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Every Day You Have a Choice. Make it Count.

When I first uttered these words, it was to myself as I waited to be fed. My hands lay spent and useless from the morning’s therapy and would remain strapped into splints, immobile, until the following day. I had 45 minutes to eat and rest before resuming my afternoon grind of physical therapy.

I was committed to moving forward, but at that moment I felt infinite helplessness, compounded by the forlorn view through the small hospital window onto a bleak meadow where matted yellow winter grass poked through the sparse snow cover in intermittent clumps beneath a leaden gray sky. It was January of 2002 and by then, I had been in the “Big House,” as I called the hospitals, for over three months. Those six months of institutional care and rehab merely started the nearly decade long trench warfare to recover from the catastrophic injury I’d sustained on 9/11.

It was easy to feel overwhelmed by the enormity and the pressure of how far I still had to go. The gray steel, chain-linked security fence bordering the meadow and separating the hospital grounds from the world beyond offered a stark reminder of the prison my body had become. I felt a pang of barren loneliness; and then, as if in answer, the words came to my mind.

Every Day You Have a Choice. Make it Count.

Those words became my mantra, the expression of my commitment toward the rebuilding of my very uncertain future. Repeating and sharing that simple phrase with friends and others would prove reparative long past those difficult early days.

The terrorist attack had left me with an 82.5% total body burn. So replete was the injury that people came to me curiously unarmored and vulnerable, volunteering truthfully their own fears, doubts, failings and hopes. Perhaps it was because they saw in me someone so utterly compromised that they felt no prideful threat. But whatever their motivation, the inevitable result was a mutually beneficial catharsis, and I treasured the bonds we formed.

Recently, I sat down with Sallie Krawcheck for a panel on resilience with two other women, Deborah Norville and Jennifer Gilbert. All of us had endured a unique suffering. But whether emotional or physical or both, one message was clear during that discussion: each of these women had enormous strength and had used it to change course when circumstances were most difficult. As I wrote in my memoir, Unmeasured Strength, the ability to let that which wounds you become part of who you are without conquering who frees you to devote your greatest energies to moving forward. Moving from acceptance to action is how you may draw on your won Unmeasured Strength, and this was powerfully evident in this panel.

There are many women’s networks, but I think that Sallie Krawcheck’s Ellevate is all about what we need most; to be resilient. Krawcheck recently acquired and reinvigorated the legacy Wall Street women’s club 85 Broads, transforming it into Ellevate, a fast-growing network with over 30,000 members.

Many of you may remember Sallie Krawcheck as the CFO at Citibank who, after a nasty break-up with her firm, found herself out of a job. She has brought her extensive experience to her new gig and provided a living example of resilience. Dedicated to serving the needs of women, Ellevate calls women to action, to invest in themselves and one another.

“I knew I would get fired,” Sallie said of her departure from Citibank back in 2008. Yet with all the drama with which that episode was fraught, it seems to have been a good thing. Krawcheck is betting not only on tapping women’s needs to help one another more effectively, but the fund she started, Pax Ellevate Global Women’s Index Fund, is “the only mutual fund that invests in the top-rated companies in the world for advancing women.” Coming from Wall Street, I know well the reward for crisp, clear and economical use of words and I find solidarity in Krawcheck’s call to action.

We all have the power to change the course of our lives, and the future is ours for the taking.

Every Day You Have a Choice. Make it Count.