Top 75 Overcoming Adversity Speakers

  • By Aaron Peterson
  •  Jul 27, 2023

When you think of overcoming adversity, what words come to mind? Resiliency and strength come to mind. Our top 75 overcoming adversity speakers have been through tragic, challenging, and seemingly impossible struggles and worked hard to find a path through. Learn what adversity they faced and what they’ve achieved since then by booking one of these speakers to talk to your audience.

1. Chris Singleton

When a gunman opened fire on members of the Emanuel Church in South Carolina, Chris Singleton lost his mother. That senseless tragedy set Chris on a path of resiliency and forgiveness after he left baseball to become a speaker on overcoming adversity. He’s spoken to more than 100,000 students and educators, businesses like Boeing and Microsoft, and teams like the Washington Wizards. He’s also written a bestselling children’s book “Different – A Story About Loving Your Neighbor.”

2. Lauren Sisler

Lauren Sisler was a Rutgers University freshman when she learned both of her parents had died. She never knew they were addicted to prescription drugs. Through her pain, she set herself on a new path to find hope and healing in the face of tragedy and emerge stronger and ready to share her story with others.

3. Adam Markel

Adam Markel’s dive into overcoming adversity started as an ocean first responder, in an unforgiving environment where teamwork and precise performance are key. He uses the lessons he learned to show businesses how resilience is essential if you want to embrace change and use it to grow individually and as a team.

4. Ryan Shazier

During one wrong tackle, Ryan Shazier became partially paralyzed. His severe spinal cord injury left him needing surgery and learning that there was an 80% chance that he’d never walk again. He opted to persevere and prove doctors wrong. He’s gone from being immobile to walking with just one cane.

5. Cassandra Worthy

In the middle of a $5 billion company acquisition, Cassandra Worthy almost gave in to the extreme stress she was under. Had she walked out, she knows she never would have returned, leading to another African-American woman leaving a STEM job. She opted to stay and transform the culture of acquisition and become inspired and excited for change.

6. Michael Oher

You might not recognize the name Michael Oher, but you likely know his story. He’s the teen football player featured in “The Blind Side.” He was the son of an addict and absentee father, and he ended up attending almost a dozen schools in his first nine years in school. He was taken in by Sean and Leigh Anne Tuohy who gave him the love and security he needed to succeed through high school, college, and the NFL. He’s retired now and talks to audiences about his rough childhood and determination to rise above it.

7. Dave Sanderson

Dave Sanderson is another name you might not recognize, but you’ll know his story. He was on US Airways Flight 1549, the flight that landed in the Hudson River in the middle of January. He was the last passenger in the back, and he got into the freezing cold water to help other passengers disembark and get to safety. He travels the world sharing his inspirational story about making a difference in extremely tough situations.

8. Natalie Stavas

In 2013, Dr. Natalie Stavas went from being a Boston Marathon runner to a person who saved lives. She was nearing the finish line when the bombs went off. She ran to the area where the explosions happened and started triaging the wounded, administering CPR, and applying tourniquets. She was awarded the Boston Globe “2013 Bostonian of the Year.” She strives to help prevent childhood violence and travels outside of the U.S. to provide medical care to children.

9. Magie Cook

Magie Cook grew up in a Mexican orphanage and broke her collarbone, which ended her chance to play basketball on the Mexican National Team. She was able to immigrate to the U.S. on a basketball scholarship, but after graduation, she couldn’t find a job and ended up homeless. Her friend entered her salsa in a cooking competition and that changed her life. Maggie’s All-Natural Fresh Salsa turned into a multi-million-dollar business that she sold to Campbell’s Soup for $231 million and turned her goal to stopping human sex trafficking.

10. Chris Moon

You may have seen Chris Moon on Discovery’s “I Shouldn’t Be Alive.” The former British Army Officer entered what was supposedly a safe area of a minefield in Africa when a landmine exploded. He lost his arm and leg, but as he was remote, he had to treat himself until he arrived in South Africa 14 hours later. He survived and a year after leaving the hospital ran in the London Marathon. He’s the first amputee ultra-distance runner and shares his experiences of being taken prisoner by the Khmer Rouge, losing limbs, and continuing to push himself to do more and try new things.

