Skip to main content /transcript


Stedman Graham's Story of Success

Aired May 2, 2001 - 21:00   ET


LARRY KING, HOST: Tonight, he is the man Oprah hasn't married, calls her "life partner." He says he used to find being known as Oprah's boyfriend crippling, but now rates himself fortunate to have her on his arm. Stedman Graham, businessman, best-selling author, for the hour, next on LARRY KING LIVE.

Our special guest tonight, always great to see him, is Stedman Graham. His new book is "Build Your Own Life Brand." He is also the author of "The New York Times" best sellers "You Can Make It Happen," and "Teens Can Make It Happen." He got famous through an association with Oprah Winfrey even though his company is quite successful.

Your company is basically what?

STEDMAN GRAHAM, AUTHOR, "BUILD YOUR OWN LIFE BRAND": We are a marketing company. Also, I focus on education. I kind of developed my whole life around -- built my life around education. I've dedicated my whole life to teaching people the process of success and how to apply that process to the American free enterprise system and publishing is one of the things we do.

KING: Speaking?

GRAHAM: Speaking, product development, software development, and build around the content that I developed in my books. Seminars, those kinds of things.

KING: And we will talk a lot about that. Do you feel funny that when people know your name, they know it through someone else?

GRAHAM: Well, it is what it is. And, I probably wouldn't be here if I hadn't had the association with Oprah. I think that having her be who she is, but that is really not the message and that is not that important to me. What's important to me is being able to find freedom within that context, and discover who I am as a person because I would have never discovered it unless I would have had a relationship with her.

KING: Really? She opened it for you?

GRAHAM: Oh, yes. Absolutely.

KING: What were you doing when you met?

GRAHAM: Well, I was just doing what everybody else does, working.


GRAHAM: As -- I worked in the prison system for a number of years. I worked with a public relations firm for a number of years and I was with a public relations firm when I was with her.

KING: How did you meet?

GRAHAM: We met at a charity. And Chicago being a small place, you know, small circles, you understand how that works, we met there. And we knew each other two years before actually we started dating. So, I kind of can of ran in that circle.

KING: So, it wasn't instant, then.

GRAHAM: No, and also she wasn't national when I met her. She hadn't become the Oprah...

KING: I knew her before you. I knew her in Baltimore and guested on her show with my daughter when she was in Baltimore.

GRAHAM: Right, well, soon after she left Baltimore and came to -- I guess I met her about a month after she got into Chicago.

KING: Now you say that she had a great effect on you and what you've become. In What way?

GRAHAM: Well, in the fact that without the pressure, Larry, I wouldn't have been able to find, and discover who I really am.

KING: You mean pressure of being her boyfriend.

GRAHAM: I mean the pressure of being in that position, of having that much pressure on me every single day every time I walked out the door. And saying -- and also being defined as her boyfriend. And what happened with me, I refused to accept that definition, that someone else gave me. I said, "You know, I really need to find out who I am." And not really blame her for her success, and look at her success and say, "You know what, I'll try to attach myself to her success." But find your own success. Be your own person, find out who you are, and make it work for you based on your potential as a person." That is what my message is.

KING: What was it like in the earlier stages when you were Mr. Winfrey, so to speak.

GRAHAM: Well, I would say that, number one, I never accepted that.

KING: Never did.

GRAHAM: Never did. Never did. And what she...

KING: So, you had to be strong to begin with? GRAHAM: Well, I had the determination and perseverance to be whoever I needed to be. I just didn't know how. I didn't have the skills, I wasn't a thinking human being, because I didn't understand how the process worked. So I was hung up on, for a number of years, on race -- having a race-based consciousness.

Which is, I blame everything on white America, blame everything on government, and have a victim mentality. And so, you know, it wasn't about me. I wasn't authentic as a person, and I never discovered real freedom until I discovered the process, and I said, "Oh, this is what it is about. This is what one percent of the people in this country understand. Everybody else is just going through motions."

KING: And has nothing do with color.

GRAHAM: It has nothing do with color. It has nothing do with the fact that you are a woman. It has nothing to do with the fact that you grew up in poor circumstances. It is, not understanding how to tap into your full potential as a person, build a foundation with that.

Build an identity with that then be able to utilize the American free enterprise system to develop yourself based on who you are. Do you know who you are?

KING: And how do you overcome, and how did Oprah overcome, the fact that when you look in the mirror, you are not the majority color in this country? And you've never been treated as such?

GRAHAM: Doesn't make any difference. Every immigrant that has come into this country had to overcome obstacles. And so...

KING: ... could change their name, there's a lot of ways around it.

