second episode, Skinheads And Scented Candles, covered the Oprah Show’s journey to becoming what we all know it as today: a medium for helping women become their best selves.
As competitors started to pop up and try to come for her spot as the number one daytime TV talk show, Oprah instructed her staff to focus on their own mission. They made the decision to ignore what everyone else was doing. Just like a winning thoroughbred, Oprah would say to her team, keep your blinders on.
I learned the greatest lesson of any competitor, or anybody who’s in business, and passed that on to the rest of my staff. And that is that you can only run your own race.
I’m a new horseracing fan. I go to Arlington Park a lot and I had a blast at the Louisiana Derby courtesy of my friends at America’s Best Racing not too long ago. So now, as a new lover of the sport, I know a few things about race horses.
Race horses win because they are focused and they train hard. You will never see a competitive horse looking to the side to see what their competition is doing and you definitely won’t see them turning back to look at who they’ve left in the dust.
That’s what the team of the early Oprah Show did — they kept their eyes straight ahead. And, when Oprah made the decision to only do positive shows in 1989 and ratings subsequently started to fall, they kept them there. Of course, the Oprah Show’s new, positive-only spin finally caught on as Oprah and her producers found out how to make it work. They worked and worked until the show was both compelling and positive — something that daytime TV wasn’t known for. They stayed in their lane and followed their purpose, making the Oprah Show the only one of it’s kind for years to come.
I was very clear when I started — I got clearer as I continued — but I was very clear that the purpose of this show was to be a light in the world and that the mission statement — ‘We’re here to uplift, enlighten, encourage, and entertain’ — that that had to be real.
At 31, I still struggle to stay in my lane. Mentally, it’s easy to want to stray when I see others doing what I think I want to do, getting the opportunities that I think I want, and being the people I think that I want to be. I see people winning and a small part of me gets hit by the green-eyed monster. Jealousy can come in quick and fast, and even when it’s not even warranted, I can get thrown off my game.
That’s how jealousy works, though. Pay too much attention to everyone else and you lose your own focus. You can’t keep your eyes on your own potential greatness if you’re too busy breaking your neck to see what’s happening to the sides of you. That’s my recent problem and it’s one that I’m really determined to fix.
But, reminders like this one are essential: you’ve got to keep your blinders on to “become your best self.”