11. Brian Bogert

Brian Bogert was just seven years old when he was run over and left with a completely severed arm. More than two surgeries later and after hours spent in rehabilitation, he learned that the emotional, mental, and physical pain can be even harder to overcome than the initial trauma. He travels the nation helping people understand how to embrace pain and use it to achieve everything they want.

12. Grant Hill

NBA player Grant Hill faced a severe MRSA infection in 2003. He needed ankle surgery, and five days after that surgery, he was at home and started convulsing and was found to have a high fever. The incision on his ankle had opened and a staph infection landed him in the hospital for a skin graft surgery and a week-long stay. He had to have IV antibiotics for six months, preventing him from playing in the 2003 to 2004 season. He shares that experience of facing death for unclear reasons but fighting through it and using that experience to help others find the strength to keep going.

13. James ‘Jamie’ Lassner

On September 11th, Jamie Lassner was one of the first responders at Ground Zero. Injuries he received on the job led to the need for half a dozen surgeries and severe PTSD. After a year of therapy and support from his family, friends, and ambulance crew, he travels the globe sharing his experience and how even in the worst situation, there’s always a way to power through.

14. Jason Schechterle

Over 20 years ago, Jason Schechterle was on patrol when a taxi rear-ended his patrol car. His car burst into flames with the impact, but he was trapped. He survived but had severe burns over close to half of his body, leaving him in a coma for months. He underwent almost five dozen surgeries to restore necessary function to his body and has struggled with the physical and mental aftermath. He speaks honestly to audiences about fighting for your life and overcoming what seems like impossible odds.

15. Austin Hatch

Austin Hatch and his family were flying to Fort Wayne, Indiana, for a Labor Day vacation when the aircraft they were in crashed. His dad threw him off the plane and went back to get Austin’s mom, sister, and brother. He was unsuccessful in his attempt. The pair grieved but realized the family wouldn’t have wanted them to stop living, so they kept going and Austin’s dad remarried. Eight years later, Austin was offered a full scholarship to The University of Michigan. He, his dad, and his mom flew to Northern Michigan to celebrate, but the plane crashed again and both were killed on impact and he was in a coma for almost three months. He had to learn how to walk, talk, and function again. Despite the unbelievable tragedies, he shares his message of “Grit & Thriving in Adversity” with people across the nation.

16. Devon Harris

Devon Harris is best known as the man behind the team of Jamaican bobsledders who made it to the Winter Olympics. Devon went from life in a ghetto to an Olympian athlete by sticking to his life motto, “Yes, I can!” He’s the founder of the Keep on Pushing Foundation, a group that supplies Kingston’s children with school supplies, computers, and breakfasts, and a popular keynote speaker on overcoming obstacles.

17. Amberly Lago

When riding her motorcycle, Amberly Lago was hit by an SUV and needed almost three dozen surgeries to save her leg. After that, she developed CPRS, a chronic, incurable pain disease that destroyed her confidence and caused depression. She was ready to give up, but she remembered something her grandfather told her and decided to find something positive to keep her going. She’s the author of “True Grit and Grace” and shares her story with people who need to persevere through what seems like impossible challenges.

18. Maja Kazazic

Maja Kazazic’s life changed in 1993 when a rocket-propelled grenade hit her courtyard killing five of her friends, shattering her legs, and peppering her face and arms with shrapnel. Her leg became infected and had to be amputated without anesthesia due to the lack of medical supplies available at the makeshift hospital. She was one of three children evacuated from Bosnia to Maryland for proper treatment. Experiencing severe PTSD, her doctor recommended she adopt a Great Dane that also was an amputee. That one change lessened the panic attacks and night terrors she experienced and led her on a path to help others who have experienced tragedies and need to find a way through them.

19. Molly Bloom

Molly Bloom was diagnosed with scoliosis as a teen and had to undergo spinal surgery that doctors said would end her skiing career. A year later, she was back on the slopes and made it to the U.S. Ski Team, ranked third in moguls. She set her sights on the Olympics but ended up pursuing a degree in Political Science and becoming an accidental entrepreneur while applying to law school. She turned her experiences into the foundation of One World Group and travels the nation talking to audiences about facing challenges head-on.

