BCD hosts TED-type talk: Former Oprah executive discusses how "life is about perspective"
February 16, 2017
On Feb. 9 Boulder Country Day (BCD) School in Gunbarrel hosted former Oprah Winfrey Chief of Staff, Libby Moore. The free event was open to the public, and covered topics and wisdom gleaned from Moore’s 11-year tenure with the television mogul and other life experiences.
Moore was introduced by John Suitor, BCD’s head of school, who said, “Schools and parents need to partner more than ever before so we can raise…confident children.” The talk, he said, would include tips on how to maximize each individual’s potential.
Moore described herself as a non-traditional learner, spending her primary and secondary school years as a so-so student (“I got Cs and Ds and the occasional F”). She said that if she’d ever been diagnosed, “they would have said I have ADD and a slight dyslexia.”
One of the roughly 60 members of the audience said that kids with dyslexia have brains that are wired differently than the norm, and because of that, can think out-of-the-box in ways that “more normal” brains cannot. The comment suggested the essential message of the talk, that “faults” can be seen as strengths, as a shift to a more positive outlook is just a matter of perspective.
Moore talked about working as a janitor while living in Boulder for two years in her early 20s. It was late at night when she walked into the glassed-in office of an executive hard at work to ask if her trash can needed emptying. The woman exploded. “Who are you? Can’t you see I’m working here!”
After Moore apologized and left the office, she said she had a clear vision that one day she’d be an executive in a glassed-in office, and when the janitor came in, she made a vow never to be too busy to ask how his or her day was going.
Fast forward 10 years and she was working for Winfrey when the maintenance man, Billy Adams, would come into her office to get the trash. “He was one of my biggest mentors,” Moore said. “He always brought positive energy through the door with him.” Even if times were tough, Adams would focus on the fact that he and his wife loved each other, and that his kids were happy and healthy.
“All our atoms and cells and molecules are energy, they carry a vibration,” Moore said. “What you send out is what comes back to you.”
Moore talked about Jill Bolte Taylor, a stroke victim who wrote a book about her experiences as being more or less a vegetable. She described the difference between the nurses who handled her body with compassion versus the ones who’d treated her like little more than a slab of meat. Moore summarized by saying, “Be responsible for the energy that you bring into the room.”
If you’re a parent, or you’re at a job and you find yourself reaching that simmer point, Moore recommends a tactic she called “the power of pause.”
“Take a deep breath and then a slow exhale—it’s the bridge between chaos and calm. It will change your life.” She likened it to the two breaths professional basketball players take before a free-throw shot. “The more you do it, the more you’ll quickly [be able to] course correct,” she said.
The job history for Moore was, at times, checkered, and included two three-year stints with talk show host Maury Povich and Rolling Stone, but she was also fired from an associate producer job after only two months, and lost the job at a radio station early on in her career.
In between jobs she cleaned apartments. She sold popcorn at a movie theater. Basically, she rolled with the punches.
“When you’re fired, don’t worry about it,” she told the audience. “It’s just the universe pointing you in a new direction.”
She’d set her sights on writing for Rosie O’Donnell’s talk show, but after 10 months of a “laser-focused” pursuit, it was time to cut bait. On a subway ride, she decided to speak to her higher power: “Clearly you didn’t want me to work with Rosie. So show me what [the next job] is; shine a big fat spotlight on it and I’ll do it.”
And that’s when the job with Winfrey opened up.
In the spirit of the saying, “be careful what you wish for,” the pace as Winfrey’s chief of staff was grueling. At one low point she thought, “The demands of this job aren’t humanly possible.” A voice came to her then, saying, “You’re not supposed to do it, you’re supposed to let me do it” - a message she translated to mean she was trying to control too much. She took a deep breath.
Other Moore messages included, “You don’t have to be on Facebook to be successful,” and “There’s always going to be two voices in your head; the one that encourages you and the one [that tears you down].”
She concluded, “At the fork in the road, you get to choose which voice you’re going to hear.”