Keisha Blair’s inspiring personal story is one of overcoming personal tragedy and gaining a new perspective on life. She soon came to realize how important financial wellbeing is as part of holistic wealth and financial independence. She is the author of Holistic Wealth and the founder of the Institute of Holistic Wealth that aims to help women improve their lives through financial stability and resourcefulness.
- Keisha Blair’s Commitment to Passing on Life’s Lessons
- Recognizing and Acting on Valuable Advice
- Sharing What Works to Grow Financial Wellbeing
- What is Holistic Health?
- Two Top Tips to Grow Financial Wellbeing
- Marketing and Outreach Practices
- Links to Keisha Blair
Keisha Blair’s Commitment to Passing on Life’s Lessons
Mimi: Welcome back to The Badass CEO. This is Mimi. And today, we have Keisha Blair. She is an award-winning writer of Holistic Wealth: 32 Life Lessons to Help You Find Purpose, Prosperity, and Happiness. She's the founder of the Institute of Holistic Wealth, and a podcast host. Although she is a trained economist, she took a personal tragedy and wrote an article about her experience, which became viral. From the viral article and the press that followed, she now teaches females about financial wellbeing, how to be financially strong, and have holistic wealth in many aspects of their lives, so they can live their best lives. To get your Top 10 Tips Every Entrepreneur Should Know, go to thebadassceo.com/tips.
Mimi: Keisha, thank you so much for coming on today, I really appreciate it. I'm so excited to talk to you because there's just so many different things I want to talk to you about as being a female and an entrepreneur, and then also helping other female entrepreneurs.
I first would love to start out by giving a little bit about your background, and then I want to go from there. I want to talk a little bit about how what you're doing now was all started by a viral article. So if you could just start by just telling us a little bit about what you were doing before that article?
Keisha: Okay, sure. And thanks for having me. It's great to be here. So before that viral article… I'm a trained economist and the viral article came about as a result of my husband's death. Before that, I was in my profession working as a trained economist. And even afterwards, if we fast track to today a bit just to talk a bit about that, I've had some tremendous experiences with working on female economic empowerment, as I did at that time as well. And I've had the experience of working on some amazing projects, being a part of Canada's delegation to the World Economic Forum, to the East Asia Summit, and supporting the prime minister with a range of files that are still related to what I do and to holistic wealth. It's amazing.
Before the viral article, I was working in the field of economics and economic development. And, of course, at that time too had the chance to work on female economic empowerment, and even leading on files related to the most powerful women in the world with fortune. Just had that amazing experience. Once I set about to write that viral article, both my personal experience with tragedy and loss, which I spoke about there, and my professional experience both came into play, as you'll see, with that article with the life lessons that I shared and also in my book, Holistic Wealth. It's kind of just been a summation of my journey so far, and the influences that I have and what I want to pass on to people and, in particular, women.
Mimi: I'm so sorry to hear about your husband's untimely death. And your article was great. For anybody who, obviously has not read it, it was called 32 Life Lessons, is that what it called?
Keisha: So the viral article was entitled, My Husband Died at Age 34, Here are 40 Life Lessons I Learned From It, that was the title.
Mimi: Right. And from that, it took off. Where did you originally post that?
Keisha: Right. So I posted it on Thrive Global. I, on a whim, just got up one day and thought, "What have I learned from my experience?" And just posted on Thrive Global. It was probably the fastest article that I've ever written. I wrote it there and it just took a life of its own, to be honest. And I saw it on MSN, Pop Sugar, the New York Observer posted it, many blogs posted it, finance [crosstalk 00:05:57]-
Mimi: Because it's such a raw and real experience that you went through. And for those of you who don't know, you were also a mom and you had just had your second child. It was just overwhelming and you weren't obviously expecting it. So I think that's why it was probably written so quickly is because you were living it and it was so real and raw to you.
And then from there you decided… How long after you wrote that article, did you say, "Okay, there's a book here."
