If you’ve been alive the past 10 years, you may have heard of Lisa Nichols, or seen her on the Today Show, Oprah, or a myriad of other TV and radio shows. Perhaps you’ve seen her grace stages with motivational gurus Tony Robbins and Jack Canfield. If you have, then you are certainly familiar with her incredible story – the kind of rags to riches tale movies are made of.
In 1994, Nichols was on public assistance with $11.42 in her bank account. Fast forward to 2016, Lisa is jet-setting the world, sharing private cooking lessons from master chefs in Italy with her son, and running Motivating the Masses, a publicly traded, multi-million dollar company. A best-selling author of six books, Nichols’s new book “Abundance Now,” outlines the steps she took to overcome hardship and join the ranks of the top one percent of income earners in the United States.
So, what does it really take to go from receiving welfare benefits to being the CEO of the only publicly traded professional development and coaching company on the New York Stock Exchange? Nichols and I sat down for a phone chat to unpack abundance, self-worth, raising $2 million in investment dollars and getting healthy.
Dawn Leaks: I’m interested to know about your new book, “Abundance.” Can you talk about why it’s important for us to be thinking about abundance and to be looking to bring abundance into our lives?
Lisa Nichols: I wrote this book titled, ‘Abundance Now,’ because I was interviewed 155 times in a five-month period and in almost every interview I would be asked the same question, ‘how did you go from welfare to running a multi-million dollar business?’ As I wrote in the intro to ‘Abundance Now,’ I would give a soundbite answer but I knew that that wasn’t everything. That wasn’t the whole ‘how.’ I feel like if you really want to give people the tools to mimic your path or set their own path based on yours, you have to give them more information than I was giving them.
So, I began to gather the steps, and the series, and the processes and really began to look at what I did. What did I do to go from 1994 [where] I was on public assistance … to today running a multi-million dollar business, living a first class life and … my son’s life is barely recognizable. He can’t remember his beanies and weenies days. ‘Abundance Now’ is really what I would call the closest road map that I can give someone.
Dawn: So, as you were on your growth journey – because really in order to get from where you were to where you are now I’m thinking you did a tremendous amount of personal growth. What we see from entrepreneurs we work with is that growth is painful. It’s not always easy. You come up against fear or a part where you don’t feel good enough or confident enough. How do you push past those type of obstacles to get to the next level?
Lisa: Well, abundance is more than where you live, how you live, or what’s in your bank account and the title on your business card. Abundance is a mindset. In Chapter 1 of the book, I redefine abundance so we have a more robust definition. I redefine abundance for what it really is and what it is today.
In Chapter 2 I begin to discuss mindset to abundance and I have some very confrontational thoughts and some disruptive ways of thinking and it could be very sobering. I show you the distinction between an average thinker and an abundant thinker. And in a lot of ways when you measure you’ll go, ‘Oh, damn. I’ve been thinking average.’ You’ve only been thinking average because you’ve only been given the option of thinking average. Because abundant thinkers are not hanging with average thinkers. Abundant thinkers are hanging with other abundant thinkers. So we only have access to who we have access to.
We have lunch with people that think like us, walk like us, talk like us. So, what I really do is talk about how I was thinking. I show you how I was thinking and then I show you how I went and found abundant thinkers and inserted myself, surgically inserted myself, in their lives. I found some slither of value that I could give to them where they would continue to want me around. So they began to move some mountains, adjust things in their lives so that I could be around them. And all the time I knew I was growing tremendously. What I found out later is that they were also growing tremendously from me and I didn’t feel like I had too much to offer at that time.
But what happened, during that time, Dawn, was that I began to see their pattern of thinking. I began to study all of the abundant thinkers around me, all the wealthy people, all the successful thinkers. I began to notice patterns about them. They did certain things certain ways, they thought certain ways, and I just took note of that.
