If you don’t like to read about people who brag, skip this blog. I don’t like to brag, but today I feel like telling the story that I haven’t told in public. Here it goes. A few years ago I accepted an invitation to attend the Clinton Global Initiative in NYC. (How I got that is an entirely different story) On the first day in the morning I passed Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt in the hallway. I selected a conference track in the morning that focused on world hunger. When I attend a conference, I always like to sit up front to enjoy a closer view of the speakers. I estimated the room capacity at about 450 people with a round-table setup. As I walked down the aisle I spotted an empty seat at the left front table and asked the people if it was ok to join them. They were kind enough to offer me the last empty seat at their table. As I introduce myself, I realize that I was sitting next to the President of the Rockefeller Foundation, opposite Maya Angelou and right across from Oprah who next to her friend Gayle. We spent the next two hours discussing ways we can help address world hunger and combat poverty. Everyone at the table shared their views and Maya Angelo in her booming voice summed up the crux of the problem saying “poverty begins with poverty of the spirit.”
During our discussion we got interrupted a number of times by visitors who wanted to shake hands with Oprah. Like, “Hi, my name is Jean Chretien, I am the former Prime Minister of Canada, I always wanted to meet you.” By the end of the two-hour meeting Oprah has a small stack of business cards in front of her. She is so down-to earth, charming, disarming, authentic, loveable and thrilling to hang out with. I asked Oprah during the break if it would be ok to get a picture with her and she asked Gayle to take my camera while she snuggled up as close as it gets. There is gaggle of people waiting to speak to Oprah. One of them is Wangari Muta Maathai.
Oprah was kind enough to introduce me to Mrs. Maathai. She is one of the most remarkable women I’ve ever met in my life. Mrs. Maathai was the first women in East Africa to earn a PhD in 1971.She is the founder of the Greenbelt Movement and she is the first African women to be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2004.
During the lunch break I had a chance to visit with chance to visit with Shimon Peres, who is now the President of Israel.
He was escorted by two young ladies and willing to speak to everybody. I made a comment like “It must be great to be over 80 and get the attention of beautiful women less than half your age.” He smiled and joked, “You’re just jealous, admit it.”
It was an honor and privilege to meet these extraordinary people. I’ve shared this story with only a few people, and one of them was Rick Frishman who exclaimed, “Oprah! I’ve been on her show.” If you are an author, trying to get on the Oprah show, look no further than my video interview with Rick. He shares the secret of how he got on the show. Best of all, the video lists all of Oprah’s producers. Hot tip for authors: Send a copy of your book to EVERY one of Oprah's producers – not just one.
Lessons learned: It's fun and motivating to meet celebrities. If they decide to spend time with you, be yourself, be authentic, spontaneous, open minded, curious, caring, collaborative, creative and kind. After this high-octane event I researched these extraordinary people and studied their lives. I read about their struggles and triumphs, travels and difficulties, victories and disappointments. And the biggest lessons I learned are these: 1. I still have a LOT to learn, 2. If we study successful people from all walks of life, we'll have a far greater chance of becoming a success. 3. Most success comes from overcoming great difficulties. 4. Sometimes not getting what we want can be a wonderful stroke of luck. It is often the beginning of a magnificent struggle that can lead to extraordinary success.
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