In life, no matter how long or short your time is on this earth, you will experience pain. Babies enter the world in traumatic fashion–screaming, crying and completely helpless. And life continues from there.
Struggle, failure and pain are all intricate pieces of the puzzle that makes you who you are. When you shy away from struggles, run from failure or hide your pain, you become an incomplete picture. What most people fail to realize is that wisdom, strength and fuel for the future is wrapped up inside that pain.
Oprah Winfrey epitomizes the concept of not only triumphing in spite of pain, struggle and turmoil but actually using it as a tool to help actuate success. And when discussing Oprah and all that she has accomplished, the word ‘successful’ is incredibly inadequate and a grossly insufficient label for her. She has defied the odds as a woman, as a woman of color, as a poor woman of color and as an abused poor woman of color.
It’s not how you start…
Poverty, physical abuse, abandonment, sexual abuse, drugs, teenage pregnancy and the death of a child–all in the first 17 years of life. Yet Oprah thrived. Proving that it’s not how you start something it’s about the journey and where you end up.
It’s understanding that you may have started life at a disadvantage–extreme poverty, single parent home, drug infested neighborhood, violence, physically and or sexually abused, learning disabled, physically deformed, given up for adoption or left by a dumpster or emotionally abandoned–but those circumstances do not define who you are nor do they determine your future. You do. In fact, those things build a mental toughness, an internal drive to win and the strength to push through when the odds are not in your favor.
Oprah decided to unveil her trauma to the world. She chose not to hide it but exposed it in order to assist others–without a voice or platform–dealing with and carrying these types of deep emotional wounds. She became transparent and allowed others to see through her pain that damaged doesn’t mean destroyed and that what is broken can be fixed.
Oprah is winning.
You have to fight to win
At 17 while living with her father after all that had transpired in her life, she was crowned Miss Black Tennessee, she got her first on air TV job and earned a full scholarship to Tennessee State University. She didn’t just “turn her life around,” she bulldozed her old life to the ground and erected a bigger and better existence for herself and she has never looked back. Since that time she has steadily grown in popularity, fame and wealth. She has been named one of the most influential people in the WORLD by Time Magazine and hailed as one of the most powerful women of this century.
An article published in Vanity Fair aptly described Winfrey’s influence this way:
“Oprah Winfrey arguably has more influence on the culture than any university president, politician, or religious leader, except perhaps the pope.”
Simply put, Oprah learned to fight. She never felt sorry for herself and she refused to let others pity her. She worked for everything she got, earned every accolade and deserves every dollar of her wealth.
Learning to turn your tragedy into triumph
Behind anyone who has accomplished anything worthwhile–lurking in the shadows–are countless failures and puddles of tears. Life is funny that way– the more gifts you have the more pain and heartache you must endure. The two go hand in hand. They are twins or at the very least cousins. You must embrace them both in order to win.
If you have experienced tragedy upon tragedy, and endured immense amounts of pain–I have good news–you are destined for greatness.