And so, in Chapter 2 of ‘Abundance Now,’ I spend the entire chapter dissecting the areas that you can focus on to move from average to abundant. Let me give you an example, in Chapter 2, I talk about how abundant thinkers don’t spend dollar time on penny tasks. That was a huge thing for me to learn because I spent a lot of time pushing pennies forward when I should have been focusing on dollar things. I got really clear on what I should be busy with. Even though I can do a lot of things, I shouldn’t be doing all of them.
I really got clear on that and that abundant thinkers don’t step in and out of their comfort zones. Abundant thinkers are constantly moving their limit line so they’re living in a constant state of cognitive dissonance. Living in a constant state of cognitive dissonance is when you’re constantly seeing yourself doing things you’re currently not doing. So your mind is constantly disrupted, because you’re going, ‘wait, wait, wait!’ We’re not physically doing that, Dawn. And then you go, ‘I know, and the more I think about it, the more I’m going to influence my behaviors to change.’ Does that make sense? That’s a deep one right there.
Dawn: No, it makes sense. It is deep. As I mentioned before the interview, we’re in our own startup journey. We’ve just come through an accelerator program and I had said to my partner, Natasha, ‘wow it seems that we will always be in this state of discomfort,’ because as soon as you get to the next point, you’re looking at the next point.
Lisa: Exactly and the key to cognitive dissonance is to acknowledge your achievement in the moment. You’re not in a longing state. You’re in an acknowledgement state but you’re also in a state of cognitive dissonance where you are seeing yourself doing, saying, achieving things that you still have to modify your behavior to do say and achieve. So, you’re always leaning in to your belief system, you’re leaning in to how you see yourself.
Chapter 2 also says that abundant thinkers make decisions based on knowledge not longing. So many people make decisions based on emotion. Abundant thinkers make decisions based on information. And so while longing and emotion are on the sideline – they’re’ in the passenger seat or the back seat – emotion is never in the driver’s seat of an abundant thinker. Average thinkers will allow emotions to be in the driver’s seat. Average thinkers are managing their lives 30 days at a time. Abundant thinkers are managing their lives 12-18 months at a time.
And so, in Chapter 2 alone, I mean if you just open the book and turn to Chapter 2, all you begin to do is see the distinction between average thinkers and abundant thinkers. And what it does is it immediately gives you a very sobering look: OK, here’s my stretch opportunity. OK, here’s a new thought I can adopt. OK, here’s my new belief system I want to step into. It took me probably, 22 years to gather all of this information, it took me 16 years to implement and it’s only been 10 years that I felt like I mastered it at any level.
It could only be now that I write this book. The book was being born and lived through me before I could even put it back out for other people. So, when you ask why do I write about ‘Abundance Now,’ it’s because I’ve studied it enough, learned it enough, implemented it enough and utilized it enough and then reaped the benefits of it enough to say OK, now I think I know enough to tell somebody else. – Lisa’s Words of Wisdom
Dawn: As you were going out to find people who had abundance or who had abundant thinking, you mentioned that you were able to identify some piece of value in yourself that you could offer. How did you connect with that and what do you say to women who don’t see their value or don’t see the value in what they’re offering, so they’re undercharging or giving it away?
Lisa: So, that’s self-awareness. In Chapter 2, I talk about enrichment of self and how before you can be of any great contribution to anyone else on the planet you have to first understand the contribution that you have. And so I deal with four E’s – Enrichment of whole self, and the second E is Enchantment of your life relationships, and the third E is Engagement in your work for more than financial reward, then the fourth E is Endowment for a beautiful future. When I talk about enrichment of your whole self I look at that area of seeing yourself as whole and enough and all together. Before I would talk to anyone about charging more for their services or charging their worth for their services, I would ask, “who are you seeing yourself to be for you?”
