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Lessons on Living a Good Life From Oprah Winfrey

Valuable life advice from the media mogul

Powerful, wise, fun and loving — Oprah Winfrey is a figure who has undoubtedly shaped the world for good. Whether rising from an impoverished upbringing in rural Mississippi or making history by becoming the USA's first African-American billionaire, Oprah has built her career on telling captivating stories about herself and others.

As perhaps the world’s best-known champion of living a full and inspiring life, it's safe to say that Oprah knows a thing or two about what it means to be human. From overcoming adversity to mastering a positive outlook and achieving inner peace, this queen of media has compassionate words for all occasions. Here are some of our favorites.



There is no such thing as failure. Failure is just life trying to move us in another direction." 


On Overcoming Failure

Oprah proves that no one is immune from setbacks and disappointments, no matter what level of success, fame or wealth they’ve achieved — a theme she shared in her graduation speech at Harvard University in 2013. Early in her career, she was fired by her first boss and told she was "unfit for television news," later saying "It shook me to my very core ... I had no idea what I was in for or that this was going to be the greatest growing period of my adult life.”

Years later, she had to deal with the fallout from her box office flop Beloved. In this difficult moment, Oprah revealed her tenacity and resilient approach to life:

"It doesn't matter how far you might rise. At some point, you are bound to stumble. If you're constantly pushing yourself higher and higher, the law of averages predicts that you will at some point fall. And when you do, I want you to remember this: There is no such thing as failure. Failure is just life trying to move us in another direction." 


On Creating Your Own Life

"You define your own life. Don't let other people write your script."

Here Oprah speaks about living life on your own terms, rather than succumbing to pressure from those around you to live a certain way. These words resonate with us here at StoryTerrace, as we are on a mission to help one million people write their own life stories. We also believe that everyone has a unique story to tell, and that each one is worth writing down. 


On Learning From Your Hardships

It’s easy to see why Oprah is such a sought-after commencement speaker. In an address to the 1997 graduating class of Wellesley College, she gave this priceless piece of advice:

"Turn your wounds into wisdom."

A beacon of overcoming terrible circumstances and rising to brilliance, Oprah was born in rural Mississippi to a teenage mother in the 1950s. She suffered abuse at the age of nine, ran away from home at 13, became pregnant at 14 and then lost her child, who was born prematurely.

Oprah was able to change her fate when she moved to Nashville to live with her father. There she excelled at school, holding down a part-time job at a local radio station. Through hard work, she eventually created her own empire. Oprah is a champion of turning personal pain into fuel for growth, and her life is a great example of refusing to succumb to adversity.


If you pull the lever of gratitude every day, you'll be amazed at the results”.

On Aging

"I refuse to let a system, a culture, a distorted view of reality tell me I don't matter," Oprah writes on her website.

Always challenging the norm, Oprah's sentiments on defying social pressure about aging is inspiring. She also also says that "Getting older is the best thing that ever happened to me. I wake up every morning rejoicing that I’m still here with an opportunity to begin again and be better."

Here at StoryTerrace, we also take an optimistic approach towards aging, so we find this attitude particularly inspiring.  


Forgiveness is giving up the hope that the past could be any different”.


On Gratitude

"If the only prayer you ever say is thank you, that will be enough."

In her book What I Know For Sure, Oprah extols the virtues of gratitude. The simple act of giving thanks can have a profound effect on your happiness and experience of life. Oprah makes gratitude a daily priority by writing in her gratitude journal and says: "I've learned from experience that if you pull the lever of gratitude every day, you'll be amazed at the results."


On Forgiving

After interviewing more than 37,000 people on her show over the course of 25 years, Oprah said that one guest on her show in 1990 changed her life with his definition of forgiveness: “It really means letting go of the past we thought we wanted.”

Of this moment, Oprah said:"that was a transcendent moment for me — bigger, even, than an aha. He said forgiveness is giving up the hope that the past could be any different.”

These words dramatically changed her outlook for the better.


What We Know for Sure

Oprah's incredible life story and her dedication to telling the stories of others has made a phenomenal impact on the world. She lives her life as an open book, sharing her wisdom and wealth with the world. To borrow the words of Oprah's mentor Maya Angelou, she really is a "phenomenal woman."


If you’ve been inspired by Oprah to share your own life lessons, StoryTerrace is here to help! Get in touch with us to find out how you can write your memoirs, or sign up for our newsletter for more words of wisdom from the greats. 


Written by Helen Morris
Image credits: by Wikimedia Commons

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