Oprah Winfrey is a self-made billionaire who rose to a worldwide iconic status from very humble and traumatic beginnings.
She was born into poverty, has openly talked about being molested as a child, landed in juvenile detention, and was raped as a teen, leaving her pregnant. (Her baby son was born prematurely and died.)
A high-school radio job led to her career in broadcast journalism. She was the first black female news anchor in Baltimore. She was later demoted at the station and moved to Chicago, where she would find her calling on a low-rated morning talk show, bringing it top ratings and earning national attention.
The rest, as they say, is history. Except Winfrey’s success wasn’t just a result of her hard work, she told a crowd of 11,000 attendees at a tech conference hosted by the software company Qualtrics in Salt Lake City last week.
Her satisfaction with life doesn’t come from the money and accolades. The money and accolades come from her mindset, she said.
“No matter what you think about my life, it’s 10 times better than that,” she told the crowd with a smile.
And she said everyone can do the same.
Winfrey said one of her favorite quotes is from Martin Luther King Jr., who said, “Not everybody can be famous but everybody can be great, because greatness is determined by service.”
She said, “I have learned that whatever your work, whatever your station, your position in life, if you change the paradigm of the work to, ‘How do I use this in service to something greater than myself? How do I use this in service other than just being a success? How do I use this in service to create significance, not just for myself but for someone else?’
“This I know to be true. If you operate from a principle of what you can offer the world from a point of view of service, that comes back to you 10-fold, 100-fold, multiple folds in abundance that you cannot even measure.”
She told the story of hiring a professional tree counter for her home on her 42-acre estate in Montecito, California.
“Everyone knows I grew up poor…no bathrooms, no electricity,” she said.
While she was working in Baltimore she attended her first party at a “rich white person’s house.” At first, she was stunned by the cars the host collected, seeing a Corvette, a Mercedes, a Jaguar, and others on the property.
And inside the house, she looked out the window and saw a stand of six trees. “Cars are impressive, but when you can look out on your own yard and see six big trees, now that’s rich,” she said she thought to herself. “If I ever get some money, I’m going to get some trees.”
Winfrey said she was standing at the window of her own property recently and noticed the trees. Her view was full of trees. And she thought to herself, “There are those trees that I wished for, dreamed for, hoped for.” She tried to count them and lost track, so she hired a professional tree counter.
“Did you know you can hire a tree counter?” she laughed on stage. “I have over 6,300 trees in my front yard. The dream I had for myself was 6 trees, but my God-force had a bigger plan for me.”
Winfrey found that as she did each television show, and each project, with an intention — to help others in a deliberate way, whether it was shining a light on abusive relationships or producing movies with socially important themes — she grew happy and satisfied, and was rewarded.
“There’s a bigger reason why you are here than just to do the work and get paycheck. The bigger reason is to do the work that is the service,” she said.
“That is why you are looking at someone who is not just satisfied with life. I have incredible contentment with the way I use my life in service,” she said. “And that’s what I want for you.”
Originally published on Business Insider.
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