GRAHAM: Well, you know what, you are black. If you look in the mirror and you're black, you are always going to be black. That is not going to change. But what you can change is you can change the way you think and feel about yourself. And that transcends personal relationships and it transcends business opportunities, because it's the way you feel and think about yourself, that is directly related to how people treat you.

So when you think differently about yourself, and feel differently about yourself, then people treat you according to what power you give up. And if you are trained to give up your power all of your life, like a lot of women are trained to give up their power, a lot of African-Americans are trained to give up their power, a lot of people who are victimized are trained to give up their power to other people, to let them define them.

And see, I refused to accept the fact somebody else was going to define me, so I defined myself. And when I discovered the process I said, "Oh, there is a process to defining yourself. You mean there is a process to excellence? There is a process to results? There is a process to performance? You don't just have to be on the job and blame white America."

KING: Did Oprah also help you in this way, by just being Oprah, or by discussion, by feeding off each other.

GRAHAM: Well, she understood it early on. I mean, she tapped into her potential, which is, she loves to talk.

KING: Yes, but she has been angry at being at the black position in America. She's taken many stands for it.

GRAHAM: I would that say she has, she discovered freedom a long time ago based on performance and based on excellence. And if you build your whole life around performance and doing the best you can, what do you break through barriers. Yes, there is discrimination. Yes, there is systematic racism. That is all set up.

But to be able to understand that based on how the system is laid out, and to be able to think, be a thinking human being and say how do I overcome those obstacles even though it is a tough time for me.

KING: We'll be right back with Stedman Graham. His new book is "Build Your Own Life Brand." All his books have been best sellers. This one is guaranteed. Don't go away.


OPRAH WINFREY: I don't think that I will be single for the rest of my life, no. There are times, that I think...

KING: Are you currently in love?


KING: Is that a state of like marriage -- just that state itself?

WINFREY: A state of like Larry? Is that...

KING: Well, no. A state of love. You are in love right?

WINFREY: In love. Um-hmm.

KING: OK. Isn't that, in a sense, like a marriage?


KING: Well, it's certainly a commitment.

WINFREY: It's a commitment, but let me tell you this, Larry. You can be in love a long time, and then you marry and things change. They change. People get possessive, and people are not as romantic as they used to be. They get comfortable. They let things slide. They walk around the house with the slip hanging and stuff like that.




KING: You are probably the number one tabloid person.

WINFREY: Yes, I am.

KING: How do you deal with that?

WINFREY: It used to really bother me. It doesn't anymore. I had a great lesson from Mya Angelo who'd said to me early in my career that you are not in it. You have to keep a journal (UNINTELLIGIBLE) And at the time she was saying that to me, I couldn't understand. She'd say, "At the time that they sit down to write the tabloid story you are not involved in that. You don't have anything do with it. Your life goes on. Your life is going to continue regardless of what anybody says about you. You have to define your life from the inside out."

And it took me a while. After a while, after so many stories, after so many rumors, after so many untruths, you just learn to live with it. You know what, I ran the marathon. One of the things that amused me the most was that I had two tabloid reporters running alongside me.

They ran the whole way. They had trained to run the marathon, and they were there beside me. And I had to pee from the 14th mile on and I didn't because I didn't want a shot of it.


KING: We're back with Stedman Graham. Let's take care of some tabloid things. Does that annoy you?

GRAHAM: It is what it is. I mean, people are...

KING: You say that, but...

GRAHAM: Well, people are using it to make money. It's not about me. It's not about her. It's about sales.

KING: So, when he you see a headline, any kind of headline...

GRAHAM: It's about sales. It's about money.

KING: And you understand that.

GRAHAM: OK, I understand that. So, you know, I'm the hook sometimes; she's the hook sometimes. So, it's about people buying what they need to buy in order to be able to support whatever information they want to put out, and everything, basically, in that genre is about how many papers can I sell?

KING: Why do you think, in your knowledge of human nature, the public cares whether you're married or not? Why do you think that's... GRAHAM: The public doesn't care about whether we're married or not. The public cares about themselves. People care about themselves. So, for them, it's entertainment. For them, it's another story. For them...

KING: It's just the vicarious...

GRAHAM: ... it's just what can I do with my time? OK, because I'm not focused on who I am. I'm not focused on what my potential is, so I'm going to turn my power over to you to let you entertain me as opposed to me entertaining myself.

And when I talk about "Build Your Own Life Brand," I'm saying build your own life brand, your brand, not your mother's brand, not your father's brand, not your sister's brand, your life brand. Do you understand who you are and what your foundation is and what your talents are, what your gifts are, what your uniqueness is?

