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Cheryl Strayed: The Humble Journey to Greatness

2019-07-08 | 🔗

In a live appearance at UCLA’s Royce Hall, New York Times best-selling author Cheryl Strayed explains why you shouldn't let your dreams get in the way of achieving your goals. Cheryl says at the age of 33, she rented a cottage in the town of Sheffield, Massachusetts, hoping to finish writing her first book. It had been her lifelong desire to write the great American novel, but now that she was so close, she found herself procrastinating and watching TV instead. She says she started to feel like a failure. "I had my dream in my grasp, and I was too weak to hold it," she says. But Cheryl went on to great acclaim as an author, writing best-selling books like “Wild,” “Tiny Beautiful Things” and “Brave Enough.” In this refreshingly honest SuperSoul Session, Cheryl explains why embracing humility is just as important as striving for greatness.

This is an unofficial transcript meant for reference. Accuracy is not guaranteed.
What, if you only ever changed a line of one person or managed to change a single human destiny? Just one than yours is a life where lived because to extend the hand to those you dont know and help them along their journey with spontaneous acts of kindness on notice and perhaps even unremarked is the most remarkable thing you can do. Sometimes it takes courage, sometimes something more, but all the good you can do in this life begins with the belief that you can be to change your sick. Don't ever stop believing see how we are making a difference at pen medicine. That is another reason why your life is worth pen medicine. I'm
We're Winfrey welcome to supersede conversations the pod cast. I believe that one of the most valuable gives you can give yourself is time taking time to be more fully and present your journey to become more inspired and connected to the deeper world around us starts right now, our next, went from being lack broke too writing a memoir. That so millions and then Reese Witherspoon was nominated for an Oscar for playing her in a movie now how, while desire I gotta say- I still marble when I think of Shirl Straight. Walking alone to the Pacific those mountains for three months and I Imagine myself doing it. Sometimes, when I'm walking my dogs, I'm about
Two hundred feet from the house with a flashlight. Then sometimes I covered a flashlight and I put among the Pacific. Rest trail. I look around. I see the lights the house and I realize I'm not. I don't know how she did that hurt do best. Selling book is called. I love this book so much I've. I've just bought this book for ever buddy. I know For all of my girls from South Africa have given it to everybody for Christmas It's called brave enough. Brave enough and one of my favorite quotes on page fifty, eight kiss is what it says. I give this to my mind you're going to divorce. You're going to challenging times- but this is my favorite quote from shore it says you lead time pass, that's the cure, you
by the days use. You float like rabbit ghost through the weeks you cry and you, while owing you lament and you scratch your way back up through the months. and then one day, find yourself alone, bench in the sun close your eyes and you leave your head back. and you realize you're. Ok,. That shows straight from brave enough. her session. Today's call, the humble journey to greatness, show straight stay standing if you're you're, already standing still standing, if you can't stand still seated but I want to. To reach as high as you can ok
neither really high until it it hurts and then go another event and the let go into town. I thought it a good idea to start the morning off with a bit of yoga when I was for my mother and robbed me in the yogi class, which The kind of unorthodox thing to do is nineteen, seventy two, seventy three and so Many people were yet doing your about me. I just want to tell you a date for the soon yoga There is this wonderful teacher who, wanted to share her love of yoga with a bunch of three and four year olds and thing about being three or four: when you do yoga is you can reach pretty much anything? there. There are parts that I haven't been able to reach. You know since then, but the downside is you don't have the fine motor skills or than the motorcycles that it takes, of course to ban.
