June Book Club: How to Say ‘The Beautiful No’ With Former Producer of The Oprah Show
Sheri Salata probably knows what you want to ask her about first: What’s Oprah REALLY like? And she could answer that question, having spent 20 years at Harpo Studios, serving as the final executive producer of The Oprah Show, and co-president of Harpo Studios and OWN.
But she left that job for a reason—even though she’d chosen it, her career had been her entire life. And she was ready for a change. That’s what her new book, The Beautiful No and Other Tales of Trial, Transcendence and Transformation, is all about.
Part memoir, part how-to guide, The Beautiful No details Sheri’s personal attempt to dive deep into introspection and finally address those age-old life questions—the ones she says she’d been avoiding during her career in TV.
Now, Sheri’s the cohost of The Sheri + Nancy Show podcast and the cofounder of thepillarlife.com, she’s been named one of Fast Company’s Most Creative People in Business, and been honored as a Feminist Press’ Power Award Winner. So what does a 20-year TV career and friendship with Oprah really wield, when you break it all down? We chatted with Sheri to get her take on storytelling, and how she turned the smarts and transformation techniques she’d learned in TV onto herself to write The Beautiful No.
You call stories the building blocks of our lives. What, in your mind, gives them the power we can use to transform, expand and grow (or, on the flip side, dig us deep into negativity)?
Words matter. Thoughts matter. Speech matters. I have come to believe that if we only knew how much creative power they have to manifest a joy ride or a hard road we would stop right in our tracks and devote our focus to raising up our internal dialogue asap. After all, we are energy and we are drawing to us in every moment what we think and speak into being.
You dedicated yourself to The Oprah Winfrey Show and then OWN for more than two decades. In your book, you talk about how you’d be circling the same questions of what about the life you always wanted, if you’d chosen a different path. Talk us through how you reckoned with that realization, and how it started you on an introspective path at the age of 56.
Sometimes we make it a habit and a pattern to take care of ourselves last, or in some cases not at all—the reasons can vary. You put your family first. After all, they need you. You put your job first. After all, they are paying you. Until one day, when we wake up and realize that we are responsible for our own happiness and that choosing happiness is our most valuable gift to the world and that we become better in all areas of our lives when we make self-care our priority.
I used “work” as my excuse to stay in unconsciousness about the areas of my life that came less easily—health, love. etc. And once I got clear about that, I realized I wanted the life of my dreams, not just the career of my dreams.
I love the idea of you taking the magic you’d used for years in your career and turning it on yourself, leading your own transformation. Tell us how you made that plan for yourself.
I co-founded The Pillar Life Guidance System with Nancy Hala, my soul sister friend of 30 years. We literally created eight pillars that covered every area of our lives we cared about and then began to dream up new dreams in each area. We wanted a flexible, living/breathing strategy to keep ourselves on track so we don’t slip back into old habits and patterns. Our mission statement is, “It’s never too late to live the life of your dreams and if not now, when?”
Of the things you chose to go after for your own transformation (detoxing, food changes, new fitness routines, sex therapy and more), what resonates the most in hindsight?
It all matters. But I find it helps to begin with that foundation of wellness. Drinking water, moving your body, eating a predominantly plant-based diet and adding a layer of spiritual practice through meditation and mindfulness. Small practices done daily are the ones that have had the greatest impact for me.
And what of those was THE HARDEST?
For me, rewiring that inner voice to resonate with compassion and tenderness continues to be my opportunity. We spend our lives tearing ourselves to bits on that internal mental tape and those grooves are deep. Paying attention to the stories we tell ourselves about ourselves is everything.
If you could sum it all up, the meaning of this mid-life transformation and the lesson you’ve held on to the most, what would you say you’ve learned?
We are supposed to live the lives of our dreams and if we aren’t doing that we can change course with every single new sunrise. We get another chance to treasure ourselves, to step onto a path of joy and feeling good. I write in the book, “when happiness is your compass, misery becomes impossible.”
What tip for transformation would you like to share with our readers?