Wednesday morning, talk show hostess Oprah Winfrey gave a 14-year-old girl terrible advice on Good Morning America.

As ABC explained it:

Winfrey, 64, spoke about finding one’s inner compass in response to a question from a 14-year-old girl who asked her advice for young girls who want to make a difference in the world.

The girl, Taylor Richardson, has raised $50,000 to send other girls to see Winfrey’s new film, “A Wrinkle in Time,” in movie theaters.

Winfrey, who pledged to match the $50,000 Richardson has raised, said her advice to young girls rings true no matter their race or background.


Or the transcript if you prefer:

“The highest honor you will ever have is the honor of being yourself. And your only job in the world is to figure out…people think your job is to get up and go raise money and take care of your family — that’s an obligation that you have, but your only true job as a human being is to discover why you came — why you are here. Every one of us has an internal guidance, a GPS, an intuition, a heart print, a heart song that speaks to us. Your only job is to be able to listen and discern when it’s speaking versus your head and your personality speaking. And if you follow that, you will be led to the highest good for you. Always.”

With all the good she’s done, and as hard as she’s worked, I imagine Oprah was completely sincere and truly meant well. Buuuuut, nothing she suggested is helpful for a 14-year-old yet to meet the trials and tribulations of adulthood, much less adolescence, nor does her advice encourage the virtues and sacrifice required to be a successful adult.

“Follow your dreams” or in this case “your internal guidance” is terrible career advice. Sure, she touches on the obligation of making money, but what 14-year-old will make that distinction? Especially engulfed in a culture of selfish entitlement?

Encouraging kids to follow their dreams instead of chasing opportunity only sets them up for failure, disappointment, and an unnecessarily rough road ahead. “Following your dreams” may be possible, but no one ever talks about the amount of work and sacrifice required to make a dream reality.

And in a world where college grads are saddled with copious amounts of debt all for a worthless degree, there is an even greater chance following any dream will be anything more than a fool’s errand.

Mike Rowe, the former host of Dirty Jobs and unofficial spokesman for skilled and trade workers, offers great advice, “Don’t follow your passion, but take your passion with you.” It’s advice that’s far more beneficial than “your only job is to be you.”

Next is the issue is the perpetuation of the myth that everyone is destined for greatness and capable of single-handedly changing the world. It’s simply not true.

Not everyone is on the fast track to immortalization. Not everyone will be remembered by generations to come, and that’s OK.

Humility, the desire to quietly do good, the drive to take care of one’s family and community — those were once indicative of living your best life.

Ronald Reagan canonized the idea that “all great change begins at the dinner table.” And he’s still right. What good is changing the world if you fail to do your best for the people in your life?

And a great story:

And the money shot:

Lastly, there is nothing in Oprah’s advice that speaks of service or sacrifice. Love is nothing if not sacrifice and selflessness. And what is a life without love?

While I believe Oprah’s advice was well-intentioned, it’s not helpful.

Love, not self, is our highest calling and honor.


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