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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 Arianna Huffington political powerhouse. media mogul. author.

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Seth Godin Seth Godin author. speaker. linchpin.

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Krishna Kaur Krishna Kaur yogi. philanthropist. dynamic teacher.

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Norman Lear Norman Lear producer. philanthropist. tv legend.

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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]

 
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Liz Phair is an American singer-songwriter and guitarist. [www.lizphair.com]

 
Desmond Tutu Desmond Tutu archbishop. author. peaceful leader.

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Zainab Salbi Zainab Salbi author. ceo. humanitarian.

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Sean Stephenson Sean Stephenson speaker. psychotherapist. life embracer.

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Kia Miller Kia Miller yogi. meditator. teacher.

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Simon Mainwaring Simon Mainwaring creator. writer. idea geek.

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Shannon Bindler Shannon Bindler Strategist. Writer. Life Coach.

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Mathieu Bitton Mathieu Bitton Designer. Art Director. Passionate Creator.

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Jorge Perez Jorge Perez Agent. Producer. Photography Enthusiast.

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i matter

Maria Ross Maria Ross surviving storyteller. brand muse. blessing counter.

Inspirational speaker, author, and brand strategist Maria Ross is the creator of Red Slice, which helps entrepreneurs ignite their brands and delight their minds. Her latest book is Rebooting My Brain. [www.red-slice.com]

maria_ross_feature

In 2008, a brain aneurysm ruptured, interrupting my fast-paced life and knocking me unconscious. My husband came home from work early that day. That’s why I’m still here.

Fast-forward through ICU, surgeries, and temporary blindness. As I got on my wobbly feet again, I faced cognitive and psychological impairments common to brain injury: short-term memory loss, overwhelm, fatigue, depression, anxiety.

Family and friends from every corner of our lives stepped up. Many flew to be at my bedside, though I don’t remember them being there. Stunned, I learned about the impact I never realized I’d had on old work colleagues and newly minted friends. They were affected. They cared. They ached to help.

While in group rehab, I marveled at my blessings. Others had lost speech, mobility, or their jobs. We were all slowly learning to adapt, but, unlike me, some people were abandoned by friends or spouses who lacked understanding.

Survivor’s guilt hit in full force. Who was I to have been spared instead of others with children or noble professions? It was just me, my husband, and my dog. Though I often volunteered and gave to charity, I wasn’t saving lives or building schools. What difference did my life make?

The answer is surprisingly simple. As I shared those dark thoughts, my husband was grief-stricken. “You matter to all those people who came through for you. You matter to me. You’re my everything.”

In my quest to find meaning, I started sharing my story. I volunteered at the hospital. I spoke about my brain injury on local radio. The response almost knocked me over.  I published a humorous and heartfelt memoir about my experience, and every day I’m blessed by emails from survivors and caregivers thanking me for telling “their” story and showing them they’re not alone.

Maybe this is why I’m still here: for good to come out of this experience, for a young woman crying over her fiancé while they operate on his brain to read my book in the ICU and find comfort and hope.

Slowly, I realized what I think I’ve always known: Our lives are meaningful, even without the “grand gestures.” In your everyday interactions with friends, family, colleagues – heck, even the bus driver – sharing a smile, a kindness, or even your story means something. It’s the thousand small acts of love we show every day that forge a legacy. I’d forgotten that – until I got to see how much I touched others to whom I thought I’d meant nothing.

– Maria Ross

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