Tawanda Jones empowers her community to the beat of a drum
The Life You Want Weekend had the combined energy of a rock concert, church sermon, spiritual retreat, and TED conference -- all of which came together in a single, transcendent moment, when Paralympic snowboarder and Dancing With the Stars finalist Amy Purdy (a double amputee and Toyota's inspirational brand ambassador) danced onto the stage to join Oprah in honoring local hero Tawanda Jones with a Toyota "Standing O-vation" and a surprise $25,000 grant for her work with at-risk youth in Camden, NJ. We in the arena could all feel it: this moment was about to transform Tawanda's life. Tawanda's story exemplified what Oprah had hoped we all would learn – that living the highest expression of yourself is truly a service to the world.
A first-hand account of 'Oprah's The Life You Want Weekend':
Three years ago, I set out on a journey to pursue a calling I'd had since I was 12 years old. I set up a stall at a local farmer's market and founded a social enterprise to bring my invention, FreshPaper, to the world. Intentionally choosing a life of uncertainty with the odds stacked a million to one, in pursuit of a dream so immense I was embarrassed to share it with others, was one of the most terrifying decisions I have ever made.
I could never have imagined what would happen next: that thousands of people would rise up to take FreshPaper to farmers and families across the globe, that hard work guided by faith and intuition mattered more than a business plan, and that my life would turn into a series of "pinch myself" moments -- including this past week, when I found myself meeting Oprah.
I was invited by Toyota, a brand that has a history of using its considerable clout to give entrepreneurs the opportunities of a lifetime (more on that later), to take part in Oprah's Life You Want Weekend.
So what was it like to spend a weekend with Oprah? To get her advice on life? Here's what I learned about forging your own path, from one of the world's most influential women.
1. Follow your curiosity, it will lead you to your calling. If you're here, you have a purpose, Oprah reminded us. Your life's work is finding that purpose. For me, a moment of curiosity while visiting my grandmother in India in middle school led me to a discovery that would change my life. Inspiration often comes from the most unlikely of places - we have to be open to receiving our calling.
2. "You don't become what you want, you become what you believe." As Oprah recounted her own incredible journey – highlighting moments in her life that seemed destined, or inexplicable, I found myself nodding at every lesson, at every coincidence, because being an entrepreneur is an act of faith. As a child, I believed that I had created something that could help millions and take on global hunger, but as I grew up, my mind told me that I was not enough to bring my invention to the world. Like many young women, I mentally replayed all of the times I was told that I needed more experience, more degrees, more money, more than I had and more than I was. Standing in the farmer's market that first day, sharing my idea with individuals, I began to pay attention to the secret belief in my heart – and my incredible journey began. Know that you are enough, that you have everything you need to take the first step.
3. Being in the arena is the only thing that counts. Oprah and her "trail-blazers" including Elizabeth Gilbert, Iyanla Vansant, Mark Nepo and Rob Bell, all spoke about how everything shifts the day you step into the arena, and take responsibility for your own journey. I was reminded of a powerful Teddy Roosevelt quote shared by Oprah. "It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbled or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena...who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best, knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who, at the worst...fails while daring greatly..." Have the courage to be vulnerable and to share your ideas with the world.
4. Surrender. "When you've done all that you can do, when you've given it your all, give it up to that which is greater than you..." The concept of surrender was one of Oprah's most powerful, and personal lessons. After I had tried & failed for years to get FreshPaper to those who needed it most, in an act of surrender, I decided to put my fears and doubts aside and try one last time. I went to my local farmer's market and just put my simple idea out there. Those of you who know the Fenugreen story know what happened next.
This post is part of a series from Toyota's Mothers of Invention who are attending Oprah's The Life You Want Weekend. Kavita Shukla is the Founder and CEO of Fenugreen, inventor of FreshPaper, and a 2013 Toyota Mother of Invention recipient.