Tap Those ASSets: Emerging from ‘Prison’ to Becoming an Entrepreneur, Investor, and Savings Passionista

L. Tia Blount is a force to be reckoned with. I met Tia a few weeks ago after I had been eavesdropping on the conversation she was having sitting next to me and she immediately had me in awe. In the course of the 26 years that I have been associated with the Old Town Crier, I have had the opportunity to meet an assortment of fascinating people who have wonderful stories to tell. When I approached Tia about being a candidate for a Personality Profile, little did I know where it would lead. I asked her to send me some more info about herself as resource material but when I got what you are reading in this month’s column I decided no one could tell her story better than she. This was first published in Amazon best seller “Desire, Discipline & Determination: Lessons from Bold Thought Leaders”. Enjoy the read. – Lani Gering, Co-Publisher

By L. Tia Blount

Tap Those ASSets: Emerging from ‘Prison’ to Becoming an Entrepreneur, Investor, and Savings Passionista

“When I grow up, I want to be visible,” I would mumble inaudibly.

Strange coming from a five-year-old girl. Typically, at that age, thoughts turn to becoming a doctor, lawyer, or even a princess. I was born in the late 70s and raised by a single parent in a low-income household in southeast Washington, DC. During those days—many fell victim to the crack cocaine epidemic in the District—either becoming users or dealers, an inevitable fate that didn’t appear to be open to revision, and where both sides were met with disastrous ends.

My mother worked tirelessly to move us out of “the projects.”  Those long work hours often translated into nights, or even weeks, at my grandmother’s house. My beloved grandmother was a mother of 14 children, a devoted missionary, and a pillar in the community. Under her roof, there were always people coming and going. They’d come to experience powerful, soul-stirring sermons from the small, makeshift church in her basement, and often leave with bags filled with clothing, toys, and other supplies received as donations for her nonprofit.

With so much movement in and out of my grandmother’s home, I often went unnoticed, and so did my sexual abuse.

My environment reflected my mental and emotional outlook—underdeveloped and poverty-stricken. Inside my grandmother’s home, family often slept three or four to a bed, roach infestations were common place, and food was boxed, canned, and scarce. Outside, the spattering of gun shots, the ruckus shouts of drunkards stammering home, and the ballet of police sirens created an obnoxious urban symphony that made it impossible to sleep. Those long nights and silent cries were met with a burning desire for freedom from my environment and from undetected molestation at the hands of an older male relative.

With what little resources I had at my disposal, I eventually learned to tap into two of my earliest known ASSets: imagination and writing. Armed with a pen, paper, a vivid imagination and visualization—I would sit up for hours writing and constructing my future. I literally wrote my way out of this mental prison, out of my environment, into college, and into a career in global health communications. I’d go on to visit nearly 30 countries to experience the very images I had imagined during my childhood “time travels,” a coping mechanism I unwittingly adopted to disassociate or minimize the emotional pain.

Early in my career I spent time building clinical trial networks and extending communications capacity across some of the most remote villages in Africa. I worked for two large NGOs whose missions were to accelerate the development of prevention technologies for HIV/AIDS and malaria respectively. My time outside of work was devoted to learning about personal finance, real estate, and investing. Having no formal education except for the in-home stock market courses taught by my dogged Vietnamese investment coach Hai Nguyen, I was determined to save (and eventually invest) every dollar I could. Tapping the ASSets of discipline and determination, I studied and crunched numbers, assembled and disassembled budgets, studied spending patterns, and learned to control unhealthy emotions around spending. Through monthly budget development and weekly tracking, I created a budgeting system that took me from $1 in savings to over $1500 a month. With the savings created, I began dabbling in the stock market, mostly through trial and error, and investing in several other ASSets including mutual funds and real estate.

