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7 Essential Life Lessons We Can All Learn From Oprah's New Book

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I don't know about you, but English class was always wildly intriguing for me. Some people like Vodka, I get a rise out of good literature. But one day in particular, I remember being particularly frustrated with the poem that was introduced. Although "The Road Not Taken" by Robert Frost is a widely known piece that is said to be insightful and awesome, my beliefs were quite the contrary. I thought it sucked because it left me more confused than I was before I read it.

Oprah is placing her own spin on this befuddling piece of prose in her new book, and unlike our late homie Robert Frost, she plans to make the path to success clear instead of daunting and confusing. In The Path Made Clear: Discovering Your Life's Direction and Purpose, our favorite rich auntie gives us the blueprint to success and a roadmap to happiness by sharing her personal experiences with fear.

In the book, she also calls on her super-rich friends, like Jay-Z and Ellen Degeneres to share some of the secrets they wish they had on their journey. She wrote:

Flatiron Books

"There is no greater gift you can give or receive than to honor your calling. It's why you were born. And how you become most truly alive."

The most unanswered question in the history of man is probably, "Why are we here?" Passion and purpose are not always mutually exclusive, but using both of these gifts will help you get a little closer to your desired end result. Oprah wants to help you solve this riddle, sis, and she'll do it by using a few life lessons that she's accumulated over the years.

7 Life Lessons Oprah Taught Me About Learning To Live My Best Life

1. To Live Your Best Life, You Must Become Your Best Self

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Sometimes we worry so much about everything we have to do and the timeframe in which we have to do it, that we forget who we are. Oprah reminds us that:

"There is no real doing without first being."

In this quest that we're all on called life, our only obligation is to become the highest, truest version of ourselves. You could have a dream to make a million dollars, but do you know yourself? Oprah's new book teaches us that happiness and wealth are easily available to us when we look for those things internally before we seek them out in the world.

2. Fail Forward, F*ck Fear

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In the book, Auntie O opened up about the time she was asked to give a Harvard commencement speech, but there was only one problem: she was shook. Although she was at the height of her career and had just launched her network, Oprah proved that even a mogul can struggle with impostor syndrome. While she felt she was making progress, headlines like "Oprah isn't holding her own" stifled her faith and made her doubt her journey. In her book, she explained:

"I had enjoyed a long stretch at the top and was proud to be known as a powerful businesswoman. So when Harvard reached out, all I could think was, 'What can I teach about success when I've stopped succeeding?' And to be frank, I was embarrassed."

Even though her nerves were in shambles, Oprah had to give herself the pep talk we all need every once in a while. Push thru, sis. She continued:

"I found my groove after I realized that you don't need to have gone to Harvard to speak to Harvard graduates."

3. There's No Luck, Only Preparation & Opportunity

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I always have to ask myself, "Have you prepared for what you prayed for?" The key to success isn't necessarily abundance. You can have all of the money in the world, but if you haven't put a plan in place, then what good is it? Oprah reminds us to stay ready so we don't have to get ready. After all, a vision without action is only a daydream.

"I don't believe in luck. For me, luck really means preparation meeting the moment of opportunity."

4. What You Focus On Will Grow

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What if I told you that you already had everything you need to be successful, would you believe me? Well believe it, sis. We often focus so much on what we don't have, that we forget that we have already been supplied with everything we need to make our dreams come true. Where is your head at, tho? If you only focus on the negative parts of your life, you'll miss out on a lot of the moments that can make you happy. What you focus on will manifest. So do yourself a favor, and kick that negative self-talk to the curb. Oprah explained:

"When you pay attention to what feeds your energy, you move in the direction of the life for which you were intended."

5. Wish It, Dream It, Do It

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"For every dream, there is automatically going to be resistance."

Vision without execution is a daydream. Strategy without execution is hallucination. Please know that I'm ministering to myself when I preach this, but sis! At some point, it's time to stop planning and do that sh*t! According to Oprah, for every dream you have, there will be an obstacle put in place to obstruct it. Whether that obstacle is your parents, who don't believe in living out your passion, or your friends, who discourage you due to their own fear. Feel the resistance and do it anyway.

