BAUCE women have had the ability to create something out of nothing since the day our mothers birthed us. Some would call it magic; Beyoncé would call it Lemonade. Kristian Henderson, popularly known as Dr. Kristian H, is a motivational speaker with a level of ambition that has yet to be tamed. She received her doctorate degree from the John Hopkins School of Public Health but instead of taking the traditional path towards tenured academia, she chose to focus on an alternative goal: inspiring women to live their lives fearlessly. In this interview with BAUCE, Dr. Kristian H shares the story behind her journey and explains why she is encouraging more millennial women to be the best version of themselves.
Your digital platform inspires women to live fearlessly. What made you the courageous woman you are and what motivates you to help other women live their lives?
Dr. Kristian H: The idea of fear is something that I’ve been talking about a lot now and I think the reason why it’s been so important to me is because I have seen the way that fear has manifested in my life. I have seen the ways it stopped me from making certain decisions or living my life the way I wanted to live it because I was fearful of so many things. I was fearful of being judged or how people would look at me or how things would be perceived. There were all these ‘what ifs’ that were really stopping my life. I woke up one day because I realized I was making all of these decisions based off of what I thought I was supposed to be doing versus what I wanted to do and what truly made me happy.
I tend to learn through going through really tough times. I was going through a divorce, I didn’t like my job at work, I had picked up a lot of weight—I was just like, “Oh my God, I’m not happy. Something has to change.” Life happens for everyone and everyone has a different story and everyone has a different moment of hardship or confusion. I think that we have a choice to either let those moments mold us or break us. I like to think of it as a diamond. A diamond can’t become a diamond without pressure. What I’ve started doing since then is accepting the pressure, looking forward to seeing how it’s going to help me level up. Now I see challenges and failures as a catalyst for change and a catalyst for greatness versus as some negative.
How would you describe what it means to be “happy” in today’s world? How should a millennial woman discover happiness in her life?
Dr. Kristian H: I really had this theory that being happy is revolutionary and I don’t think that other generations quite honestly had the luxury to worry about being happy. I think that historically women have really bared the brunt of emotional structures of the family and they made a lot of decisions prioritizing the family, or their husbands, or their children ahead of themselves. Millennial women are lucky that we get to take a step back and define what happiness means. Is it based on having a certain job or having a certain amount of money or having a certain number of followers on Instagram or Facebook? You can’t buy happiness, you can’t rent it, you can’t marry into it, you can’t get a job, you can’t really earn it because there are people who have all of these things and they still aren’t happy.
‘Happy’ is really this internal battle of being comfortable with who you are, where you are—it’s what you have and truly being content in that space and in those moments. Finding gratitude, being able to be thankful for the ups and downs. It’s being able to be yourself without fear of persecution or what other people think about you. Happiness is a choice and its very internal. It has nothing to do with your circumstances. It’s literally you choosing to be happy and to do those things that promote your internal self care and happiness.
Stepping out and starting your own path can be tough. What were some of your biggest challenges and what helped you overcome them?
Dr. Kristian H: What is my brand? You want to have a niche market with a very clear statement of what problem that you’re addressing and how you address it. I know all of this from a business perspective but from a personal branding perspective, I felt like trying to be ahead of every niche was also kind of limiting in who I wanted to be and what I wanted to express. At times, it can be really difficult to balance my desires to be a complete human and to motivate women without feeling like I need to motivate in a particular sector.
Instead of trying to figure it all out, I just started doing stuff. I just started posting things on Instagram and I started writing blogs and I started going on speaking engagements. I just moved and I think that there is power in movement. We figure out the right steps to take if we just start walking. It’s almost better to start walking even if that means you’ve walked in the wrong direction because at least that means that you’ve learned something about that direction and why you don’t like going that way. Take a leap, take a step—it doesn’t have to be perfect. You just need movement.
Most individuals that receive a PhD seek the academic route of becoming a tenured professor, but you are doing something quite different as a businesswoman. What is your advice for anyone who wants do something alternative with their doctorate degree?
Dr. Kristian H: I am an education person. I like teaching, I like school, I like learning. I have my doctorate in public health and leadership and management. It’s kind of a practical degree for people who want to run healthcare organizations. When I first started the program that’s exactly what I was planning on doing. I wanted to be a CEO of a hospital. I was working at John Hopkins, and I was working my way up the ladder administratively and working towards that goal—and the more that I was working towards it, the more I realized that I didn’t like it. I wanted to do something different.
Now I teach at George Washington [as a visiting professor] and that’s one of the ways that allowed me to quit my corporate job where I had a typical nine-to-five and [gain] more flexibility to do my entrepreneurial pursuits.
I think that the beauty of education is that no one can take it away from you. So no matter what you got your degree in, you can always try to parlay that into other experiences. I know that a lot of doors have been opened to me because of my educational background. I’ve learned a lot about how to learn, the ways to learn and to become a lifelong learner so I may be unique.
Here at BAUCE we connect with the ‘go-getters’ or women who are out there chasing their dreams in more ways than one. You left a 6-figure salary to start your own business and work on your own terms. What made you start your own business as opposed to working for someone else?
Dr. Kristian H.: I’ve been an entrepreneur since I was a little kid. I started my first business in the 3rd grade where I used to make string bracelets for people at lunch. I would do my homework while I was still at school and then when I would get home at night, I would make my bracelets. I’ve always liked the idea of creating my own product and running my own business and being in control and in charge of something.
When I was in the corporate world, I missed that. I missed being able to do the things that I wanted to do, that I thought was best for the world, or to really make an impact because I was kind of confined within a nine-to-five. Also, from just a lifestyle standpoint, I don’t like doing the same things every day. I like having the flexibility for where every single day is different for me, and I felt like I was giving that up in a nine-to-five.
I knew I wanted to do something entrepreneurial but I didn’t know exactly what that was yet. It kind of happened naturally and organically — I just started posting things that I liked and sharing my story and it was really resonating with people.
From starting your own business to encouraging young women to pursue and follow their dreams, we’d say you qualify to be a BAUCE! In your own words, what is your own definition of what it means to be a BAUCE?
A BAUCE woman is someone who defines for herself who she wants to be and how she’s going to do it. I think that is what’s most important. It’s that self-definition and that self-defying. She has self-love. She is who she wants to be. She makes her own money and she doesn’t apologize about it. Unapologetically arriving in the world everyday as exactly who you want to be without excuses and complaints.
Another big piece is that after she shows up, she is reaching and helping other women get to that same place. I think that all BAUCE women do that—that they show up and they can show up in such a way that they are a positive reflection for what other women can be. That way, collectively, each of us is slowly leveling up to a higher level and we’re bringing our whole tribe along with us.