Taking a slow, steady, and systematic approach, I grew $1 in savings to over a quarter of a million in ASSets in less than 10 years. I knew this was the kind of money and system that could change lives, particularly those who grew up in similar neighborhoods. I shared my system and created hundreds in monthly savings for individuals, couples, families, women’s groups, and churches. I became a savings passionista (one with a passion and skill for savings), an avid investor, and a budget coach. I found an uncanny parallel in my ability to help organizations save time and money extending into the millions, on marketing and business solutions. I believe it was partly my ability to develop strategies, map critical paths, dissect budgets, and evaluate what was critical and what was fluff.

After a prosperous nine-year climb up the corporate ladder and establishing a home-based business devoted to budget coaching and debt elimination, 2008 hit like a tsunami, destroying everything in its path. For the next four years, my life was reminiscent of a town devastated by storm. I was left to rummage through the rubble to find what was left of any semblance of normalcy. My business suffered during the recession, my five years of marriage ended in divorce, and I was left to pay several mortgages that resulted in foreclosure proceedings on my primary residence. I lost my job in 2012 due to funding shortages. To add insult to injury, my health was being challenged by a spinal disorder that limited my range of motion. I felt emotionally, physically, and mentally broken. The mental prison I thought I had escaped as a child was once again threatening me with steel bars and a powerful grip. I battled with depression and turned to alcohol and overeating as coping mechanisms. I settled into this pattern until a close colleague saw a familiar pain in my eyes and suggested I see a counselor. I reluctantly agreed although I wasn’t convinced I had a problem.

My counselor diagnosed me with post-traumatic stress disorder and suggested a treatment plan. Sessions were grueling. We were able to unearth memories I thought I had laid to rest. I discovered that I had merely swept my traumas under the proverbial rug and pretended to function as normal. I often overcompensated in areas of my life (i.e., my career) to avoid the sense of powerlessness and fear I felt as a child. When faced with setbacks or “triggers,” feelings that lay dormant and unresolved rose to the surface.

Session after session, I separated what “happened” in my past from “the stories” I told myself. This myopic cognitive dissonance framed my beliefs about self, men in general, and my inability to trust. Once I channeled these negative emotions, I learned to release them and tap into the ASSet of positive thought. I applied the same desire, discipline, and determination to my mental, physical, and spiritual health as I had to my career and my finances. I incorporated rituals of prayer, meditation, scripture reading, journaling, exercise, and positive affirmations. I learned about my triggers and practiced healthy dialogue rather than becoming frustrated and reverting to unhealthy coping mechanisms. My process led to an increase in compassion, forgiveness, and a commitment to advocate for others who suffer in silence.   

Ironically, this breakthrough in mind-body-spirit alignment resulted in a breakthrough in my career. In late 2012, I landed a gig as director of marketing for a Maryland-based real estate developer that preserves affordable housing and provides life-changing programs and services for low- to- moderate-income families. While going through my internal transformation, I managed to transform the culture of the organization in the process. During my six-year tenure, I created a new organizational culture, raised our visibility and profile, helped expand our real estate portfolio and geographic footprint, assisted in securing additional resources, and was promoted to vice president of external relations.

Day by day, one calculated step at a time, I rebuilt other areas of my life, including my credit and the remnants of dwindling ASSets that I had worked so hard to accumulate. With my mind, body, and spirit aligned through counseling, daily rituals, and with the help of chiropractic, acupuncture, and reiki (energy work) for my spine, I discovered the ASSets of wellness, balance, and confidence—ASSets that had only existed in principle up to this point.

By early 2017, the developer I worked for became such an attractive company that the CEO decided to merge with a national intermediary. He approached me to lead the due diligence and transition planning phases of the corporate merger, a process that would ultimately result in firing myself and other support functions that were duplicated in the larger organization. After getting over the initial shock and disappointment, I tapped the ASSet of positive thought and decided to view this as an opportunity. I also tapped the ASSet of confidence to negotiate an aggressive retention package and took on a new role as chief of strategy charged with leading the transition.

