Each year, SUCCESS devotes a massive amount of research to discovering the most influential voices in the world of personal development. Over the last 12 months, these are the achievers who have led the charge to help the most people reach their business and life goals through inspiration, motivation, and practical advice and tactics.
It’s our goal each year to make the list as quantifiable as possible. We comb through best-seller lists, social media statistics, video views, blog posts, podcast downloads, and media and speaking appearances to uncover the authors, speakers and teachers who have done the most good. While previous honorees still deserve recognition for the long-lasting power of their ideas, we take particular account of those whose new work created momentum in 2017.
You’ll notice that a number of the personalities we’re recognizing this year have appeared on prior lists—like Oprah Winfrey, Tony Robbins, Tim Ferriss and others. This is an amazing testament to the size of their influence. We’re excited to once again celebrate these titans of the genre, but are just as impressed by the up-and-comers appearing on this list for the first time. Considering the endless expressions on social media, it’s tougher than ever to rise above the noise and make the connections that allow others to create change in their lives, so we are thrilled to honor 11 new voices; some you may already be familiar with, but perhaps you aren’t aware of their performance-based teachings (yes, we mean Tom Brady). Others you may be meeting for the first time, but should know about, because their messages can help you reach new personal heights.
SIMON T. BAILEY
ELIZABETH SHERWIN, IMAGE BUREAU
Simon T. Bailey is the CEO of Simon T. Bailey International and the founder of the Brilliance Institute. A one-time sales director of the Disney Institute, Bailey’s mission is to inspire the world’s emerging influencers. An author and a speaker, Bailey has worked with more than 1,500 organizations, impacting more than 2 million people in 45 countries.
In his book Shift Your Brilliance: Harness the Power of You, Inc., Bailey shares five steps to clear your vision.
- See it. Visualize who you want to be and what you want your life to be like.
- Write it. Take the picture that’s in your mind and put words, expressions and feelings to it.
- Read it. When you wake up each morning, read your vision aloud and meditate on it.
- Say it. When you speak your vision, say it with power, emotion and conviction.
- Act it. Start believing, behaving and acting as if your vision has already come true.
“Celebrate what others have, and know that celebrating others attracts more abundance to your own life.”
Tom Bilyeu is the co-founder of Quest Nutrition, a startup that was valued at more than $1 billion. He is also the co-founder, CEO and host of Impact Theory. Through his show, Bilyeu’s mission is to create, cultivate and monetize mission-based companies that are focused on solving meaningful challenges and to create culturally relevant content. Bilyeu shares three mental upgrades to propel you to achievement.
- Replace criticism with compliments. When you communicate what it is that you value in others, you’ll be amazed by how much their defenses lower and their self-esteem builds.
- Use the pressure to perform as a reminder that all of life is practice. Consider every day an opportunity to grow and improve yourself. This will help you transform a moment of panic into one of empowerment.
- Substitute feelings of insecurity with the excitement of skill acquisition. Don’t focus on what you’re not good at today. Focus on what you need to do to get good at mastering the skill you’re missing.
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He doesn’t make the list for leading his New England Patriots to a Super Bowl win after trailing the Atlanta Falcons 28-3 in February, although that performance did a lot for the perseverance lobby. The greatest quarterback of his generation, Brady makes the list for his best-selling life advice book The TB12 Method: How to Achieve a Lifetime of Sustained Peak Performance, which followed a live appearance with Tony Robbins in which Brady stepped out of the huddle and into the forefront as a motivator and life strategist who must be acknowledged.
While Brady’s best-selling book is on its face a guide for athletes, it’s every bit as hefty a guide to intentionality and goal achievement, based on simple precepts for maximizing your energy levels, including unbreakable sleep patterns and almost constant hydration.
Author, public speaker and research professor Brené Brown, Ph.D., has spent years studying courage, worthiness, shame and vulnerability. Her TEDx Talk on the power of vulnerability is one of the top five most-watched of all time, with more than 31 million views. Her newest book Braving the Wilderness: The Quest for True Belonging and the Courage to Stand Alone came out in 2017. The book explores how and why certain experiences bring meaning into our lives.
“True belonging is the spiritual practice of believing in and belonging to yourself so deeply that you can share your most authentic self with the world and find sacredness in both being a part of something and standing alone in the wilderness,” she writes in Braving the Wilderness. “True belonging doesn’t require you to change who you are; it requires you to be who you are.”
SILICON PRAIRIE NEWS
In 2011 Kimberly Bryant, an electrical engineer, founded Black Girls Code, a course created to teach digital technology and computer programming to black girls from the ages of 7 to 17. Bryant’s goal is to empower young girls to pursue careers in technology, an industry where black women are underrepresented. Black Girls Code has 12 chapters across the U.S. and hosts workshops, hackathons and summer camps.
