I had the privilege of attending the 43rd Biennial Convention of Soroptimist International of the Americas in beautiful Vancouver, Canada. What an amazing feeling it was to be with 1,000 other women from around the world who are working to help women and girls live their dreams. Soroptimist is a global volunteer organization working to improve the lives of women and girls through programs leading to social and economic empowerment.
- Check out the Soroptimist online volunteer network – LiveYourDream.org
- Find a Soroptimist club in your area - http://www.soroptimist.org/whoweare/clubs.html
At the convention I was honored to be invited to present a workshop with my good friend and fellow Soroptimist, Joan Merritt. Our program was entitled, The Power of Making Connections. Our goal was to help these motivated women to learn how to develop themselves personally and professionally by building a more powerful and global network. What more perfect place to practice networking than at an international conference.
Joan and I opened the workshop with two real examples of how making connections can not only change your world, but also can create good for many people.
Joan’s story of making powerful connections
Serving as Membership Chair for Soroptimist International of Northeastern Region, she received an email inquiry from a woman named Deborah Lake Fortson from the Boston, Massachusetts area. Joan noticed that Deborah listed “playwright” as her occupation. Joan suddenly felt a little intimidated, wondering why a playwright would be interested in becoming a Soroptimist. But she overcame that bit of fear and doubt and picked up the telephone to call Deborah and to introduce herself. As it turns out, Deborah wrote a documentary play about teen sex trafficking in the US. It was called BODY & SOLD.
After making the initial connection with Deborah on the telephone, Joan drove two hours to have coffee with her. Their connection quickly blossomed into opportunity. Before long, Joan had helped Deborah secure venues and sponsors to produce her important play, Body and Sold, in six different regions across New England, helping to raise awareness that human trafficking and sexual exploitation exists not only in underdeveloped countries, but also is a serious problem right here in the United States.
At Joan’s invitation, Deborah Lake Fortson was a keynote speaker at the Soroptimist International of the America’s 2006 convention in Philadelphia, PA. Her production, Body & Sold, was also performed in front of an audience of thousands of Soroptimists. Deborah thanked Joan Merritt from the podium for making this important connection – one that opened the doors to an enormous opportunity that would inspire thousands of people into action.
- To learn more about the issue of human trafficking and how you can help to stop it, visit the Soroptimist web site – http://www.soroptimist.org/trafficking/faq.html
- To read more about the documentary play, Body & Sold, and the national movement to raise awareness about sex trafficking of American children and teens, visit http://www.bodyandsold.org/
Networking lessons to be learned from Joan’s story:
- We must overcome our self-doubts and fear in order to make new connections. Just do it and you’ll experience how good it feels to make powerful new connections.
- Picking up the telephone and making the effort to meet people in person still produces the BEST networking results!
- The spirit of networking is “Helping Others and Asking for Help.” You must get comfortable at giving and receiving help. Mutually beneficial relationships always address both sides of this networking coin.
Kathy’s story of making powerful connections
I opened the workshop with the most relevant story that I could think of. It was the story of how I met Kayce Jennings, and how I helped create a powerful opportunity that extended to the far corners of the globe! Kayce was the keynote speaker and addressed the entire convention body earlier that morning. Kayce is Executive Vice President of The Documentary Group and served as the Senior Producer of the film, Girl Rising: a powerful story of how educating girls can break cycles of poverty in just one generation.
If you haven’t yet seen this film, you must. Watch this short teaser for the film – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CdMNwhnAOrk
- You can buy the DVD or get the download at: \http://girlrising.com/see-the-film/index.html#purchase
I first learned of Girl Rising and heard about Kayce Jennings while sitting in the chair of my hairdresser, Karen Roche, difference maker and owner of the Karen Elizabeth Salon & Academy in West Hartford, CT. It’s amazing the kinds of conversations you can have while getting your hair done by a motivated stylist! Karen told me about the release of the film Girl Rising that she wanted to get involved with. In fact, she had volunteered to host a film screening in her town. She was also brave enough to call the organization and see if someone could come and facilitate a discussion. With persistence, her request was honored and Kayce Jennings came to Connecticut for a special fundraising evening and moderated discussion. That’s when I first shook Kayce’s hand.
Several months later, Karen organized a small group of us to travel to New York City to take Kayce out to lunch, and explore other ways in which we could help fuel the global girls education movement. It was at that lunch, that I told Kayce about my Soroptimist organization and how this “army of women volunteers” could possibly help her in achieving her Girl Rising mission.
Several more months went by, when I got the idea that Kayce Jennings would be an excellent keynote speaker for the upcoming convention of the Soroptimist of the Americas (SIA), to be held in Vancouver, Canada in July 2014. I emailed the new executive director of SIA, Liz Lucas, and asked for a conference call with her team. They took my call and liked the idea. I let Kayce know what I was up to, and she was interested!
