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
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