In August 2017, Bryant’s biography, Kimberly Bryant: Founder of Black Girls Code, was released. The book was just one highlight in a year full of them for Bryant. She received the following awards and recognitions in 2017:
- Induction into the Vanderbilt University School of Engineering Academy of Distinguished Alumni
- Nomination for 2017 Visionary of the Year, sponsored by the San Francisco Chronicle and the School of Econmoics and Business Adminstration at Saint Mary’s College of California
- Named one of ELLE magazine’s 2017 Women in Tech: Star Tech Voyagers.
In addition to hosting monthly SUCCESS Accelerator live training sessions and co-emceeing the first ever SUCCESS Live event in April, Burchard earns yet another nod on this list for his impactful conferences, courses and the heavily researched September book, High Performance Habits: How Extraordinary People Become That Way. In it, he unveiled six key customs of high performers.
- Seeking clarity on who they want to be and their goals.
- Generating energy to maintain focus, effort and well-being.
- Raising the necessity for exceptional performance.
- Increasing productivity in their primary field of interest while minimizing distractions.
- Developing influence with others to create powerful networks of support.
- Demonstrating courage by expressing ideas and taking bold action.
Saying SUCCESS Ambassador Peter Diamandis is a visionary would be an understatement. He has founded or co-founded 19 entrepreneurial ventures, including Singularity University, a Silicon Valley think tank. He also launched the XPRIZE Foundation, which gives prizes for “radical breakthroughs” that benefit humanity; its first XPRIZE helped make private space travel possible. Now it’s teaming with IBM to offer the IBM Watson AI XPRIZE, which in 2020 will give $5 million to the artificial intelligence system that gives the best TED Talk.
He’s also an engineer and Harvard University-trained physician, and was named one of Fortune’s world’s 50 greatest leaders. He advocates the importance of living with an abundance mindset.
“I realized I was at my best when a few things happened: one, when I was tapped into my passion, and two, when I let it shine through,” he said at Singularity University’s Global Summit 2017. “I gave [myself] permission to say, It’s amazing! We live in the most amazing world and it’s the most amazing time to be alive.”
When he was profiled for a SUCCESS cover story in 2015, Ferriss, described by The New York Times as “a cross between Jack Welch and a Buddhist monk,” said that he didn’t expect to write any books in the near future, but now seems to have changed his mind quickly. In addition to continuing his hit podcast and adding television work for an interview show with the AT&T AUDIENCE Network, which premiered in 2017, he also dominated the best-sellers lists.
While his massive tome Tools of Titans was released in December 2016, it topped charts in its genre for much of the year (the first-ever book based on a podcast to debut at No. 1 on the New York Times best-sellers list). He followed that book up with Tribe of Mentors: Short Life Advice from the Best in the World, just released in November. Both are the result of Ferriss’s interviews and his continuing goal to ask the right questions in life.
COURTESY OF THE POTTER’S HOUSE DALLAS
CEO of TDJ Enterprises, producer and New York Times best-selling author Bishop T.D. Jakes added to his list of more than 40 books in 2017 with Soar! Build Your Vision from the Ground Up. In addition to the new book, Jakes’ eponymous syndicated one-hour talk show was picked up by OWN and launched in September 2017.
In Soar, Jakes lays out a “flight plan” to help readers draft their own design for ultimate success. The flight plan centers on six lines of questioning—what, who, why, how, where and when. These questions ask readers to focus on asking big-picture questions, such as: What’s your destination? What will success look like for your business? “A good business plan is indispensable and increases the odds of your success by leaps and bounds,” Jakes writes. “If you want to see nothing but blue sky, then make sure your flight plan is in black and white.”
JOHN C. MAXWELL
“The great leaders are growing. They have a hunger that makes them stretch. A growing leader is a little wiser today than he was yesterday.”
A video game designer and the author of SuperBetter: The Power of Living Gamefully, Jane McGonigal, Ph.D.—twin sister of Kelly McGonigal—creates alternate reality games that help people improve their lives and cope with real-life problems. She is the director of games research and development at the Institute for the Future, a nonprofit in Palo Alto, California, where she studies how gaming can be used to improve people’s well-being. Her 2010 TED Talk “Gaming Can Make a Better World” garnered more than 4 million views.
“The gift of the future is creativity,” she said in her 2017 TEDx Talk, “The Future Is Dark (and That Is a Good Thing).” “In order to create something new or make any kind of a change, you first have to be able to imagine how things can be different. The future is a place where everything can be different.”
