Join LinkedIn Editors for an in-depth discussion in this video Oprah on having a vision, part of Influencer Interview: Oprah Winfrey.
(upbeat music) - I started out I wanted a million dollars so I could my dad a house on a hill or something, you know? I didn't see the possibility for a long time. Until I was in it. And then I saw it, and then I said, "Oh, this is more than what I thought it was. "This isn't just the vision to..." You know, because when you're in television as I was starting out, the big vision is, "Oh, gee. Can I get a network job?" And I had this idea.
I literally had said to my agent when I was in Baltimore, I said, "Could you get me the substitute job "for Joan London on Good Morning America? (laughs) "I would just like to when Joan London "doesn't want to be there, or when she's on vacation, "could I just have that job?" - A fill in. - Yeah, fill in. And he said, this was 1982. He said, "You're not going to get that job "because they already have a black person." I go, "They don't have a black person!" He said, "Bryant Gumble already has that job." "Well, ABC doesn't have a person." He goes, "You're not going to get that job." Not even as a substitute.
No, not even as a substitute. So I let that agent go, but that was my thing. "Oh, gee. If I could just get to the network." If I could just get to the network. If you can get to a larger market, if you could get to, and the top three were you know, New York, Chicago. No, New York, L.A., Chicago. I knew it wasn't going to work. I wasn't going to be accepted in L.A. in 1982 because I wasn't the right minority. - And that's why Chicago? - And I literally chose Chicago because of that and then I happened to be, I thought, "Well, Chicago." And then I was on someone else's tape, and I got a call from Chicago.
I go, "That's a sign." - But when you wanted, when you envisioned yourself being a backup, what was the greater goal? That was a step in the right direction. - Okay, like I said, my goal was that I would be the backup for Joan London, and they would see how good I was, and then they'd want me to backup more. And then when Joan left for vacation, or Joan, you know, decided that she no longer wanted to do it, they'd say, "What about that girl that stood in for Joan?" Yeah, that was my goal.
- And then you'd be on air. - Yeah. - You'd be a personality, but again, to what end? - Yes, because I didn't have a vision beyond being successful on network television. It wasn't until I was literally on television, had my own show, made the decision that I was going to own the show, meaning I would take the risk if it worked or it didn't work, that I thought about, "What does this really mean?" And actually, I guess, the vision was inspired by, I used to speak in high schools all the time, and I remember speaking to a school and a kid said to me, "You're that lady.
"Oh, you're the one. "You're the one that plays on tv." And I said, "No, I don't play on tv. "It's actually my work. "I use tv as my work." And when I, you know, journal every night, and was thinking about that, yeah. A lot of people think and for a long time I thought it was just a job where you're going to play on tv, you're going to act on tv, you're going to have this job. But it was around probably two or two and a half years into it, around '88, '89, that I started to see, "Oh, this is bigger than..." - It's a platform.
- Yeah, television. That it's actually a platform. And speaking to the KKK and skinheads one day, when they were, you know, obviously I thought, "I'm going to change "the way they feel about black people". And at least get to what stems from, how that vitriol came about. And I realized they were using me. That they understood it was a platform more than I understood. - In real time you realized that? While you were taping the show? - While I was taping the show.
I saw them signaling each other and something inside myself said, "Oh, they're using. They're using this "and they're using me. "Well they get what this is." And, you know, for the 25th year, 25th season, I had two of those guys back and they said to me, "Yes we were. "We used that show as our recruitment tape. "We use going on your show as a recruitment tape." But I said after that conversation with the skin heads, I went to my producers and said, "I will never do this again "and if I have to do this kind of show, "then I will get out of television." - Sensationalistic television? - Not just sensationalistic because it wasn't sensational.
I was interviewing them about their beliefs. - When you said, "I won't do that again." What was it? What was the it? - The it was I understand that this is a platform. It's an energetic vibrational force. - You're not going to amplify negative energy. - Yeah, yeah. - Without a specific reason. - Yeah. I'm not going to do it. I'm not going to do it in any form. - That explains why in so many shows where you would have a controversial subject, where it wasn't always clear what the goodness was, you would actually frame it very explicitly.
- Yeah. - And you would say this is why. - This is why I'm doing it. This is why I'm doing it. - Got it. - Which doesn't, even now on the network, it doesn't mean I will not do negative things. It just means I will have to have a framework so that you can see what is the 'why'. That there is a meaning behind it. That negativity for the sake of negativity I don't want to be responsible for. You know, I remember once that I had taped a show on Columbine with the guy who had spent 10 years researching and done this beautiful book about it and I had gone home that weekend and something inside myself said, "You cannot air that show." I taped the show on a Friday, supposed to air on that Monday.
We were the first ones. I felt bad, I had to call the publisher. Had to call that guy. I knew that if I did that show, that I was somehow going to glorify the shooters and even though we did everything in our power to say, " This isn't." You know we said maybe three or four times in the show, "This isn't glorifying the shooters. "We're really talking about the victims, "the victims' families." The fact that you're doing it means you're glorifying it. So over the years I always used that, that incident with the Klan.
Like how do I feel about how what the energy that I'm putting out into the world is actually going to do. Because you're speaking to millions of people, and so I would every day in the elevator, get in the elevator going down, and I purposely did the elevator, not the stairs so I could have that one minute, you know, to myself to ask to be used, to center myself, to ask what I call God to be used for something bigger than myself, because you're speaking to a lot of crazy people out there who can misinterpret what you're saying, so I would ask that my voice, the words that I chose, come from a place that was centered and centered in the desire to be a force for good and to connect in a way that would be meaningful to people.