Keisha: Yeah. So what happened is I had started writing a memoir and I had the manuscript and was tinkering with it for years, even before I wrote the viral article. And I was shopping that around to different publishers. And as you know, publishers are not fans of memoir if you're not a celebrity. And so once that went viral, I went back to some of them and said, "Well, look, there's a story here because it's going viral. Surely there's an audience because look how many people have responded to this from all over the world."
Recognizing and Acting on Valuable Advice
They said to me, one agent in particular said to me, "Put down the memoir and write this book. So this book is the book you should write." And that's what I did. I took that advice and I wrote a new book and it took two years for that entire process. And that's the book that's now Holistic Wealth, 32 Life Lessons To Help You Find Purpose, Prosperity and Happiness, so that's the book. Now we've distilled those life lessons down from 40 into 32. And so that's the book.
Mimi: Were you working as an economist as well during that time period?
Keisha: During that time period, yes. So I was also working as well as writing, because to be honest with you, writing is just part of me. It's part of what I do. And so I was writing and working on this, and yes, and all of that has influenced on my work.
Mimi: Yes. And for anybody… I think this is what a lot of women struggle with. Here you are a single mom and you had a full-time job, and then on top of it, you're writing. How did you fit that all in?
Keisha: So what happened, to be honest, is that I had started writing that memoir. And so that process took a long time, but I had a lot of material because of that. I had a lot of material to play with, and I drew on some of that material to produce this book. And if you read the book, you'll see… When members of your audience have a chance to get the book… You'll see how I've drawn on my personal story to then share the life lessons.
Keisha: So each chapter starts with the story.
Mimi: The personal.
Keisha: The personal and then it goes into the tips and advice. So I drew heavily on that and I felt like I needed to do that, to share with people and women in particular, why they needed to do certain things, and why they needed to see this as so urgent because of my personal story, which is what I did in the viral article. It was very compelling. And why I mentioned his age in the title when I said he died at 34, because I wanted people to get the sense of urgency and that we don't have much time to do the things we want in life.
I used my personal story to really connect because we all connect with stories, and it's so much more profound when I can put you in my shoes and walk you through it, and then tell you how I came out of it. So that's how I was able to do that with my other responsibilities and kids is, because I started this… Sometimes we look on and we say, "Wow, this looks like an overnight thing." But it really wasn't. It was 10 years worth of work.
Mimi: 10 years. Wow. And did you do it like when the kids went to bed, or on the weekends? When did you find time?
Keisha: I did some of that, yes. A lot of writing in the early mornings and weekends, for sure. And I'll be honest, like in the book I mentioned, there's a whole chapter on the sabbatical that I took. And during that time, that was a one-year sabbatical, I also wrote for a bit and had a lot of material from that experience. So that also helped. And so I did have that time and I speak about that in the book as well, because I had to take the time to grieve. I had just given birth to an eight week old… My husband had died just eight weeks after, and so I had to take that time to grieve. And that's what I did.
Keisha: And during that time I did a lot of soul searching. I did a lot of thinking about how I wanted my life to look coming out of this and what type of life I wanted to create for my kids. And that's what I did during that time. So all of that I could pull on and there are so many ways that our experience and our day-to-day lives provide this kind of material and impetus for us to be able to really put this down in a structured way so that other people can benefit from it.
Sharing What Works to Grow Financial Wellbeing
Mimi: Right. And so at that point, after you wrote the book, is that when you decided to become an entrepreneur and start your own business where you are consulting and helping other women?
Keisha: Yes, exactly. So what happened… And it's so funny, my journey, because I wrote the book, and like many non-fiction authors, I figured maybe one day I do a couple of courses, but didn't know how that would work out. Didn't know the first thing about even creating a course, or consulting, or anything like that.
