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How a former LA gang member became a multimillionaire entrepreneur

Ryan Blair is a high school dropout and former Los Angeles gang member. Now, at 39, he is a multimillionaire CEO, venture capitalist and best-selling author.

While his first book, “Nothing to Lose and Everything to Gain,” details how he overcame adversity, Blair’s new book, “Rock Bottom to Rock Star,” serves as a play-by-play tutorial that demonstrates how others can overcome professional and personal challenges.

“‘Nothing to Lose’ is how I did it. ‘Rock Bottom to Rock Star’ is how my readers can do it, too. I got a lot of feedback of people asking me specifics about how and the prescriptive advice,” Blair told Yahoo Finance.

As an adolescent, Blair ran away from home and lived in a toolshed for a year. He was arrested 10 times by the time he was 16. However, he eventually found a mentor in his mom’s boyfriend who gave Blair his first job at computer support provider Logix Development. He quickly climbed the corporate ladder there to become vice president.

Blair started his first company, a tech support firm called 24/7 Tech, when he was 21 years old. He has been the CEO of ViSalus, a company that markets weight management products and energy drinks, since 2005.

Despite his tumultuous background, Blair says his upbringing gave him the grit and resilience needed to endure any roadblocks, both personal and professional, that stood in his way. After he wrote his first book, his mother was left in a coma and his son was diagnosed with autism.

“I believe I’m the luckiest person in the world because I was born at the right place at the right time with the right talents and with the right adversity,” he said. “Because I lived in a turkey coop, when I was starting out as an entrepreneur, I knew I would never go back there.”

Echoing the title and message of his first book, he says it’s precisely because he truly had nothing to lose that his aversion to risk was nonexistent.

“Most people don’t start businesses because they’re afraid that they have something to lose. For example, the middle class, they may have a mortgage, they may have a car payment, they may be trying to keep up with the Joneses and so they’re afraid to start a business or they may be comfortable in the middle class,” he said. “I didn’t have that comfort zone. I was always uncomfortable.”

But now that he’s CEO of a company and runs a venture fund, he says he hopes his success doesn’t squelch his entrepreneurial spirit.

“Nowadays my biggest challenge is I have everything to lose. So am I able to still operate with that same mindset of having nothing to lose?” he said. “Because innovation is happening at such a rapid pace, companies are getting killed today faster than ever because some entrepreneurs are [disrupting] big companies with that same mindset of having nothing to lose.”

Melody Hahm is a writer at Yahoo Finance, covering entrepreneurship, technology and real estate. Follow her on Twitter @melodyhahm.

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