I never watched Oprah. But I’m not surprised she had some good parting thoughts:
Each one of you has your own platform. Do not let the trappings here fool you. Mine is a stage in a studio, yours is wherever you are with your own reach, however small or however large that reach is.
Maybe it’s 20 people, maybe it’s 30 people, 40 people, your family, your friends, your neighbors, your classmates, your classroom, your co-workers. Wherever you are, that is your platform, your stage, your circle of influence. That is your talk show, and that is where your power lies.
People underestimate their influence. And use it poorly.
If you like something, don’t just click “Like” on Facebook. Say that you like it. Write about it. Let others know that something is worthy of their attention. If something is wrong, broken or unjust — speak up.
Yes: you have to be mindful of your audience. Curate. Don’t overwhelm their Twitter feeds or drone on in the break room. Say interesting things and people will listen.
But don’t say only the stuff you expect everyone will agree with. Outlying opinions are often ideas everyone is thinking but afraid to say.
Credit your sources. I got this Oprah quote from a blog called Tin Man. I’ve never met the blog’s owner. I don’t know his name, or what made me add his feed to my RSS reader. But I end up reading most of his posts, because he seems consistently thoughtful. That’s not a very high bar to clear. You don’t have to be funny or clever to have an audience. Honest gets you a lot.
Obviously, you’re going to have influence over the people you know and see every day, the circle of 20-40 people Oprah mentions.
But people put a lot of trust in folks they’ve never met. Quite often — usually at Peet’s Coffee on Larchmont — a young screenwriter will tell me they moved to Los Angeles because they read my blog. That’s influence. It didn’t come through screen credits or official decree. It built up gradually, post after post.
When you think about your life as a talk show, it makes you reflect on your opinions. What topics interest you? What do you believe? Are your positions logically consistent? No one expects you to have the answers. They want the conversation.
Oprah didn’t become an icon by giving away cars to housewives. She did it by being the best talk show host she could imagine. That’s a goal that scales well.