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In 2008, I was like most dynamic women: running on life’s treadmill, overbooking myself, pursuing all my passions at once. Ha. Trying to “live my best life” almost stole it from me.

I almost died from a brain aneurysm. It turned out to be a gift: The hectic pace of my life finally caught up and it was time to make a change. My recovery was amazing, according to doctors.

So what did I learn?

Focus. You need to start playing the record of your life at your speed, rather than letting it play you. Stress and change played a major role in my crisis. Forced to reframe my life due to the brain damage, I’m actually happier. I have to focus on one thing at a time, to value quality over quantity, and shut down when I need to so I can keep my mind calm.

Learn to say no. You don’t have to do it all or even try to foolishly pursue work-life balance. There is no such thing. You must prioritize and let go when it makes sense. Not everything may get equal attention at the same time. I now confidently turn things down to proactively make time for the work, people and projects that really matter.

Practice patience and acceptance. I’m an Italian redhead so patience was not in my vocabulary! I used to believe it meant stagnation but it doesn’t. Patience is taking small steps to get to your goal. As long as you make forward progress, that’s what counts.

I thought I could go from hospital bed to work – from zero to sixty – in six weeks. I steadily got back into the swing of things, which didn’t happen overnight but it did happen. Acceptance goes a long way towards patience. Again, I equated that word with “settling” but it’s about being honest with who you are and playing to your strengths. My cognitive damage made once-easy tasks difficult, but I learned to stop defining myself by the Old Me and embrace the New Me, realizing I still had many gifts to give.

Always find the humor. Nasty stuff is going to happen in life, but even in our darkest times, laughter lightens our load. Inappropriate? No, it’s a natural human reaction. Embrace it. This release clears your mind to effectively problem solve and adapt.

Learn from adversity. Find the gift. Only when tested by fire do we discover who we really are.

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Storytelling is an art, but Maria Ross has it down to a science. As a consultant, writer and speaker, she is chief brand strategist and creator of Red Slice, a digital elixir of stories and strategies to boost your business, your brand and your brain. She revels in helping solopreneurs and leading-edge small to mid-sized companies translate captivating stories into irresistible brands.

Proving that cash flow and creativity are not mutually exclusive, Maria is the author of two books, including her just released humorous and heartfelt memoir Rebooting My Brain: How a Freak Aneurysm Reframed My Life. A dynamic speaker, she is highly sought-after to present business and inspirational keynotes and has appeared on MSNBC, NPR and in Entrepreneur, The LA Times, Seattle Business and Columbus CEO.

Maria lives with her husband and their quirky Black Lab mix in Seattle, Washington but will soon be moving back to the San Francisco Bay Area.

For more information, please visit

This Post Has 5 Comments

  1. Maria, I loved your inspiring message. Focus and patience are so important in our world where we are supposed to be multitaskers and expect everything NOW. I am a stroke survivor (and a fellow IMT luminary) and have learned many similar lessons from my ordeal. (See my website at I am still in recovery with full recovery in sight. My biggest challenge has been to surrender, let go and let God since the power that created the body can heal the body. You and I seem to be made from the same cloth. 🙂 Would love to chat further, if you’re interested. It is always great to meet like-minded people.

    1. Lovely words, Erica. Congrats on your recovery and wise words as well. I find that people actually respect me more for purposefully slowing things down and saying, “wait, let’s focus on this thing before we jump over there!” Good for you for finding the message in your adversity as well and turning into something rich and positive. Contnued good health and happiness!

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