What made Oprah successful professionally
Written by Patricia Turnier   
Thursday, 09 March 2023 17:28





Given that Oprah became the richest Black woman on the planet (she is also the American who turned out to be the richest on her own), it is worth paying attention to the various factors that allowed her to achieve professional success:

- She knew how to keep a positive vision of her life despite great difficulties she experienced since childhood.

- Walter Bagehot stated that one of life's greatest pleasures is doing what people believe can't be done; it wouldn't be surprising if Oprah shares the same philosophy.

- Oprah has a great work ethic. She doesn't accomplish anything on a mediocre level; she strives for excellence in everything she undertakes.

- She's multi-talented. Many people lose their creativity over the years (according to the authors Dobbins and Pettman1, 97% of children are highly creative at 5 years old of age, 36% are so at 10 years old and only 12% remain so at 15 years old), which is not the case of Oprah. She retained a large percentage compared to a lot of people.

- It seems that left-handed people are very talented. Several personalities, dead or alive, are or were left-handed: David Bowie, Jimmy Hendrix, James Brown, Barack Obama, etc. Oprah is left-handed.

- Oprah is continually developing herself and she does not sit on her laurels.

- In 1968, she received a scholarship to attend her Nicolet High School in Milwaukee. Later on, the same year, she participated in various enriching activities allowing her to develop different skills. For example, she was a representative at a conference for the White House. She was also a member of a national legal league, student council, drama club, etc.

- She has been open to constructive criticism since the beginning of her career and has used the feedback received in her professional development. For example, when she was earning $10,000 (as a news anchor) per year in the early 1970s (which was already a lot of money back then), she was offered a position in communications in Atlanta for $40,000 annually. She listened to her boss at that moment who told her that she needed to give herself time to grow professionally. Oprah understood that she always had to be prepared for the opportunities that came her way. Therefore, she decided to stay and was offered an annual salary of $12,000. Some time later, when she became her own boss, she no longer had to face a glass ceiling. She also self-assessed her interests and realized early on in her career that presenting the news was not her passion. She understood that she loved communicating and exchanging with people. She therefore determined that her journalistic career should be oriented towards that.

- Oprah has learned from the hazards of her professional and personal life.

- Oprah owned the rights to her talk show which ran for a quarter of a century. Her sense of entrepreneurship helped her and allowed her to have control over her professional life. Historically, only three American women have owned their own studios. Oprah was the first African-American to accomplish this with her Harpo Studios.

- Oprah is organized and structured. She manages to always be prepared.

- She achieved her goals by taking the means to achieve them.

-Oprah believed in her abilities since childhood and did not listen to her critics. From a very young age, she avoided sharing her dreams with anyone.

– She had confidence in herself and was deaf to people who tried to discourage her. For instance, when she was approached to go to Chicago, many people thought she would fail because at the time the king of talk-shows was Phil Donahue.

- She emphasized her strengths and uniqueness and did not seek to imitate others. She created her own course.

- Oprah had to learn 5 new words a day from the age of 12, read a book weekly and report to her father and mother-in-law.

- From the age of 3, her grandmother, aware that literacy was a powerful tool giving access to freedom, taught her to read. Oprah read the Bible from a very young age, speaking to an audience in church as a child. Thus, her oratorical art developed. Her Christian faith also helped her overcome many difficulties.

- She was intellectually stimulated from a very young age, and her academic skills allowed her to skip at least two years during her studies.

- From childhood, she took everything she undertook seriously by giving it her best. For example, since elementary school, she was prompted to regularly turn in her homework before the due date.

- Oprah is focused on her goals which she does not lose sight of.

- She is very resilient, she did not let herself be beaten down by the tribulations and obstacles experienced. She didn't allow anyone to define her.

- Very early on, she understood the importance of entrepreneurship. She knew how to control her destiny this way.

- Her sense of organization and self-discipline were decisive in her professional success.

- She was able to surround herself with the right people with the professional skills to create an excellent team. She is a leader, she knows how to delegate and work as part of a team. She easily adapts to different personality types.

- Oprah is not afraid to try new things, and she never stopped learning. She likes to make new discoveries. In other words, she doesn't stay in one place, and she's not afraid to step out of her comfort zone.

- Oprah had a clear vision for her professional career from the start, in other words she had a GPS.

-She succeeded thanks to her passion (by the way, she has several of them, and you can't put her in a box). Her motivation and determination served her well.

- Oprah knows her strengths and weaknesses which gives her the opportunity to focus on her skills and interests. This allows her to avoid mistakes.

- During the 25 years of her talk-show, she never took a sick day. In other words, she never was absent.

- She grew up on a farm, and it seems that when you stay in this environment, you are prepared to do any task because life in this milieu can be difficult. You have to be very resourceful, know how to take initiatives, etc.

- She was able to learn lessons from her life: for example, she almost became a teenage mother, a period of her life when she was obviously not ready to take on this responsibility.

- During her youth, for several years, she did not have access to television. This allowed her to devote a lot of time to reading and writing. At a very young age, she understood that education is the passport to freedom.

- For a long time, even when she could afford it, she did not buy things beyond her means until now. She knows the value of money, she understands how to manage her assets and signs all her checks.

- Oprah never believed in shortcuts in life or instant success. She knew that it was important to have a solid foundation to make it and that it was necessary to work your way up to reach the top and not to avoid each step to get there.

- The socio-political context of the United States changed from the moment she was born; she came into this world in 1954, the year the Brown decision allowed school desegregation in the country (Oprah spoke about it during her interview with Larry King for the promotion of her film The Butler) and later on, affirmative action gave Oprah the opportunity in 1971 to have a very interesting salary as a journalist at the age of 19. Thus, she became the youngest journalist to join the television station WTVF-TV (a CBS subsidiary) in Nashville, Tennessee. This is the first glass ceiling she broke as a reporter.

- Oprah obtained a scholarship in 1970, which allowed her to enroll in the African-American institution, Tennessee State University.

- In its early days, Oprah managed to entrust her affairs to a single person, her lawyer Jeffrey Jacobs instead of being surrounded by people (agents, publicists, public relations, etc.) who would have taken 40% of her money. This allowed her to develop her Harpo conglomerate.

- From the 80s, she invested in the field of real estate.

– For years, she has kept a gratitude journal regularly reminding her of her blessings.




1 Source: What Self-Made Millionaires Really Think, Know and Do, p. 3, 2006