6. The Best Way To Know Your Purpose Is To Serve Others

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I heard this in church once, and it touched my spirit. My pastor said, if you're having trouble discovering your purpose, serve. As hardworking women, we take pride in the fruits of our labor. But keep in mind that the fruit isn't meant to be eaten by the tree. Our gifts are symbolic of the very necessary harvest that we have to offer the world every single day. Don't be selfish and keep your God-given fruit all to yourself. In the words of Auntie O:

"Every single moment is an opportunity to be of service to another human being."

7. Secure The Bag. You, You're The Bag. Secure Yourself

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"All these years later, I am still keenly aware that I am not my salary."

It's easy for me to say that I am not the amount of money that I make because I am not a billionaire. On the other hand, if I was Oprah, I don't know if I'd feel the same sentiment. Like all of us, I have a tendency to place a value on myself based on how other people perceive my worth. I didn't get that job I applied for, I must be unworthy. I didn't get the raise that I thought I would, so I must not be that good at my job. Take a lesson from our rich auntie and remember that YOU are the bag. Secure yourself. Never get so caught up chasing money that you wind up losing yourself.

Featured image by Joe Seer / Shutterstock.com

ACLU By ACLUSponsored

Over the past four years, we grew accustomed to a regular barrage of blatant, segregationist-style racism from the White House. Donald Trump tweeted that “the Squad," four Democratic Congresswomen who are Black, Latinx, and South Asian, should “go back" to the “corrupt" countries they came from; that same year, he called Elizabeth Warren “Pocahontas," mocking her belief that she might be descended from Native American ancestors.

But as outrageous as the racist comments Trump regularly spewed were, the racially unjust governmental actions his administration took and, in the case of COVID-19, didn't take, impacted millions more — especially Black and Brown people.

To begin to heal and move toward real racial justice, we must address not only the harms of the past four years, but also the harms tracing back to this country's origins. Racism has played an active role in the creation of our systems of education, health care, ownership, and employment, and virtually every other facet of life since this nation's founding.

Our history has shown us that it's not enough to take racist policies off the books if we are going to achieve true justice. Those past policies have structured our society and created deeply-rooted patterns and practices that can only be disrupted and reformed with new policies of similar strength and efficacy. In short, a systemic problem requires a systemic solution. To combat systemic racism, we must pursue systemic equality.

What is Systemic Racism?

A system is a collection of elements that are organized for a common purpose. Racism in America is a system that combines economic, political, and social components. That system specifically disempowers and disenfranchises Black people, while maintaining and expanding implicit and explicit advantages for white people, leading to better opportunities in jobs, education, and housing, and discrimination in the criminal legal system. For example, the country's voting systems empower white voters at the expense of voters of color, resulting in an unequal system of governance in which those communities have little voice and representation, even in policies that directly impact them.

Systemic Equality is a Systemic Solution

In the years ahead, the ACLU will pursue administrative and legislative campaigns targeting the Biden-Harris administration and Congress. We will leverage legal advocacy to dismantle systemic barriers, and will work with our affiliates to change policies nearer to the communities most harmed by these legacies. The goal is to build a nation where every person can achieve their highest potential, unhampered by structural and institutional racism.

To begin, in 2021, we believe the Biden administration and Congress should take the following crucial steps to advance systemic equality:

Voting Rights

The administration must issue an executive order creating a Justice Department lead staff position on voting rights violations in every U.S. Attorney office. We are seeing a flood of unlawful restrictions on voting across the country, and at every level of state and local government. This nationwide problem requires nationwide investigatory and enforcement resources. Even if it requires new training and approval protocols, a new voting rights enforcement program with the participation of all 93 U.S. Attorney offices is the best way to help ensure nationwide enforcement of voting rights laws.

These assistant U.S. attorneys should begin by ensuring that every American in the custody of the Bureau of Prisons who is eligible to vote can vote, and monitor the Census and redistricting process to fight the dilution of voting power in communities of color.

We are also calling on Congress to pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act to finally create a fair and equal national voting system, the cause for which John Lewis devoted his life.

Student Debt

Black borrowers pay more than other students for the same degrees, and graduate with an average of $7,400 more in debt than their white peers. In the years following graduation, the debt gap more than triples. Nearly half of Black borrowers will default within 12 years. In other words, for Black Americans, the American dream costs more. Last week, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, along with House Reps. Ayanna Pressley, Maxine Waters, and others, called on President Biden to cancel up to $50,000 in federal student loan debt per borrower.