In anything I do, I give you work to do because action is the antidote for despair and action is also the prescription for success. Action is the only thing that will remove pain and action is the only thing that will bring about more joy. It’s such a universal application. And so as a coach I’m always going to give you something to do. And so, if people are not charging their value, I’m not going to say, ‘jump out there and charge them and get comfortable with it.’ I’m going to say, ‘no back up get comfortable with you. Think from a full tank and understand what you are. Get in the mirror – do some mirror exercises.’ Do the exercise I call ‘Expose the Lies.’ Write down all the lies that you think about yourself – financial lies, relationship lies, spiritual lies, health lies – write down every lie you’ve thought about yourself and then go back and write the truth under the lie. When you start replacing your lies and your perceptions with the truth, all of a sudden it will become natural that you’ll begin to see your worth and charge your worth. Does that make sense?
Dawn: It does. It makes a lot of sense. You talked about how long it took you to master abundance and to master this thinking – did you have “backslide” moments and how did you navigate those?
Lisa: Hmmm … Girl, if I had a Band-aid for every time I fell down, I think I would look like a mummy. I would not sit here and tell you that I stayed focused and never fell back. Absolutely, I made poor decisions emotionally. I made poor decisions relationship-wise. I made poor decisions financially. I made poor decisions physically. You know, so there were times that I would fall and my get up was slower than I wanted it to be. There were times when I needed to sit down and rest and it felt like I was stuck for a minute. There were times when I was walking and I looked to my left and my right and realized that there was no one with me. I was walking by myself. There was a time when I made it to the finish line and I looked back and there was carcasses all over the ground. I killed off everybody along the way to making it because I was so focused on the finish line that the relationships died away, the friendships died away, because I didn’t return enough phone calls, I didn’t spend enough time. I’m very clear that abundance has a price that you will pay for and you have to decide, “do I want to live an abundant life and what’s the best way to inform myself so that my cost is minimal, so that it’s a measured cost?”
The thing that I’ve done best, Dawn, is I’ve gotten back up. Sometimes I sprung up, sometimes I wobbled up. I fell plenty of times, but it’s part of me knowing my worth, knowing my value and more than anything, Dawn, knowing my birthright. There were times that I saw no evidence that the light was coming and I had to operate by sheer faith that it is my birthright that I’m going to stand in the light. So I kept chugging and chugging and chugging and then one day the dark turned into gray, and a spark of light, a pinhole of light came through the gray … that’s when I had to believe the picture in my head more than I believed the balance on the bank account statement, more than I believed my living conditions, more than I believed the number of team members on my team cheering me on. More than I believed the number of clients on my client list. Everything around me said one thing but I had to believe the picture in my head enough to keep me going.
Lisa, the results-driven CEO
Dawn: Now, I’ve followed you over the years and I’ve seen a lot of interviews with you. And a lot of times we focus on your coaching because you’re such a dynamic coach. But you know, it seems like you have the only publicly traded personal and business development company right now. So, I’m thinking you’re a pretty savvy business woman. Can you just talk a little bit about building the company and how you chose taking on partners and did you take on investment and that side of things?
Lisa: I appreciate you asking that. Because I think that is the best kept secret that’s really not a secret, people just don’t ask about it. And I say to people, to take my company public had everything to do with my CEO skillset, because most people on Wall Street have no idea who Lisa Nichols is yet. Key word, YET. And I say that earnestly, because I’ve been on Wall Street half a dozen times now since going public and it is pretty universal that they say, ‘Who’s Lisa Nichols?” So I know that they really don’t know me.
However, I was able to go public and was able to raise, thus far, nearly $2 million and have the expectation that we’ll raise another $5 million because of our business sense, because of our ability to grow my company 49 percent last year over 2014 and to grow my company 50 percent the first quarter of 2016 over the first quarter of 2015. We’ve increased our market reach by over 356 percent year over year. That’s the CEO talking to you. That’s not a life coach. I run the operations of my business. I manage the financial forecast of my company. I run the marketing strategy of my company and I look at the sales opportunities and the sales forecast of my company. I have my hand on all of them. I look at all of them. I let other people implement them but they’re looking at my vision. My vision is a part of all of it. I’m the first one to stand in front with the vision and I’m also the first one to take the bullet if the company takes a hit. And we’ve taken some big hits.
