The privilege of a lifetime is being who you are.” – Joseph Campbell
Last Saturday at the L.A. convention center, thousands of Oprah’s most faithful followers gathered for “O You!”, a one-day personal growth summit, to soak up wisdom from inspirational leaders such as Iyanla Vanzant, Martha Beck, Peter Walsh, Suze Orman, Dr. Phil and of course, the Ah-Ha Queen herself.
I had the pleasure of attending the event and I’m still buzzing from the incredible energy of the day. As is often the case with an experience like this, the challenge afterwards is to stay present to the conversation and to integrate all the powerful lessons and insights that were offered by the amazing cast of speakers.
For me, the most powerful breakthrough of all came at the end of the day, when Oprah herself took the stage and addressed her faithful tribe. What struck me most was her ability to have a heart-to-heart with a crowd of thousands and create the experience that she was speaking directly to each person sitting in front of her.
One of the main themes of Oprah’s talk was that each of us has a unique and specific calling and that the purpose of our lives is to find out what that is and to give ourselves to it entirely. She also reminded us that the path that leads to the realization of our highest vision is as much a part of the calling as the destination itself. And lastly, she spoke of the importance of being rooted in the spirit of service and of shifting the focus from what we can get for ourselves to what we can give for the benefit of others.
To bring these lessons into focus, Oprah openly shared about her own experiences growing up, including her infatuation with the iconic Diana Ross, before she realized that she was never going to be Diana because, among other things, she joked, “I can’t sing like Diana!”
We all have our heroes, influences and inspirations, and there’s no doubt that their light can serve to lead us to our own path. Indeed it is often the passion and work of those who have gone before us which creates a spark within us and helps ignite our own fire. Where many of us often err, however, is in putting these individuals on such a pedestal that we fail to see their light as a reflection of our own and we become fueled by a desire to be them rather than be like them and follow in their footsteps.
When we make another person our higher power in this way, we give away our own power and we miss the point of our lives, which is to become the best and highest version of who WE are.
As an artist, I was on this path for many years, wanting nothing more than to be the next Ben Harper, the man who’s music has been a huge source of inspiration to me since I first began singing and playing guitar a decade ago. I’ve had the privilege of meeting Ben on a number of occasions, but it was the most recent meeting that I will forever remember. Our first few encounters were both brief and entirely defined by my sense of awe in the presence of one of my greatest influences, which was so great that I was unable to communicate anything of who I really am or make a true impression.
At our most recent meeting, something was different. I still revered Ben and was very excited to be in his presence, but there was a shift in the dynamic. Perhaps it was a result of some of the work I’ve been doing to step more into being my own authentic self and living a self-approved life (thank you Mastin). Or perhaps it was the realization that I’d had, much like Oprah did in regards to Diana, that a much more empowering life aspiration is to become the best version of ME that I can be, rather than trying to be someone else.
So on this occasion, as I met one of my heroes for yet another time, I approached the interaction like an equal, knowing my own value and seeing Ben as a reminder of what’s possible rather than as a power greater than my own. With that in mind, I introduced myself and simply asked: “Hey Ben, can we have a heart-to-heart?” He kindly agreed and for the first time in all of our meetings, we had a real conversation, artist to artist, person to person, heart to heart, Ben Harper and Chris Assaad.
Aware of the high esteem in which her beloved hold her, I believe Oprah shared her story with the intent to really bring home this message and it struck me at my core once again. It was as if she was saying, I’m no different than you, we’re all just people, we’re all cut from the same cloth and we’re all capable of greatness. And yet we are each so special in our way. The truth is, you don’t want to be me, what you really want and why you’re really here is so you can be the best you. Oh YOU!
And so today, I want to tell you, as Joseph Campbell wisely said and as Oprah so aptly reminded, that to be who YOU are is indeed the true privilege of a lifetime.
Written for The Daily Love (Oct 28th, 2012)