Inspirational Women Of the Speaking Circuit: Author Niki Spears On The Five Things You Need To Be A Highly Effective Speaker
An Interview With Edward Sylvan
Edward Sylvan, CEO of Sycamore Entertainment GroupFollow
Apr 21 · 12 min read
I’ve always wanted to do something that was making an impact in the lives of others which is why I became an educator. But I’ve also longed to have my own business where I can set my own hours and do what I love! I get up every day and walk in purpose. My main message to others is discovering the beauty underneath the struggle, which is also the title of my non-fiction book. In every challenge, we have the opportunity to assign meaning to what is going on in our lives. When we are able to transform the negative stories, we tell ourselves we can move outside those dark spaces and live a more inspired life. Asa part of our series about Inspirational Women of the Speaking Circuit, I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Niki Spears. Niki Spears is a book author and motivational speaker who travels the country sharing her message of finding the beauty underneath the struggle and inspiring others to live powerfully. As a former educator, she works with schools, education-related organizations and corporations to improve their culture and share her expertise and insight.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Our readers would love to get to know you a bit better. Can you tell us the story of how you grew up? Igrew up in Karnack, Texas, a small town in East Texas with a population of about 3,000 people. I am the oldest of five children, four girls and one boy. My dad was a professional football player and my mom worked as an executive assistant at a local college. Much of my life, both my parents stayed home and did not work after my dad was injured playing football. As a young girl I would describe myself as shy but would come to life as a little entertainer when my relatives came to town for a visit. I knew as early as five years of age that if I wanted people to come back and visit us in Karnack (where there wasn’t much to do), I needed to find ways to make their trip enjoyable — I was already diving into the power of creating a positive culture.
Although I appeared confident as a child, I was very hard on myself and suffered from negative thinking and low self-esteem. I often felt that I was not good enough and these feelings of insecurity followed me into my adult life. Most of the time I was preoccupied with the negative voice in my head and didn’t know how to escape. I allowed it to become part of my identity as I attached to the negative ideas about myself and others. As I grew older, I became fascinated with thoughts and how to transform them. I began reading books by spiritual leaders like Wayne Dyer, Deepak Chopra and others. These readings challenged me to explore my thoughts and thinking behaviors. I learned how to detach myself from these harmful beliefs so that I could live the life I was intended to live. This was not easy. It took several years to unlearn what had become normal for me and to learn to apply new strategies so that I could experience the joy in each day. I now make a living speaking to people about the power of positivity and finding the beauty underneath the struggle. I share my story as a way to give others the courage to share theirs. Although my negative thoughts creep in every once in a while, I understand that they will eventually pass over like clouds in the sky. So, I’m able to observe the thought without allowing it to enter my being. Transforming the negative stories I’ve told myself for years has been very powerful in living a purposeful life.
Can you share a story with us about what brought you to this specific career path? I have always been fascinated with the culture, especially personal culture. Over the years I’ve learned that culture does not begin the moment you walk into a building, but the moment we are born as we enter our family culture. This is when we enroll in what I refer to as Family Belief Camp. We are taught how to label, judge and perceive ourselves, others, as well as the world around us. I understood that in order to create healthy people, we needed to transform some of the attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors that are harmful to our success, as this happens first in our families. This is when I became interested in education as I would have an opportunity to work directly with children and families. When I enrolled my twin girls in a Head Start program after a divorce, I was amazed by what my young girls were learning and had a desire to become more involved. This led me to inquire about teaching for Head Start and eventually becoming a Head Start teacher where I discovered my passion for creating a positive culture for students and families.
Can you tell us the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career? In 2016 when I was working as a principal in an elementary school, I was using some concepts from a book I was reading which dramatically transformed our culture. I was then contacted by the company of the book we were using and was informed that we could no longer use the principles from this book unless we purchased their program which was $80,000 over four years. We were devastated as the principles had become embedded in our school culture. Our students were using the language, teachers had embraced the ideas and the walls of our school were outfitted with signs and posters that displayed the language. I was then told by our district lawyers that we would have to remove everything and stop using the language. I remember mulling over this all weekend and on that Sunday evening, I was sitting in my car strolling through my LinkedIn page and happened to come across Jon Gordon’s profile. Jon Gordon is the author of the book, The Energy Bus. As I stared at his profile, I heard this voice specifically speak to me saying “I want you to continue to take risks.” At the time I knew exactly what this voice was telling me to do, so I proceeded to send Mr. Gordon a quick message saying something like “my name is Niki Spears, I’m an elementary school principal who would like to use the principles from your book to build curriculum for schools.” To my surprise the very next day, I received a message from Mr. Gordon that said, “thank you so much for caring. Here is my cell phone number and here is my email. Send me a one-pager of your idea. We get these requests all the time, let’s talk.” I did a little more than send him that one-pager, I flew down to meet with him and shared with him all the work we had done in my school using a different book. A few months later we created The Energy Bus for Schools Leadership Journey using the principles from The Energy Bus. When COVID-19 hit and everything closed, Mr. Gordon and I decided to depart ways and I began writing and authored three books, non-fiction, The Beauty Underneath the Struggle ~Creating Your B.U.S. Story and two children’s books, The Hand Hug and Kindness Is Contagious Too! I am now sharing the principles from my book as I continue to help schools create and sustain positive culture.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that? I believe this is the hardest question for me to answer because I no longer see things that may not go the way I planned as a mistake, but as an opportunity to learn. I can also be very hard on myself which can prevent me from taking risks altogether if I focus on mistakes — so fortunately I can’t think of any mistakes I’ve made since becoming a public speaker, only opportunities to build better connections with the people I serve.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that? There are several people in my life who have encouraged me during those moments of self-doubt pushing me to towards my goals. My husband, Kermit, has always been there to cheer me on encouraging me to do things I didn’t think I was capable of doing. He pushed me to leave my job as a school principal five years ago reassuring me that our family would be okay as I was leaving with no promise of pay. I still remember what he said to me when we were discussing the advantages and disadvantages of me leaving my paid position to start my own business, he said, “Niki you can always go back into a school and teach or be a principal, but you may never get this opportunity again.” He later shared that he was nervous about how we would pay our bills without my income, but he never shared that with me as I was building up my business. Even though Kermit has held a full-time job that takes a lot of his time, he is always there to support me with my business as he often travels with me and plays music during my events (D.J. Kermit), he makes all my travel arrangements, keeps track of my invoices and quotes, and helps promote me every chance he gets. I know I am lucky to have a husband who not only loves me but supports me as I walk in my purpose.