I was born, I believe, to be a speaker. I learned how to become a coach, but I’ve had to train myself diligently, and it was the hardest lesson I’ve had to learn, on how to be a CEO. And when you’re the brand, like you are, the best gift you can give your company is to develop your CEO muscle. It took me about 14 years. One of the reasons I coach now is so that I can save people time and save them stress. It took me 14 years and cost me about $651,000 to learn how to be a CEO and run the brand of my business. I coach now because I don’t think it should take anyone that long and I don’t believe it should cost anyone that much.
I do believe you should invest in yourself. You do need to invest in your intellectual property so that you know more. I do believe the area you can do the most good in your business is investing in your CEO muscle. If you have a technical skill, you have a talent – that technical skill and that talent will take care of itself. It’s the CEO part of your business that’s going to determine the trajectory and the longevity of your company. Which is why you see a lot of very famous artists who are backstroking in millions of dollars and five years later they’re broke. It’s why four out of five professional football players literally have to file bankruptcy after five years of retiring from the NFL – because no one helped them to develop their CEO muscle. So when you see me coaching, I’m not coaching people on how to dazzle people on stage – well, I do that as well – but I spend 20 percent of my time teaching people how to dazzle people on stage. I spend 80 percent of my time showing them how to build the backend and showing them how to build a sustainable business and showing them how to grow their business consistently year over year.
I get asked the question all of the time. ‘How did you start playing on the level of Jack Canfield, Mark Victor Hansen, Tony Robbins, Bob Proctor, T Harv Eker. Whenever I’m on a multi-speaker platform, those are my colleagues. I’m normally the only woman and I’m normally the only person of any color. So when people ask me ‘how did you get on that platform as a Black woman?’ I say ‘Oh, I didn’t get on the platform as a Black woman. I got on the platform as a hell of a good speaker who happens to be a woman of color. So I didn’t creep in like I was interrupting the party. I knew when I woke up that morning that I was adding value to the conversation.’ – Lisa’s Words of Wisdom
The Wellness of Success
Dawn: What’s the hardest lesson that you’ve learned about success?
Lisa: That success means nothing if you haven’t nurtured the relationships that mean the most for you to share it with. As an entrepreneur, you stand at the base of a really big mountain. As an entrepreneur you look up at this Mount Everest mountain called your dream and you set big bodacious goals and that’s the height of the mountain. The bigger the goal, the bigger the mountain. And you start climbing the mountain thinking that when you get to the top of the mountain that’s success. Everyone talks about the arrival, the achievement, getting to the mountaintop and what I’ve learned is that there have been times that I’ve stopped at different peaks on my mountain and looked around and I was on the mountaintop, but I was by myself. I realize if I could do it over again, I would climb up the mountain but I’d stop and nurture relationships so that when I got to the top of the mountain there was an elevator for other people to come up and visit me, to be around me, to celebrate with me. But I didn’t stop to build the elevator.
When I was 10 -12 years into it I realized – if I’m lonely here, I’m going to be really lonely if I keep going up to the top. There were some friendships that I couldn’t rekindle because I just didn’t water them enough and they died on the vine. There are new relationships I created and family relationships that I was able to restore that I’ve never let go of. Anyone in my sphere knows my family is priority to me but it wasn’t always that way. To be honest with you, 12 years ago, I thought my family would understand I’m doing this for us. I wanted everyone to sacrifice for my dream because I thought my dream would serve all of us. The reality is, you can’t sacrifice a now relationship for a future possibility. You have to learn how to expand and do both. Nurture that relationship now as well as build for a future. That was one of my hardest lessons – that success isn’t OK at all costs.
Dawn: I noticed that you’ve lost about 80 pounds. Can you talk a little bit about self-care on this entrepreneur journey?