Once you understand that, then you can build a foundation and then utilize the American free enterprise system and the educational system and apply those things to your own development. Otherwise, you end up turning yourself over to, well, let me get a degree, let me take a test, and you have other people define you because you know what, I got D's on that test.

So now, you're put into a category, and now maybe you're a third- or fourth-grader, and so what happens is that your self-esteem and your image of yourself is lowered because you don't feel you are as good, and now you don't compete because you are programmed to think I'm less than this other person over here, I can't do as well, and you're conditioned.

And so, you're underdeveloped, you're not developed and can't be developed because you don't know how to develop yourself.

KING: Do you call this, for you, an evolutionary or a revolutionary?

GRAHAM: I call it a huge change. I call it a movement. I call it a movement, because most of us, 99 percent of us, walk around every day doing the same thing, over and over. For how many years, Larry? Thirty or 40 years. And then what happens? They have a big retirement party for you at 65, and what do they give you? They give you a watch.

And the next day, you're looking for another job because you can't afford to live off the money that you get from retirement based on you lifestyle, and you've got to start tee whole process over again, as opposed to saying who do I want to be?

Larry King is a brand. Larry King has a life, not a job. Do what you want to do, go where you want to go, develop whatever vision you want based on understanding who you are, and what do you best, and that's what I'm saying to the educational system and every American in this country: I say you can do it based on who you are.

KING: What's it like, though, when your mate, you girlfriend, has got all that the money she...

GRAHAM: You mean Oprah.

KING: ... she or everyone is ever going to need -- well, in your situation, to be with someone who has no mercenary needs left in her life, who has everything, can do anything, go anywhere. To be a part of that, now, that's something that's naturally curious to wonder what that is like?

GRAHAM: Well, I want her -- first of all, I want her to have everything, go everywhere, be everything that she possibly can be, because that is based on who she is.

KING: And she's got that.

GRAHAM: She's got that, and good for her. Congratulations to you. It has nothing to do with my life in terms of what I become. I have got to find that for myself. And together, we can work together and talk about things together; she can talk about her life, I can talk about my life, and we can be happy. And we're not sitting around, knocking each other down or hurting each other or feeling sorry for each other or saying woe is me.

We're saying, you know, how was your day today? What did you do? And then maybe I can give her advice on some of the things she's going through and maybe she can give me some advice and so, it's a wonderful partnership. We're working together based on knowledge, love, information, all the things that enhance a person's life.

Now, you can go through the day and be very, very happy about your life and you can speak to people, and have a good attitude because you understand who you are. And when you do something that is not exactly right thing to do, you can think about that, reprogram yourself, and try to do better the next time and become a better person by building value every single day because I realized, Larry, for the first time in my life, that the value I get myself is directly related to the value of the people give me.

So what does that mean to me? The challenge is for me to create as much value in my life as I possibly can because it is directly related to how the world sees me, and if I walk around with my head down, that's how the world sees me.

KING: We'll be right back with Stedman Graham. The book, the new one is "Build Your Own Life Brand." Don't go away.


GRAHAM: She's waited 10 years for this project, and the acting is superb. You wouldn't know it's the Oprah Winfrey, the talk show host. She's wonderful in it, and I'm just proud of her anyway, in everything she does.


(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED ACTRESS: The Emmy goes to Oprah Winfrey. "The Oprah Winfrey Show."



WINFREY: Thank you, too, Stedman, for putting up with all the long hours. It's our sixth anniversary.


KING: We're back with Stedman Graham. There is one aspect, though, the financial aspects that you both gained. What's it like -- in other words, can you see things through the same perspective when, you know, I can buy an airplane. In other words, doesn't it -- someone said once, it's hard to write a second great book when you wrote the first great book out of need.

GRAHAM: Well, you know, it's really about putting things in perspective based on what your talents and your skills. Again, I go back to finding your own strengths and being able to -- you know, I'm not in education because I'm trying to make a lot of money or I'm trying to make an impact. I mean, I'm trying to make impact based on it what I feel...

KING: But money results from that?

GRAHAM: Money results it, money results from you doing this show.

KING: Of course.


KING: But I don't do it...

GRAHAM: You don't do it because -- you do it because you love it. And how many years have you been doing?

KING: Forty-four.

GRAHAM: How many years have you been doing it without making any money?

KING: A lot.

GRAHAM: A lot. So, the idea that the wonderful thing about you and Michael Jordan is that you can make money doing exactly what you love to do.

KING: Ah, but how many people can do that?

GRAHAM: Not a whole lot.

KING: No. GRAHAM: And that is...


KING: That's the stumbling block. .

