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Shine That Light, Mama

Have you ever met anyone who didn’t love Oprah Winfrey? I haven’t. In fact, over the years, I’ve met dozens of folks whose goal was to be “the next Oprah”. They were outgoing and personable. Often they were loud, and frequently the center of attention. They were talkative and able to engage about any subject. To them, they were demonstrating the characteristics that make Oprah so successful. I’ve always disagreed with that.

Earlier this year I had the chance to meet Oprah. I attended a press junket for Ava Duvernay’s A Wrinkle In Time and got to interview Ms. Winfrey and the other stars of the movie.  After meeting her, I realized my theory was correct. Oprah isn’t Oprah because she stands in the spotlight. She is so successful because she IS the spotlight.

Think about what Oprah does. She makes writers bestselling authors because she puts a spotlight on them and introduces them to her community. She makes small businesses big businesses by adding their products on her list of favorite things. From actors to directors to creatives and everything in between, Oprah is always looking for ways to elevate the people around her.Last year, when I was reflecting on my work and making my plan for the new year and beyond, “be like Oprah” was on my list. I want to use my influence to propel other folks to the next level. So far, it’s worked. People are making money because of my endorsement and buying things because I suggested in. Being a spotlight to others is a way for me to feel the warmth of the light of success every single day. When my friends, family, and associates win, so do I.

You know what that does to me? It makes me happier. It makes me feel more accomplished. I have very few days of feeling like I’m not winning because I’m always a part of a winning team. When you shine on other folks, you are too busy being light to stress about the darkness.

We all have influence, y’all. Every single one of us. Whether you’re a blogger or a nurse or a teacher or a stay-at-home mom, there are people who are looking at you as someone whose thoughts and ideas they are interested in. How are you using that influence? Are you being a spotlight, or are you hogging the shine?

Now, let me be clear—Ms. Winfrey is no wallflower (obviously). Being a spotlight doesn’t mean that you dim your light and hide in the shadows. She is, after all, the cover model on every single issue of her magazine. Her production studio is her name spelled backwards. Her television network has her initials. Bright is bright, y’all.

As I set off to cross an item off of my bucket list, I want to ask you—how can you be a spotlight? How can you use your influence to benefit others? How can you use your platform to elevate folks who have important things to say or work to do but who don’t have the audience that you have?

I challenge you to shine. Are you in?