Mali Phonpadith’s father escaped a re-education camp and her family fled war-torn Laos. Arriving in the U.S. at age five, she learned English from watching the TV show Sesame Street. Later, her teacher said Mali’s journal showed she was a poet even though she did not know what poetry was. Her writing formed the nucleus of a project she named SOAR—See, Own, Articulate and Release—a process to help people uncover their greatest gifts and talents. SOAR now includes a community support network, a podcast and more.
Phil Randazzo applied for a commission-only job selling fire extinguishers. The interviewer asked him the last personal development book he’d read. When he couldn’t think of one, the man threw a Jim Rohn cassette at him and said, “Get out of my office and don’t come back until you learn to work on yourself!” Years later, he owns Text Safe Teens, an app to prevent people from using cell phones while driving. His online, nonprofit American Dream U helps transitioning military find their dream job or start a business.
Steve Lawton, after careening headlong into a tree at 45 miles per hour and suffering a major brain injury, believes every interaction with another person is a bonus that might never have happened. He credits his positive attitude with literally saving his life. He is the author of “Head First! A Crash Course in Positivity,” and is his role at Dell, he helps co-workers learn to harness their own power of intention and positive thinking to change the direction of their lives.
Anna Cragin was halfway to her Ph.D. in Cognitive Neuroscience, with visions of pursuing two great loves—teaching and figuring things out. Then, reality set in. Far too many graduate students were chasing far too few jobs. Anna faced the pivot point of her life. Now, as the Productivity Advisor at Freeficiency, she is teaching online entrepreneurs how to improve mindset, reduce anxiety, and design their ideal life through effective time management. She applies her research to design ways to work with and around our brains to reach our goals in business and in life.
Blake Brandes loved his dissertation topic—hip-hop and global youth cultures—but was stuck in writing this crucial paper toward earning his Ph.D. His advisor suggested he create a rap album as a last chapter, so he did. A review committee member wrote on his paper that he had never before had the pleasure of reviewing a dissertation that you could dance to. Dr. Brandes is co-founder of the personal development company, Motivational Millennial, and co-host of the Motivational Millennial Podcast. He also runs a hip-hop motivational speaking business in assemblies and workshops to help students “Remix Your Reality.”
Mary Hyatt was like millions of others, struggling with her weight and juggling prescription medications. Even switching to organic, locally grown foods did not solve her health issues. It was time she got brutally honest with herself and found a long-term solution. Mary believes every person has the ability to create the life that they love. She is on a quest to live a life full of gratitude, joy, authenticity and abundance in body, mind and soul.
Frank Cottle is CEO of Alliance Virtual Offices and chairman of the Alliance Business Centers Network. With his unique global perspective, he is a recognized expert on flexible working, the virtual office movement, and third-place working. Prior to creating the Alliance brand, Frank successfully operated his own portfolio of business centers in multiple locations across North America. He has worked with tens of thousands of business owners and become the go-to authority on flexible and remote work
Adam Anderson felt right at home on computers at age six. He wanted to make them talk to each other so he could play games with friends. “Without knowing it, I was teaching myself the fundamentals of computer science and information technology. They just didn't call it that at the time.” Today he is a serial entrepreneur, author and founder of Palmetto Security Group (PSG), an IBM Premier Cyber Security Business Partner. He recently launched Element Security Group.
Ava Kaufman, while trying to recuperate from a heart transplant, became acutely aware of the need for information and support for heart transplant patients and families. Knowing nothing about fundraising or foundations, she decided, “Sometimes you just have to jump in and do it your own way.” A 67-year-old woman with a transplanted heart from a 17-year-old boy, she founded Ava's Heart Foundation and is helping hundreds of families through the transplant process with resources, case management and hope.
Bernie Swain’s wife, Paula, convinced him to quit his dream job and start a lecture agency with her. With no experience, plan or money, they did. Nine years later, their agency, The Washington Speakers Bureau, became the largest in the world. Clients included President Reagan, Alex Haley, Tom Brokaw, Condoleezza Rice, General Colin Powell and Doris Kearns Goodwin. “Through the successful, accomplished people I represented, I came to understand what turning points are all about.”
London Porter’s stutter, lisp and habit of talking too fast did not help his acceptance as a street kid in Yonkers, NY. But his speech therapist did not give up on him. “Your voice is a gift.” She became the first of many who helped him see his potential. He teaches entrepreneurs how to earn a better income, create a better career and live a better life. London’s a three-time author, a former professional athlete, and hosts the popular podcast, Interview Better Live Better.
Tamara Thompson was still reeling from a hit-and-run accident and the loss of her first love. She slipped into depression and gained 85 pounds, not a plus for her fitness career. Then, she discovered YouTube. What began as a hobby changed her direction. As CEO of Serious Take Productions, she is an award-winning documentary filmmaker and director who has found her niche with inspiring storytelling through high quality video production. She’s produced for corporate clients such as Microsoft and Starbucks.
Chef Charles Carroll is an author, speaker and recipient of over 80 national and international awards. Competing on eight U.S. Culinary Olympic Teams, he travels the world sharing with chefs, culinary students, industry leaders and military personnel. He produced seven Vegas Style shows for troops in Afghanistan. Chef Charles recently published his third book, a culinary parable entitled, “The Recipe: A Story of Loss, Love, and the Ingredients of Greatness,” which he co-authored with John David Mann.