GRAHAM: And that's why I teach the process because I want to teach people how to do that because I discovered it, and I discovered that freedom, and I said, oh, this -- like I said before, this is it. This is the stuff, this is the foundation, this why is -- this why we have a 57 percent dropout in some of these school areas and 60 percent dropout in some of these school areas because kids don't have a foundation to build from.

And so they get turned over to the educational system. The educational system treats them any old way, doesn't tap into their potential, doesn't even care about their potential, because they are just warehousing them.

So the ability to be able to take a parent and a child and say, listen, we are going to really work on your potential as a person, and then we are going to take the educational system and apply that to your foundation and your base, and you are going to take courses that are relevant, as opposed to going to college, and taking courses that are not relevant and then coming out with a degree, saying, I don't know how to make a living for myself.

KING: Do you have as hand -- handicap burden plus or minus that to be known as famous? In other words, what you do is public. Most people watch 99 percent of people will never have what you have.

GRAHAM: Well, I would have never discovered what I discovered if I didn't have that pressure, because most people don't have that pressure of being public, walking out, people knowing what you are doing, knowing your business...

KING: The right effect on...

GRAHAM: So, the effect is that it challenges you to try be the best you can, every single day, otherwise they going to try to -- the fact of the matter is, is that what you want to be able to do through that process I said, you know, because everything was about Oprah, and her life, so I said, well, you know what?

How do you find out? How do you become successful? How do you run a business? How do you understand the process? How do you become all that you can become? How does this work? How does successful people that I'm around with her? How did they do this? There is a process to doing it.

KING: So what you did...

GRAHAM: Just like, there's a process for IPOs, there is a process for wealth building, there is a process for savings, there is a process for every single thing.

KING: Is there a process for the bus driver?

GRAHAM: There is a process for the bus driver if he wants to be the best bus driver the world, if he wants to own his own bus company, if he wants to be able to develop tour busses with his name on it, there is a process for that.

KING: So that nobody is left out of this mix, if they want to adapt it.

GRAHAM: Nobody is left out. And, the first book "You Can Make It Happen" talks about vision.

KING: A great book.

GRAHAM: The vision. What is your vision? Because you can do the same thing every single day. But what's your vision? To take what you have, as Larry King, your brand, and create the greatest impact in the world based on who you are, because people will listen to you. They will listen to you.

KING: So, it is good to dream.

GRAHAM: It is excellent to dream. And when you can achieve your dreams, but you know that you have the determination, the perseverance, but you don't know how to apply your dreams to the world that you live in every single day, then frustration kicks in. And anger kicks in. And violence kicks in, because you have no release for that potential that is connected to your heart. You haven't aligned yourself with the world live in or the American free enterprise system or America, this great country.

So, you don't know how to make it. That's why people from other countries can come here and go into communities and create businesses, don't speak English, don't know anything about anything, in terms of America, don't have a history of America, but they understand that there is a process for success. And that process, you can apply all around the world.

KING: Back with more of Stedman Graham, the book is "Build Your Own Life Brand," and we are learning how. Don't go away.



WINFREY: Stedman was terrific because, you know, I'm up at 5:00 in morning, out in training, and, he has been really supportive, because he has done it before.

QUESTION: What did he tell you afterwards?

WINFREY: He said he was proud of me.



KING: You have a commitment obviously.

WINFREY: Obviously. And a relationship works really well without being married right now. And it really bothers me that people think it is like he doesn't want me or I don't want him. And I was so pleased at the time to be asked, because I thought at least, people will know I got asked. At least they will know that. But now it is not -- you know, I see marriage a lot differently than I think a lot of other people see it. I see it as the commitment to work on yourself, with somebody and say, look, you are going to be there for me no matter what and I'm going to be there for you no matter what.


KING: One more thing in the personal area. The public -- this is a society that says, when are you getting married? Do you regard that as important in your life?

GRAHAM: Absolutely. I have been married before, so I understand the importance of marriage.

KING: You are engaged.

GRAHAM: I understand the importance of being in a successful relationship what it takes to do that. I understand all of that. I know the process to all of that.

KING: Do you want to get married?

GRAHAM: I think it's pretty personal.

KING: That is what I meant.

GRAHAM: I think it is pretty personal. I think that is personal between me and her, and we don't live for the public; we really live for ourselves, and what works for us, so...

KING: In a society where that is part of the bonding story, does that make it more difficult to find your own brand?

GRAHAM: Well, 67 percent of people out in our society are divorced so, I think that there is, you know, people getting together, or marrying just to marry, that is depends on individuals, because it is really about you know, I deal with investment itself -- it is really about the investment you make in yourself, because you really have to kind of live your own life based on who you are.