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A Stanford University health psychologist and lecturer, Kelly McGonigal, Ph.D., pioneered the field of “science-help,” the idea that we can take research from psychology and neuroscience and turn it into tools people can use to improve their well-being. Her viral TED Talk “How to Make Stress Your Friend,” has been viewed nearly 15 million times and is one of the 25 Most Popular TED Talks of all time.
“The fact that we use the word stress to describe so much of life is both a blessing and a curse,” she writes in her book The Upside of Stress: Why Stress Is Good for You, and How to Get Good at It. “The downside is that it can make talking about the science of stress tricky. Even scientists—who usually nail down their definitions—use stress to describe a mind-boggling array of experiences and outcomes…. I offer this conception of stress: Stress is what arises when something you care about is at stake.”
Financial guru Dave Ramey—our June cover subject—has a message that reaches millions of people each year. The radio host and author of five New York Times best-sellers, Ramsey stresses the importance of living a debt-free life, and how taking on certain strict financial habits (such as not using credit cards) can help people get there.
His company, Ramsey Solutions, and his popular radio call-in show both celebrated their 25th anniversary this last year. In our cover story, he shared his four tips for running a business in the YouEconomy:
- Avoid debt. Don’t borrow money, but focus on growing organically.
- Prioritize your expenses. Make a list that goes from most to least important.
- Be intentional. Being purposeful with your money will help you avoid senseless purchases.
- Take pride. Be proud that you’re giving people jobs and serving the community by running a business.
The mind behind hit TV shows such as Grey’s Anatomy and the producer of How to Get Away with Murder, Shonda Rhimes makes the 2017 list because of her consistent ability to churn out quality work and march to the beat of her own drum. Last year she became the third black woman inducted into the Television Hall of Fame, and made a bold move to leave her network, ABC, to develop exclusive shows for Netflix.
Her 2016 TED Talk about her year of saying yes to everything garnered over 3 million views. “There is no list of rules,” she writes in her book Year of Yes: How to Dance It Out, Stand in the Sun and Be Your Own Person. “There is one rule. The rule is: there are no rules. Happiness comes from living as you need to, as you want to. As your inner voice tells you to. Happiness comes from being who you actually are instead of who you think you are supposed to be.”
The creator of the wildly popular “5 Second Rule,” Mel Robbins released her book on the topic this year: The 5 Second Rule: Transform Your Life, Work, and Confidence with Everyday Courage. Robbins knows how to help people make quick decisions that will set their lives on their intended paths. The CNN commentator, motivational speaker and SUCCESS contributing editor spoke about overcoming self-doubt at this year’s SUCCESS Live event.
“Believe it or not, self-doubt is a habit,” she says. “It’s a behavior, a thinking pattern that you repeat over and over, and then it becomes automated. When I can get you to understand that anxiety, worry, procrastination and self-doubt are all habits, then I can show you how to break them.”
Robbins says her life improved once she learned to:
- Become more confident.
- Be a fearless negotiator.
- Have greater self-control.
- Say no.
- Align her goals and values with her actions
“If you want to know the secret to happiness, I can give it to you in one word: progress. Progress equals happiness.”
A descendant of German philosopher Karl Marx, Tali Sharot is an associate professor in the experimental psychology department at the University College London with a doctorate from New York University. In September 2017, Sharot’s The Influential Mind: What the Brain Reveals About Our Power to Change Others was released, which uses research to examine the role emotions play in influence, data’s weaknesses and the power of curiosity.
In 2012 Sharot delivered a TED Talk that was seen more than 2 million times. “We would like to protect ourselves from the dangers of optimism,” Sharot says in her speech, “but at the same time remain hopeful, benefiting from the many fruits of optimism…. The good news is that becoming aware of the optimism bias does not shatter the illusion. It’s like visual illusions, in which understanding them does not make them go away.”
After living with massive debt in a converted garage, Jen Sincero became a true rags-to-riches story. She became a best-selling author, success coach and speaker who has helped millions change their lives. In April 2017, Sincero followed up her 2013 New York Times best-seller You Are a Badass with You Are a Badass at Making Money: Master the Mindset of Wealth.
Sincero joined the SUCCESS Insider podcast in April to discuss some ideas from her book. “We basically learn to be afraid,” Sincero says. “Little babies don’t worry about the fact that they may have a fat butt. Or that they’ll be judged if they make a lot of money. These are learned fears.” She says some false, learned negative thought patterns we associate with money are that it is the root of all evil and hard to make, that it comes from working hard rather than smart and that spending it causes guilt.
