In this inspiring speech at Talks at Google, Lisa Nichols shares her journey from scarcity to abundance, outlining steps everyone can take to create abundance in career, relationships, self, and finances — while creating a legacy for others to follow.
LISA NICHOLS – New York Times bestselling author & life coach
How are you guys doing?
My name is Lisa. Good afternoon.
God, I love intimate. I never get a chance to have intimate environments. So this is like fun. I know somebody would come up and go, where is everyone? I’m like, ooh.
Finally, I can see every face in the room. How are you guys doing?
So first, I have to say I’m from California. So it’s cold. Because if I get that out of the way, then I can be present with you guys. But I’m grateful that it’s sunny even though the sun is an illusion that it’s warm.
In California when the sun is out, it’s warm. And that’s the only place, obviously, that that exists. So I’m excited to be in front of you. I’m excited to be with you.
This book, “Abundance Now” is a culmination of about 25 years of work. In 1994, which isn’t quite 25 years ago. But in 1994, I was on government assistance. And I had to get on government assistance to have my son. And I was on WIC, Women, Infant, and Children, which is free cheese, free pasta, free milk. And I’m grateful.
I was embarrassed, but I was grateful. Because as a mom, you just want to take care of your child. And when my son was eight months old — I’m just kind of telling you how did this book come about without me knowing that the book was coming about.
When my son was eight months old, I needed Pampers. A change of Pampers. And I went to the cupboard to get Pampers and there was none. So I went to the ATM to get $20 out to buy Pampers and I had $11.42 to my name. Yeah, that’s exactly what I did when I saw insufficient funds.
And I remember going home wondering, what am I going to do? I wrapped my son in a towel. And for the next two days, I just changed his towel. That’s all I could do.
And so on the second day — I never say it without getting emotional. And people go, you still get emotional? Yeah, I was still the same mom. I’m just allowing myself to recall that experience so that I can share it so you understand the why. It’s never easy to recall the experience, because I think there’s only two things you want to do with your children. And that’s keep them safe and be able to feed them and raise them.
And I felt like I could only do one, which was keep them safe. But feeding him and raising him was challenging. And so on the second day of my son being wrapped in a towel, I put my hand on my son, Jelani’s stomach and I said, “Jelani, don’t worry. Mommy will never be this broke again. Ever.”
And that was the journey to now. Like, I just want to give you all the way back then. A lot of things happened since then. But I’ve been interviewed — in 2009 alone, I was interviewed 155 times. This was when my first single book came out. And I was interviewed 155 times. And probably 147 times they asked, how did you do it? How did you go from being broke and on government assistance to running a multimillion dollar company?
And lately, I hear, how did you go from being on public assistance to running a publicly-held company?
My company went public two years ago. I am the only company in the self-development industry to have a company on Wall Street. And I am one of two African American women founders to own a publicly-held company. So I get that question — thank you.
I get that question a lot. How did you go from public assistance to being public? And I always have to start with on that day in 1994 when I put my hand on my son’s belly and said, “Don’t worry, Jelani. Mommy will never be this broke again.” Something shifted.
I was willing to do what I had never done before. I was willing to say what I had never said before. But first, I had to learn what I didn’t even know. I knew that abundant thinkers — prosperous people, successful people — were doing something that I wasn’t doing.
Because my life was evidence. Your life is the evidence of what you’re up to. Good, bad, or indifferent, your life is evidence of what you’re up to. And so I wanted to be up to something different, but I didn’t know how to be up to something different. I needed to learn something different to be up to something different.
And so I start following successful people. And I wanted to know, what did they do in the morning? What did they do at night? What did they do when they failed? And I like those behind-the-black curtain questions.
Like, I don’t just want to know, what goals do you set? I want to know what happens when someone pisses you off and you’ve got to forgive them.
What happens when you fall down and you don’t know how to get back up? What happens? What happens when you start leaving the people you love based on your level of success? How do you stay connected to your community or your tribe and still go after your dreams?
How do you get out of a mindset that says, I’m only going to have this much success because I’m a woman? Because I’m a woman of color? Because I was born and raised in South Central, or wherever?
Whatever that story is that we make up, how do I unleash myself from that story and hook myself to my future? How do I do that? Anybody else curious about that?
I just want to make sure I’m in the right place. I don’t need a lot of people, I just need the right people. Because a lot of the wrong people are more distracting than a few of the right people, yes?
LISA NICHOLS: All right. So I was hungry.
Like, I was hungry. People often want to call me the exception. Like, oh my God, you’re the exception.
No, I’m not the exception. I’m an average, ordinary woman who chose every day to make one more extraordinary decision. I’m an average ordinary mom who said, I want to drastically transform my son’s future. That he deserves to have every option that every other child would have regardless of what he was born into.
I just was crazy enough to believe that. That it doesn’t matter the color of my skin, doesn’t matter my religious background, doesn’t matter my origin. It doesn’t matter my mom’s bank account and my dad’s bank account when I was born. None of that means my future.
That’s just the circumstance that I came from. That’s not what defines my future. I just believed that. Not a lot validated it. But faith is believing in the unseen anyway.
So I had enough faith to go, I know like I know, like I know, like I know. I don’t necessarily have to see it yet. And so “Abundance Now” is — it’s the notes that I took. It’s the things that I did. It’s the lessons that I learned.
And then, some that I began to adopt that I hadn’t learned that when I hit my head against the wall enough, I realized, don’t do that.