And, you know I'm not -- you know, I try not to get into the whole personal thing. But what I try to do is teach people the process of how to create opportunities in their own life and not become judgmental in the sense that I'm make judgments on other people...

KING: You don't do that. GRAHAM: No, I used to do it. I used to do it when low self- esteem or lack of self-confidence in myself, make judgments on other people, but what I try to do is, I try to build my own brand, and try to build my own life, and then, if that serves as an example some of the things I do, maybe I'm not 100 percent, you know, I'm not perfect. But what I try to do is -- I try to do is what I try to (UNINTELLIGIBLE) do best I can, based on who I am.

KING: You talk about "brand," you are not just talking about what you do you for work, are you?



KING: Partner, parent, workmate, friend.

GRAHAM: Right.

You are not going to be 100 percent in everything, but if you can work on family, that is important thing for you. OK. Your hobbies: tennis, golf, work, career, relationships, friendships, so it becomes, being able to understand and build value in each one of those areas, which gives you a total picture and a total solution as approach which allows you to build brand in everything that you do. Or improve your brand in everything you do.

KING: Were you ever angry?

GRAHAM: Oh, yes, for years. Rage. I worked in a prison system five years.

KING: Doing?

GRAHAM: I started off as a guard, worked in as a recreation supervisor, then worked in education, so I saw the rage every single day and I had the rage too. What happens with the rage, you never go underneath the surface until something goes wrong. All of a sudden, you are a different person.

And so, what I had to do is go back and unpeel the onion or recreate myself, you see, in the relationship and help me to be able to go back, and I had to re-create myself, in terms of getting down to the core of me, and then rebuilding myself over again.

And in that rebuilding process and in that re-creating process, I discovered the process for success, and that is when I said, I'm putting it in a book.

KING: Were there problems when Oprah was spiraling to fame? Because you were together -- you say, you met her she was just local in Chicago. She was on a spiral up. How did you deal with that?

GRAHAM: You deal with it because you are frustrated. Frustrated because you can't -- you don't understand anything. And again, you don't understand the process. KING: Why aren't I?

GRAHAM: So, you think it is -- I guess you know, things happen automatically, but they don't. They happen because you work at it, they happen because you plan it, they happen because you have a vision, they happen because you have a team, they happen because you make good decisions about your life, they happen because as a program, and a process, for development.

If you miss those pieces, and when I talk to high school students, if you don't graduate from high school, if you don't get a high school education, what are you going to make?

And they say, well, I make about a thousand dollars a month. Well, you only take home $850 a month. And then, I ask them, what kind of car do you want? And guess what they say?

They say, I want a Lexus.

And so, what's the process for buying a Lexus? Well, Lexuses cost about $600 a month for car payments. Well, what about insurance? That's another 200. You're going to live in a Lexus?

They said: no. Well, what's an apartment cost? An apartment costs about 4, 5, 600, depending on where you live. In Washington, D.C., maybe 1,200. So you start adding up, what, phone, you want to go to the movies, you want to do all these things, have your friends over, have a party, you know, music, everything.

So all of a sudden now you're getting a $4,000 a month, and this is what you require for your lifestyle. And you don't make but $850 a month. That doesn't add up.

And so when you explain that to them, I said, you know why you're in school? So you can get a good job. So you can make the kind of money that's necessary for you to have the life that you want.

KING: John F. Kennedy once said, "Life isn't fair." I'm going to ask Stedman Graham his thoughts on that statement and how it applies, right after this.


KING: We're back with Stedman Graham. His new book is "Build Your Own Life Brand!" He's our special guest for the program this evening, and it's a great pleasure having you with us. We're in New York City.

John Kennedy, in a famous statement, said "Life isn't fair." And it isn't. You're born with something he's not born with. You have talent, he doesn't have. You can sing, he can't sing. Oprah can talk, he can't talk. How do you equate that in the balance of finding a brand? You're born with a disease...

GRAHAM: Well, life isn't fair. And life will eat you up.

KING: You're damn right.

GRAHAM: It will eat you up. It will eat you up unless you are prepared. And in this country, we try to put a system in place called education -- called schools, called libraries, called books -- so that people will prepare themselves for what life has to offer them, either good or bad. Now life provides...

KING: The playing field should be level, though, and it can't be level if it isn't fair.

GRAHAM: It's never level. It's never level, so each person is an individual. So it's about investment in you, and it only comes down to each individual person, because if you take a community of people, and you take that community and you make sure that everybody in that community has the best education they can, and they're focusing on their talents and skills, you have a strong community.