Two months later, I received a thank you letter in the mail from the team at SIA letting me know that they had secured Kayce Jennings as a keynote speaker for the convention. They would also be showing the film, Girl Rising, during the conference. I was overwhelmed with delight and did my favorite networking victory dance (to myself, of course).
Imagine my happiness and pride as I witnessed Kayce Jennings speaking to a convention room full of Soroptimists – all who share her passion for empowering women and girls through education and training support. Here’s a snapshot that I took of Kayce addressing the entire Soroptimist conference body. (I love her conviction!)
I am fully aware that this happening took many people to organize. But I do I know in my heart that my ability to make connections creates powerful outcomes like this one. You too have this power – the power to make connections.
Networking lessons to be learned from this story:
- Think big – I mean, really BIG;
- Be patient and persistent. Good things take time to build;
- Trust that you have the ability to change the world for good simply by making powerful connections, putting yourself in position, and lending your social capital.
- It is infinitely worth the initial discomfort of reaching out to strangers – people you don’t know well yet – to make the connection
Put these ideas into action
If I had to write out a formula for the power of networking, it would be phrased as follows: People + Ideas + Resources = Opportunity
What big ideas or dreams have you been pondering and would like to do something about? Who could you connect with that could help you to progress your dream into a reality?
What’s holding you back?
- Is it fear of rejection or abandonment?
- Is it fear of your own personal power?
Now imagine the best possible outcome from making this desired connection. See it in your mind’s eye. Make it big and beautiful. Employ the full power of your imagination. Write down a list of words that describes how you are feeling when you imagine the positive outcome from making your powerful connection. Draw a picture of that feeling with those positive words.
Now, go and do it. Make as many powerful connections as you can. You have the power!
Last week I facilitated a seminar with a group of newly hired engineers at one of my favorite clients. The seminar was called Networking Ahead for Your Career. I sent two key messages:
- You are in charge of your own career (not your boss or your organization)
- In addition to excellent work, you must forge excellent relationships in order to create career success
I found this photo on IStockPhoto.com, but felt that it was missing one critical ingredient to the road to success. So I added the relationship marker (green dot). Let’s face it, we need people to help us achieve our full potential. No one gets there all by themselves.
I opened the seminar with the story of Alan Weber and the significant role he played in helping me land my current job as America’s Marketing Motivator. Alan may not even be aware of his impact, although I have told him several times. Alan planted a seed of an idea in my head when we first met through networking. You see, we both took the time to meet for coffee and to get to know each other. We shared two things in common: 1) We had both worked in the wine industry, on the winery side; and 2) We were both looking for new jobs and new career adventures.
The power of suggestions
As we swapped old industry war stories, our dialog shifted to what each of us wanted to do next and how we might help each other. Alan offered a suggestion. He said, “Kathy, why not do a little consulting while you are looking for a job?” When I asked him why he thought this would be a good move, he replied, “Three reasons why: 1) Consulting will help you keep your pencil sharp – staying current with business trends and issues; 2) You can earn a little money; and 3) You’ll have a great response, ‘I’ve been consulting,’ when interviewers ask you what you’ve been doing while you’ve been looking for a job. That just sounds cool, doesn’t it?
I followed Alan’s advice and starting consulting while I looked for that ideal next job. And I fell in love with the work. My current job (as an entrepreneur, business owner, consultant, executive presentation coach, motivational speaker and Marketing Motivator) has so much variety, challenge, and growth potential that it continues to motivate me forward. Nine years later I still love it. And this is the longest running job that I have ever held. I see a long and exciting career ahead of me in this track.
In addition to Alan, there were many other important people along the way who helped me to land my current position. I am grateful to all of them for the small and big ways in which they have inspired, influenced, and motivated me to achieve my current level of success.
Tracing the path of your career
I encourage you to explore the pathways that you took to land your current job. If you take the time to diagram it, you will see that there were many people involved. Many people helped you to create your current career success. And many more people will be needed to get you to your next level of success.
Call them and thank them for the role (large or small) that they played in your current career success. Offer to help them or other people in their network that might need a little assistance. Keep the networking karma flowing and going.
Remember that your ability to build “people bridges” and to maintain strong relationships inside and outside your organization will continue to be a key ingredient in your career success.
YES! You are in charge of your own career; and there are many people who will help you if you take the time to develop mutually beneficially relationships with them over time.
Read and share the entire article -
He was 70 years young, and had just retired this past January following a long and successful career as a sales professional in the medical device industry. He leaves behind his loving wife, Rose Marie (Rosi) of 48 years of marriage, his three children, Chuck Jr., Laura and Matthew, and six fabulous grandchildren.