Readers of the book, women, came forward when I least expected it. They reached out, contacted me, and highly educated women who are in the field working with other women, women with MBAs. And they came forward and they're like, "Listen, we want to be certified holistic wealth consultants and you need to develop this certification program focusing on financial wellbeing so we can do that, and so we can give workshops, and we can do XYZ. And I was just like floored. And they really inspired me to do it, even though I knew maybe one day I'd kind of do a course here and there, but I know I had a timeline, know I had a reason. And they gave me that urgency .
Mimi: Yes, so at that point, did you quit your job and then say, "Okay, I'm going to dive into this full-time." Or, did you keep doing it on the side?
Keisha: I kept doing it because it was during the time COVID hit actually.
Mimi: Oh, wow.
Keisha: So this was fairly recent and I kept doing it. I mean, now I'm on an extended leave. But at that time, I wrote on weekends in terms of the course. And of course, some of it is video based as well. And my husband is… Because I remarried… So my husband is a filmmaker and very, very good with video. And so he also produced the video portions of it for me, which was amazing for the courses. So we did that and I was able to develop the certification program. And what I did was to launch the Institute on Holistic Wealth, because then I had maybe three or four courses. And so I said, you know what? I don't want to necessarily use Keishablair.com, which is my main… Was set up like an author website at the time, and just for the book.
I really wanted to set up an Institute where it would have the certification program as the flagship program, and then it would have a few other courses that I've also put there that have come from the book as well. Because, you'll see, there are two that like women came forward and they were like, "Well, you wrote in your book that we should all have a financial identity, so what's the financial identity thing all about/ and how can I know mine?" This was during COVID and I thought, "Oh my gosh, I'm going to have to dig deep to develop a framework to help women identify their personal financial identity because I can't just leave them hanging."
I mentioned it in the book, but they need more of a deeper understanding of it, and how to harness their strengths. And so I did that and I developed that course and there's a free quiz on the Institute on Holistic Wealth website where women, anyone, can go and take the quiz, it's like a minute, and figure out their personal financial identity.
So everything that I've started has been because especially women have come forward and they've kind of just pushed, and prodded, and said we need you to do this for us, which has been the most amazing thing. It has been, honestly, the most amazing experience because I'm seeing out of my personal story of tragedy, I'm able to give back and to train these women. And the certification program, there's nothing out there like it right now on the market, because it has so many components to it that even financial advisors in the field don't have that type of experience, which some of them have told me because there are financial advisors.
It has a whole module on anti-racism, and gender equality, and looking at women who are minorities, and how to help them overcome these life altering setbacks. So it's really highly innovative, and just really proud of the work we've started.
What is Holistic Health?
Mimi: That's great. Now, can you dive into more what holistic wealth means? Do you work with people one-on-one as well?
Keisha: I do, and that also recently started because I realized that women might want that one-on-one help to develop their own holistic wealth portfolios. So I'm all for that and so I offer that one-on-one.
So what holistic wealth is… And it's so funny because it was my editor who came up with that name for the book, and she said to me, "That's the name I see coming out of your viral article because your viral article, to me, is holistic wealth." Because, in the viral article, I spoke about becoming financially independent, having a life mission, spiritual self-renewal, mental health, and so the critical parts of holistic wealth are kind of those pillars. So it's not just about, yes, financial wellness and financial wellbeing, which is a critical part of it. It's a major part of it, but also the spiritual side, the emotional side, or mental health, or physical health as we're seeing with COVID-19.
I mean, COVID-19 has really just brought this to the forefront in terms of the interrelationship between our mental health, our physical health, our wellbeing, and of course being financially well. And so it's a major theme now and more than ever, we're seeing where this is so needed, especially for women.
Mimi: It definitely is.