And if you do that in a city, you have a strong city. And if you do that in a state, you have a strong state. If you do that in a country, you have a strong America. And that's what this country is built upon, is that kind of a program. What we try to do in this country is try to make sure that every single person in this country has a good education.

And it's up to us, as individuals and parents and influences, to be able to be sure that our kids have a good education, our families have a good education, you have a good education. So if everybody took care of themselves, in terms of investing in themselves, building their own internal capacity to achieve based on their potential, then what we have is we have a strong America.

KING: You're not saying selfishness is a good idea here?

GRAHAM: No, I'm not saying...

KING: All in the self.

GRAHAM: No, it's not about self, it's about the more that you get, the more you can give. It's about giving. It's about service. So, nothing in, nothing out. So put as much as you possibly can in so you can influence your own daughter, your own son.

KING: Any rewards in working in the prison system? As you look back, were there any gains out of that? Because -- what do you do if you're a prison guard? What kind of life is that? .

GRAHAM: For me, it was a great life. It was a great life because I learned so much about people.

KING: You used it.

GRAHAM: And you either make it or you don't make it in the prison system. There is no middle ground. And we had 1,200 inmates every day, trying to figure out how they're going to, literally, ring your bell today, or get your attention.


GRAHAM: That makes you pretty savvy, in terms of being able to handle yourself, which -- what we were talking about, building your own life brand, and you can make it happen, is handling yourself. How you control and manage yourself.

Discipline, your temper, your attitude, how do you deal with situations? I think you can pretty much make it in this country almost anywhere if you have a good attitude, show up on time, and you dress kind of nice.

KING: Do people like -- well, like your girlfriend, Oprah -- do people like...

GRAHAM: You mean Oprah.

KING: Michael Jordan -- is she your girlfriend?

GRAHAM: Yes, she is.

KING: So why can't I say that?

GRAHAM: No, you can say it. I'm just kind of teasing you a little bit.

KING: Do people like that instinctively know it? Or do they learn it? Or do you know? Did she know instinctively?

GRAHAM: Well, she worked -- she's been doing television since she was 17 years of age. Seventeen years of age, so she's been working on this a long time. Michael Jordan's been -- he got cut from his high school basketball team. He's been doing it since -- his workout regiment, even when he was playing with the Bulls, 500 shots a day. So you have to work it. There are no overnight successes for anybody.

You know, your life, Larry King. You know, just, let's talk about your life, in terms of what you've had to sacrifice to get here. you k now, it takes -- there are no overnight successes. But there's a process for development, and if you work hard, and if you take that work and you focus in on what your talents are, you can create a lot of opportunity.

KING: You've learned this. Where did the process come from? I don't know where it came from. I mean, I know I had gumption. I know Oprah is the kind of person who has gone through the door. The door opens, she goes through the door. But I'll bet -- does she know where that comes from?

GRAHAM: So does Bill Gates.

KING: No, and so does Bill Gates. So maybe he couldn't explain where it comes from, to go through there.

GRAHAM: And so does Quincy Jones. And so goes Maya Angelo. So does Bob Brown. All these folks, they have the determination, perseverance, but they love what they do. And how much time do you put into radio? A lot.

KING: A lot. \

GRAHAM: OK, so you know radio inside-out, in terms of what radio is like, and how you're supposed to respond. You see yourself on TV, you critique yourself, and so does she. She does the same thing.

KING: You invest in it.

GRAHAM: So you invest in something that you love, and when you love it, it becomes a passion of yours. Then you can build on that passion, and you like doing it. You enjoy it, you smile about it. You have a good attitude about it. It makes you feel good. So you're walking around, you're standing tall. Larry King, you walk around, you're standing tall, because you love what you do and you're passionate about the work that you do, and that's your brand. You can build a brand around that.

KING: I'm going to ask Stedman Graham where he came up with the idea of the word "brand," which we usually associate with coffee, right after this.


KING: Why you?

WINFREY: I don't know.

KING: Why do you think?

WINFREY: Why do I think? I think everybody has a calling. Mine just happens to be on television. I think, in anybody's life, if you strive for excellence -- I remember being 16 or 17 years old, and I heard Jesse Jackson at an assembly program say once that excellence is the best deterrent to racism or sexism. I sort of took that on as my motto. So, whatever I ever did, I always wanted to try be the best at it.



QUESTION: How do you feel with Stedman in town?

WINFREY: Well, I think nobody makes it alone, and it feels great to be supported. Yeah. By somebody who you love and care about.


KING: What brand of coffee do you drink, when I used to smoke. What brand of cigarette do you smoke? Where did you come up with the idea of "brand" for a human?

GRAHAM: Well, I have been in marketing, advertising business for a number of years.

KING: Are we brands?

