Last week, entrepreneur and entertainer Oprah Winfrey again made Forbes's list of the world's most powerful women (#12) and the list of richest self-made women (#5). Here are seven secrets she has shared recently about how she creates influence and power.

1. Rise above pain

Fail. And fail again. Oprah has. She had an early life full of poverty, abuse, a baby who died, and a lost childhood. She's lost jobs and, struggled to make people understand who she is. But for her, "there are no mistakes." Losses aren't life-defining, they're "just there to point you in a different direction." Don't get overwhelmed; don't beat yourself down. Look for the sign pointing to what's next.

2. Reframe disappointments

"Many times," Oprah says, "when it appears that something is happening to you, it is always, always happening for you to strengthen you." Oprah says her struggles with her weight and self-image, with projects like her television network, OWN, make her stronger. What you don't get, what you struggle for, exercises your power.

3. Engage your drive

Don't depend on luck: for Oprah, luck is just "preparation meeting the moment of opportunity." In college, Oprah took a surprise call from CBS, which gave her her first media job. She was ready, she was open to the opportunity, and it led her to her destiny. When your readiness reveals your next move, that's "luck."

4. Run your own race

Oprah believes in good boundaries, in "running your own race and only your own race." In the 37,000 interviews she's done, she sees dysfunction arising mostly from people not knowing what's theirs. You have your purpose, your gift, and it's your job to pay attention to you. "It's not about the other guy. It's about what can you do. You just need to run that race as hard as you can. You need to give it everything you've got all the time, for yourself."

5. Be yourself

"What is the gift you were meant to give?" Oprah asks. "Nobody can take that away from you." You have a destiny and you have a gift. As she told students recently at Stanford, when you align your personality and your purpose, nobody can touch you. "I still have my feet on the ground," she says. "I just wear better shoes."

6. Pay it forward

Oprah has a mindset of generosity. Of her $3B fortune (roughly the same as Mark Cuban, somewhat less than Richard Branson, somewhat more than Beyonc), $400 million and more is spent for educational philanthropy. For example, in 2007, she spent $40 million to open the Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls in South Africa. She says, "When you're changing a girl's life it's not just that life. You start to affect a family, a community, a nation."

7. Look forward to your future

You are, Oprah believes, more powerful than you know, simply because you can do and be much more than you can conceive. You co-create your life with a force bigger than you, with a destiny you were born to fulfill.

Dream as large a life as you want. As she told Stanford University students last month, "The universe...has a bigger plan and a bigger dream for you than you can ever even imagine for yourself."

Published on: May 28, 2015
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