Now that the final month of the year is upon us and writers begin reflecting on the year that was, it's time for my annual post of people who inspired me the past year. (Here are the 2011 honorees.) My only requirement for inclusion in this annual list is that I personally know you (otherwise, all five slots would go to Taylor Swift). So, these are people that I've spent time with, whether over coffee or dinner, people with whom I've emailed or spoken on the phone, and people who wouldn't pretend like they didn't know me if we sat next to each other on a plane.
It's one of those classic stories: boy reads blogger; boy comments on blogger's posts; boy happens to be traveling to blogger's hometown; boy meets blogger and her bestie at In-N-Out Burger where blogger sneaks in wine for everyone. Nicole's blogging has always kept me reading, whether she's writing about her personal life and history or inspiring people to take a bold leap for themselves. She advocates for mental health, is now focused on living healthily herself, and is proof that we're all a beautiful and wonderful work in progress. This year, she ran a marathon, drastically changed her eating habits, and encouraged everyone to just go for it in a talk in front of thousands.
Amber is on the CAMPUSPEAK roster with me and when I met her this summer, I was instantly inspired by her personal story and the legacy and and world she's creating due to her work at bodyheart. Helping people love their bodies, Amber is fueling a movement so that we can treat our bodies better than we have been. As a dedicated entrepreneur, Amber continues to expand her impact to college campuses, community organizations, and corporate environments. It'll be exciting to see where she's headed all through 2013.
Sometimes, I meet someone, have coffee with them, and leave knowing that I just met with someone who's on their way up - way up. That's the case with Kyle. He helped launched Triple Thread a few years ago, a company that not only employs formerly incarcerated individuals, but also serves as an earned-income stream for a nonprofit organization. As such, he's on the cutting edge of social entrepreneurship, combining market-based approaches and real-world problems. He's spoken at the Clinton Global Initiative and tells the social enterprise story far and wide. He's now on his next entrepreneurial adventure with Everly. Be on the lookout for that to go big next year and shake up the drink world in the process, all in a way that is great for the planet.
I followed Sarah online long before I met her. As such, I was a fan of her creativity, insight, and encouragement. Her posts effortlessly run the gamut from motivation to entrepreneurship, design to fitness, community to goal-setting. This year, she set out to raise $29,000 for charity: water (she ended up raising over $30k). As a result, she swam naked in the San Francisco Bay and was featured in charity: water's new campaign video. She won't stop there. In 2013, she'll be helping people start their dreams and will no doubt keep inspiring me to write, live, and love.
What began as speaking to a few campuses about HIV/AIDS has now become a high-impact organization. As the CEO of CAMPUSPEAK, T.J. helps to change the lives of millions of college students and professionals by coordinating workshops, keynotes, and programs that make people think and act differently. But his inspiration (for me) isn't limited to running a company or giving a speech. He believes in the power of mentorship and gives his time to advise a local fraternity chapter. There are some people that when you have dinner with them it seems like the meal is over too soon - T.J.'s in that boat for me.
Who inspired you this year?