GRAHAM: We don't see ourselves as brands, but you know what? Companies spend millions and millions. I think Nike spends a billion dollars a year on that checkmark, so you can just recognize that check mark everywhere.

So, the fact of the matter is, I applied that to people, I said well, you know, companies that strategic planning for business, brands, it makes a lot of sense to be able to look at yourself as a brand, because we always give our power to the external. We never really focus on ourselves developing ourselves, so, if we look at ourselves as brands, how do you take the same material and the same information companies use, and apply that to your own personal life as a strategic marketing tool to enhance your own life? That is where I came up with the idea of "brands."

KING: What do you still have to work at? We are never complete, right?

GRAHAM: No. Well, you know, I have a large vision, a vision teach this process all around the world, developing an infrastructure. To develop the capacity, to deliver the message to the marketplace. To be able to work on myself in terms of, you know, my experiences with people, and learning, but I'm open, you know, the ability to be open and to understand what I want to do, and my focus is education, dedicate my whole life to education.

So, I'm going to organize the educational market to help improve the quality of people's lives and the founder's life, based on what I have learned, which is understanding the process and the nine steps, and using "brand" as a tool for personal development.

KING: And you balance it well with the private life? You can have a good private life while you are branding?

GRAHAM: Absolutely. You can have everything. You can have everything if you understand how, if you understand there is a process for development in every single thing that you do. There is a process for taking a test, there is a process for working, there is a process for a project that you are working on, there is a thinking process that goes with every single thing.

If you understand that, then you just process it out, so that produces results, and you can measure that. So, to be able to do that in every single thing that you do, as a way of thinking and a concept that you can use to develop and perform, is the greatest gift that I know.

KING: I'm going to ask Stedman in a minute, was it one day he jumped up and said, "yes!" We will be right back.


KING: What drives you when you have it all, you could -- let's be logical -- retire? WINFREY: Yes, when you talk about money, I'm certainly not doing this for money, and I never did it for the money. That's the great thing about this job.

KING: Nobody good at it ever did it for the money.

WINFREY: I more than anybody...

KING: It's a found gift.

WINFREY: It's a found gift. Just fell in.



KING: We are back with Stedman Graham. The book is "Build Your Own Life Brand."

Was there a time you were just sitting around, maybe having dinner with Oprah, walking around by yourself, and you just jumped up said yes, I know!

GRAHAM: You have a lot of yeses. And you always...

KING: Little yeses.

GRAHAM: Little yeses. And you always think you know. And then you find out life comes back and tests you, see if you know. And, you know, you say, well OK, I don't really know I thought I knew it. So, what happens though, the combination of all of those yeses, you know, over a period of time, builds your own brand, builds your life brand; it really determines who you are. It is the combination of successes in your life that really kind of builds the brand of Larry King.

KING: How about the failures?

GRAHAM: The failures also -- they teach you more than the successes, but it is hard to succeed unless you have the failures. See, I can't tell you about this, or tell anybody about this or teach any of this if I haven't been there myself.

But I'm there, so you don't have to tell me about turning power over to other people, you can't tell me what you can't do if you are an African-American. You can't tell me what you can't to if you're a Hispanic; you can't tell me what you can't do if a woman, because I understand that there is a process for success. And if I can do it, under the shadow I have been under these years, and make it work on my sixth book, without Oprah's picture being on the front cover or the back cover, and have two "New York Times" best sellers, it is because of the process of success, and you understand how that applied that process to the world you live in.

KING: I'm not going to buy your book, because you are with Oprah, I'm not going to learn from a book because you are with -- it has got to be you. GRAHAM: It has got be you. Nobody cares about -- you walk in and somebody says, there is Oprah Winfrey's boyfriend. Well, where is she? You know, so, you have to earn it. You've got to develop it for yourself and find it for yourself.

And once you have it, you see, once you have what you have, no matter what happens to your life externally, nobody can take that away.

KING: Do you think our school systems is worse off today?

GRAHAM: Well, I think...

KING: As some have said.

GRAHAM: I think there are so many distractions for our young people, and they end up trying to find themselves and they're competing with the magazines, competing with the music, competing with their friends, competing with television, and so, to be able to have a child. Say, you know what? I'm going to focus on myself, how you can possibly focus on yourself, if your whole world around you is trying to get you to buy everything? And has trained you to buy tennis shoes? And has trained you to think that you are going to be successful because you bought a Starter jacket, when we know that it's about what you put in here. It is about your ability to be able to educate yourself, and then apply that education to the world that you live in every single day, to build a life, so you can do the job, and afford what want you to be able to afford based on your own personal aspirations and lifestyle.