In late 2016, adjunct staff member of the RAND Corporation and best-selling author Simon Sinek did an interview for an episode of Inside Quest. In the interview, Sinek delivered a rousing speech about millennials in the workplace and society’s dependence on smartphones. The video went viral, peaking in early 2017. Sinek followed up his viral video with the paperback editions of Leaders Eat Last: Why Some Teams Pull Together and Others Don’t in May 2017 and Find Your Why: A Practical Guide to Discovering Purpose for You or Your Team in September.
“When you don’t have the phone, you just check out the world,” Sinek says in the video. “That’s where ideas happen…. Ideas happen when our minds wander and we see something and we think, I bet they could do that. That’s called innovation. But we’re taking away all those little moments.”
DAVID & JONAH STILLMAN
MATT BLUM PHOTOGRAPHY
A father-and-son team (classified together on this list because they work as a team), David and the teenage Jonah Stillman are at the forefront of writing and research into the tastes and productivity styles of Generation Z, the successors to the much-discussed millennials. In Gen Z @ Work: How the Next Generation Is Transforming the Workplace, the Stillmans discuss several unique traits of these 73 million Americans born between 1995 and 2012. Among them:
They Are Made for the YouEconomy: Gen Z has come of age when the likes of Uber and Airbnb are ubiquitous.
They Are Realistic: Being raised by skeptical Gen Xers in a post-9/11 world has made them extremely pragmatic and prepared.
They Are Driven: With parents who recoiled from the participation trophy movement, Gen Zers are well aware that life has winners and losers.
© JIM THOMPSON/ALBUQUERQUE JOURNAL/ZUMAPRESS.COM
An author, economist, political analyst, and social commentator, Watkins is focused on empowering African-Americans. A former assistant professor of finance at Syracuse University’s Whitman School of Management, he espouses financial independence as central to the quest for black spiritual and social independence. In addition to public speaking, he released several books and online courses in 2017, promoting investment and entrepreneurship to the black community.
A no-nonsense voice, he often rails against the idea of cultural victimhood while challenging the black community to create change through entrepreneurial action at the individual level, at times echoing historically powerful messages. In October, he channeled Dr. Martin Luther King’s famous words in an ongoing series of tweets, offering such uncomfortable but undeniable ideas as “I have a dream that one day owning Nike stock will matter more than owning a pair of Nike sneakers.”
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The force behind perhaps the most expansive personality-focused self-growth empire in American history, Winfrey continues to create impact on lives years after stepping down from her daytime show. In 2017, she put on an eight-city tour for her “The Life You Want Weekend” conference.
Delivering a commencement address to Smith College graduates in May, she explained her definition of success. “Ask the question: How can I be used? Life, use me. Show me through my talents and my gifts, show me through what I know, what I need to know, what I have yet to learn, how to be used in the greater service to life. You ask that question and I guarantee you, the answer will be returned and rewarded to you with fulfillment, which is really the major definition of success for me.”
At only 23, Ashley Zahabian is already making waves in the world of personal development. After surviving anorexia, Zahabian lectured for two years at Rutgers University, later becoming a financial analytics representative for Bloomberg in Manhattan.
In March 2017, Zahabian delivered a TEDx Talk in Vancouver, British Columbia, centered on the theme of inspiring brave actions. In her speech, Zahabian shared her experience battling anorexia, which could have killed her and required four years of rehabilitation. Zahabian discusses how changing your automatic behaviors requires emotional intelligence and offers strategies for when you’re feeling emotionally charged up. “Become aware of how you’re feeling and aware of how other people are feeling,” Zahabian says. “Harness those emotions and think about what is the best possible outcome that [you] can take right now for the best possible outcome.”
JIMI CELESTE/PATRICK MCMULLAN VIA GETTY IMAGES
The host of the popular Note to Self podcast, Manoush Zomorodi explores the human condition and the forces that shape our world in the digital age. Her 2017 book Bored and Brilliant: How Spacing Out Can Unlock Your Most Productive and Creative Self, suggests that boredom can be beneficial, especially in a world where our first instinct is to scroll through our smartphones.
“It turns out that when you get bored, you ignite a network in your brain called the ‘default mode,’ ” she says in her 2017 TED Talk, “How Boredom Can Lead to Your Most Brilliant Ideas,” which garnered over 1 million views. “I learned that in the default mode is when we connect disparate ideas, we solve some of our most nagging problems, and we do something called ‘autobiographical planning.’ This is when we look back at our lives, we take note of the big moments, we create a personal narrative and then we set goals and we figure out what steps we need to take to reach them.”
This article originally appeared in the January 2018 issue of SUCCESS magazine.