Skip to main content

Having An Oprah Gail Moment, Or Outgrowing Your Circle

"Don't you ever want more?"

- "My Love," Jill Scott

If Oprah never does another thing that's meaningful in my life, her Master Class show would be enough. I watched both of her own episodes of Master Class, and two things struck me. One was the moment during her childhood when Oprah's grandmother told Oprah while washing clothes for whites and hanging them to dry something to the effect of, "Now, Oprah Gail, you pay attention to what I'm doing because someday you're going to have to do this." Oprah said that something in her soul just rebelled, and deep inside she knew, "That would not be my fate."

The second thing that struck me was Oprah's response to a conversation with her boss at a Baltimore television station when she decided to go to Chicago and do a talk show -- a talk show that would eventually become The Oprah Winfrey Show. Her boss told her she would get slaughtered, that there was no way she could hope to compete with Phil Donahue, in his own backyard, no less. She listened and acknowledged to herself that he was right, but she said to herself that even if she couldn't beat Phil, she knew that if she stayed in Baltimore, she wouldn't grow.

I call Oprah's childhood conversation with her grandmother an "Oprah Gail" moment: When someone, with the best of intentions, can't imagine a fate for you greater than what you have or what they have. Even worse -- when they can't imagine a fate for you that is commensurate with your abilities.

I've been having some Oprah Gail moments as of late, with people I know assuming that I aspire to little more than what I have or -- even worse -- that I shouldn't aspire to more. When I jokingly said to a friend that I wouldn't take a position because the employer couldn't afford to pay me the salary I'm worth, a reasonable one given my experience, the friend replied, "You don't need to make that much money." But what really gets me is that people can't imagine that I would want to do anything other than what I'm doing. It's all I can do not to shake them and say, "Given my abilities, can't you even imagine that I might want more than this?" Imagine in a way that, because of time and circumstance, Oprah's grandmother couldn't?

The second part of Oprah's Master Class that struck me, the inability to grow in one's current position, is something we don't always think about. It's easy as we grow older and risk averse to become the intellectual and spiritual equivalent of being pot bound and, like a pot bound plant, in need of a transplant to grow. My husband's pastor calls it "outgrowing your circle," and this can happen at work or in any organization you're involved in.

How do you know if you've outgrown your circle? Ask yourself:

Are you considered the go-to person in your group?

Are you expected to catch the errors of your peers because you're held to a higher performance standard than your peers?

Are you the one person who consistently brings a new perspective to problems?

Do you teach more than you learn?

When you make an error, is the error so complex that only you could catch it, but you get derided by people who can't even comprehend the error you made?

Do you have better judgment than your peers?

Do you bring more to your position than what's in your job description? For example, can you balance the books as an accounting clerk AND write a killer press release?

Are you accused of being arrogant because, more often than not, you're right and you won't back down about it?

Have you stopped speaking up because you know that, if you do, you'll have to explain, too, and you don't have the patience to teach?

Is there a mismatch between your position and your passion?

Do you bristle at being talked down to by someone in your group who outranks you and whom you consider to be less intelligent than yourself?

I have a lot of interests and, thank God, I'm still curious. I imagine far greater for myself in addition to what I have now or what others would have for me. I'm not done growing, nor do I hope to ever be.

To borrow from a Dos Equis commercial, "Stay curious, my friends."


vincentlopez said…
Exactly the problem I'm having with both work and my old circle of friends. But can you be a true friend from a distance?
Excellent question! I don't know whether you have to be a friend from a distance. Maybe you just have to change your expectations of the friendship so you're not frustrated and reduce your time commitment to it to only those events that really matter to the BOTH of you.

Good luck!

Popular posts from this blog

When You Leave The Ghetto, Don't Bring It With You

NBA player Gilbert Arenas brings a gun to an NBA locker room. NBA player Ron Artest lets his pit bulls run wild and free in Loomis, California while playing for the Sacramento Kings. NFL player Michael Vick did time for fighting dogs. And NFL player Plaxico Burress is doing time for shooting his damn self.

What do all these men have in common? BMNB would say an inability to make a profound paradigm shift. I’m less eloquent than BMNB is, so I’ll say it differently: The inability to leave the ghetto behind.

Yes, call me saditty, bourgie, elitist, stuck-up, whatever. I don’t care. Until you’ve had a tweaker ruin your Thanksgiving turkey, you don’t even know (more on that later), and I’m not trying to hear you.

Living in Western Placer County, my husband and I continue to hear stories from folks like us who had to flee “those who can’t leave the ghetto behind.” You know these people, and they come in all races. In our case, we had returned to Sacramento in 2004 and 2005, respective…

Black Woman Blogging's Gun Control Proposal

Thanks to a relative who sent me death threats, I became a gun owner. Reluctantly.  What can I say.  You don't choose your family.

That said, I'm for gun control.

As far as I'm concerned, America lost its moral compass when we didn't do squat after Sandy Hook.  If you can allow a madman to murder children and not be moved to do nothing, you have no moral compass.  Period.

Now that we've broken an unfortunate record for the number of people killed in a mass shooting, perhaps we as a country are ready to get our minds right about gun control.  Perhaps.  So in that spirit, I offer my gun control proposal.

First, we need to agree on some real (not alternative) facts and principles:

1.  There is no such thing as an unlimited right.  Yes, people, there are no unlimited rights protected under the Constitution.  Your right to free speech?  Well, not all speech is protected under the First Amendment and even protected speech can be limited by time, place and manner.  Your…

Retired Man Walking: Too Young to Retire, Too Old to Take Shit

A while back I ran into a friend and fellow professional employed by the State of California, and he offered me his perspective on State employment as a tail-end Baby Boomer like myself -- someone who can't retire because he lacks the requisite age or years of service, but, unlike myself, is tired of taking shit from superiors who don't know what to do with you.

Although my friend gave his permission for me to use his name in this blog entry, I decline to do so because what he does is so specialized that it would not be hard for anyone to identify him as one of the few African American men, if not the only African-American man, in California state civil service who does what he does. For purposes of this blog entry, I will refer to him as he now refers to himself:  Retired Man Walking.

Retired Man Walking, or RMW, has an interesting philosophy he applies to working for the State as a professional who isn't old enough to retire but has been around long enough to know the s…