I heard the tale of Sai and Kai, two jolly good friends who decided to consult a seer about their future.
The seer predicted that Sai would become very wealthy and influential, which was not surprising given that his father was also wealthy. On the other hand, he informed Kai that there was nothing he could do to become wealthy or bring him any closer to success. Many years later according to the legend, Sai was as poor as a church rat because he had trusted the prophecy, but Kai had become rich because, as soon as he left the fortune-teller, he started working and directing his life in the direction of his goals.
There is a Yoruba saying that says, “Ise logun ise”. It means work i.e. employment or enterprise is the cure for poverty. Therefore, Kai’s fear of poverty must have motivated him to laboriously and devotedly challenge the seer’s prediction. Sai, on the other hand, was at ease and didn’t do much to support his presumptive prosperous ‘guaranteed” future. The moral of their story is that people choose to be diligent to escape poverty or hold on to their wealth: a rich man who chooses not to be diligent will also fall into poverty.
Diligence works in tandem with five attributes, namely: self-motivation, task orientation, service, perseverance, and consistency. These attributes can be seen in the life of Orpah Gail Winfrey, popularly known as Oprah. She is a typical example of someone who broke out of poverty through sheer diligence and the accompanying aforementioned attributes.
Brief Biography of Oprah Gail Winfrey
Oprah was born on January 29, 1954, in Kosciusko, Mississippi. Her unmarried teenage mother, Vernita Lee was a housemaid, and her father, Vernon Winfrey was a coal miner turned barber, which, by nature, limits the success of a child. Orpah spent the first six years of her life living in poverty with her grandmother, Hattie Mae (Presley) Lee. They were so poor that her dresses were made from potato sacks and she was often made fun of by other children. This is a testament to the fact that children would only live at the level of their parent’s or guardians’ status; rich, comfortable, or poor. The status of parents and guardians could be a constraint or an advantage to a child, which in Winfrey’s case was the latter, but she was a fighter. She constantly defied her environment by doing a little more than her peers.
She was able to read before the age of three and could recite Bible verses. By age six, she later moved to another city with her mother, but because her mother couldn’t take care of her and her younger sister together, Oprah was sent to live with her father in Nashville, Tennessee instead. She suffered several setbacks growing up, including sexual abuse from her family members, she ran away from home at 13; and she became pregnant at 14. She also suffered the loss of her premature son. These are tough challenges that should limit the success of a black girl child, but she forged ahead. She was a self-motivated girl, and she faced her fears. She challenged the status quo in her family and was determined to be different by prioritizing education, which she had identified as the only way to change her thinking and consequently her estate. She gave it her all and was an outstanding student in high school. Winfrey consistently put her best effort and heart into everything she did.
As earlier stated, the only way to break out of poverty is through diligence. Oprah must have gotten wind of this even as a young girl, hence her taking up a job at a local grocery store as a teenager and also landing a part-time radio job as a newscaster with a local black radio station while still in high school. With her aggregate experience as an excellent reader at the tender age of three, a member of her high school speech team, and a newscaster while still in high school, it was no surprise she built a successful career in media, which is not a mean feat for a black woman in a male-dominated industry.
Media and Awards
In diligence, there is also the character of taking on new challenges, which Winfrey did so well. She was the youngest news anchor and the first black woman news anchor at WLAC-TV. Winfrey continued to rise in her career and kept adding feathers to her hat in the industry. She worked as a co-host and eventually as the host of several TV shows. Eventually, she had her own show, “The Oprah Winfrey Show,” where she featured different categories of people and topics. She intentionally used her show to promote love, humanity, and service. Aside from her popular show, she also produced a drama miniseries, The Women of Brewster Place, in 1989.
She co-founded Oxygen, the women’s cable television network. She is the president of Harpo Productions (Oprah spelled backward), a film and TV production company. Oprah became a household name and gained partnerships with several organizations on diverse scales. One such is Apple’s multi-year content partnership; proof that diligence always pays off, especially when applied with tenacity and exceptionalism.
When you work at something and it’s not working, tweak it a little, learn a better way of doing it, keep at it, and try another venture (if necessary) until your desired result is achieved. Truly successful people like Oprah never had it easy; they certainly worked, brainstormed, and failed at times, but kept trying until their big moment came.
Do you see a man who excels in his work? He will stand before kings; He will not stand before unknown men (Proverbs 22:29 NKJV)
The above scripture is true for Oprah. She was a political force in the 2008 presidential election and is said to have influenced about 1 million votes in favor of Barack Obama in the Democratic primaries. She is known as the “Queen of All Media,” she was the first black female billionaire, she was inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame in 1994, and she was also ranked one of the most influential women in the world in 2007.
In 2008, she established her network, the Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN). She was also awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Barack Obama in 2013. In the same year, she was awarded honorary doctorate degrees by Duke and Harvard universities. Also in her bag are 18 Daytime Emmy Awards, 2 Primetime Emmy Awards, a Tony Award, A Peabody Award, Academy Awards and nominations, humanitarian awards, and many more. In 2021, she was elected as a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.
Oprah Winfrey has had a long chain of success from her childhood to date, all owing to her diligence and her exceptionalism. She is a role model for many girls and women all over the world.
One thing is certain, idleness and indolence will always result in nothingness, but diligence comes with plenty of benefits. I challenge you today, to be diligent.v