once, and so the yoga teacher was always in these beautiful poses. You know from her like position or whatever she, look around the room and what you see is a classroom of people who didn't look like her and I just want to say for the record. This remain true in my experience of yoga, I never. I never look like that teacher, but and we know we would be in all of these crazy poses- and the teacher said something that I never forgot she would say to us. The goal is not to attain the perfect pose. the goal is to reach for it, and it took me honestly decade to understand, without really meant with to really know it in my bones. The way that we come to no true things in our bones, but it speaks very, actually to what I want to talk to you about today, and that is the role of humility and our paths Greatness, I really think that
so often you know it might make a sort of grandiose title. The that humble the humble Pat Journey, the greatness. I really thought that's so often we forget. When we talk of Doing our best and being greater were aiming high, were shooting for the stars were dreaming beg all of that is sort of rooted in an idea. of confidence of winning- these are ideal. as that are really prevalent, and our culture and the really prevalent in obviously some of the messages that you're gonna hear here today. Messages you ve already heard really in this of help movement, and I think that those are incredibly important messages but what I want to talk about is how Sometimes we indeed to embrace the opposite idea than the one we already had in order to actually make those dreams come true. Those, its humility and greatness, mean totally different things. to be humble. It comes from the Latin who miss. It means too
of the earth it means to be down low and of course greatness is all about being up here. It's about In November we hold somebody in high esteem, their great, and so those that can seem like a contradiction. Sometimes we did the guard them and I certainly dont want to say that greatness should be disregarded, but what I'm going to forward, its humility that those It is about aiming high and dreaming big. I really cool them so much for all, many of the good things in my life, but along the path I did have to learn how to embrace that other thing that what it meant to be down on that the ground a couple of years. After my the class, I learned how to read- and this was I believe, all of you when that day you learned how to read or that that sort of era of your life when you learn how to read a really I've changed in time. It was Deeply live change in time for me because of course
awakened me to the path that I'd eventually take to become a writer. I remember very clearly having what I as an epiphany. When I first heard of this contact with creative work. the kind of by which I mean the kind of work where writers are not just using writing to explain things but or or instead- but actually using writing to eliminate the truth of the world to paint pictures to give us images to tell, stories and I remember thinking B He was by the kind of beauty and sorrow that writers made on the page and made in my heart- and I remember thinking that I wanted to be somebody who did that for other people I wanted, be somebody who made beauty and sorrow and other people's hearts and I didn't at the time I wasn't living the life that that that one would expect that would grow a writer. I didn't even know, frankly that that right,
existed in the world or that somebody like me the big one. Don't go anywhere more to come after this short break Today's episode is supported by american heritage. Chocolate. Have you ever? baked anything that required graded chocolate. It can be a little messy and time consuming Eric inherited chocolate, Mars, Wrigley Brand has the answer. Finally, graded baking chocolate, easy to use and easy to melt all you after due as measure and including your favorite recipes Eric inherited chocolate, replace a semi sweet chocolate one to one in any recipe. From we'd savory dishes that work for breakfast lunch dinner and everything in between a base, their chocolate off of historic recipes from the seventeen hundreds and included spices that were popular at the time. cinnamon Orange Chile and more american heritage. Chocolate took these historic chocolate recipes and in separated them for a modern palate
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you know in the apartment building is my brother and sister, and I and my mom, the single mom lived and my mom worked as a waitress in she worked in the factory and that sort of yoga class aside? I wasn't. I didn't have that kind of childhood opportunity where my mom was Samia four classes or Saint John you're interested in writing. Let's lets you know hook you up with. people who are doing that so really to find my way I did, and I did it thanks to a kind of Narratives of greatness, That aiming high that dreaming bag- I Always wildly almost embarrass, basically almost arrogantly ambitious When did the first thing when I was like four and people ask me: what are you gonna be? I will just be like the first woman president of the United States. So I sort of started high, we're still working on that aren't we.
Maybe I will be after all hands how things turn out. I actually I'm here to announce my candidacy, but what happiness. I you know, when, after college and by aged nineteen, I was paying my way through college, and I was really very directed and if you, not me when I was nineteen, I would have oh do not just that as a writer that my intention was to to write the great american novel and everything I worked on. I wanted to be the best. I can had to be writing the best novel that never been written now. Even Even then you know, I didn't think that I would necessarily do that, but that the bar that I set. That's what I was shooting for and then what respect. You know, I think, that that absolutely served me those of you who have read my work and who are familiar with parts of life story. You know that,
When I was a senior college, my mom died. She died very suddenly at the age of forty five of cancer, and I was in order And I didn't have any one say: into me that they believed in me that I should do this or that are I had to fulfil these dreams. I had to really propeller you know my own engine, and it was this big dreams of greatness. That pushed me. And they pushed me even in those our times, that the world to become familiar with now that decorative my twenties. That was full of struggle and strife and and mistakes and things that really, you would think work conducive to write in the great american novel and I M here to tell you they were not. But I'm also here to tell you that I never lost my writing in the hardest of times. I hope onto my right. In my writing. I always think of it is the one unbroken threat of my life, it's the thing that has always been there for me, it is always been true and I think it over.
