Affectionately known as "America's #1 Success Coach," Jack Canfield is the originator of the Chicken Soup for the Soul series and a leading authority in the areas of self-esteem, achievement motivation, and peak performance. [www.jackcanfield.com]
Arianna Huffington is the co-founder and Editor in Chief of the Huffington Post and the author of twelve books. [www.huffingtonpost.com]
Seth Godin is a prominent author, blogger and speaker. [www.squidoo.com/linchpin]
Krishna Kaur is the founder of YOGA for Youth, a program that takes yoga, meditation, and stimulating discussions on the philosophy of yoga to urban youth. [www.yogaforyouth.org]
Norman Lear has enjoyed a long career in television and film. He is also a political and social activist and philanthropist. [www.normanlear.com]
Leilani Münter is a professional race car driver and an environmental activist who uses her voice in the number one spectator sport in America as a catalyst for change. [www.leilanimunter.com]
By going undercover to meet slaves and slaveholders, Kevin Bales exposed modern slavery's penetration into the global economy. He co-founded Free the Slaves, which has helped to liberate thousands of slaves. [www.freetheslaves.net]
Sophie Chiche, lifebyme.com founder and curator, enjoys asking deep questions and living a life of meaning. Today she's launching Shape House, an urban sweat lodge, a place to melt away fears and fat. [www.shapehousela.com]
Entrepreneur and writer Mastin Kipp founded TheDailyLove.com, which merges pop culture with inspiration, and co-founded The Love Yourself Company, an apparel company that has started a global self-esteem movement. [www.TheDailyLove.com]
Liz Phair is an American singer-songwriter and guitarist. [www.lizphair.com]
Archbishop Desmond Tutu is Chairman of The Elders, a group of world leaders who address some of the world's most pressing problems. He works energetically for human-rights and in his ministry. [www.tutu.org]
Zainab Salbi is the founder and CEO of Women for Women International, a group dedicated to helping women survivors of war rebuild their lives. [www.womenforwomen.org]
Despite his physical challenges, Sean Stephenson has taken a stand for a quality of life that has inspired millions of people around the world. He's a professional speaker, psychotherapist, and author. [www.timetostand.com]
Kia Miller teaches Yoga at Yoga Works in Los Angeles, leads teacher trainings, and runs retreats and workshops on meditation, chakras, pranayam, and mantras, and other practices. [www.kiamiller.com]
Simon Mainwaring is an ex-Nike/Wieden creative, former Worldwide Creative Director at Motorola/Ogilvy, branding/advertising writer, author/speaker/blogger, Australian, idea geek. [www.simonmainwaring.com]
Shannon Bindler is a style editor, life coach, and the co-founder of Get Up Girl, an empowerment company that inspires women to shine. [www.getupgirl.com]
Grammy-nominated art director/designer/photographer Mathieu Bitton has designed over 450 CDs and movie posters. He's a renowned collector of and authority on black films and their soundtracks. [www.candytangerine.com]
Opus Reps founder and agent-producer Jorge Perez travels the world producing photo shoots with great photographers and celebrities. He's also very involved with Meals on Wheels in Los Angeles. www.opusreps.com
Choose your metaphor. No man is an island. A tree falling in the woods makes no sound. It takes a village. These phrases have endured because an isolated life is not as meaningful as one that is connected with the lives of others. It’s not simply that we need others to acknowledge the moral value of what we’ve accomplished, but that accomplishment without a positive impact on the world is morally neutral. Invent a gizmo or solve an equation and you’ve done something interesting. Use either to cure an ailment, assist the needy, or create art and you’ve made a positive moral contribution to the universe.
Simply put, we need one another. Knowing this and acknowledging the contributions others have made to our lives increases the readout on the worldwide meaningfulness meter. Anyone in a long-term romantic relationship understands this. Mentor and mentee understand this. Perhaps the best illustration lies in the parent-child relationship. No one who has ever had a child would consider disputing that despite the sacrifice, effort, and constant worry, a child’s very presence grants deep and true meaning to the parent’s life. Indeed, that additional meaning obtains, at least in part, because of the sacrifice, effort, and constant worry.
Recently I happened across a 1944 photograph that led me to meet people who enriched my life in ways that I’m still trying to fathom. The image depicted some seventy women lined up in front of the Gibson Guitar Company’s factory building in Kalamazoo, Michigan. The Company’s self-published history proclaimed that it made no guitars during WWII and retained only a few seasoned craftsmen to repair existing instruments. Who were these women? Why were they all posing in front of a factory?
I eventually tracked down and interviewed a dozen of the women in the photo, learned that they’d built thousands of instruments during the war, and relayed their stories in my book, Kalamazoo Gals. Finding people that time had forgotten, hearing their humble stories, and placing Laura the Luthier alongside Rosie the Riveter brought extraordinary meaning to my life.
It’s not simply our relationships with our contemporaries that matter. Our acknowledgement of our debt to our predecessors is important, too. By connecting with others, we enrich our lives.
Reach out whenever you can, even when you have to reach into the past.
– John Thomas