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.
Justin Shelby felt his campus interview with a Fortune 500 company had gone well. When he didn’t get a call from them, he made a friend inside the company and kept calling back–for 30 days. His persistence paid off, and he spent the next 9 years at Black & Decker. Today, he is CEO and founder of Artichoke, a complete business solution for the rapidly growing community of freelancers, independent practitioners, and moonlighters operating in the U.S.
Lori B. Duff thought she would be the voters’ obvious choice for probate court judge. She had a decade’s experience with a major metropolitan court, and her opponent wasn’t even a lawyer. Her unexpected loss was a stiff rebuke. At 42, she brushed herself off and found renewed life as a ghost writer, editor, and a best-selling author of 3 memoirs. She recently won a gold medal in the 2017 eLit awards. She has a series of memoir writing classes designed to give people a head start on writing their stories.
Akshay Nanavati is a U.S. Marine Corps veteran, author, speaker and entrepreneur. Through his new book, “Fearvana,” his coaching and life experiences, he helps people reframe fear so they can accomplish their goals. “We do not control what first shows up in our brain. If I am on the edge of a cliff and my brain feels fear, it is a natural response that is keeping me alive. The problem is that we judge ourselves negatively for having fears, instead of learning how to harness them for our own good.”
Erik Weihenmayer was shattered when at 14 a genetic illness left him totally blind. Soon, he connected with an organization that gave him new opportunities, like rock climbing. He recalls running his hand along his bedroom wall thinking, “Who would be crazy enough to take a blind kid rock climbing?” Today he helps thousands of people with challenges face adversity and live with no barriers. He is the author of several books, including “No Barriers.”
Sarah Mastriani-Levi finished high school at 15 and began dual study in pre-med and international business. Three years in, she saw the flaws in conventional medicine. Moving to Israel, then to China, then back to the U.S., she radically shifted her focus, learning Chinese medicine, nutritional healing and lifestyle coaching. Most recently she has learned to read raw DNA to create highly individualized wellness protocols for her clients. She serves as an International Holistic Health and Lifestyle Coach.
Dorie Clark is the author of Entrepreneurial You, Reinventing You and Stand Out, which was named the #1 Leadership Book of 2015 by Inc. magazine. A former presidential campaign spokeswoman, she teaches at Duke University's Fuqua School of Business, and is a consultant and speaker for clients such as Google, Morgan Stanley, and the World Bank.
Damion created several businesses from his college dorm room. When one of his startups began to put the campus bookstore out of business, the college invited him to leave. Soon it dawned on him, “Hey, I’m supposed to be creating my own career path here.” Today, he runs an Austin, Texas-based financial technology company dedicated to getting people off the Wall Street roller coaster and in control of their money and financial future. He has written five books, with two more being released in late 2017.
Gini Dietrich had her sights set on law school and becoming a sports agent. Then her mother needed her help to overcome a life-threatening illness, so she took an entry position at a public relations agency. Passing out samples of juice at publicity events seemed an unexpected detour on her career path. But now she is the founder and CEO of Arment Dietrich, an integrated marketing communications firm, author of “Spin Sucks,” co-host of Inside PR, lead blogger at Spin Sucks and founder of Spin Sucks Pro.
Emery Ellinger is CEO of Aberdeen Advisors, which he founded after having built and sold his own successful companies. Every Aberdeen staffer has owned, operated and sold a business, bringing this perspective and business acumen to every client. “Business owners reach a point in life where they realize their son or daughter doesn’t want to take it over. Or, they may simply decide they want to do something else. They’re faced with the decision: What do I want to do with my company? And where do I begin?”
Antar "the Navigator" Jannah was convicted at age 20 and sent to federal prison. Although he continued to think with “a criminal mind,” he did accept a book from a prison counselor. “I was totally transformed in one night. I can’t remember his name, but that counselor was an angel in my life!” He is now a published author. And, for the past 35 years, he has been traveling, enlightening and uplifting his audiences with his insightful message and formula for not just material success, but success in every aspect of life.
Helene Segura had a clear plan as she left L.A.—to be a dual athlete playing soccer and softball for Texas A&M. “My plan got shot to heck when I was cut from the softball team.” If she was not going to be Helene, the Athlete anymore, she had to figure out who else she could be. Today, as author of two best-sellers, she shares her mind-bending framework for decreasing interruptions, distractions and procrastination so that companies can spend more time generating revenue.
Sandy Slovack, M.A., a clinical counselor, trainer and speaker, helps people deal with trauma within the mental health and addictions fields. In 2016, after publishing her first book, "Hello, You're Fabulous!: Build Your Self-Esteem for Life" and seeing it rise to a #1 international bestseller, she learned she had to have a second brain tumor surgery. She first underwent surgery three years before.