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The Number 1 Career Lesson from Oprah Winfrey

As always, Oprah Winfrey was full of insightful, thought-provoking advice at a recent commencement ceremony speech at the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism.

Addressing future writers, journalists and reporters at the ceremony, she shared a story of tea with Dr. Maya Angelou in which she was told to stop focusing on her overall legacy, and start looking at the little things she could control day to day.


Your legacy is every life you touch. Working together in the service of something greater than ourselves is the most important thing.


Encouraging graduating students to look outside of themselves to help change the world for better, she advised:



Pick a problem – and do something about it. Something is everything.


“I was a little intimidated coming here,” she said. “It’s hard trying to come up with something to share with you that you haven’t already heard. I don’t have any new lessons. But I often think that it’s not the new lessons so much as it is really learning the old ones again and again.”

She goes on to list things we’ve all probably heard time and time again but still hold true. Eat a good breakfast. Pay your bills on time. Recycle. Make your bed. Say thank you and actually mean it. Put your phone away at the dinner table. Invest in a quality mattress.

And then she said this:


Your job is not always going to fulfill you. There will be some days that you just might be bored. Other days, you may not feel like going to work at all—go anyway…The number one lesson I can offer you is…to become so skilled, so vigilant, so flat-out fantastic at what you do that your talent cannot be dismissed.


The point: Become so good you can’t be ignored.

This isn’t a new concept, but you should never forget it. Having a good work ethic matters in your career. Not just because it’ll take you far, but because it’ll make you unforgettable. Being reliable, being driven, striving to learn more and do more and be more is what will ultimately make you successful.

And it’s not about being perfect—it’s about having enough passion, motivation, and dedication to something that you come to excel in it. In the long run, that is what you can control in your quest to land you the job, the promotion, the project, or the recognition you covet.



Article via Alyse Kalish of The Muse

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