The Truth About Who You Will Never Be

future-proof career

There’s something you need to know about who you are and who you will be. More importantly, there’s something you need to know about who you will never be.

It might sting at first, but give me a minute and that will change. Actually, everything might change.

I begin by saying…

I used to want to do great things.

I mean REALLY great things. I wanted to be at the MLK level. The Mother Teresa level. The Oprah level.

I wanted to lead something evolutionary (or revolutionary, as the case may be). To achieve the highest honors, win the toughest challenges, advance humankind to some super-duper nth degree. To be known for this super-duper, nth degree kind of achievement.

So many of us do this:

  • We don’t just want to do excellent work, but to over-perform in everything we do…and to be recognized for our greatness. By everyone, all the time.
  • We don’t just want to play a sport, but to win every time…and to be recognized for our greatness. By everyone, all the time.
  • We don’t just strive to be a good parent, but to have our kids be the brightest and best students there are…and to be recognized for our greatness. By everyone, all the time.

And then what happens?

For me, as I aged and despite my best efforts, it soon became clear I wasn’t quite reaching the level I envisioned. The pressure was on and time was ticking and I wasn’t amazingly amazing yet.  Which, to me, meant I was a failure.

Until the day I saw Oprah.

The Oprah Offense

When I say I saw Oprah, I mean I really saw her…me and thousands of other people lucky enough to snag tickets when she came to town.

On that fateful day, Oprah talked about her show and about the difference she’s been able to make because of her fame. She talked about changing people’s lives all over the world…about helping women in Africa and increasing safety for children here in America.

And then Oprah Winfrey looked at all of us and said the following…

“You know, chances are you’ll never get to do what I have done.”

My first response was to be totally offended. My first thought, the not-super-mature…

Screw you, Oprah.

But then my ego took a second to breathe, and I thought about what she was actually saying. And that she was right.

Odds were, I wasn’t going to become a wildly famous, perpetually obsessed-about, astoundingly wealthy woman who uses her unlimited dollars and celebrity to make a difference all over the world. All the time.

After all, Oprah status doesn’t just happen…and it certainly doesn’t happen to most of us. It’s very, very rare.

And yet…many of us won’t rest in our quest to get it. We set these goals and we fail to realize that they are impossible…and then we berate ourselves for failing to achieve them. For failing to achieve Oprah status.

Which isn’t just nonsense, but also a pretty terrible thing to do to ourselves.

Let’s face it. In addition to her incredible vision, hard work and grit, Oprah was also incredibly lucky. Her efforts were made in the right places at the right time, when people were ready for what she had to offer. Even she said this that day.

It’s this luck factor that we need to think about when we aim for Oprah status. Her level of achievement is a huge exception to a much, much more common rule.

As I finally got what Oprah was saying, I felt a bunch of pressure lift from my shoulders.

Because Oprah gave me permission to not be Oprah.

Now, let me stop here to clarify what I am not saying:

  • What I am not saying is that we shouldn’t try to achieve amazing things in our lives
  • What I am not saying is that we shouldn’t aim high and exit our very comfy comfort zone in order to try new things
  • And what I am really not saying is that we shouldn’t try to make a difference in some way

Now…what I am saying:

  • That every achievement we make is an achievement to be celebrated…even if nobody knows about it but us
  • That making a difference for just one person (or animal or tree or what have you) needs to be honored
  • That, even if our efforts fail sometimes, we are still good people

That, as long as we’re trying to make our lives meaningful in some way…to do well at work and in our sport and with our kids…that what we are doing is enough. No, it’s great. And so are we.

That, chances are, we will never be Oprah. That we shouldn’t even try to be.

That, instead, we should just try to be our best us.

In the end, it turns out our best us is the greatest thing of all.


This guest post was authored by Deirdre Maloney

Deirdre Maloney helps people exceed their goals and sleep better at night. She does this as an international trainer, facilitator, writer and coach. Her writings have been featured in Forbes, Inc. and Entrepreneur, and her books include Bogus Balance, The Mission Myth and the Tough Truths series. For more information visit 

Ms. Career Girl

Ms. Career Girl was started in 2008 to help ambitious young professional women figure out who they are, what they want and how to get it.