- Which would increase the likelihood that it would be received with the intention that you were delivering it with. - Yes, because the number one principle that rules my life is intention, and I probably discovered that around 1989 after reading Gary Zukav's book and then bringing him on the show and talking about these multisensory ideas like we are human beings who have a power beyond our five senses. So the principle of intention actually changed my life. It changed the way I operated my shows.
So after reading Gary's book, I literally had a big meeting with all my producers and I said, "We are now going to become an intentional television show." And they're like, "What's that?" (laughs) "We are only going to do shows that come from a motivation that we're going to show people the best of themselves." And sometimes you have to show them the worst of themselves in order to see the best of themselves, but the idea behind it, the vision, is that we are going to be a force for good and that is going to be our intention.
That's the bottom line intention. So whatever your idea is that you bring to me, they have to come from that force field. And sometimes producers would come in and I'd say, "What is the intention?" and the don't know, I'd go, "I can't do it." I have to be able to find for myself the thread of truth that I can hold onto and sit in the chair and be an authentic person. And that is actually one of the reasons why I let the show go because I felt, I started to feel it in the 20, 21st year.
How many more makeovers can I do? How many times can I talk to this celebrity? "Now he's been on 12 times. 17 times! "It's your 18th time, your 25th time." How many more times can I make that real? How can I come from a space of truth for myself? And I never want to be able to say that I was faking it. I don't want one day to have said, "Oh, I have to, you know, pretend a feeling "that I really don't have." So I wanted to be able to let it go while I could still be authentic to the word.
- In terms of the show, but then you were able to bridge into the network, which was even potentially a bigger platform. - Well, the reason I did the network is finally, as you know, I had my struggles with the network and I shall never forget, I wrote it down. I had it on my mirror, when you and I had that conversation and you said, "You have everything you need." And then I would look at that sometimes. I would pray over it and I would cry over it. I would say, "I have everything I need, but I don't know. "What do I need?" So I had a lot of come-to-Jesus talks with myself about, "I have everything I need" and I actually said to God, to the universe, in my prayers, "Okay, what is the real reason I created this network?" I created it because my utmost desire as a human being is to live out the fullest expression of that.
Is, how do I blow it all the way out? How do I do what I really came to do? What I was born and made to do? The universe's vision for me, how do I live up to that? Well, I think that one of my true roles on earth is to be an inspiration and to help people to connect to ideas that it inspire and expand their vision of who they can be in the world. And my role is to help connect you to that. My role is to help you link into the possibility of what that can be, and my role is to break down big ideas about who we are, in a way that people can see it, and taste it, and feel it, and know it for themselves.
So, when I was thinking about it, what do I really want to do? I had seen the Planet Earth, and been so inspired by the Planet Earth, I fell in love with the Earth. It gave me a whole new vision of, appreciating the planet and my role here on the planet. I shall never forget those polar bears coming out. I wanted to interview all of the guys who did Planet Earth and what I learned from interviewing the guys who did the Planet Earth is the kind of guy who can watch a polar bear come out of a hole and wait there for six months, is not the kind of guy you want to interview - I saw that show, I remember seeing that show.
- You ever seen that show when I'm like, "So tell me about it." - But you were also incredibly moved and inspired by the show itself? - I was so inaspired by the visual aspect of it. I was so inspired by how it connected me, as a human being, - To the rest of the planet? - To the rest of the planet. So I wanted to do something like that, in terms of what the planet feels, knows, cherishes and believes.
And I started thinking about that, and then, within a week, the idea manifested through a group of producers from Part2 Productions who were doing Lisa Ling's show. So, I have this idea, I'm sitting like, "What do I really want to do? "What did I create the network for? "It would be good if I could do something "like Planet Earth, but that's already been done. "How could I do that with people's feelings, "and the way they see themselves in the world?" And then, within a week, somebody comes in and says, "We have this idea "for looking at what people believe around the world." I wanted to cry because I'm like, That's exactly-- I manifested that.
So, I said, "I'm in," but we're at a point in the network where I did not feel comfortable going to my partners at Discovery saying, "I want to do this series," because I wasn't even sure how it was going to take place, how we were going to make it happen. I want to do the series that's really not Planet Earth, but it's Planet Spirit, which was our code name for this series. - So the first time I saw the pilot, and I made this remark to you when we were catching up on it, you can't help but think this is Planet Earth meets spirituality. - It is.
- The palate, the ethos, the scope, the way it starts to integrate and unify people on a planetary basis. - I'm hoping that it will do that. That certainly is my intention, so I know that at some point some people will see it and that intention will be fulfilled but I think that's why we're all here. We're all here to use what each of us has been given, to the fullest, highest expression of yourself and myself.
So, my desire to be able to show people themselves, you know? Because life is always mirroring your life back to you. So to be able to do that, through these stories of belief and faith that connect us all, at a time where we seem to disconnected, that's a real reason to have a network.
In the first segment, Oprah discusses her start in television, the guiding force behind her show, and how her current work is all about connection, spirituality, and the earth. In the second, Oprah talks about the power of belief and intention, and how to determine what "you ultimately want to do" and the joy of "getting it." In the final segment, Oprah talks about SuperSoul Sunday and how we are all looking for validation.