KING: So, you are happy. Or is that relative?

GRAHAM: Pretty happy, pretty happy.

KING: Pretty happy -- not very happy?

GRAHAM: Pretty very happy.

KING: What would make you very, very happy?

GRAHAM: Well, I think being able to scale up so I can get this message out throughout the world.

KING: You want to go places.

GRAHAM: Well, go places but teach people the process of how it works so they can maximize their own human development and performance, based on their talents and their gifts. And to be able to take that process and apply to it India, apply it to South Africa, apply to it other countries, and apply to it our country where people are looking for value. They're looking to find out, how does this work. How does it really work.

Am I just going through motions every single day, doing the same thing from 9 to 5. You know, same thing on the weekends, and in the end you have no more in the end than you had in the beginning. You know, there is a better life than that.

KING: We will be back with Stedman Graham. His new one is "Build Your Own Life Brand." Don't go away.



GAYLE KING, HOST, THE GAYLE KING SHOW: Welcome back. I'm here with two of my favorite people in the whole world: Stedman Graham, and the woman in his life, she's joining us via satellite from her studio in Chicago, that, of course, would be Oprah.




KING: We're back with Stedman Graham. Do you get -- the stories about Gayle King and Oprah being friends, and stories that you are jealous of that. Does that still occur to you?

GRAHAM: Well, you know what, I really have gotten rid of any jealousy I ever had about anybody, actually, I mean.

KING: The stories about being jealous of her are...

GRAHAM: Well, you know, I don't read stories. If there're stories about her, I mean you know, I don't...

KING: Because someone said there was a story that you and her -- you don't like that it she so is close.

GRAHAM: Gayle is wonderful. Gayle is a wonderful, wonderful person. And I like it because -- I like the friendship -- because Oprah has someone that she can trust and she depends on, that she has relationship with her, in terms of being able to call her up. And she has some support, and if she is happy, if Oprah's is happy, I'm happy, OK, because it's easier for her, when she is able to do everything that she wants to do, she becomes a better person. Everybody becomes a better person because they are able to tap into their own life program which makes them happy, and they can enjoy life.

KING: So, the only pressure to you now is to reach more people?

GRAHAM: Well, the pressure -- there is a lot of pressure for me. You know, it comes in different areas, I mean, this is a total solution approach again, and so...

KING: But you're certainly acclimating well now to fame.

GRAHAM: But I understand -- acclimated enough, right -- and I understand that there is a process for everything, single thing that I do. And I have to work hard, and I have to spend a lot of hours trying to develop this plan and this vision, and being able to try to balance a life, where I can have a balanced life, so play golf, play tennis, being able to work out, being able to work, being able to travel, being able to speak and do all of those things.

So, you know, life balance is very, very important in developing a total program.

KING: When you see a young black kid, do you think to yourself, he still has one or two strikes on him? That he still has to overcome?

GRAHAM: If he believes that he has one or two strikes, that is what he has. And so...

KING: And if he believes he doesn't, he doesn't?

GRAHAM: He doesn't. So the challenge is, is to get him to believe in himself, to overcome any obstacle he might face down the road because he's going to face some obstacles, but do you understand what the other person -- where the other person is coming from? And I'm not so worried about myself, I mean he shouldn't be so worried about himself, he should really feel sorry for the other person, because they need help.

And so to get him in the frame of mind, he says, "You know what, boy that person has a lot of fear. They are really really putting up some barriers for me because they are afraid, and that has nothing do with me, that has everything to do with who they are. Now who I am, I'm going to build whatever life I can build based on my potential, and nobody is going to stop me because nobody is going to take this freedom that I have away. Nobody is going to take this talent that I have away. And nobody is going to take this uniqueness that I have way, and nobody is going to take this genius that I have within me."

KING: You might have the answer to the age-old question: Why do people repeat actions that they know will bring them the result of past travails?

GRAHAM: Because they are programmed. And most of us are programmed to just follow the next person.

KING: No matter what the pain.

GRAHAM: No matter what pain is. We do things over and over again because we don't see things differently. We don't feel things differently and so we are taught to just kind of go through the motions every single day, and millions of Americans, and I was one of them, do the same thing over, every day without a vision, without extending themselves, being comfortable because so used to just being comfortable and enjoying what we have. We never really remember what the future is going to be like.

KING: I know you always get something out of him -- Stedman Graham -- a meeting, book, anything. Stedman Graham, the book is "Build Your Own Life Brand." Thanks.

Thanks very much for joining us. Stay tuned for "CNN TONIGHT." I'm Larry King in New York with Stedman Graham. Good night.



4:30pm ET, 4/16

Back to the top