20. Jermaine O’Neal

Jermaine O’Neal dreamed of playing basketball from a young age and wanted to be like his idols Bill Russell and Hakeem Olajuwon. It all came crashing down when he (17) and his 15-year-old girlfriend were found in bed together by her father. Despite her insistence it was consensual, her father had Jermaine charged with statutory rape. The district attorney dropped the charges, but the stress Jermaine experienced for months was almost too much. It would be his mother’s new boyfriend who encouraged him to return to his favorite sport. That wouldn’t be the end of his struggles. He’d also see his stepfather lying in bed after shooting himself in the head and having to make decisions that his mom was unable to make. His stepfather survived, and he shares those stories to show that resilience, determination, and love are all important in overcoming adversity.

21. Jake Olson

He’s gone from losing his vision at the age of 12 to achieving his dream of playing college football. Jake Olson was less than a year old when he was diagnosed with a type of cancer known as retinoblastoma, and two months later, the disease would take his left eye. He lost his right eye to the same disease in 2009. Vision loss hasn’t stopped him. He became the first completely blind college football player and uses his experience in his non-profit foundation that supports cancer research and visually-impaired children.

22. Jimmie Gardner

Jimmie Gardner was drafted by the Chicago Bus in 1984 and then moved to the Charleston Wheelers when he was part of a group of men rounded up to find the black male who assaulted two elderly women. He was cleared of that as he didn’t match the description or the forensic evidence. Two years later, he was extradited from Florida to West Virginia and charged with robbery, burglary, assault, and sexual assault. He ended up being acquitted of one charge but convicted for the other. Almost 30 years later, he was released after it came out that he was wrongfully incarcerated and imprisoned. Rather than be bitter and stew on all that happened, he shares his experience and message of staying positive with church groups, community organizations, teams, and students.

23. Manti Te’o

Overcoming adversity is hard enough, but when you were the victim of catfishing, there’s also a level of blaming yourself that made it hard for Manti Te’o. He was tied to a scandal in which his online girlfriend died from cancer, but it came out that she never existed and was actually a fake persona created by Naya Tuiasosopo, a person struggling with gender and sexual identity. The experience and aftermath of people who criticized him for believing his girlfriend was real impacted his mental health. His story would be told in “Untold: The Girlfriend Who Didn’t Exist.” It's also an important part of the story he shares about overcoming adversity and becoming a leader.

24. Shaquem Griffin

Shaquem Griffin was born without fully-developed fingers due to amniotic band syndrome. At four, his left hand was amputated. He never let that stop him from playing sports with his twin brother. After accepting a scholarship to the University of Central Florida, his brother was immediately put into the starting lineup and drafted by the Seattle Seahawks in the third round of the 2017 draft. Shaquem had been redshirted and became the 2018 Peach Bowl Defensive MVP after hard work and determination. He was drafted by the Seahawks after that and proved himself with the fastest 40-yard dash time for a linebacker.

25. Lt Col Waldo Waldman

His nickname is “The Wingman” and Lt Col Waldo Waldman is the author of “Never Fly Solo.” His story is a little different as he didn’t face a life-or-death situation like some of our other overcoming adversity speakers. Instead, he’s extremely relatable for many as he had to overcome his fear of heights and claustrophobia to achieve his dreams. He wanted to become a fighter pilot, but that’s a tough order when your phobias include heights and enclosed spaces. Still, he powered through and learned the skills needed to perform under intense anxiety and pressure and become resilient.

26. Chris Norton

Chris Norton lost all movement and feeling from the neck down while playing college football. Doctors said there was a 97% chance he’d never regain movement. He proved them wrong. He wasn’t going to stop trying. He wasn’t about to let the circumstances shape the life he wanted to lead. He walked across the stage to get his college degree and he walked his bride down the aisle. He is one of the ITA Group’s “Hottest Keynote Speakers” and enjoys sharing his story and tips for unlocking the “Power to Stand.”

27. Ryan Leaf

“Asking for help is a sign of strength, not weakness!.” That’s the powerful message Ryan Leaf wants everyone to know. No matter what they’ve faced, it’s so important to share your problem and ask for help. Ryan was an NFL quarterback who spent two years with the Chargers and then was traded from one team to the next, often due to his behavior, lack of self-discipline, and injuries. After that, he had a brain tumor removed, attempted suicide, and spent time in jail for burglary and drug charges. His mental health issues plagued him for much of his life, but prison helped him grow and discover humility. Today, he speaks honestly to groups and organizations about mental health, substance abuse, and spiritual growth.

