How Oprah Inspires the Design of Graduates’ Lives

Graduates, hello. Yay, you did it!

Another year, another graduation. Where has all the time gone? It’s been 19 years since I’ve graduated from the University of San Francisco. At the time, I was still trying to find my style, spirit and authentic voice. I’m so impressed by today’s youth — so many of you have your sense of style and are finding what elevates your spirit.

Today’s “Style Your Spirit” is for all recent high school and college grads and the parents/guardians who are helping guide you to your personal, professional and spiritual paths.

Many of you will be moving to a dorm, your first apartment or your first job. Woo hoo. Here are some style and spirit tips/life lessons I wish I’d known when I moved to my first home away from (the parental’s) home.

Like your many of your parents, I was raised watching Oprah. Naturally, her recent commencement speech at Colorado College inspired me to share some of my life lessons and stories to inspire you to live your best life and form a physical place and spiritual space authentic to you. I created this video and included a tour of my living room for inspiration. Here are three golden nuggets from Oprah’s speech, sprinkled with a few of my silver linings that will get you ready for adulting.

Aside from my TV, design and motivational speaking career, I have been teaching at a local university for the past ten years. Oprah’s Colorado College speech drew many similarities to things I’ve told my college students, mentees and, yes, they are all interrelated to designing a life that is authentic to you.

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Reporting live at the Golden Gate Bridge (2007).

1. You’re gonna be OK! Take a deep breath with me right now and repeat this: “Everything is always working out for me.” That’s my mantra — make it yours. “Everything is always working out for me.” Oprah said, “Look at how many times you were worried and upset — and now you’re here today. You made it.” It’s going to be more than OK.

Getting your own place, decorating, cooking and paying the bills — it’s all scary, but you will be OK. Learn from your mistakes and perceived failures — they are guiding you to the place you’re supposed to be. Enjoy every single process of school, your first job and your first dorm/apartment.

I had a ritual every semester to take note of the things that were working well and things I needed to improve in my life.

2. Enjoy the process…whether it’s your personal place or your profession. “I’m here to tell you that your life isn’t some big break, like everybody tells you that is. It’s about taking one big life transforming step at a time.” Oprah told the crowd.

Successes and failures in your school and job are just like decorating your place — they’re all a process — and so is the development of your style. You’ll learn from them and iterate. Your place will change as you do. Mine started with an Asian Pottery Barn theme…

My San Francisco apartment (2014).

Now it’s more like Toan essence: some Asian art work and Asian antique items + French pottery and candles + rugs from South America + Turkish and found items from my travels, antique stores and, yep, stuff I picked up off the street. Here’s the evolution of my living room/style:

Iterations of my San Francisco living room.
Recent apartment state (2018).
Latest iteration of my living room. Told you, It’s a process!

3. You do YOU boo. Personal style is just that… Your. Own. Style.

Oprah borrowed inspiration from Jack Canfield, author of “Chicken Soup for the Soul”: “The greatest wound we’ve all experienced is being rejected for being our authentic self. And then we try to be what we’re not to get approval, love, acceptance, money…but the real need for all of us is to reconnect with the essence of who we really are … We all go around hiding parts of ourselves.”

Recent speaking tour. Credit: VCStudios

We all were born with an inner GPS. Being present and mindful enough to take action on what your gut and health are telling you is key to finding your authentic path in your personal, professional and spiritual life. Do things that excite and bring you joy. Pay attention to how you’re feeling through your experiences.

For example, if you’re hanging out with a new group of friends who gossip, do drugs and drink too much, and you feel your energy (like a cell phone battery) is drained, distance yourself from that toxicity. All of your experiences are here to teach you something. You’ll connect the dots (all the seemingly random experiences) when you learn the lessons they’re here to teach. Otherwise, they will keep coming back in different ways, shapes and forms.

Creating a happy, healthy place around you and space in your heart can’t be done if you don’t take care of yourself first. Be still (meditate), even if it’s only 10 breaths every morning, so you can download the messages that are here to serve you. Take care of your body, mind, spirit.

Start exercising if you haven’t done so already. It’s harder to keep the routine and weight and health problems at bay as you get older. And call your mom, dad, guardians and folks who care about you. They are here to help you navigate the path to your best self.

Recent speaking tour. Credit: VCStudios

I’d love to know, what are life lessons/words of wisdom you’d like to share with other graduates?

Congrats grads! Meanwhile, your future looks bright, as you are the one illuminating it!

If you learned something new or if you want help with a design dilemma, holler in the comments section below. Sharing is caring, so hit that follow button and share this with your peeps.

Onward,
Toan

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Whether it's a design project, waiting for a job/potential suitor or designing a life you want — what I learned about waiting well. #StyleYourSpirit https://t.co/6N1NS5TzSK
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Feeling stuck? Many times when designing my home, someone’s space or just feeling like life is stagnant, I step outside of my box, pause and do this. #StyleYourSpirit https://t.co/6rqb4ZMUOM