You have been blessed with great success in a career path that can be challenging and intimidating. Do you have any words of advice for others who may want to embark on this career path, but seem daunted by the prospect of failure? Every person has a gift and a story to share. And because we all have both, we all have the ability to share our gifts within our stories. If it wasn’t for our perceived failures, our stories would be boring lacking color. It is because of our struggles that beauty exist. If speaking is your gift, don’t allow the negative, fearful voices in your head stop you from living your why and sharing your story. Flow with the energy from your passion and share that energy with others. What are you waiting for? Now is always the time.
What drives you to get up everyday and give your talks? What is the main empowering message that you aim to share with the world?
I’ve always wanted to do something that was making an impact in the lives of others which is why I became an educator. But I’ve also longed to have my own business where I can set my own hours and do what I love! I get up every day and walk in purpose. My main message to others is discovering the beauty underneath the struggle, which is also the title of my non-fiction book. In every challenge, we have the opportunity to assign meaning to what is going on in our lives. When we are able to transform the negative stories, we tell ourselves we can move outside those dark spaces and live a more inspired life.
Can you share with our readers a few of your most important tips about how to be an effective and empowering speaker? Can you please share some examples or stories?
Know the Parts of Your Story to Share — If you’re like me, there are several chapters to your story and while all of the details are important to your story, it may not be essential to your message. Begin with the end in mind. What do you want people to know and be able to do after your message? Now craft a message that will guide your audience to accomplish their goal.
It’s Not About YOU! When becoming an empowered speaker, always remember it’s not about you and all about your audience. We share our story as a way to give them the courage to share theirs. Make it about their story!
Be intentional about your why. Your audience wants to know your why, dig deep and be willing to be vulnerable.
Have fun! Your energy is contagious, so if you’re enjoying yourself more than likely your audience is too!
As you know, many people are terrified of speaking in public. Can you give some of your advice about how to overcome this fear?
Public speaking is not about success or failure but your ability to connect with others. If you’re overcoming something that means that this is your primary focus (fear) — change your focus and your ability to communicate and connection will come naturally. Allow your heart to guide your why and the how will evolve.
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.
Take 100% Responsibility for your Thoughts, Actions, and Results. Blaming others and events in our lives for the things that we don’t like will only keep us stuck in the mud. Once you realize that YOU are the one responsible for the life that you live, you will then be able to create your masterpiece.
You are not your thoughts. Understanding this truth will help you ignore the negative voice that can sometimes dominate your mind so that you will have the energy to drive your vision forward.
Failure is in the eye of the beholder. We have the power to assign meaning to things happening around us. Therefore, we can give our experiences a positive meaning or a negative one. I choose to believe that when we look at perceived failures as our teacher or a guide, they will lead us to amazing opportunities.
You Get More of What You Focus On. When we focus on what we lack, we invite more of this energy into our lives. Focus on the good and it will grow.
Be Your Own Hero! If you want a more positive life, be more positive. Many of us walk around waiting on superman(woman) to come and save us. We must realize that we are our own superhero! Each day you can make the choice to be the hero of your story or the victim. Be Your Own Hero!
You have such impressive work. What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now? Where do you see yourself heading from here? I am doing a lot of work with Head Start programs across the country, the organization I started with as a single parent and the program that gave me the opportunity to become a teacher. My dream has been to return to the Head Start program and inspire teachers and parents to have the courage to live their why. I have been asked to bring inspiration to Head Start leaders at their annual LEADS Conference in June. I have also started traveling again sharing the message from my new book, The Beauty Underneath the Struggle. Can you share with our readers any self care routines, practices or treatments that you do to help your body, mind or heart to thrive? Please share a story for each one if you can. My mind can be very busy, so I have to make time to BE still and meditate on the things that I want to create in my life. Even if I spend five minutes sitting still, it makes a difference in how I experience my day. I also practice gratitude as I remember to give thanks to all the people and things happening around me that bring me great joy. These two practices can go a long way. Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life? Wayne Dyer said, “Change the way you look at things and the things you look at change.” This quote reminds me to look for the miracles in each day. You are a person of huge influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? My movement would be called the Kindness Crusade! Knowing that the things that we focus on will expand, let’s all focus on being kind to ourselves and others and we can transform the way we experience life. Is there a person in the world whom you would love to have lunch with, and why? Maybe we can tag them and see what happens! Oh my goodness, I would love to have lunch with Deepak Chopra! I would love to learn more about what led him to become such an inspirational figure in the New Age Movement. Are you on social media? How can our readers follow you online? Yes, I am on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, and LinkedIn! Twitter/Instagram @NikiSpears4 Facebook Niki Spears, Author LinkedIn. Niki Spears This was so informative, thank you so much! We wish you continued success!
Edward Sylvan, CEO of Sycamore Entertainment Group
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