Upon signing my walking papers at the end of 2017, I took a much-needed sabbatical to clear my head, ideate on next steps, and travel to eight countries. During this period of reflection and realignment, I tapped into my mentors as ASSets and sought guidance, encouragement, and wisdom. I had several conversations with my business mentor and good friend Ype Von Hengst, cofounder, COO, and vice president of culinary operations of Silver Diner, a successful restaurant chain across Maryland and Virginia. I reconnected with one of my real estate coaches Ronnie Lucas, an avid investor who introduced me to my first international real estate deal in Salvador Bahia, Brazil. I also met my newest mentor, Kyle Wilson, the mastermind behind Jim Rohn International and coauthor of Chicken Soup for the Entrepreneur’s Soul. Kyle encouraged and gave me a platform to share my story.

While abroad, I applied for several jobs, one of which resulted in an offer for a C-Suite (chief marketing officer) position working in community development. While this opportunity would have been the normal career progression, my spirit spoke from a different place. I was tired of not standing in my full potential and allowing fear of uncertainty, criticism, and failure to have a grip on my life. Deep within my soul I could hear that five-year-old girl crying, this time loudly and audibly, “I want to be VISIBLE.” This yearning is now translated as my desire to have an impact on those who feel helpless with respect to personal finance and those who want to increase their visibility and profitability in business.

In 2018, I tapped the ASSet of faith and transformed my fledgling consultancy initially established in 2012—one that took on clients on an ad-hoc basis—into a fully operational firm that blends my passion and purpose. I am now the founder of Saving Solutions, a boutique firm that specializes in saving individuals and businesses time and money on three powerful solutions: buzz marketing, business development, and budgeting. I continue to coach individuals, couples, and families on using my R.E.A.L.I.S.T.I.C budget method, one that can create hundreds in monthly savings. I am also a real estate and novice stock market investor that started with nothing but the desire, determination, and discipline to break the poverty cycle, move beyond living paycheck-to-paycheck, and escape what Robert Kiyosaki refers to as the “rat race”.

If you’re wondering what this whole ASSet business is all about, now is where I give you the punch line. Over the years, I’ve discovered that ASSets are far greater than tangible possessions measurable in terms of money (i.e., stocks, bonds, mutual funds, real estate, gold, etc.). An ASSet can also be intangible (i.e., valuable qualities, characteristics, people, or resources). The capitalization of “ASS” in ASSet, as referenced throughout this chapter, is designed to be a subconscious signal that nothing happens in life without your ability to:

  1. 1) Discover valuable tangible and intangible ASSets that can be tapped,
  2. 2) Create a plan of action designed to put those ASSets to work for you, and
  3. 3) Get your ASS-set in gear and do the work.

While mine isn’t the story of a multi-millionaire sharing the secrets to getting rich quick, I hope to inspire you to take action to improve your finances, starting first with a R.E.A.L.I.S.T.I.C budget. I encourage you to plan for emergencies as we continue to experience shifts in the economy. I empower you to tap into intangible ASSets that help you break free of mental, emotional, and/or physical barriers that have (or may) come your way. Desire, discipline, and determination are among the main ASSets I tapped to emerge from my mental prison to become an entrepreneur, investor, and savings passionista.

What ASSets will you tap? 

Tweetable: Nothing happens in life without your ability to 1) discover valuable tangible and intangible ASSets that can be tapped, 2) create a plan of action designed to put those ASSets to work for you, and 3) get your ASS-set in gear and do the work.

About the author:  With more than 20 years of experience leading marketing and communications campaigns designed to tackle some of the toughest problems across the globe (i.e., poverty, HIV/AIDS, malaria, and affordable housing), Tia has demonstrated what effective storytelling, and other low-cost marketing solutions can do. To connect with Blount for speaking engagements, for marketing and/or business development support, or to learn more about the R.E.A.L.I.S.T.I.C budget method, visit www.savingsolutions.biz or send an email to savingsolutions1@gmail.com.

Comments

  1. Daniel Thomas says:

    I met Tia when I was in a very dark place. She brought so much energy to me, and for that I am grateful. I’ve read this story and will keep reading it over and over because I always pick up on a little more information about her each read. Tia is a women that is just admirable, as a man well established, even I look to her as she has catapulted over some extreme adversity. Love this lady.

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