Keisha: Exactly. Especially because we're going through this, as many are calling it the she-session, and now we need to figure out what a she-recovery will look like, and I'm thinking it's holistic wealth. I'm a mother of three, I know what it is to have my husband drop dead just three hours after landing in the ER, and having to walk out, to figure out on my own how I'm going to turn my life around. And luckily I was educated, I was an economist. I have lots going for me, and lots of women do. And we just need that someone…
And this is what I needed them, to be honest. I needed that person to be there, to sit down with me to say, "You know what? These are the barriers you're going to face." Because, number one, you're a female, and there's a gender gap. There's a pay gap. These are the stumbling blocks you might face. You might want to take off time because you need to grieve. We need to plan for all of these things and we need to make sure you have a portfolio that if anything happens, you're good to go. And so what I've done here-
Mimi: So is your advice mostly just for widows, or it applies to everybody?
Keisha: It applies to everyone because I'll be honest with you, all of us need this before anything happens.
Mimi: Of course we do. But it's interesting because my brother-in-law died an untimely death too, and just seeing what my sister-in-law, with four little kids, had to go through just the basics of not knowing your husband's login to his computer, so then she wasn't able to find where any of his files were because she didn't know the login to his computer. Or, then everything freezes. You don't have a credit card in your name and it's in his name and he dies, all the credit cards go away.
Mimi: So it's just those basics that people don't think about when you're married and your husband has done everything for you that, oop, it's gone. But so yeah, there's definitely I think a difference between somebody who's a widow. But as you said, everybody needs it. So yeah, I was just curious if it's just specific, or is it everybody?
Keisha: No, it's for everybody. It's not specific to widows. I think COVID-19 has shown us that life can take a turn for the worst, it could be job loss, it could be an illness, it could be anything, and we need to be prepared.
Keisha: A pandemic, exactly. And we need to be prepared and we need to have those building blocks ready to support us so that we're resilient. And so this is just creating resilience and creating a portfolio that allows us to be resilient and everyone needs it. To be honest with you, there were some parts of it that I had even before my husband died, and that's what helped me overcome this. It's not necessarily the widowhood parts of it. That's just the setback, and we all face setbacks in whether it's divorce, or whatever else.
Mimi: [crosstalk 00:19:44].
Keisha: But the building blocks of it really help you to then be able to be resilient and overcome those setbacks.
Mimi: It'S definitely true. I mean, one thing I've learned too with COVID, I've talked to people it's like, "If COVID didn't teach you one thing, is don't rely on a one single income."
Mimi: You just have one income coming in, then find your passion and do something on the weekends, even if it's making something, selling something on the side, something like teaching a Pilates class, or whatever it is, find that something so that you just don't have one income that you rely on.
Keisha: Exactly, and that's one of the things I teach in the certification program to the consultants who are going out there, who will advise women and people and everyone, it's just never, ever rely on that because that's just not financially resilient at all. And at the time when my husband died, luckily I wasn't dependent on one income. I had investments because I'd always been the type of person to think what if, what if, and put things in place. And that's what I want to pass on to women as well, and how they can structure it, structure a portfolio in the most efficient way that will help you be resilient.
Mimi: That's great. Yeah.
Two Top Tips to Grow Financial Wellbeing
Mimi: What would you say your top two tips would be from your certification, or from your program that you could give to women?
Keisha: In terms of finances you mean, or just general?
Mimi: Sure. Just in general, I guess, whatever you can fit into the next couple of minutes of just good advice, maybe it's a financial tip besides having more than one income…
Keisha: Right, so there are these two concepts that I talk about, and one of them I just mentioned, financial resilience. And there's financial resourcefulness. So in the program, I've structured it in such a way, it's an entire module in terms of crafting a portfolio where you have both in-place building blocks that will allow you to be financially resilient, which is overcoming a setback, and being financially well, and being resourceful. Once something happens to you, tapping into different sources of income, so you can be resourceful. So there's that.
And there's something that you just mentioned awhile ago too, which is exploring your passions and how to monetize that, which is critical. And something that I done before my husband died and something that I'm continuing to do right now. I mean, it's a lifelong process of doing it.
One of the other things, and I mean, this is also a whole separate module in it… I think you heard me mention it in the beginning is, I want everyone to do this because it's so important that we know our personal financial identities. What came to me after my husband died was like, so he was a CPA. So even though I was an economist, he was handling money more than I was. I wasn't really handling money as economists do big think stuff.