28. Connor Fields

From the age of 12, Connor Fields dreamed of becoming an Olympian. He fulfilled those dreams and became the first American to win Olympic BMX Gold. Not everything has been easy. He was in one of the worst crashes in Summer Olympics history and broke multiple ribs, tore ligaments in his shoulder and arm, collapsed a lung, and had severe brain injuries including four brain hemorrhages. His traumatic brain injuries wiped his memories of even competing in the Olympics from him. It was then that he realized that life isn’t about being perfect, it’s about living purposefully. He worked hard to recover and got back on his bike and conquered the fear rather than letting it limit him.

29. Shannon Miller

Shannon Miller won seven Olympic medals and is a 2x U.S. Olympic Hall of Fame inductee. She’s also a survivor. In 2011, she was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. A baseball-sized tumor was removed from an ovary, and she had to undergo three cycles of aggressive chemotherapy treatments. She was cleared of germ-cell ovarian cancer in 2011. Book her to share her story and talk about her book “It’s Not About Perfect: Competing for My Country and My Life.”

30. Jeremy Poincenot

At the age of 19, Jeremy Poincenot was a typical college teen with friends, family, and something he took for granted, perfect vision. Over several months, the vision in his right eye diminished, and then it was in the left. He was diagnosed with Leber’s Hereditary Optic Neuropathy (LHON), a rare, incurable disease. While he first thought the loss of vision meant the end of his love of golf, his dad’s support showed him that he could still play. He competed in the 2010 World Blind Golf Championship and won. He’s won 11 championships in all and is a San Diego Hall of Champions Challenged Athlete of the Year. He and his friend created the annual C.U.R.E. Ride and have raised more than $300,000 for LHON research.

31. Eric LeGrand

While making a tackle during a game, Eric LeGrand lost all feeling from his shoulders down. He refuses to let his paralysis define him. During his recovery, he kept saying, “It’s not whether you keep breathing, it’s whether you keep breathing how you want to breathe.” His dream was to play for the NFL, and that dream came true when the Buccaneers signed him as an undrafted free agent. He’s a role model in staying strong and persevering, even in the worst odds.

32. Jason Redman

Former Lieutenant Jason Redman was a Navy SEAL for 11 years and 10 of those years were as a SEAL Officer. His Assault Team was under heavy fire when he was badly wounded. He’s known for having a big orange sign on his door at Bethesda Naval Medical Center telling people who were saddened by his injury to stay out. He only wanted positivity in his room. He uses the lessons he learned from overcoming adversity as a Navy SEAL to help business leaders, teams, and government organizations learn to overcome adversity and build strong leadership skills.

33. Rod Blagojevich

Rod Blagojevich became Illinois’ first Democratic governor in 26 years. He was also the first governor to be impeached for public corruption and sentenced to 14 years in prison, a sentence that ex-President Trump would commute. He’s maintained from the start that he’s innocent and is building a media company that moves past the parties and addresses issues that impact the nation while looking for solutions that help everyone and not one party or the other.

34. Tyree Washington

Tyree Washington’s mother neglected him for all of his life. At the age of 12, he joined the Crips seeking a family he’d never had and to be able to feed himself and his sister. When a close friend was murdered, he knew he had to change. He received a scholarship to the University of Oregon where he became a star track athlete before becoming a world champion winning Bronze in the 1997 World Championships. When teammates tested positive for steroids, the award was taken from him. The same would happen in 2003. Worse, his sister and her boyfriend murdered his niece, and he had to testify against them. He’s faced some of the worst situations, and he’s powered through them always trying to “be better.”

35. Dara Torres

Dara Torres was 15 when she broke her first world record. She’d go on to compete in five Olympics and win four Gold, four Silver, and four Bronze. Along the way, she overcame bullying, eating disorders, injuries, and lack of self-esteem and uses what she learned to share her message with audiences of all ages.

36. Hector Guadalupe

Hector Guadalupe sold drugs for the first time at the age of 13. At 23, he was arrested and indicted for drug distribution and given a 10-year sentence. In prison, he spent more than 30 months in solitary confinement and used meditation skills he’d learned to get through it. He turned to weightlifting, running, and Yoga to stay in shape and release his angst. Eventually, he completed a correspondence program to become a certified personal trainer. He started his career helping inmates and then friends after his release. He overcame adversity to found A Second U Foundation and helps people released from jail find careers in the fitness and wellness industry, a program that has helped hundreds keep from returning to prison.