This photo of him was taken in 2010 in Athens, Greece. I’m so happy he was able to travel and enjoy the world before entering his short-lived retirement.
Grateful for this role model in my life
As I prepared myself for the loss of this special person in my life, I reflected upon all the magical moments that connected us. In addition to my parents, my Uncle Chuck and Aunt Rosi Fontana were instrumental in shaping my self-esteem as a young person. With words of encouragement, sage advice and welcoming hospitality, they helped set me on a path of confident self-expression.
Every kids needs an Uncle Chuck in their life
Growing up, I spent my summer vacations visiting the Fontana family in Southern California. For just 1-2 weeks per year, I received the kind of special treatment that helped me develop into the person that I am. As an uncle, he was unencumbered with the responsibilities of a parent. Uncle Chuck could spoil me and treat me like the grown-up that I would soon become.
He gave me my first sip of coffee. He fixed me up on my first date with a boy. He promised to take me out to a lobster dinner when I turned 16 years old. Through his family values and lifestyle, he underscored the importance of good food, music, physical activity and education in one’s life.
It’s never easy to say goodbye
I was not able to visit with my Uncle Chuck in the last week of his life. I longed to tell him personally how much he had meant in my life. I worried that I wouldn’t get the chance to say my goodbye in person. So on a long airplane ride home to Connecticut, sitting in the middle seat with both armrests claimed by other passengers, I hand wrote a 1,750 word tribute to him on a Hyatt hotel memo pad. The words just poured out onto the paper from my heart, smiling, crying and at times laughing as I captured the many memorable moments.
When I got home, I typed up the essay and then quickly emailed it to his wife and children. It got there just in time – the day before he passed away. Aunt Rosi read my tribute to Uncle Chuck while he lay in the hospice bed at their home. She told me that she cried as she read it to him, sharing my memories of and gratitude for him and all that he did for me growing up.
Dear Reader, I won’t burden you with the entire essay, but I did want to share this special piece of advice that my Uncle Chuck bestowed on me. My hope is that you will take his encouraging words to heart and start living a fully expressed life. Please enjoy this excerpt of my tribute to Chuck Fontana, Sr., a man larger than life.
Tribute to My Uncle Chuck Fontana (excerpt)
Most of all, I will remember the famous expression that Uncle Chuck would share with me more than once; Words that I would carry with me for the rest of my life; A message that at face value might seem trite, cliché or simple flattery. But for me, Uncle Chuck’s words would embed themselves in the foundation of my soul – the very lining of my self-esteem. His words would encourage and liberate me, allowing me to believe in myself enough to realize my full potential.
Uncle Chuck said to me: “Katherine, if you’ve got it, flaunt it.”
If you’ve got it, flaunt it. What could this possibly mean? More specifically, why did Uncle Chuck give me this unique instruction?
Was he suggesting that I cast off modesty? Was he giving me permission to show off? Was this a subtle suggestion that I should pursue a performance career, perhaps in acting, dancing, singing, speaking or modeling? What was Uncle Chuck’s intent with this provocative piece of advice?
What I did understand immediately was that Uncle Chuck knew that “I had it.” For how else could I flaunt it? He felt I had the talent and the potential to be someone special – to do something great with my life. He recognized something special in me that I could not see for myself. Like most teenagers, I was riddled with self-doubt and struggling with my identity. Uncle Chuck, along with his wonderful wife and soul mate, Rose Marie, was one of those special influences in my life who confirmed me.
I imagine that they have done that for many other people. What an incredible gift to give.
If you’ve got it, flaunt it. So, what does it mean to “flaunt it??” In my life and career, I have translated the “flaunt it” part as “put yourself out there.” Be bold and courageous enough to share your ideas, gifts and talents with the world.
Uncle Chuck and Aunt Rosi lived that way. They role modeled this philosophy that is akin to the mantra: “Carpe Diem” – seize the day.
Uncle Chuck and Aunt Rosi shored up my back bone and built my resilience, knowing that when you put yourself out there and “flaunt it,” there will be many people who are going to criticize you and judge you harshly. Some people would rather tear you down, than build you up. It’s these sad folks that lack what Uncle Chuck possessed: healthy self-worth and an abundance mentality. Perhaps these people were not lucky enough to have an Uncle Chuck or Aunt Rosi in their lives during their young formative years.
But it’s not too late. You can be an Uncle Chuck in someone else’s life. You can be the great encourager to someone who needs a boost – someone who hasn’t yet discovered how truly remarkable they are; and that they indeed “have it” and can “flaunt it.”
If you’ve got it, flaunt it. That was and will always be the greatest gift that Uncle Chuck gave to me. He loved me. He saw my inner beauty. He believed in me and in my potential. And he gave me permission to fully express it.
