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."

Comments

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

Hillary Clinton Can Stop Trump -- If She Releases Her Electors

Hillary Clinton isn't going to be President of the United States.  At least not yet.  And not in 2017.

But she can possibly stop Donald Trump from being President by releasing her pledged electors  in the Electoral College to vote for a compromise Republican candidate.

This is part of the strategy of the Hamilton Electors, members of the Electoral College who see that Donald Trump is not qualified to be President.  They argue that the Electoral College's role is not to rubber-stamp the popular vote -- which, in this case, would belong to Clinton -- but to serve as a check on the popular vote to make sure that no one who is unfit assumes the office of President.

According to the Hamilton Electors, named for Founding Father Alexander Hamilton (Yes, he of the very popular musical for which I can't get tickets) Hamilton stated that the Electoral College's test for fitness to be the President was as follows (and I'm quoting):

Election of a Qualified Person: As Hamilton s…

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…

My Prayer and Mantra for 2017 -- Do Not Waste Time on People and Things That Don't Matter

In this era of fake news, fake political candidates, and fake people all around, my prayer and mantra for 2017 is simple:  Do not waste time on people and things that don't matter.

In 2016, I spent too much time and money on things and people who didn't matter.  I allowed myself to become distracted by stuff that, for me and Black Man Not Blogging, didn't really matter for our happiness.  These distractions not only didn't improve the quality of our life together; they decreased it with additional and unnecessary stress.

The good news is that, for the most part, we're okay.  Yeah, Trump and his ilk really suck, but instead of a lot of hand wringing and commiserating, I'm going to do the one thing my late mother She Who  Is Exalted (SWIE) did better than anyone I know:  Play the hand you've been dealt.  My mother was a black female without a college education and with six kids, so playing the hand she was dealt was her survival skill.  Now it will be mine.

S…