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Before I talk about the spiritual capital assets of Oprah Winfrey and how she harnessed them for personal and business success, I have to deal with the concept of spiritual capital.
Although spiritual capital can be very difficult to objectively define, I will share my own personal conception of the term "spiritual capital", and how that term has been applied in my coaching practice to support individual and organizational performance improvement, and improved self-confidence.
In the context of this article, spiritual capital should not be confused with attempts by other authors to address issues of corporate culture and corporate citizenship.
Instead, this is about a class of raw-material "intangibles" that every individual has access to, that can be invested in, and harvested for gain to that individual and the world at large.
Starting from the earliest definition of capital, here's a quote from Duke University academic and author Nan Lin,
“The notion of capital can be traced to [Karl] Marx...In his conceptualization, capital is part of the surplus value captured by capitalists or the bourgeoisie, who control production means, in the circulations of commodities and the monies between the production and consumption processes.
In the construct articulated by Karl Marx, this surplus value is created in the gap between the exchange value (or commodity value) and the user value (or consumption value). It is important to note that the consumption value is necessarily always greater than the commodity value of a thing for any surplus value (or capital) to be generated.”
Everyone possesses or has indirect access (through others) to what I call spiritual assets - the capacity to love and the feelings of love, empathy, courage, resilience, faith, vision, discipline, etc.
Since they are so generally available or assumed to be, not very much capital value is usually associated to them. They are commoditized.
However, if you think about the definition of capital quoted above and its implications, you'll quickly realize that as long as there is a "user value" for these intangible assets, and this user value is greater than the "commodity value", there is an opportunity to extract surplus value that is indeed tradable for other types of capital - social, intellectual, and financial.
This is what I refer to as a personal wealth capital matrix.
As long as these intangible assets are embedded in an individual but minimally expressed, they do not garner much beyond commodity value. In other words, the love that you show your family, and the baseline of love they have for you in return is usually only worth commodity (or survival) benefits of food, shelter, clothing, family affection, etc.
The fact that families have been known to kick out siblings and others when the expression of desirable spiritual assets is sufficiently low, tells you everything you need to know about this argument I'm making.
On the other hand, when spiritual capital assets are given form in a vision, a concept, or a platform, they generate an immense surplus over commodity value and quickly generate social capital, subsequent intellectual capital, and eventually transform (through exchange) into some form of tangible asset - financial capital.
The life story of billionaire Oprah Winfrey is a highly visible and dramatic case study that illustrates how spiritual capital assets can be harnessed, converted directly into social capital, leveraged into intellectual capital and traded for financial capital.
By the time Oprah landed her first job on TV, she had already been through a lifetime's worth of personal triumphs and horrors ranging from awards and scholarships to sexual abuse and rape.
The result was a person who was fiercely determined, very resilient, and deeply empathic.
In fact, she proved to be so empathic as a street reporter in Baltimore that it almost cost her the job. She seemed unable to emotionally distance herself from the tragedies she was reporting and get her job done.
Fortunately, a new manager conceived of a way to leverage this "shortcoming" by creating a local version of the "Phil Donahue" show which was getting big ratings in Baltimore. This local talk show, "People Are Talking" featured Oprah and was a huge hit.
As Dr. H.W. Brands puts it in a biography of Oprah,
Precisely the same qualities of empathy that made her a weepy reporter made her an instant success as a talk-show host.In the years to come, her empathy, faith, resilience, and yes, ambition would transform her from a “failed” TV reporter to a media titan; leveraging her spiritual capital all the way.
Entrepreneurs, marketers, and even executives can benefit from the story of Oprah, by learning how to mine their personal wealth matrix. One of the dominant phenomena of the idea age is rising "attention scarcity" and the subsequent attention economy.
The reason Oprah's success translated into phenomenal wealth is because the Idea Age phenomenon of attention scarcity has reset the value of consumer attention dramatically upward.
Anyone, and I mean anyone, can learn how to identify and mine their personal wealth matrix to gain the attention of their community, their church, their customers, and the larger population of consumers. With that attention, you can learn to meet virtually any personal, community, or business goals you may have.
Would you like to learn how to use the connection between intellectual property and the attention economy to grow your business or to achieve personal success? The "Attention Leverage System" may be perfect for you.
Gogo Erekosima, is the Lead strategist at Idea Age Consulting - a management consulting firm that helps solo, small and mid-sized businesses nationwide to grow using assets already hidden within the business itself.
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Spiritual Capital of Oprah Winfrey