37. JJ Birden

Following a lackluster performance at the University of Oregon, JJ Birden wasn’t sure he’d make it to the NFL. Despite all that, he was invited to the NFL Combine which brought him to the draft However, after five days, four teams had rejected him. He didn’t let that stop him and ended up playing for nine seasons and helped him with the tips provided in his book “When Opportunity Knocks: 8 Surefire Ways to Take Advantage.” His talks include his honest insight on success having to be earned as it’s not just given freely.

38. Devon Still

Devon Still played professional football and was a Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year and All-American. The adversity he faced came when his daughter was diagnosed with cancer. He vowed to help her “beat up cancer” and that became a cancer-fighting journey that people around the world followed. He established the Still Strong Foundation to raise money for families battling childhood cancer.

39. Carly Patterson

Carly Patterson became the second American woman to win Olympic all-around gold. She was the first woman to win the title in 20 years. That Olympic performance launched her into popularity, but after the Olympics, she was diagnosed with several bulging discs. She was told she’d have to give up her Olympic dream if she wanted to be able to walk in the future. She retired in 2006 and wrote her autobiography “Be Strong,” about the determination it took to become a gold medalist. That wasn’t the only time she had to overcome adversity. She struggled with infertility and had to come to terms with a roadblock that might end her dream of becoming a mom.

40. Dion Leonard

Dion Leonard was 250 pounds and a heavy drinker and smoker trying to hide from childhood abuse. He was doing well climbing the ladder in sales and marketing, but he wasn’t happy with himself. He took up running and learned that the longer he ran, the more he had to learn to tap into his strengths to overcome obstacles. While running in a 155-mile race across the Gobi Desert, he came across a dog that was by his side across the Tian Shan Mountains. He named the dog Gobi and decided that his new friend had to be part of his new life and made plans to fundraise and bring her back to Scotland with him.

41. Alvin Law

Alvin Law was born with no arms, but the family who adopted him taught him how to use his feet instead. That helped him embrace a life of freedom and being able to take care of himself. He’s a firm believer in finding the power within yourself in what he calls the “Attitude Revolution.” He’s spoken around the world to more than 7,500 organizations using humor, storytelling, and music to capture his audience’s attention.

42. Dave Dravecky

Dave Dravecky was living his dream as an MLB pitcher when he learned he has cancer and half of the deltoid muscle in his pitching arm had to be removed. After surviving the odds, he defied his doctors and got back on the pitching mound after a year. Five days later, he threw a pitch and his arm split in two. He learned the cancer was back and he had to have his arm, shoulder blade, and collarbone amputated. He thought his dream was over, but he turned it into a new career helping people around the world take the loss they experience to find hope.

43. Nick Santonastasso

Nick Santonastasso turned his genetic health condition (Hanhart Syndrome) into a position as one of the top overcoming adversity speakers in the world. He was born without legs and only one arm, but he’s never slowed down. He became a high school athlete, bodybuilder, and fitness model. As a keynote speaker, he’s shared his story with Fortune 500s and students around the world.

44. Liza Pavlakos

Liza Pavlakos is one of Real Leaders' “Top 10 Female Speakers Globally” and holds the “Toastmasters Golden Gavel Award.” The challenges she’s faced are shocking, having been homeless at 16, assaulted to the point facial reconstruction was necessary, and survived a kidnapping attempt at 19. At 20, she became a single mom and within three years was a thriving entrepreneur. She talks around the world about the power of resilience and determination.

45. Eduardo Garcia

Chef Eduardo Garcia’s career began at the young age of 15. After culinary school, he became a private chef on luxury yachts. Once he’d traveled the world experiencing cuisines from across the globe, he returned to Montana to found Montana Mex. In 2011, he was elk hunting when he came across a bear carcass and didn’t realize there was a live power line behind it. He was electrocuted and gravely injured. He had to walk three miles to get help. Half of his arm was amputated, several ribs had to be removed, and he learned he had cancer. Even through that, he refused to give up. He’s an expert speaker on “I refuse to quit.”

46. Chad Foster

Chad Foster became Harvard Business School’s Program for Leadership Development’s first blind executive graduate. He lost his sight in college, but he used that to develop a tech career that has led to more than $45 billion in contracts. His journey is paved by ambition, determination, and resilience, all lessons he shares with athletic teams and corporate audiences.