Uncle Chuck, I say to you now, as you embark on your next great adventure: You’ve got it. You shared it. You lived it. And Yes! You flaunted it…in loving style! Goodbye my dear, sweet, Uncle Chuck Fontana. Thank you for being a guiding light in my life.
Your loving niece, Kathy
Here’s a musical tribute to my Uncle Chuck Fontana, with a little help from Billy Joel: Lullabye (Goodnight my Angel)
Finally, a poem inspired by Chuck Fontana Sr.:
If You’ve Got it, Flaunt it!
If you’ve got it, flaunt it.
Embrace your uniqueness. See and value your own gifts. Put them out in the world so that they can grow and inspire others. Cast off self-doubt and hesitation, so that you can live a fully expressed life;
If you’ve got it, share it.
We live in an abundant world that is shrouded with scarcity and fear. Trust that when you share all that you have, you will be richly rewarded. It matters not how you share it – through philanthropy, small acts of kindness, or encouraging words – only that you do share what you have with others;
If you’ve got it, celebrate it.
Cast off the guilt and obligation that keeps you consumed in the busy-ness of your daily life. Invest your time in treasuring all that you are and all that you have. Be fully present in the moments that make up your life;
If you’ve got it, live it.
Find your passion. Define your purpose and start living your personal mission. You can meet your needs and satisfy your soul, while also being an instrument that motivates others to live more meaningful and joyful lives;
If you’ve got it, let it go.
And when your time has reached its end, trust that you have done what you came here to do. Your love and light have changed the lives of others that you cared about. And what could be more meaningful?
Every so often you meet a person who makes a living doing exactly what you fear.
Billy Pavlacka has been building sand castles as a hobby for nearly thirty years. Known as The Sandcastle Man, Billy makes his living building extraordinary sculptures out of the artistic medium of sand for parties, weddings, corporate logos, and other events. When he is not hired out by meeting planners or brides, he spends his days practicing his craft and spreading joy by creating sand castles on the beach at Coronado Island, off the shore in San Diego, California. (No, the hotel does not pay him…although they should!)
It is here where I met him. My husband and I were taking a break from riding a tandem bicycle for the first time in our twenty year marriage. (a real test of communication and teamwork!) Billy is kind, easy going and happy to share his gift with people who approach him.
As most people who meet him for the first time, we had tons of questions for him, including, “Doesn’t it bother you when the waves (or kids) destroy your work?” His answer surprised and delighted us. “Yes it bothers me,” he said, “And I have to let it go in order to move on and build something new and great again.”
What’s so scary about what Billy does for a living?
It doesn’t last. It might take him 3 days to build an original sculpture, only to have it last for at most 9 days – washed away by the tide or by mischievous teenagers out to have some destructive fun at the beach.
Essentially, Billy builds remarkable things that give great joy to many people, all the while being fully aware that they won’t last.
Unfortunately not everyone appreciates what he does. Earlier that day, a group of children came over not once, but twice to throw rocks and sand at his work. He asked them not to do that, but they kept doing it anyway. Their parents were nowhere in sight.
But this doesn’t really bother Billy. Why? Because for every one destructive group, he gets about 50-100 people who celebrate, honor, and respect his work. The odds are in his favor. And he always remembers that what he does is temporary and not meant to last forever.
While we were admiring his sand castle and enjoying our conversation with him, a couple came over and asked us to take their picture. They had just become engaged to be married. They were enthralled with Billy’s sculpture and wanted to capture their special moment. I took their photo and then they kindly offered to take ours. Each couple happily gave Billy a monetary tip as a thank you for helping celebrate our lives.
Billy told us that on average he has three couples who get engaged every day and want to share their joy and commemorate the day by taking a photograph near his artwork.
Perhaps Billy is not really building sculptures; perhaps Billy is in the business of making memories and spreading joy. No tide, doubter, or hater is strong enough to wipe that away!
Please enjoy this very short time lapsed video of Billy creating his temporary work of extraordinary beauty:
Lessons from my experience with The Sandcastle Man
- It’s easier to tear down someone else’s work than to build something remarkable yourself.
- There’s more good than evil in this world.
- Our lives and our work are ultimately temporary…and that’s okay.
- There is no such thing as a “permanent job.”
- Lifetime warranty doesn’t mean anything.
- The concept of a “forever family” is a fantasy. Over time, all families grow, contract, change, dissolve, etc. Children should be encouraged to be self-sufficient, independent thinkers, and not dependent on their parents.
- Like sand, we all have qualities within us that are soft as well as other aspects that are gritty and sharp.
- Like particles of sand, we may feel small and insignificant as individuals. But when we come together under the right leadership and vision, we can be part of something great.