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Oprah Winfrey's 3 Steps for Success

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Editor's Note: As the 2012 graduation season winds down, we at YoungEntrepreneur.com thought it fitting to check in on the commencement addresses given by some of nation's top entrepreneurs. Here's the first installment in a week-long, five-part series on top tips from entrepreneurs' commencement addresses. Click here for inspiring words from Mike Bloomberg, Salman Khan, Eric Schmidt and Luma Mufleh.


In her speech at Spelman College in Atlanta on May 20, the ultra-successful Oprah Winfrey who presides over her own television network, among other things, spoke about the importance of knowing yourself and what your contribution will be. She mentioned having grappled with her own identity as a talk show host, business woman and entrepreneur, only to realize that she was more than her occupation.

Though Winfrey offers a rare kind of success story, what drives her can surely inspire many would-be entrepreneurs out there. Here are Winfrey's three tips for how to succeed in life -- and in business:

  1. Knowing who you are. Being able to answer this question who am? I and what do I want? I don't want to just be successful. I don't want to just make a mark or have a legacy. The answer to those questions is I want to fulfill the highest and truest sense of myself as a human being. You must have some kind of vision for your life. Even if you don't have a plan, you have to have a direction of where you want to go. Is there a plan, or are you just driving? You want to be in the driver's seat of your own life, or life will just drive you.

  2. You must find a way to serve. Martin Luther King said that not everybody can be famous but everybody can be great because greatness comes from serving. The real truth is that it takes service and significance.If you look at all the most successful people in the world -- whether they know it or not they have this paradigm of service. I made a decision that I was no longer just going to be on TV. But instead, I'd be a platform for good. Using television as a service, changed my career exponentially. You can follow suite, by using whatever it is you produce as a way of giving back to the world. When you shift the paradigm to service and you bring significance to that, success will follow you.
  1. Always do the right thing. Always be excellent. People notice. You go to Taco Bell and someone gives you extra napkins and sauce. That's right, even at Taco Bell, excellence is noticed. Everyone talks about building a brand; I didn't even know what that was. What I recognize now is that my choice to do the right thing, the excellent thing, is what created the brand.When you are excellent, you become unforgettable. We want to be unforgettable and not forgettable. That's achieved by doing the right thing, even when nobody knows you're doing it.

To see the whole unedited speech, watch below.

Diana Ransom

Written By

Diana Ransom is the former deputy editor of Entrepreneur.com.