2 min read

Stay In Your Lane

Figure out your lane, then stay in it.
Oprah Winfrey
This post was originally published on January 19, 2011 on andyellwood.com.

I've never paid attention to Oprah before this week.  Ever.  I know she's worth $2.7 Billion and has an incredible media empire and gives away cars, but I've never listened long enough to hear her say something that gave me pause.

On Piers Morgan's new show, he interviewed Oprah on Monday night.  There were a number of salient points in their conversation, but the one that really stuck with me came from an exchange about Oprah's role in the 2008 elections and her future in politics.

After describing her support of Barrack Obama, Piers said, "Some say, that if you ran for President, you'd win."

Oprah responded with a laugh, "That is not true. If you are living within the ego of yourself, that sounds nice and is great to hear... I couldn't imagine that for one second..."

And then she made the point that stuck with me, "This is the thing that I actually really admire about myself, I know where my lane is. I know how to stay in my lane. My lane is evolving the consciousness of people everywhere.  Getting them to see the best in themselves and therefore the best in others."

That is the reason she is so successful.

A road sign featuring the words, "Stay In Lane" in all caps

That's the reason anyone that could be held up as successful is viewed as such, they know what their lane is. Not just knowing what their lane is, but being able to articulate it when someone asks. And, if the subject matter or the task at hand is not in their lane, they're quick to pass on the opportunity or delegate it to someone else.

When Piers asked another question about the future of politics in America, Oprah's response was, "I don't know the answer to that, it is out of my lane." and when he told her that he wanted her to weigh in on it anyway, she responded gracefully, "No, you can't put me in that lane, it is not what I do."

This is something I've struggled with.  I am, as the saying goes, a "jack of all trades and master of none." I'm pretty good at a lot of things.  In most scenarios, I'm not going to be the last kid picked for the kickball team, but I'm also probably not going to be the first.

When I went to see the NYC Marathon last fall, we saw Al Roker hobble across the finish line at the 7-hour mark. My immediate thought was, "I can do that!" even though I've been known to vehemently rant about how much I hate running unless someone is chasing me. After the euphoria of that moment wore off, I didn't click submit on my NYC Marathon application because I know for a fact, that it is not in my lane. At all.

The idea of defining my lane, and staying in it, is something I continue to wrestle with due to my excessive natural curiosity about everything. But, as a mentor of mine once told me, "Andy, no one was ever well known for being pretty good at a lot of things. The price of success is the excruciating pain that must be endured to obtain mastery."

Or, said another way, "Stay in your lane."