We couldn't agree more. By forgiving $50,000 of student debt, President Biden can unleash pent up economic potential in Black communities, while relieving them of a burden that forestalls so many hopes and dreams. Black women in particular will benefit from this executive action, as they are proportionately the most indebted group of all Americans.

Postal Banking

In both low and high income majority-Black communities, traditional bank branches are 50 percent more likely to close than in white communities. The result is that nearly 50 percent of Black Americans are unbanked or underbanked, and many pay more than $2,000 in fees associated with subprime financial institutions. Over their lifetime, those fees can add up to as much as two years of annual income for the average Black family.

The U.S. Postal Service can and should meet this crisis by providing competitive, low-cost financial services to help advance economic equality. We call on President Biden to appoint new members to the Postal Board of Governors so that the Post Office can do the work of providing essential services to every American.

Fair Housing

Across the country, millions of people are living in communities of concentrated poverty, including 26 percent of all Black children. The Biden administration should again implement the 2015 Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rule, which required localities that receive federal funds for housing to investigate and address barriers to fair housing and patterns or practices that promote bias. In 1980, the average Black person lived in a neighborhood that was 62 percent Black and 31 percent white. By 2010, the average Black person's neighborhood was 48 percent Black and 34 percent white. Reinstating the Obama-era Fair Housing Rule will combat this ongoing segregation and set us on a path to true integration.

Congress should also pass the American Housing and Economic Mobility Act, or a similar measure, to finally redress the legacy of redlining and break down the walls of segregation once and for all.

Broadband Access

To realize broadband's potential to benefit our democracy and connect us to one another, all people in the United States must have equal access and broadband must be made affordable for the most vulnerable. Yet today, 15 percent of American households with school-age children do not have subscriptions to any form of broadband, including one-quarter of Black households (an additional 23 percent of African Americans are “smartphone-only" internet users, meaning they lack traditional home broadband service but do own a smartphone, which is insufficient to attend class, do homework, or apply for a job). The Biden administration, Federal Communications Commission, and Congress must develop and implement plans to increase funding for broadband to expand universal access.

Enhanced, Refundable Child Tax Credits

The United States faces a crisis of child poverty. Seventeen percent of all American children are impoverished — a rate higher than not just peer nations like Canada and the U.K., but Mexico and Russia as well. Currently, more than 50 percent of Black and Latinx children in the U.S. do not qualify for the full benefit, compared to 23 percent of white children, and nearly one in five Black children do not receive any credit at all.

To combat this crisis, President Biden and Congress should enhance the child tax credit and make it fully refundable. If we enhance the child tax credit, we can cut child poverty by 40 percent and instantly lift over 50 percent of Black children out of poverty.

Reparations

We cannot repair harms that we have not fully diagnosed. We must commit to a thorough examination of the impact of the legacy of chattel slavery on racial inequality today. In 2021, Congress must pass H.R. 40, which would establish a commission to study reparations and make recommendations for Black Americans.

The Long View

For the past century, the ACLU has fought for racial justice in legislatures and in courts, including through several landmark Supreme Court cases. While the court has not always ruled in favor of racial justice, incremental wins throughout history have helped to chip away at different forms of racism such as school segregation ( Brown v. Board), racial bias in the criminal legal system (Powell v. Alabama, i.e. the Scottsboro Boys), and marriage inequality (Loving v. Virginia). While these landmark victories initiated necessary reforms, they were only a starting point.

Systemic racism continues to pervade the lives of Black people through voter suppression, lack of financial services, housing discrimination, and other areas. More than anything, doing this work has taught the ACLU that we must fight on every front in order to overcome our country's legacies of racism. That is what our Systemic Equality agenda is all about.

In the weeks ahead, we will both expand on our views of why these campaigns are crucial to systemic equality and signal the path this country must take. We will also dive into our work to build organizing, advocacy, and legal power in the South — a region with a unique history of racial oppression and violence alongside a rich history of antiracist organizing and advocacy. We are committed to four principles throughout this campaign: reconciliation, access, prosperity, and empowerment. We hope that our actions can meet our ambition to, as Dr. King said, lead this nation to live out the true meaning of its creed.

What you can do:
Take the pledge: Systemic Equality Agenda
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