Lisa: This has been a huge journey for me. I built my entire career over 210 pounds and that was one of the sacrifices, just putting my health last. If it didn’t scream loudly at me, I didn’t address it. My friendships didn’t scream too loud because they were being patient and understanding and they were accommodating my space. And my health didn’t scream loud because I wasn’t ill in any major, major, major way – until I got ill in some major ways. It was a long journey of tolerating discomfort. It was a long journey of putting Lisa last. It was a long journey of sacrificing it all to gain it all. Well, I don’t believe in sacrificing it all to gain it all when it comes to your family and your health. And I say that because I walked through both of those experiences.
For me I prayed three years ago and asked God what should I be doing now because to be quite honest with you, I had achieved all of my personal goals. I had surpassed my personal goals – I was on Wall Street – I never had that dream. I’m speaking in Kazakhstan and Kiev and Australia and all these crazy places that I didn’t even have on my list. I asked in my prayer time, what should I be doing now and got this long list of things that included touching the masses more, that I need to include in my service platform, television, so I can touch people that would not know that they wanted to have access to self-development. And that I need to move from becoming the Michael Jordan of speaking and training to becoming the Phil Jackson of speaking and training. Which meant, that I need to spend my energy coaching and developing great speakers, great trainers, great coaches. That should be my focus. I took heed to that and I really began to birth programs, that are not even launched yet, that focus on teaching trainers how to train more powerfully, teaching speakers how to speak more powerfully, teaching coaches how to coach more powerfully.
Then I asked another question of God. I said, ‘what will get in my way?’ I’m comfortable asking hard questions. ‘I said what will prevent me from doing this work?’ I got one answer. And the answer stilled me. It said, your health. That your body will not be able to sustain the purpose I put on your life. Scared the bejesus out of me that I wouldn’t live long enough to fulfill the mission put on my life. And then coupled with that I got a prognosis from my doctor — I did a full battery of tests, eye, ear, blood, everything, and the doctor came back and said turn to page 32. I turned to page 32 of the report and it showed my BMI rate. She said based on your BMI rate, you’re morbidly obese. Me and morbidly obese was as shocking as in 1997 when a doctor diagnosed me as being clinically depressed. And when she diagnosed me as clinically depressed I went, “oh no that’s not who I am.” So I knew I had to take immediate action and I did – I got myself out of that space. So when she diagnosed me as morbidly obese I said, “oh no that’s not who I am.” And then she went on to say the word that felt like she was talking in slow motion. She said, ‘it’s not a matter of if you’ll have a heart attack, it’s a matter of when.’ Not only was I morbidly obese I was battling severe sleep apnea. So she said you’re stopping breathing while you’re sleeping coupled with your morbid obesity, coupled with you’re on the road over 280 days out of the year, is like a Molotov cocktail. She said something has to change. I knew my travel wasn’t going to change because I wanted to travel the world and touch people. I could influence the other two so I just got radical. I got medical help – went to doctors, got the medical help I needed to get and began the process of being radical about my health.
Today I’m about the size I was in high school. I have more energy than I know what to do with. I really feel like and look like time is going backwards for me. The most important part of all of this is two things: I feel like now I’m going to see my son’s children graduate from high school and college and two, I feel like I have the body that will actually live out my life’s mission that God put on my life. It was a long way from wanting to be sexy. It was a long way from wanting to wear a size 8 jeans. It really wasn’t that. So when people comment on that I’m flattered and I’m grateful but I don’t talk about this often, I really don’t talk about this.
I don’t ever bring this up because it’s so much bigger than a small waistline for me. It was literally life. It was literally a life’s purpose. It was literally being obedient. It was almost like getting a warning sign and not listening to it. That’s irresponsible to my future. It took me a year and a half after she gave me the really clear warning to take action because I was so afraid – I didn’t’ know what to do. I needed to do it. I released almost 90 pounds and I’m just getting used to being in new skin and oh, by the way, wearing a size 6/8 ain’t bad either!
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