Keisha: So he was more into realm of tracking because he was a financial controller. So even though he was just 34, he'd done really well and was a financial controller with a CPA. And like a lot of women we're like, "Okay he handles certain things…" And I realized, after he died, even during our marriage, I had embraced my financial identity, even though I couldn't put a word on what it was at that time, even though I can now.
I can tell you I'm a risk taker now based on the framework I developed. But I could have done more to advocate for that during the marriage, so that after, let's say he died, I would have been more convinced in myself that I had fully, fully lived up to that potential in terms of the investments I wanted to make and things like that.
I did that to a certain extent and I did it a lot, but like I said, I didn't have the words to communicate even to him what I was thinking, or what I was doing. I mean, now if I went back, I would, but at that time I didn't. I want women, I want couples to be able to do this so that they can chart a path forward together knowing their financial identities.
Mimi: That's great.
Keisha: So they can really maximize these opportunities out there, like we've seen with COVID, so that we can all be more financially fit. So that's one of the major things for me now. And I'm on a mission, and I'm hoping that I can get other women out there to help me spread the word. So women can even just take the quiz, just to even get them started on thinking about these things. So they'll have more confidence with their money decisions, and not feel so intimidated like we all do. And even the ones among us who are even trained financial advisors, or trained economists, we still suffer from that imposter syndrome sometimes, or this thing feeling like maybe I'm not cut out for this, or maybe I should just keep-
Mimi: I think imposter syndrome is probably one of the biggest obstacles for women, even when they're super successful and CEOs of companies. For some reason, they just don't feel like they're cut for the job, or they're in over their head. But really I guess that's how you push yourself and learn. And we're always growing, and if you're not feeling that, then that means you're not growing.
Mimi: So we all have to learn to be comfortable with that feeling and not have it as a negative, because if you don't have that feeling, then you should be worried. And you should [crosstalk 00:25:13] "Why am I too comfortable? That means I'm not pushing myself, and I'm not growing every day." And I think, as women, that's what we have to be always doing is pushing ourselves and learning.
Marketing and Outreach Practices
Mimi: Now, besides the article and being viral, how else are you getting your name out for your company, and growing your brand?
Keisha: Well, I've been doing a lot of reaching out individually because I have the Holistic Wealth podcast that we launched late last year. And so that's part of it, which has been a big push for us through the podcast. I mean, we've interviewed some amazing women on that too, who have been helping to also spread the word. And I also host the Holistic Wealth segment on the Daily Flash TV show, and that's a TV show based in Orlando, and they have a huge audience, thankfully. And I remember them inviting me on just one segment when we launched the book. And then I went on a segment, they were pleased with it, and asked me to continue to host that segment.
Mimi: Oh, that's great.
Keisha: And I've been doing that for two years now. So that's been an amazing experience. And as well, just via social media, YouTube, and via other channels.
Mimi: That's great.
Keisha: I do tend to write a lot, still write a lot of articles and different people have come forward to me, and have commissioned and asked me to write for them. And I've done that a bit. Of course, I've done some speaking opportunities at libraries. And the book has really taken a life of its own. I mean, Arianna Huffington posted a quote from the book on all her social media channels because she was aware of the viral article, and it was Thrive Global that was the first website that it was on. It was published there and she knew about that. So she was gracious enough to say to me, "Once the book is out, we're releasing an exclusive excerpt on Thrive Global."
Mimi: Oh, gee.
Keisha: So that was done and she shared it on all her social media channels. And the book has really resonated with very popular TV audiences like Jada Pinkett Smith, Red Table Talk. And the producers of the Mel Robbins show loved the book.
