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Home » Barely Recognizable: Lisa Nichols at TEDxCalicoCanyon (Full Transcript)

Barely Recognizable: Lisa Nichols at TEDxCalicoCanyon (Full Transcript)

Lisa Nichols at TEDxCalicoCanyon

Lisa Nichols is a best-selling author, a popular public speaker, a powerful coach, and a charismatic teacher. She is the author of the bestselling book “No Matter What!

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Here is the full text of Lisa Nichols’ TEDx Talk titled “Barely Recognizable” at TEDxCalicoCanyon 2012 conference.


My grandmother said, “Sweetheart, when you get old, you’re supposed to sit in your favorite rocking chair and tell your grandchildren the stories of your life. But while you’re your age, you’re supposed to make sure that the story’s going to be good to tell.”

Thank you so much for having me. I’m excited to be with you for a brief moment. You know, I love environments like this, because you get to live in possibility. I always say I want to live in bliss and visit ordinary every now and again.

Mediocracy is crowded. But if you rise up to excellence there’s a lot of space. So I’m excited to be with you today with all the amazing speakers and teachers and educators and life transformers who graced this stage. I think every single one of you can come on this stage and contribute a ton of things as well.

I’m always grateful when I am given the opportunity to serve and to tell a snippet of my life as a form of inspiration or to gain and garner something from you.

I look at my life today and it’s barely recognizable. It’s barely recognizable — you know when Joseph was talking, I grew up down the road in LA with all those plastic people. And when he was telling the story that he said he was going to think that I love you, I thought that he said I loved, because then they really look the other way. Then I realized he was saying what was on his head thinking.

Well, I grew up in LA, and I grew up in an environment that was less than conducive to the thought of possibility. I lived within the Harlem Crip 30s and the Rollin 60’s and I had three fights a week to get home from school. I just thought it was exercise. Like oh this is how you do it, and run fast. Got my cardio in.

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And my highest grade in school was a C-plus in all 12 years. My English teacher — the last time I took an English class she said to me in front of the entire class, “Lisa, you have to be the weakest writer I’ve ever met in my entire life.”

I found out what I was good at by finding out what I really sucked at. I had a job as an accounts receivable clerk in accounts receivable. I shouldn’t be around numbers. Unless I’m just making a lot of money I should not be counting the money. But I remember my — I got — I had a client who called and — well I called her and I was supposed to collect money from her and she gave me a story as to why she couldn’t pay and it was a really good story. I said, yeah girl that’s good, don’t worry about it. I’m going to take your name off the list. I’m not going to have him bother you anymore.

And I guess she referred a few people to call me for collections and I remember the day my boss called me into the office and she said, “Lisa, come in and sit down.”

And I said “Okay.”

She said, “What do you want to do in this company? No, what do you want to do in life?”

I said — I thought it was a test of my loyalty – “I want to rise to the top of this company. I want to be the accounts receivable manager.”

And she cringed, like what is that about. And she said, “Tell me what you do when you talk to clients?”

I said, “Well, I listen, I tell them that they have to pay and that they’re behind, then I listen. And some of them have really good reasons why they can’t pay and so I just — I support them.”

“How do you support them?”

“Well, I delete their names from the list, because they don’t have money and you’re going to call them again if I keep the name on the list, or just help you by taking the name off the list, help them by taking them off the list… I handled it for you.”

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And she said, “So you’re a really nice girl, but you are really bad at accounts receivable.”

And then I realized this meeting was not about my advancement in the company. And I said, “Oh my God, are you firing me?”

She said “No, I’m not firing you. I’m just releasing you to find your dream.”

And I said, “So do I come back tomorrow?” Like I’m 24, I got bills –

She’s telling me, “No, you’re not coming back tomorrow. You’re going to spend the day at home finding your dream.”

And that was the first of me being fired five times.

So I tell you I discovered what I was good at by checking off the box of what I really sucked at.

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I remember the last time I was unemployed, I was frustrated because I had been unemployed for three months. I’d been fired from my fifth job and I was frustrated because my car had just got repo’d, rent was due, my roommates were pissed at me. And I had cramps — PMS — was not a good day. Do not cross my path, right?

The head does spin around and I’m lying in bed and I have the newspapers. Oh, you know because there was a time we found jobs in the newspapers and the newspapers were all laid across my bed. And in them were circled all of these accounting jobs because that’s where I had been trained. But it wasn’t where my heart was.

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