Jack Canfield Jack Canfield author. speaker. motivator.

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.

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 Seth Godin author. speaker. linchpin.

Seth Godin is a prominent author, blogger and speaker. [www.squidoo.com/linchpin]

 
Krishna Kaur Krishna Kaur yogi. philanthropist. dynamic teacher.

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 Norman Lear producer. philanthropist. tv legend.

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 Leilani Münter race car driver. activist. carbon free girl.

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]

 
Kevin Bales Kevin Bales Freedom Fighter. Philanthropist. Game Changer.

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 Sophie Chiche mom. big dreamer. lady in red.

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]

 
Mastin Kipp Mastin Kipp Writer. Entrepreneur. Daily Lover.

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 Liz Phair singer. musician. crier.

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

 
Desmond Tutu Desmond Tutu archbishop. author. peaceful leader.

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 Zainab Salbi author. ceo. humanitarian.

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]

 
Sean Stephenson Sean Stephenson speaker. psychotherapist. life embracer.

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 Kia Miller yogi. meditator. teacher.

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 Simon Mainwaring creator. writer. idea geek.

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 Shannon Bindler Strategist. Writer. Life Coach.

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]

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

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]

 
Jorge Perez Jorge Perez Agent. Producer. Photography Enthusiast.

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

 

redhead

Zara Larsen Zara Larsen leadership consultant. business coach. proud redhead.

Dr. Zara Larsen is a change leadership consultant and business coach. Her weekly radio show encourages us to create our own path by walking on it. [www.thelarsengroup.com]

My favorite children’s book is Elmer, by David McKee. Elmer is a brightly colored patchwork elephant known amongst the grey herd for his animated antics. His ideas are the source of the herd’s games, jokes, and happiness. One day, Elmer awakes unhappy and decides he’s tired of being so different, tired of being patchwork. In his quest to become ordinary, Elmer rolls in elephant-colored berries. He returns to the herd incognito, only to discover how still, silent, and sullen his family and friends have become without him. When a sudden thunderstorm reveals Elmer’s true colors, the herd responds gleefully to what they think was another of Elmer’s jokes. They laugh and laugh. An old elephant says, “Oh, Elmer, what would we do without you?”

In so many ways, we’re pushed and pulled to be the same as others, to live up to others’ definitions of success. I believe real joy and lifelong fulfillment come from going beyond allowing ourselves to be different and on to celebrating our uniqueness and helping others celebrate theirs.

An obvious way I’m different is that I’m a tall, lanky redhead. But I’m different in other ways, too. From early on, my parents cheered me on to be and do whatever I wanted to be and do. For me, that meant pioneering, maximizing my talents, always being on the lookout for a new challenge, and taking and learning from risks. Not until later in life did it strike me that fitting in is so expected of us and there are penalties for standing out. Though staying below the radar screen and following the pack bring some form of acceptance and comfort, they don’t help us as individuals or collectively.

My husband gave me the Elmer book when I was in the midst of guiding a cross-company merger ripe with business benefits yet troubled by a clash of cultures. As I read about Elmer I realized again that what equipped me most to guide the merger was being different and knowing that others counted on me to be different. Being different also allowed me to heal afterwards in my own best way and to press on to the next chapter in my career.

As Elmer’s story reveals, those around us – family, friends, colleagues, and the greater world – really do need us to be more of who we are, not less. So, whether you’re redheaded or patchwork or anything else that’s different, take pride in standing out in your own way.

– Zara Larsen

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