47. Rob Paylor

Rob Paylor was in the middle of a collegiate rugby national championship when a spinal cord injury paralyzed him from the neck down. He was told he’d never move his hands or walk again. He’s defying the odds. He’s regaining strength and is on the path to mobility. He shares his struggles, accomplishments, and drive to overcome his emotional and physical challenges.

48. Tony Hoffman

After a two-year sentence for robbery, Tony Hoffman left prison with four life goals. He wanted to become a professional BMX racer, go to the Olympics, start a non-profit, and become a mental health and addiction speaker. He’s working hard to achieve each goal. He coached Brooke Crain to a 4 th place finish in the Rio Olympics, founded the Freewheel Project, and is the owner of pH Wellness. He’s one of the world’s most popular mental health and substance use speakers who helps others gain the tools to change their lives.

49. Melissa Stockwell

Melissa Stockwell is an All-American girl who became a Second Lieutenant in the U.S. Army. Three weeks into her deployment in Baghdad, a roadside bomb blast hit the Humvee she was in and led to half her leg being amputated. After several additional surgeries and infections, she was medically retired. That didn’t stop her. She became the first Iraqi War Veteran to qualify for the Paralympics and is a 3x World Champion in Paratriathlon. She’s a motivational speaker on overcoming adversity with experience talking to media outlets and Fortune 500 companies.

50. Susie Moore

At one point in her life, Susie Moore was making bank as a Silicon Valley sales director. The experiences she had made her realize there was a better way. She left that to become a life coach and advice columnist. She wrote “What If It Does Work Out?” and “Let It Be Easy: Simple Ways to Stop Stressing & Start Living” in her new career. What people may not know is that she grew up in an abusive household and that led to her realizing that sometimes it’s necessary to push past fear to find freedom.

51. J.R. Martinez

While serving in Iraq, J.R. Martinez received burns over a third of his body when his Humvee hit an IED. He underwent 33 plastic surgeries and skin grafts during his recovery. He turned that emotionally, physically, and mentally painful experience into a career as a motivational speaker. He travels the world sharing his story about never throwing away an opportunity to grow, even in the most challenging of times.

52. Jim Davidson

Jim Davidson was in the Himalayas when a 7.8 earthquake hit the area. Situated at Camp One, 11 days passed before he was rescued by helicopter and turned his attention to rescuing others. He encourages his audience to find resilience and then use that resilience to lift someone else past a challenge to ensure the cycle continues.

53. Marques Ogden

Marques Ogden went from the NFL to a failed business owner. He left football to start a career in contracting, but after losing close to $2 million in 90 days, the company was bankrupt. He didn’t let that destroy him. He took a job as a custodian and started over. He rose from the ashes and became a top speaker on adversity and the drive to keep trying.

54. Ashlee Lundvall

While at a Wyoming youth camp, a ranching accident left Ashlee Lundvall with a complete spinal cord injury. She went from being an active, athletic teen to one who would spend the rest of her life in a wheelchair. She never let that stop her. She earned degrees in Public Affairs and Biblical Counseling and founded Wyoming Disabled Hunters. Rather than give up, she found new ways to participate in her favorite outdoor activities like fly fishing, camping, kayaking, and hand cycling. She advocates for other injured people who want to engage in adapted recreational activities.

55. Ruben Gonzalez

He’s the first person to compete in the Winter Olympics in four different decades. He took up luge at the age of 21 and competed in the Calgary Winter Olympics at the age of 25. He became the oldest luge competitor in the Vancouver Olympics at the age of 47 and became the oldest international luge competitor at 55. Ask him about a personalized talk on topics like overcoming challenges and finding the motivation to keep going.

56. Adam Breneman

After receiving scholarship offers from 30 different schools, Adam Breneman chose Penn State where he became a Freshman All-American. He advocated for the school that was struggling after the Jerry Sandusky scandal. Injuries proved to be a problem and he retired from football in his third season with Penn State. He recovered enough to transfer to the University of Massachusetts where he broke records. Right before he was due to be drafted by the NFL, a knee injury forced him back into retirement. His love of the game didn’t stop. Instead, he turned to becoming a college football analyst and broadcaster. Nothing stops Adam from achieving his dreams, and he shares his insights on perseverance with audiences big and small.