Mimi: How did they hear about that? Because you make it sound so easy and that's much more difficult –
Active Media and Celebrity Interest in the Book
Keisha: It's much more difficult, that's true. So I worked with, for two months… So we had a book launch team. It was a massive undertaking when we launched the book. I mean, I had a book launch team. I had worked with a PR team just for a short time for just eight weeks. And what we did is, once we had copies of the book available, we sent them out to different producers, different influencers, and they got the book, and we hoped if they liked it, that they would respond, that they'd spread the word, or something like that. And so we did hear back via those channels.
Jada Pinkett Smith, her team actually asked me to fly out to California to film on Red Table Talk right before COVID hit, and it was right before COVID hit and lockdown. And then we've been in talks ever since. And they loved it, and she did as well, which I'm grateful for. And so I'm still hoping that the timing will work out one way, or the other… Because you know I'm in Canada… For me to actually come on the show. But for them just to send the invitation to say, "Listen, can you fly out next week to be on the show?"
Mimi: [crosstalk 00:28:50] it's amazing.
Keisha: I mean, that was a pinch me moment kind of. And so that's how that happened Same thing with the producers of the Mel Robbins show.
For some of them, they responded to the book in terms of getting it, having a chance to read it, and really resonated. And the viral article too, like I had a film producer reach out to me from France, from Paris, and he said, "I want you to write a short film that I'm going to produce based on your story." And I'd never written for film and I had no idea who was going to act in it, or how this was going to happen. So I wrote it, it took me a while. It took me about eight months to write it because we went through several revisions. I had to learn how to write for film, which is different from writing a book. And eventually, that came out, and Australian actress, Bambi Northwood-Blyth, she starred in the film playing my role, and Yannis Lespert. So that was filmed in Paris. And that was as a result of the article, so that came out even before the book.
Mimi: That's sweet.
Cultivating a personal brand
Mimi: I would love to divert just to one last question, you talk about, in your article that I read, about your personal brand and how that's super important to start cultivating. Do you mind talking about that a little bit?
Keisha: Sure, absolutely. And this is one of the things that I teach in the certification program too because I remember doing an executive leadership program at Harvard. And one of the things that really came through that for me was your story of self. And I had no idea at the time when I was going through the program, how powerful that can be. The viral article demonstrated it and just being very vulnerable, and sharing that story that people can connect with that, even if they're not in that exact position that you're in, that they can identify, and so stories are powerful, your brand is powerful.
And something that I mentioned in one of the chapters of Holistic Wealth in terms of building your own platform, I included that because it was one of the life lessons that I shared in the viral article, have a platform that truly represents you and that's part of your personal brand. And what I say in that chapter is that our story of self is so important because that's how we relate to others. And my story is something that, it defines me and it defines the brand because it's who I am and it's what's going to connect me with other people, and it's what people will probably remember most. And my message is also what people are going to remember most.
Grief becomes a story of transformation
I remember thinking about, when I was writing the book, and how I didn't want to write a grief book. I didn't want to define my brand just in terms of grief because I didn't want people to think of me as just the girl who grieved. I wanted people to take away a message of transformation, and that's holistic wealth. And that's what I've done with my brand and what I want to represent.
It's a message of hope, it's a message of urgency, and it's a message of life. And so that's what I've done, and what it represents to me and what a brand represents to me. And so once you hear the words holistic wealth, I want people to think of my story, and the story of transformation, and how a setback doesn't have to define you. You can still achieve holistic wealth even after a setback. That's how I talk about it from my personal experience.
Mimi: Right. Keisha, that is perfect. I think that's a perfect place to end too, because it's just a combination of your experience, your book, and what anyone, who's listening, needs to do, and to find their story and make it real so people can feel it and share it.
Mimi: This is amazing. I am so in awe and proud of you, and congratulate you for everything you've accomplished, and I wish you success as you continue to grow your brand and get the message out there. So thank you so much for coming on.
Keisha: Thank you so much for having me. It was great sharing the story, and I hope that others are inspired by it. And feel free to reach out to me, if anyone's listening, feel free to reach out to me through my website, it's keishablair.com, and I'm always available.
Mimi: This is great. Thank you so much.
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