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What I learned from "O! The Oprah Magazine" (November 2010 issue)
#7 Where you get a purpose!! And you get a purpose!!!
We’re taking a detour back to a blog post I wrote on this date (13 years ago). What? You were not one of the six people who read it? Well, you’re in luck. Keep reading.
I was 48, Apple had just unveiled the iPad, and Barrack Obama was President. Also, Mark Zuckerberg was Time’s Person of the Year, and the Democrats lost 63 seats in the House of Representatives. So, not exactly the good old days, but at least O! The Oprah Magazine was still in print.
It’s relevant, I promise. And also, there’s (restackable)words near the end.
An Easy-Does-It Guide to Finding (and Fulfilling) Your Life’s Purpose
Eight years ago (2002), I sat in a conference room with the Human Resources Manager and my boss. I’d recently completed my college degree on the company’s dime, and I suppose they wanted to talk about how I might deliver a return on their investment. It was a reasonable question. I worked at a technology company and had fresh ink on a BA in English.
“What do you want to do?” They asked. Unexpectedly, my tears splashed on the conference room table. Instead of the driven woman they’d funded, the managers stared dumbfounded at a lump of directionless mashed potatoes. One of them pushed a box of tissues my way.
“I don’t know what I want,” I said. Questions like these have always stumped me: What’s your passion? Have you found your purpose?
Is purpose innate? Are we doomed to fail if we don’t find – and fulfill – our destiny?
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Dare to dream
I wrote this post in 2010, the November issue of O! The Oprah Magazine was on my dining room table with a promising pink headline: “An Easy-Does-It Guide to Finding (and Fulfilling) Your Life’s Purpose.”
Oprah gathered experts who “dared to dream” and asked them to help her readers discover their “brilliant futures!” Noteworthy: the same issue also heralded a single vitamin that would enable readers to “lose weight,” “fight the flu,” “beat depression,” and “even live longer!” (Wish I could remember what it was!)
The articles were highly aspirational. Much of the advice was beyond the reach of women like me who picked up a copy of O! in the Shop n’ Save check-out line to read while eating rotisserie chicken.
I read about a woman who left the concert production company she owned with her husband to open a home décor shop. Then there was Josie Natori. She was a Wall Street banker before a friend sent her some shirts from the Philippines’ which she took to another friend who happened to be a buyer at Bloomingdales, and the rest is fashion entrepreneurial history.
More expert advice on the search for purpose
In other articles, renowned life coach Martha Beck offered this advice to “your animal self lead through the wilderness of choices.” Writershared that when she felt stymied by life’s choices, she spent “six months absentmindedly digging in the dirt.”
These are very successful, admirable women, but my animal self is a housecat with a bad back.
There was also a quiz to uncover “What Do You Fear Most?” According to my score, I fear failure and success in equal measure. (Still tracks in 2023).
At least the quiz was free. Writing about searching for her life’s purpose, Author Paige Williams admitted to spending $750 on three days of aptitude testing.
For the most part, Oprah’s guide to finding my purpose read more like money does it, not easy does it.
Then, I turned the page, and there was—come to illuminate the truth. In a piece titled “Keeping the Flame: In Praise of the Bright Thing Inside Us," she writes:
We are all Pinocchio: We begin our life, waving to our mother and father with our schoolbooks in hand, hoping to do well. But we are turned this way and that. We make mistakes, we move from our course, we falter, flounder, and may suffer remorse, rebellion, or a sense of defeat. We seem to lose our way. But no matter! If we keep our little flame alive—our first feeling of enthusiasm of who we are without the influence or intervention of others—we will prevail. And like Pinocchio, despite all his transgressions, find the courage to reunite with our little flame and be rewarded.
And the reward is this: We become ourselves.
I tore the page from the magazine. (13 years on, I have it still).
What I wish I’d known
In 2002, I was asked, “What do you want to do?” All I could do was cry. Later—but not too late—the question became, “What might I have been?”
Perhaps words only a poet could muster or an artist’s unlimited capacity for self-reflection could show me the light. I wasn’t ready to trust Patti’s wisdom then, but now I’m learning to ask a different question—not what, want, or might have been, but who.
The best person to tell you who you are, what you should be, is ultimately yourself. – Patti Smith
Who am I? I will have fulfilled my life’s purpose when I find the answer.
This week’s prompt is simple. Inspired by Patti Smith’s Pinnochio metaphor and the song by Leigh Harline and Ned Washington featured in the Disney movie.
Begin with these words: Like a bolt out of the blue
When you wish upon a star
Makes no difference who you are
Anything your heart desires
Will come to you
If your heart is in your dream
No request is too extreme
When you wish upon a star
As dreamers do
Like a bolt out of the blue
Fate steps in and sees you through
When you wish upon a star
Your dreams come true
Take a deep breath and write.