57. Kathleen Klawitter

Kathleen Klawitter was an inspiring LPGA golf pro teaching the “High Five System.” Her life took a tragic U-turn when a golf ball hit her directly in the head resulting in a TBI. She had to learn new tools and techniques in order to read, write, and speak again. All the while, she remained upbeat and thankful that she survived. She shares her experience to help others transform their lives in times of distress and tragedy.

58. Sara Ross

Sara Ross was a teen when her dad taught her an important lesson about being competitive. Being competitive is good, but it’s not good when your competitive nature turns you into someone else. He taught her that it’s okay to win, but it’s not okay to play unfairly. Later in her career, her friend told her she was invested in work and burning out. She had to stop and think about the nature of being competitive again. She turned those experiences into a business that teaches how to overcome adversity, become resilient, and manage stress.

59. Jeremy Bloom

Jeremy Bloom was an 11x World Cup gold medalist, 3x World Champion, and 2x Olympian. He’s the only athlete to ski in the Olympics and get drafted into the NFL. Not everything in his life has been a big success, and he uses the failure he’s experienced to learn important lessons. He shares those lessons through his talks and keynote speeches on using defeat to drive success.

60. Eric Bigger

While you may have seen him on “The Bachelorette” and think he’s a pretty lucky guy, it hasn’t always been this way. He grew up in Baltimore and watched friends die, family members become addicts, and being surrounded by drugs and crime. He was determined to do more with his life and earned a degree in Entrepreneurship and become an advocate for helping others live every moment as the best moment of their lives and to overcome struggles by talking openly about mental health and his tips from his book “Transformation” and “100 Days of Wisdom.”

61. Courtney Clark

When melanoma is diagnosed, the average age of the patient is 65. Sometimes, younger people are diagnosed with this form of skin cancer and Courtney Clark is one of them. Five years later, follow-up screenings found she had a brain aneurysm that was about to burst. She uses her experience as the “luckiest unlucky person in the world” to teach others about resilience. She’s the author of “The Successful Struggle: Powerful Techniques to Achieve Accelerated Resilience.” Book Courtney to talk to your organization about personal and professional resiliency.

62. Kendall Burton

She was born with a cleft lip and palate and needed almost 24 surgeries by the time she was 17. At 18, she had a stroke in her first year of college. She didn’t let that stop her and found her way back onto the softball field where she was able to achieve her dream of playing in the Women’s College World Series.

63. Shamiel Gary

Shamiel Gary is on a mission “to creatively inspire the world – rich or poor, old or young, marginalized or famed – to overcome life’s many adversities and realize their dreams are meant to empower others. He’s a former NFL player who switched to being a big part of his daughter’s life, even writing a children’s book about her, but he’s also been impacted by his grandmother’s battle with Alzheimer’s and his mom’s cancer battle. He believes strongly that there is no time to waste when it comes to sharing your time and energy with those you love.

64. Adam “The Road Warrior” Gorlitsky

He’d grown up playing basketball and running track and cross country, so hearing he was paralyzed was not news Adam “The Road Warrior” Gorlitsky wanted to hear. One tragic car accident changed his life, but he didn’t let it stop him. Ten years later, he had the chance to try out the ReWalk robotic exoskeleton, a device that allowed him to stand, walk around, and be weight-bearing. He felt empowered and fundraised to have his own ReWalk exoskeleton and do the unbelievable. He wanted to walk the 10k in his hometown known as the Cooper River Bridge Run. He’s gone on to cross the finish line in more than four dozen races and broke a Guinness World Record in the process.

65. Ngozi Musa

Ngozi Musa is a talented athlete who’s experienced some injuries in track and field, but her main encounter with adversity came when she found that only 21% of Division I student-athletes are black. It surprised her as she was on a diverse team. It also made her realize that change is needed, no matter which sport it is, as representation is so important to girls. She created the “Aesthetics & Athletics” podcast to empower minorities and women to be courageous and make their mark in the world.

66. Zion Clark

Zion Clark was born with caudal regression syndrome, a rare genetic disease that determines how the body develops in the womb. It can lead to loss of bowel and bladder function, numbness in the lower limbs, and undersized hip bones that limits the range of motion. He grew up in the foster care system and struggled to thrive, but he did. He was tenacious and determined to succeed. He’s won two Emmys thanks to his Netflix documentary, holds a Guinness World record, and is an All-American wrestler. He’s beaten the odds and forms an emotional connection with his audience to share his tale of triumphing through personal struggles.

