This post is part 8 of 9 in the series Oprah's 25 years of lessons learned.

On her final show, Oprah shared her greatest lessons and hopes for her viewers. In this series of posts, Paul highlights ten lessons Oprah learned, along with his related and unre­lated thoughts and stories.

“The only time I’ve ever made mistakes is when I didn’t listen. So what I know is, God is love and God is life, and your life is always speaking to you. First in whispers…. It’s subtle, those whispers. And if you don’t pay attention to the whispers, it gets louder and louder. It’s like getting thumped upside the head, like my grandmother used to do…. You don’t pay attention to that, it’s like getting a brick upside your head. You don’t pay attention to that, the whole brick wall falls down. That’s the pattern I’ve seen in my life, and it’s played out over and over again on this show.

“What I’ve gleaned from this show: Whispers are always messages, and if you don’t hear the message, the message turns into a problem. And if you don’t handle the problem, the problem turns into a crisis. And if you don’t handle the crisis, disaster. Your life is speaking to you. What is it saying?” — Oprah Winfrey, May 25, 2011

Read the complete Oprah Show finale transcript →

How loud does the whisper have to be?

Eighteen months ago I stopped accepting new long-term consulting projects so I could focus on finding a job with a company. Working by myself at home had become tiring and I hoped that what I perceived as the final stage of my career would be spent with a team of people working on a common passion, a complex experience.

This would be my first job search ever, and what better timing than during a recession?

These 18 months have continued my education in “living with ambiguity.” As the norm, resumes go out and only silence returns. I had one interview in 18 months. And no call back and no reason for the no call back.

I spent this time noticing when I wanted to make up a story or what story first comes to mind. Then I tell myself “I don’t know; there is no story” and try to calm my frustrations and move on. I was surprised at how often I wanted to make up a story, any story, about why things are the way they are.

Throughout this job-hunt journey, I hear the following via email, voicemail or in person, over and over again:

  • “I’ve got an important meeting. Could you help me prepare?”
  • “I just lost my job. Can you listen?”
  • “I’m stuck. Could you ask me questions?”
  • “I’m not sure what to do next. Can you help me figure that out?”
  • “You ask the most thought-provoking questions.”

If it seemed like a short-term conversation, I’d answer the call to listen. All the while, my Web site’s home page asks, “What is the world calling you to be?” (Also see, I’m a hypocrite and that’s OK.)

In June, my partner David and I fly to San Francisco for a long weekend. On the plane, as clear as the air is at 40,000 feet, I hear the requests from the world calling. Hello?

I’ve resisted hanging out a one-on-one coaching shingle and yet that’s what I’ve spent most of my time doing the last five years. Hello?

Walking up and down the San Francisco hills, I can envision my life as a coach. It becomes possible. Hello?

The week after we return to Los Angeles the phone rings. Hello? A three-month coaching project arrives. I want to conjure up a story as to why. How about changing my story about working at home?