we'll be true, and so I waited tables and I rose and I went hiking. I rose, and I landed on the doorstep of thirty, and I hadn't published a novel. Much to my surprise,. Partly because I hadn't started one but you know just little detail there. I read in a lot of pages, I've written I'd written and I'd written in my written had written and they didn't understand that a bunch of pages didn't stack up to be a novel I teach writing. Sometimes in my students are sometimes also sad to hear that when they come to me with their pages in there. A book takes a greater sense of concentration and I D. To go to graduate school or one of the wonderful things about. Any problem, many I'm afraid programmes creative writing in the. U S, they offer a you know they they just
a few students and they offer useful tuition remission and a fellowship, and so I applied, two grad school and I went to Syracuse University and I spent about two and a half years. working really hard on however, what became my first novel tort and I finished that programme. It About my love was about a half to two thirds gun, and I was really stepping back into real life with, I disagree in fine arts, which sounds very highfalutin. If you know anything about the right in life when it meant, as I was gonna, go back and be a waitress, and and I didn't want to do that. because what I was afraid of is that this big dream was finally in my hands right, I was almost there. I had it so much momentum is writing this book, I didn't want to have- to go back to this working life and then put that novel on the sidelines again and maybe never finish it
and so I will I, with my husband and I talked my wonderfully supportive husband who is here today we talked and we decided he's a documentary film maker, which is kind of like being, poet in Amerika in terms of financial stability, we love them. We need them. We do not pay them so So with a big deal that I was saying want to go. And I was in my fellows but you know, he's always been so on my side that we cooked up. a scheme together we decided that I would not take a doubt, a job for the the year after graduate school slated finish my book and we would go into credit card debt. A portion of the income now I m. Our financial advisor
So you can either take or ignore my advice at your own peril. Ok, but was so we decided to do this and at the time my husband had gotten a job at this. in the required us to move to the little town called Sheffield Massachusetts and we rented little cottage on a pond was perfect, I didn't know anybody and my husband was going to be leaving the house for at least eight hours every day, and I was, and to sit down and right now, just the great american novel, the best novel that has ever been written there. I was gonna try to to finish that so he did and he went off in order to work. What happened? What another thing that coincided with this moment of our lives? Is that decided that we would try to start about trying to conceive a baby and that's all. But we got cable television, we had never. I had hardly even ever had a tv, and some of you might be aware that
I learned really quickly when we got cable. There is a lot of stuff to watch, and so my husband went off to work the first day at nice, and I hope that on my computer- and I reiterate the great book and the tv is calling me you know, And it almost seems you know, like in ITALY. I like it, it seemed like a vast mistake to ignore all of those things that might be avail. To me, and so what I did is I turned on the tv and I found a show pretty quickly called baby story. I dont know of you have seen that so I don't know if it's still on, but I was I it's it. What it is a reality show and each of us what you follow a woman through her pregnancy in and the birth of her baby, and they always do to episodes back to back. and I was like will it would be irresponsible to have a baby without watching baby story. It's like research right and so. I was watching that and then there was a show that came before baby store that was like, following solely through their wedding planning and and then
Afterwards, people run in the room in their house and it just seemed like you know, and education. So I was, I was watching ended. and then I would write like those shows would end, and then I realized my husband was gonna come on. I would quickly so that I can hear, and arrayed in but those days stacked up, needs other, and I felt horrible, my heart just sunk. because I knew what I was doing is was squandering this the important moment of my life and I was I was not doing what I intended to do. I is doing. The opposite, I was saying: oh yeah, you know I'm going to be aiming to do this thing. Everyone who knew me love me would say yes, churls Writer and I was alone in my house, and I had to ask myself those hard questions
and realise that maybe I'd been lying to myself over me, I didn't want to write a novel. Maybe it wasn't my calling. Maybe that thing that I felt my heart when I was six was, You know some sort of childhood fallacy: and maybe you know that all that work, I'd done was for absolutely nothing. it really hurt to ask those questions, because course, the minute I asked them. What I knew is that it wasn't true that I did gonna be a writer I did want. no. It wasn't true that I wasn't called, to be a writer. He wasn't true that this isn't what I intended, and once I understood that that was even more painful, because because the dealers, If I wanted to be a writer and then wasn't being in what was who is that I was this failing at it? It was like. Oh, you just need to change course. This was the wrong thing. It was, you are a failure, I had my dream in my grasp and I too weak to hold it.
with two hard it was to big. I was too, I don't know what I was too much of a failure to see it through what happens when we do that, what happens? We don't act upon our most important intention What do we do when we say one thing and that we do another? What did what if you ve aims so high and inspired the best and all that stuff that I was doing. I realise that you just you, you can't your failure. What happens when we have only ourselves to blame. That was it for me. This is me in me. the great writer finery Oconnor, one of my favorite quotes, wrote this no one self is, above all to know what one lax. It is to measure oneself against truth. Not the other way around the first product of self knowledge is humility.
