Life coach Lisa Nichols: I rose from 'rock bottom,' and you can too

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By Kerry Wills

Almost 20 years ago, Lisa Nichols was a single mother on government assistance with less than $12 in her bank account. She turned her life around and is known by peers today as “The Breakthrough Specialist,” famous for motivating others to overcome difficulties and pursue their dreams.

Nichols grew up on rough turf between two warring gangs in south Los Angeles, never got above a C in school, and, at 27, found herself raising a child whose father was in prison. On Thursday she told TODAY viewers that the moment she couldn’t afford Pampers for her baby son was the turning point in her life.

“I felt rock bottom, and I realized, ‘I have to do something,’” Nichols said. “I have to be my own rescue. No one’s going to rescue me.”

She found a job running the Family Resource Center for the LA Unified School District. With each paycheck, she would save money to fund a dream that she hadn’t yet identified. Then she started a program called “Motivating the Teen Spirit,” where she worked to empower teens by helping them make choices based on integrity. She attended conferences and lectures on entrepreneurship and brand creation, and soon she was being paid to give such talks herself.

Nichols eventually founded Motivating the Masses, a massive training resource for personal and professional development that went public last year. Her teachings were featured in the best-selling book, “The Secret,” and she has written six best-sellers of her own.

On TODAY she dished out her blunt brand of advice to a guest from the plaza.

Jill from Connecticut told Nichols, “I have five children, ages from 7 to 21. It’s hard for me to find a balance and make everybody feel special when I’m being torn in so many different directions. Can you help me with that?”

Nichols told her to go home and hold a family meeting immediately. “Bring everyone together and say, ‘I learned something. I learned that I need to first apologize to you guys. I need to apologize for making you feel that I can handle everything. I need to apologize for making you think I don’t need to hear the words 'thank you.' I need to apologize to you for making you think that I don’t need to rest.”

Nichols also answered questions posted to her Facebook page, where Erica from Charleston, South Carolina, wrote: “I remember you telling your child, "We will never be this broke again." How do you push through and keep your child optimistic when your surroundings are not supportive but you have nowhere else to go?”

“Don’t be committed to the physical environment,” Nichols said. “Be committed to what’s in your mind. I fed my son possibility even when we didn’t see a lot.”

Nichols answered these other questions from fans on her Facebook page:

“What one daily practice ensures you handle disappointments well, every time?”

Nichols suggested standing in front of a mirror every day for a month to state complete three sentences in seven different ways apiece:

  • “I am proud that I...”
  • “I forgive you for...”
  • “I commit to you that...”

“How do I move on to a more successful career when the job I have now keeps me financially afloat but is emotionally drowning me?”

“Create a plan where you can buy your freedom,” Nichols suggested. “Fear-based work doesn’t work for anyone, so figure out what can make the job easier for you.

“Recognize that if you have a dream, your job can pay for your dream to happen,” she added. “Shift your mentality to not let it hold you back.”

“I am a single mom, and I am pursuing my B.A. I haven't dated in 6 years ... How can I become more motivated to find a meaningful relationship?”

“You cannot let your next partner pay for your ex,” Nichols said. Fear of getting hurt or disappointed, she warned, will prevent future happiness.

Instead, Nichols suggested pressing "reset": being willing to take risks, and to talk with new people.