There’s a great tale tucked into What I Know for Sure, an inspiring little book by Oprah Winfrey. As the story goes, she spent ten years laboring mightily to make a movie of Beloved, the acclaimed Toni Morrison novel. She assembled a wonderful team led by director Jonathan Demme, and together, they created a film that she felt was true to the book and that would reveal slavery in a way in which it hadn’t been revealed before. When the film was completed, she felt fulfilled and happy.
Then the movie went out into the world — and basically bombed. It was beaten the first weekend by Bride of Chucky and went on to make $23 million — a resounding box-office flop by Hollywood standards.
When the results trickled in, Oprah, was “disheartened and depressed.” As she tells the story, she didn’t recover for months. She was used to big wagers and big wins — and this project was a very public colossal failure.
One day, she called a friend to vent. After she unloaded for a bit, the friend asked her “What was your intention?” Oprah said that her intention was to “create a movie so powerful that it would allow people to feel. not just seem what it meant to overcome slavery and be able to love — and to reconstruct a life.”
“Well, you did that,” her friend responded. In that moment, Oprah realized that the problem wasn’t the movie and whether people liked it or not — it was her attachment to the outcome. In that moment, she was able to give up her expectations about having a box-office success and just look at the work she and her team had brought to life. She let go of her sadness and began to feel grateful for every person who chose to see the film. She also began to appreciate the growth she had experienced and the lessons she’d learned.
The biggest lesson? “…do your best, enjoy the journey, and then release all attachment to what is to come.” Something to ponder as we turn to the page today.