A life of giving back

Single dad Ryan Blair has a lot to be thankful for this year. The 35-year-old millionaire, philanthropist and New York Times best selling author overcame tremendous adversity to turn his life around.

But this year takes on an even greater meaning as his mother just awoke from an 18-month coma.

As Ryan Blair approaches Thanksgiving, he has much to be thankful for — a thriving business, the ability to give back, a beautiful son and even his mother. But Ryan didn't always have so many blessings.

Rough beginnings

In his teen years, Ryan Blair was in a gang. There was violence and crime all around. But when his mom, a single mother, started dating Bob Hunt, things turned around for Blair. He and his mother moved to a nicer neighborhood and eventually Hunt became Blair's stepfather — and mentor.

"Many kids who get into trouble do so because of the absence of one or both parents and low self-esteem. When my mother found a mentor for me, I took my 'one shot' seriously, and with his help began to learn and believe in myself," says Blair. "That gave me much needed self-esteem, and with self-belief you can do anything. Young children need to hear their parents, themselves and others say 'you can do anything you set your mind to.'"

Turning around

Hunt was crafty. He gave Blair an audio tape series called Lead the Field by Earl Nightingale, and offered the teen new clothes — something he wanted — in exchange for listening to the tapes and answering questions about them. "I wore dickies and white T-shirts at the time — a gang uniform where I'm from. I wanted new clothes to cover up my gang tattoos so I could get a job and start a new life," says Blair. "I listened to the tapes over and over, I went to sleep with them on and literally memorized every part. When he quizzed me a few days later he was in awe that I could recite each lesson from the tapes."

I took my 'one shot' seriously

That was a pivotal moment for Blair.

"Bob said, 'You must be a genius,' — I had never been told that I was smart before. I was a high school drop-out with no hope. When he said that I was smart, I believed him and therefore I started believing in myself," says Blair.

Hunt worked with Blair, teaching him how to set and go after his goals, a technique he now uses when he's mentoring others. "Get them learning, believe in them, teach them to set their goals, rinse and repeat. Being a 'high-achieving individual' is a formula," says Blair.

Giving back

Blair, CEO of ViSalus Sciences, considers it his duty to give back to others. "My goal is to take our society's liabilities and turn them into assets. To see the young men and women who had lost hope, now have hope again, brought a smile to my soul," says Blair.

He created the Blair Foundation, a nonprofit that donates to programs in support of at-risk kids and families. "I created the Blair Foundation as my vehicle to give 90 percent of my assets away within 10 years of my death. We are specifically focused on causes that teach entrepreneurship to single mothers and at-risk youth," says Blair.

Through the Blair Foundation, Blair works closely with Urban Born, a foundation that helps at-risk youth and teens by promoting education and healthy living without drugs or gangs. He donated to support ex-gang members like himself. "They got together and presented me with a letter, thanking me for how my gift had given them a chance at life they thought was not possible," says Blair.

Being Dad

Blair has used everything he learned from Hunt to create successful businesses. And he'll use the tools and knowledge to encourage his son to do well in life too. Blair is Dad to Reagan, 3.

Though his son is still young, he has a plan for setting him up for success when he's older. He'll give his son, "the best education he can earn, and enough money to get started in life. I believe giving your children millions of dollars is giving them a curse, so I will only give my son Reagan what he earns," says Blair.

Being thankful

This Thanksgiving will be extra special for Blair. He plans to spend it with his mother who woke a few days ago from a coma. "Because of this miracle I get to tell my mom how grateful I am to her on this Thanksgiving. I suggest all children do the same because you never know if you will have another chance to do so," says Blair.

More on being thankful

Help your kids learn to be thankful
5 Ways to teach your kids thanks
A crash course in gratitude for busy families


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Comments on "Ryan Blair on being thankful"

Jennifer December 17, 2012 | 6:16 PM

What a crock of ----. He used to build up companies and bankrupt them. He screwed a lot of people over and his story is made up.

Gail shrine December 02, 2012 | 5:07 AM

So proud to know Ryan

Joy November 30, 2012 | 7:50 AM

What an inspiration you are to millions of people. Thank you for being smart enough to grab on to your calling in life so young and to help change the lives of other people. You have changed my whole family's lives with your amazing company! Love to you and your mom!

Pam November 22, 2012 | 2:01 PM

P.S. One more thing, Ryan. Your Trinity is just as accomplished, dedicated, mission driven and kick ass as you are, (maybe even more so). She is your equal in every way and you are destined to do great things together which will advance many. Keep the faith Ryan, because once you meet her, you will never want to let her go. 2013 is going to be a magical year for you both. Something told me that you needed to hear this message. Blessings to you, Reagan and your Mom.

Hannah November 21, 2012 | 11:27 AM

This was extremely touching. My heart and prayers go out to Ryan. Thank you for the encouragement :)

Rosemarie M. Cruz November 21, 2012 | 10:43 AM

" Im so touch by ur story, I admire you so much, for being so strong, despite what hAppened, you never give up, you are so persistent, & that, I admire you so much, & Im so happy that ur Mom is well again, We have to be thankful for what we have now, God Blessyou, Ryan, & also to ur son & To Your Mom, More Power & always pray to God"

Pamela Angela November 21, 2012 | 10:22 AM

Thankful God answered prayer.. Enjoy your precious family Ryan. Happy thanks giving..

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