With an Instagram feed filled with snow, what else would you expect to find in my web browser, but videos? While the city that never sleeps was being blanketed in snow, I (as I suspect a lot of New Yorkers were) was watching videos from the Oscar-nominated films of the last century to every TED talk ever recommended. And through the drama and dialog, I discovered four incredible innovators whose stories are tied together by the threads of:

  • Connecting community based on values.
  • Believing that change can start with one person.
  • Creativity is the result of challenges.

"Compassion is not compassion without action" - Vivienne Harr

Vivienne Harr is the Chief Inspiration Officer at STAND.TC, a mobile app that lets you put your compassion into action and stand with the people you care about for the causes that matter to you. Vivienne is 11 years old. I don't know about you, but at 11 years of age I was babysitting or moonlighting as the receptionist's assistant at my father's veterinary clinic on Saturday mornings. Start my own company that employs my father--didn't even hit my radar screen! Vivienne started thinking big at age 8 and it all started with photograph of two child slave labors. That photo led to her taking a stand, setting up a lemonade stand and selling $100,000 of lemonade (all the while raising awareness on childhood slavery). The lemonade is now available in stores (and online) and Vivienne has an app. Watch Vivienne's Creative Morning talk on how big revolutions can start from small ideas.

"Some people would say they wanted to be nurses or astronauts, I never had any idea what I wanted to do." - Tracy Chou

Did you know what you've always wanted to do? I haven't--and neither has Pinterest software engineer Tracy Chou. And even at my age (after multiple careers) I take some comfort in that! Tracy has found a calling, by activating and inspiring a new generation of women in tech by building great code AND by speaking up for diversity in tech. Her Formative Moment video (made in collaboration with Reddit's entrepreneur community) reminds us, once again, that community can often see something much bigger in us than we would chose for ourselves. Video spoiler alert: a dare or challenge from a colleague, pushed Tracy to pursue a technical degree.

"All my communications with my family back home were mediated through technology" - Rana el Kaliouby

Rana el Kaliouby's Aha! moment was that she could build technology to enhance human connections. Rana, who earned at PhD at Cambridge, is creating technology that can read emotions through facial expressions. Just imagine if that smartphone you're tethered to could get really smart about how you're feeling and make practical suggestions based on sentiment (doh! Monday's bum you out, so why are you scheduling meetings for Monday mornings!). Rana shares her story on why she's out to catch emotions before they are lost in cyberspace in this Formative Moment video.

"Lovework is the most ideal work: that work that, yes it can be hard, but it also feeds our soul." - Aisha Fukushima

Love work? Imagine saying that. Aisha Fukushima doesn't need to imagine a time or place when she loved her work, she does love work and wants the rest of us to as well. Aisha is public speaker, educator, singer, and 'RAPtivist' (rap activist). She founded RAPtivism (Rap Activism) a global hip hop project and in her Creative Mornings (Oakland) talk she shares the concept of Love Work: our ideal work is hard but the difficulty fuels our soul. Think about it, what is the most challenging work that has made you profoundly happy? I know my answer--and that love work is sitting on my editor's desk. What was again comforting was that this talented, inspirational entrepreneur (her first job at 16 was starting her own company) never had seen herself as a creator. Perhaps, a few more of us will shift our behind the scenes mindsets to front-and-center creator after listening to Aisha.

Beyond the big WOW inspiration of all these four young women have accomplished, my big takeaways from these innovators are:

  1. Invest in your own growth and learning, it is the best continual investment you can make.
  2. Always be open to making new connections, your ideas will thank you for it.
  3. Never fall into the trap of believing one person can't make a difference.
  4. A no is the water that causes big ideas to grow.