67. Amy Purdy

When flu-like symptoms became something far worse, Amy Purdy went into septic shock and went into organ and respiratory failure. She was put into a medical coma and placed on life support with a less than 2% survival rate. Doctors discovered she had the bacterial infection meningococcal meningitis. Both legs were amputated and she had to have a kidney transplant. Three months after that transplant, she entered the USASA National Snowboarding Championship and won three medals. She went on to win a 2014 Paralympic Bronze Medalist. Despite the odds, she’s gone on to achieve her dreams and help others achieve theirs as the co-founder of Adaptive Action Sports.

68. Chris Waddell

Chris Waddell is an avid skier, but he feared that his passion might come to an end after a ski came off and left him with two broken vertebrae and a paralyzing spinal cord injury. Instead, he learned mono-skiing and became a member of the U.S. Disabled Ski Team. After winning 12 medals, he was inducted into the Paralympics Hall of Fame and the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Hall of Fame. He shares his experience in never giving in to adversity.

69. Cameron Dobbs

CNN calls her the “Difference Maker.” Cameron Dobbs was a star volleyball player with a full scholarship to the University of Miami. Three seasons into her college career, she suffered a concussion that ended her career and dreams of playing professionally. She had no choice but to retire in 2020. Instead of backing away and giving up on herself, she decided to make a difference and advocate for mental health and sports injuries. She’s now a coach to her former team.

70. Jeff Eben

When he was 16, a water skiing accident left Jeff Eben paralyzed and distressed. He’d been a star athlete and couldn’t see where his life would go now. Every day, his high school coach visited him in the hospital and asked the same question that would change his life. His coach would ask, “How many wins have you had today?” That question became the title of his autobiography and a main point in the message he shares in speaking engagements around the world.

71. Vincent A. Lanci

Vincent Lanci was doing something as simple as walking when he was the victim of a hit and run and suffered a traumatic brain injury and broken bones in his leg that required the surgical insertion of a titanium rod. Doctors were not certain he’d survive, but he did, and then worries shifted to whether he’d be able to walk or talk. He’s overcome the odds, something he also details in his book “Left for Dead” and his work as a trauma coach.

72. Jamie MoCrazy

By the age of 18, Jamie MoCrazy had won Junior World Championships in skiing and moved to Utah to train in professional slopestyle and halfpipe skiing. She had dreams of making it to the Olympics, but a bad landing would leave her with a traumatic brain injury that left her unable to perform simple things like walking. Her sister created the #MoCrazyStrong hashtag to rally support. She’s a popular speaker on overcoming adversity and becoming motivated.

73. Jack Jablonski

Like most Minnesotans, Jack Jablonski hit the ice to pass the time in the winter. He learned other sports, but his passion for hockey only grew from the young age of three through his dreams of playing for the NHL that ended in high school when he was hit by another player and went headfirst into the boards. That bad hit left him paralyzed. While he doesn’t play for the NHL, he did get a job with the Los Angeles Kings. He’s an engaging speaker on how you can have your dreams end in a heartbeat, but it doesn’t have to stop you from finding a new path forward.

74. Adam Bremen

Growing up in a wheelchair may have been the norm for Adam Bremen, but he wasn’t happy about being overweight while confined to that wheelchair. He followed a keto-based diet to lose 65 pounds. He developed the “It’s about what you can do, not what you can’t” mindset to bring his diet product, Keto Krisp, from his home kitchen to the general market. He’s continued to strive for more from life, pairing with Life Rolls On to learn how to surf, something he never thought cerebral palsy would allow him to do.

75. Tommie Harris

Tommie Harris was picked by the Chicago Bears in the 2004 NFL Draft and spent six years with the team. During that time, they beat the Saints for the NFC Championship and he was chosen for the 2006, 2007, and 2008 Pro Bowls. Four after the birth of their second child, Tommie’s wife passed away from a brain aneurysm. He went from being a happily married father of two to a grieving single dad. He took a break from football to focus on his family’s needs. He launched The Locker Room to help boys and men of all ages find the strength it takes to be a winner, even in the toughest situations.

Learn more about our top 75 overcoming adversity speakers by reading their bios at Engage. When you’ve found the right speaker for your business, organization, or team’s needs, easily book that speaker online.