There was nothing about Lisa Nichols’ early life that promised abundance.
So much seemed to point to the opposite — a life of scarcity and struggle.
She had grown up between two warring gangs in South Central Los Angeles. Her highest grade in 12 years of school was a C+. Her English teacher once told her that she was the weakest writer she’d ever seen — the same year the teacher of her speech class told her, “Lisa, I recommend you get a desk job where you never have to speak in public.”
Now, Lisa’s one of the most requested motivational speakers and transformational coaches in the world, with a global platform that reaches nearly 30 million lives. She’s a self-made millionaire, a New York Times bestselling author who’s published 7 books, the second African American woman to take her company public, and the author of one of our most popular programs, Speak and Inspire. She’s made countless appearances on shows like Oprah, the Steve Harvey Show, and The Today Show.
But her transformation only happened after she unexpectedly got pregnant with her son.
From Broke And Broken To Self-Made Millionaire
A month before she gave birth, her son’s father went to prison, leaving Lisa as the sole parent able to support her child. She relied on the help of an organization called WIC, Women, Infants, and Children, just to feed her newborn.
She’d stand in line with other mothers and some fathers waiting to get free butter, milk, and pasta, feeling both shame at needing assistance and gratitude at the services these organizations are able to provide.
But the most vivid memory she has is when her son was eight months old. “I went to the ATM to get $20 out of the bank because I didn’t have any Pampers for him. But in order to get $20 out, you have to have $20 in.” She only had $11.42 in her bank account.
“I was broke, and I was broken. As a parent, all you want to do is provide for your child.” So she looked down at her son wrapped in a bath towel and promised her son, Jelani, “I will never be this broken again.”
That pivotal moment, where she shifted out of shame and into determination, helped her change everything. It’s what she helps millions of people do now. Her advice to them is the same advice she gave to herself that day: “The first thing to know is when you’re out of congruence with who you’re designed to be.”
“I’ve always talked a good game,” she explains. “But I wasn’t doing anything with my gifts. All of that about potential, I was tired of having potential. I wanted to have my now.”
She knew that she had to be willing to drastically transform herself to become the person she had always wanted to be. “I realized I was my own rescue. Wherever my mindset was, I knew my bank account would follow.” So she committed to changing her mental zip code from shame, struggle, and scarcity to abundance.
At some point, I had to stop asking, ‘Can I be great? Can I be brilliant? Can I be okay and still be accepted?’ I just stopped asking for permission and just gave notice, unapologetically.
She dedicated those years of her life to the discomfort. She put herself in situations she was completely unfamiliar with, around people she didn’t know, listening to concepts she didn’t understand, so that she could learn. “I went to conferences where people were talking about money, about prosperity.” The words they were throwing around — terms like ROIs, PPMs, Term Agreements, and Capital Fundraising — sounded so strange to her they may as well have been from another language.
Some might have left if they felt out of place or uncomfortable, but that feeling of discomfort was what she was searching for. “If your knees aren’t knocking and your teeth aren’t chattering — if you don’t stand in the mirror and say, ‘What the heck have I done?’ — you’re simply not playing big enough. No matter how big you’re playing in the world, there’s something where you can serve bigger, love bigger, receive bigger.”
She realized that comfort gap happens when you’re learning, when you’re stretching and expanding yourself. So instead of leaning back, she leapt forward: she went to the same conference 42 times until she had learned this new language of business.
And when she felt discouraged, desperate, she’d stand in front of her bathroom mirror, imagining herself deliver her future success story to thousands of people. She’d envision all of the smallest details: the sound of laughter rippling through the audience, the sight of tears creeping out the eyes, the audience bracing themselves to hear her next words.
That image became her message and mission.
At those conferences, she ended up raising $532,000 in capital for her to invest in her own dream — of helping people who, like her, have been “discouraged, misguided, knocked down, and nearly knocked out.”
Transform Your Story, Transform Yourself
All of us come into the world with boundless potential. Then, at some point in our lives, we learn what it means to be us. That we can have certain things, and that other things, opportunities, roles aren’t meant for us. We learn it from our parents, our culture, our religion, our friends, and our teachers.
Lisa was taught that she couldn’t have financial freedom. Others are taught that they’re not meant to have great relationships, or that they don’t have what it takes to have an impact on the world.
But these are all just stories that we’ve inherited. Lisa asks this question instead: What story do you want to tell?
If you could create yourself from scratch today, who would you be? How would you walk, talk, live, breathe?
What would mean if you found your voice and spoke your truth?
Life has the power to knock us down, but it doesn’t have the power to keep us down. Being knocked down sometimes cannot be prevented. Staying down is always a choice.
Your ability to create change, to transform yourself, comes from building upon the parts of your inherited story that help you and shedding the parts that are no longer helpful. That’s where the real power is. That’s why when Lisa shares her story, people stop, take notice, and make changes in their own lives. “I use my story as my fuel, not my fortress. My story isn’t ‘I get to be successful in spite of,’ my story was my because of.”
That’s what the Speak and Inspire Quest shows you: how to find your unique voice, create self-confidence, communicate effortlessly, and inspire others just through the way you carry yourself.
And if everyone was able to find their voice and express their authentic selves? Well, Lisa believes people would be significantly more happy. “I think that when people swallow their truth, too many times it shows up in things like ulcers and disease. We would find ourselves physically more healthy, emotionally more balanced, and spiritually more harmonized. Because when we live like there’s nothing to prove, nothing to protect, nothing to hide, and nothing to defend, then and only then is when we’ve accessed true freedom.”
But there’s another reason to speak up that people often forget about: that how we live our lives impacts how others live theirs. People don’t need you to be perfect. They just need you to be willing to show up and have the courage to show who you are, without feeling like you need to protect or perform.
As she tells her students:
Don’t rob the world the gift of seeing your authenticity. We’re not looking for your perfection. Your perfection is more about you than it’s ever been about me. We’re looking for how you’re able to perfectly manage and navigate through your imperfection. I need you to fall in front of me. Because I need someone to model how to get up. That’s my inspiration. The reality is, someone’s watching you:
Some 14-year-old girl, some 40-year-old men, some 10-year-old boy.
And when you win, they win. So on the days when you don’t want to do it for yourself, do it for us.
Even with all of the odds stacked against her, Lisa was able to move her and her baby out of poverty and into prosperity with the power of her voice and vision.
By learning how to unlock the power of your voice, you can do the same.
How do you think your life would be different if you spoke your truth? How would you inspire the people around you?
Share in the comments below.