So in the cottage in the town, Jeffrey Massachusetts. When I was thirty three years old and the most we re in the great american novel. I At that moment, where I made a hard stop, humility. I've been on a lot of journeys, I've written about some of them. I've had hard difficult, apples and adventures and struggle Wilson, toenails, falling off and- and of those things, but I'm to tell you is strange, but it's true that one of the hardest journeys of my life was that when I was taking alone in that house, when I was battling between my biggest dreams and some silly reality. Tv shows my moment of truth. I think it's a moment. I mean I don't think I know it's a moment that everyone in this room, has had to have maybe a few times over the course of your life. and if you haven't had to have that moment, yet it's coming,
and that is when you have to ask yourself. that's not what you aspire to be, but to reckon with who you actually turn out to be Who actually are I what I realise what humility taught me is that, I couldn't any longer? And here too the narratives tat got me. This far, I had to release with all of those anthems of greatness and big and aiming high. All of those people full, powerful, important things, Did it really gotten me there. they weren't serbian me anymore and so to come up with something that would I knew if all sort of greatness. So I had to rewrite the story of what greatness buzz I had to figure out how to measure success differently, and I also had to figure out what purpose, dream served if they served him at all. Maybe
maybe part of what you know was getting to know that my way with my very those very dreams the title of my talk at the same time, the subtitle this was actually going to be. The title does: At your dreams ruin your life, that was gonna, be the tunnel. This talk, but I thought it would be too depressing. So we got the humble journey, the greatness, but the real messages to your dreams of ruin, your life. That was the truth. It rose up at my humblest lowest moment was based that I had to red book, and that was it, it was forget the greatness. Forget the who was gonna. Forget it for If anyone with even read it, I had to write a book, and I had to surrender to the idea of my own mediocrity. I had to do to really does
hello, mediocre person who was sitting alone and no cottage and writing a book, you know you, I ve. No, since, three years in your company and we're gonna now get to work. In short, I had to finally believe what that yoga teacher taught me. You know, like thirty years before you ever get that like a voice of truth that then years and years and finally you're like oh yeah, I should have listened to that. everyone in the room rooms mother, is like see, yeah someday and I had to say: ok, the point isn't about holding the perfect pose it's about reaching for it. So I made you took their this remember what it feels like to read. I think every day remember What it feels like to read, I don't remember what it feels like to be perfect because none who have been there, and if you have, I, we don't want to know you. So I decided to write the only book. I could possibly right and
No, that was a bad book or a good worker, a terrible book that was not my business, my business making good on my intentions, and that is your business too. Every single one of you in the room and that colleagues, to make good on your intentions at translates across Professor, this isn't just about writing an awful or you know It's not about an artistic career, it's about who we are ass: parents as partners, citizens who we are, and in alone with ourselves. What is this? You know it's Bout saying I'm no longer going to say I'm something and be another right. Is also saying what are those goals? I set we too high to reach those goals serve you, make your goals here you can grab them when you need them right. If I printed bumper sticker, which can I do so. If one of you guys is a bumper sticker maker feel free to use it,
would say surrender to your own mediocrity. Once again, it seems like a sentiment that counter to to everyone whose every sort of tried to make feel good and okay now that's. It seems counter to that, but I actually think that sir, due to your own. Mediocrity speaks exactly to the heart, but that really means ok, art of what part of being involved is having the capacity to hold true, puts to hold two opposing truth in one hand and recognising the truth of ease and understanding how they serve each other. When you surrender to Euro and me at mediocrity, what you're doing is humble Acknowledging that the very very best thing that you have to give us is what you have to offer. Ok, It's what you already have it's. What you already hold about learning how to try to put it out into the world in a way that you absolute. Are the most original master of of
endeavour. Ok, it's about. not paying attention to any one else, descriptive success or goodness it's about singing with your own voice and for that is greatness, and here I am Ober Winfrey and you ve been listening to supersede conversations the pine cast. You can follow super soul on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook if you haven't yet go to Apple POD Kennedy and subscribe rate and review. This plugins join me next week for another super soul. Conversation. Thank you for listening.
What, if you only ever change the life of one person or managed to change a single human destiny, just one than yours is a life while lived because to extend the hand to those you don't know and help them along their journey with spontaneous acts of kindness on notice and perhaps even unremarked is the most remarkable thing you can do. Sometimes it takes courage, sometimes something more than all the good you can do in this life begins with the belief that you can be to change your sick. Don't ever start believing see how we are making a difference at pen, medicine, dot. Org is another reason why your life is worth pen, medicine
Transcript generated on 2020-10-05.