*Image from Escume
Last month I had an opportunity to attend Oprah’s Life You Want Weekend Tour in Houston, Texas. Oprah, along with other prominent speakers, hosted a two day event about exactly what the title suggests…learning to live the life you want. For as cliche as it all may seem, having the opportunity to sit in a room, stadium really, where everyone’s energy is ready to be open, vulnerable and honest, moves you in magnitudes that can’t be touched. What I walked away with was a better understanding of the work I have to do and the fears I need to overcome.
We’re dazzled by the superstar that Oprah has become but we forget that her rise to fame was no where near an overnight success. So when Oprah recounted her journey from a girl born in Mississippi, raised in Minneapolis, back to college in Tennessee and working her way up from an unhappy news anchor in Baltimore to having her day time talk show, and that’s not even when she finally hit her stride, you realize just how long the road has been for Oprah. That magnitude of success took a high amount of faith, confidence and determination to be the “master of her fate, captain of her soul”, the line she recounts from the poem Invictus.
“Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.
In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.
Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds and shall find me unafraid.
It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate,
I am the captain of my soul.”
I am a firm believer in defining your own reality and creating your own story of success. Oprah’s story highlights how often we focus on the ending of the story. The fame, glory and riches that one receives once they’ve made it while glossing over the real struggle it takes for one to pursue their own dreams. Not just the candy coated “I kept the faith and one day ah ha, I arrived” story but the real tangible moments of not being sure, dealing with mundane issues and most of all taking your time to build things brick by brick. Those moments of discomfort and uncertainty that may gap on for days and even years, no one tells you that those are okay and part of your journey towards greater success.
“You co-create your life with every intention. The intention determines the outcome…” That was how Iyanlya Vanzant of “Fix Your Life” opened her talk at the Life You Want Tour. Even when you are knocked down, fail, have a door closed, or a simple ‘no’ pushes you back, your intention will always prevail in the end albeit it won’t be instant. There was much talk of learning to be still, listen and follow the flow because when you surrender your dream to the bigger dream (of living the life you want) things will take their course into shaping those dreams into your reality. And for someone like myself, learning to be still and listen to the silence is a big area of discomfort. A fear of defining your future success in literal terms because of a blurry of non-consequential excuses. Like what if I can’t live up to what I set up for myself? What if that’s not what I really need? What if, what if, what if? All which just add up to you being comfortable in the familiar. Stepping out on faith is not familiar. The current motions of your day to day are familar and I can acknowledge that I’ve built a fortress of pillows around my comfort with the familiar and that is exactly what I need to push myself out of.
We owe it to our ancestors to take advantage of opportunity in creating lanes for ourselves that our ancestors fought so hard for because they were not afforded these opportunities. But paying that debt forward pushes you outside of your comfort zone. In attending the Life You Want Weekend Tour, I made a vow to stop trying to attain comfort. That is a misguided ambition because comfort does not always mean happiness. It just means that I can exist in space of familiarity, and for some misery is familiar, sleep is familiar, just getting by is familiar. But I and you have to push forward in claiming our rewards in life by pursuing our own dreams. Just remember that it won’t be a comfortable journey. You might find yourself in space like me, feeling some discomfort because you question whether you even deserve to pursue this dream when everyone else is telling you no. Uncomfortable because you can’t see the path ahead in a crystal clear form. But as the Gospel According to Shug Avery accounts (from Alice Walker’s Temple of My Familiar), “Helped are those who are content to be themselves, they will never lack mystery in their lives and the joys of self-discovery will be constant.”