Motivational speaker Jonathan Sprinkles on why he left the 9-to-5 grind
‘My goal is and always has been to influence the influencers’
People refer to him as Dr. Sprinkles. But he’s no doctor. He’s a man with a gift for helping other people see themselves.
“I don’t know where they get that from. My mom is Dr. Sprinkles,” said author and motivational speaker Jonathan Sprinkles. “That was actually part of my journey. I went from my father to my mother, and during all four years of my high school my mom was studying to get her doctorate. I have a bachelor’s degree in business from the University of Texas.”
The 41-year-old’s personal journey includes overcoming a childhood of humble beginnings, his parents’ divorce, and the loss of his father to cancer when he was just 15.
“He always said he … wished for one thing in life: ‘That I can live long enough to see you be a great father, because I know that you will be.’ He said this when I was maybe 11 years old. I look back at it as the best worst thing that ever happened to me. It was painful, it still is. There are so many things that I still wish that he was around to witness.”
This experience led him into thinking about human connection.
“I was living the big disconnect,” he said. “But I was too afraid to open up and be vulnerable because I believed that there was a relationship between love and loss. The reason why I lean in so hard on connection is because that’s what I had been searching for in various phases of my whole life.”
Now the author of 13 books, including two best-sellers, Sprinkles coaches individuals and organizations on how to create a sense of engagement, loyalty and profitability. For Sprinkles, connection is key to prevailing over life’s obstacles, and his mission is “to help people find what they are truly connected to and use it to passionately serve people in business and life.” He often uses sports analogies to introduce the principles of “making a champion.”
Sprinkles lives in Houston now, but his sports loyalties reflect his youth in Los Angeles.
“I do support the Texans, although my heart is with all the L.A. teams. I’m a Lakers fan till I die. Dodgers fan till I die. Even Oakland Raiders, even when they become the Las Vegas Raiders, I’m going to love them. I bleed silver and black, but I also love the Texans as well.”
Sprinkles wakes up at 6:50 every morning in time for his 7 a.m. group prayer call. He takes his 7-year-old son, Jaxson, to school every morning. When he’s not traveling, he handles coaching calls or training people and companies. Sprinkles spoke to The Undefeated about motivational speaking, finding balance and his future goals.
How did you transition into motivational speaking?
I kind of found it and it kind of found me. I started off as a raving introvert. I have incredible stage fright, but I did a Black History Month presentation in the fifth grade and I got third place. Then I tried again the next year and got first place.
What that evolved into was in the University of Texas, this is a school of 53,000 students and it was only, unfortunately, less than 1 percent African-American. So we had to really fight hard to make a name for ourselves, and at that time there was a lot of racial justice issues. Blacks really had to speak up. African-American students had to really represent, so I was like a leader on campus.
I called on those skills from long ago to be able to persuade people. I ended up working at Dell Computers next. I was making decent money. I made more money than either of my parents did very quickly into my career. … It turned out I loved doing that more than I loved my 9-to-5 job.
When did you leave that job?
Just after 9/11 I realized that I was going to make a choice. I was either going to chase a paycheck or I was going to chase my purpose. I remember, it was in April of 2002. I prayed that special prayer. I said, ‘When is it that I’m supposed to go? When is my time?’ That still, small voice said back to me, ‘May.’ I was scared to death because I couldn’t believe that everything that I’ve worked so hard for to build it, I had already moved up in the shortest amount of time possible. I was one of the senior sales reps. They had me tapped for management. I was one of the bright shining stars in their fastest-growing division.
I remember I went in and talked to my boss and I said, ‘Hey, I have something to tell you. I’m going to leave and I’m going to go out and speak.’ I did one free talk for a friend of mine that ended up creating a contract that gave me enough money to keep going.
How did you overcome your fears?
The only way to overcome fear is with experience. We all have a level of fear. We have fear of things that we’re not familiar with.
How do you replenish yourself?
Self-care is the best care. I’m not going to front. I’m the classic giver, entrepreneur, big-dream chaser. I’m not the best at always making sure that my glass is full. But what I do know is that I have to look at what does it for me. One thing I have had to do is become very self-aware. I need to give. So when I’m down, I write thank-you notes for people. That does it for me.
What’s been the hardest part of your journey?
It’s the trade-offs. In principle, I understand because you can’t be two places at the same time. So sometimes you may want to be with your family but you have to work. Or sometimes you may really want to get some work done but you’re with your family.
How do you balance those?
Although I may not always have quantity time, I make sure I always put in the quality. For example, I coach his [Jaxson’s] basketball. During his track practice, I was there. So I’m always there. I’m the one yelling in the stands all the time. I’m the parent who won’t shut up.
What are your personal goals?
My goal is and always has been to influence the influencers. I’ve always wanted to be the one who can speak to the powerful people and help to influence what they’re doing, and help them to be better at that. That means the athletes, I can see myself doing television. I can see myself being a best-selling author many times over. I’ve got a lot of books in me.