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.
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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.
In early April I received a shocking text from a professional friend. The news was so surprising that for a moment I thought it must be a joke. It turned out to be true. My friend was hit with a major life-threatening medical emergency. She was in crisis…and I was more than 3,000 miles away.
Fortunately she was able to text from her hospital bed, keeping us informed of her prognosis and what was going on. After about one month of uncertainty, I was relieved to learn that she had made a rapid and complete recovery. She is one lucky lady, and we are all grateful to have her back with us in good working order!
She wrote a really insightful blog post on her personal experience in this crisis and how it deepened her thinking about what was really important in both her personal and professional life. I read her blog post in its entirely, admiring the woman even more than I had previously. I felt compelled to share with all of you. With her permission, I invite you to read her article and then to consider what really matters to you. Consider this important question BEFORE you (or your organization) has to face a major crisis.
by guest writer, Marcia Daszko, first posted on June 18, 2014
WHAT REALLY MATTERS?
Periodically, we have an “event” in our lives that gets our attention. It helps us realize what’s important and where we really want to focus our time and energy. The “event” may be the death of a parent, friend or a colleague we admired; it may be a child calling across the miles saying, “I miss you;” it may be a close call accident, a medical emergency, a business failure, or a job layoff; or a wildfire in drought-stricken California.
On April 1st (April Fool’s Day), I had one of these events (up close and personal.) No fooling. My Neurology team (how many people can say they have a neurology team—and I stress the word team!?) were amazed that I survived, but I am on my way to full recovery—spunkier than ever!
LEARNING TAKES GUTS
Friends said, “You must have been scared.” “You’re lucky to be alive.” “It wasn’t your time; there’s a purpose for your life to continue.” There is learning and self-reflection in process.
In my career, thousands of conversations have focused on: executives who want to become better leaders; leaders who want to ensure they are leaving a great legacy; and senior teams who need to assess, “How are we doing? How can we transform? How do we deliver better Quality? How do we accelerate our competitive edge?” (Unfortunately for some, they are asking the wrong questions that have already sucked the soul out of them—I have no need to mince words; they ask, “How many millions in costs can we cut; how many people can we cut and destroy their livelihood; how can we get a better stock price by manipulating numbers?)
LEADERSHIP TAKES GUTS
Thoughtful, natural leaders don’t need an “event” for a wake-up call. But whether you experience an “event” or not, leadership (in your career or personal life) takes courage. Courage has become a rare commodity in executive suites and even in homes and relationships over the past decade or two. Leadership means asking yourself some tough personal questions and then acting on them. Reflect on these:
ARE YOU AWARE?
When was the last time you took a quiet day to reflect on the man or woman you have become?
When did you last assess who you are?
How do people perceive you?
Do you consider yourself a leader, but others perceive you as arrogant, greedy or a bully?
How busy are you? Do you realize the person you have become, with either gratitude and humility or in auto-pilot?
Are you the person you want to be? Are you the parent, son, daughter, friend, co-worker, manager, leader, or mentor you want to be?
Are you leaving a positive legacy?
What’s really important to you?
Are you aware? Do you care?
THE ACTION YOU TAKE
For many people, our lives move at a frenetic pace. We’re working, traveling, grocery shopping, helping with homework, seeing friends . . . everywhere we have obligations, and we try to fit in some fitness, me-time, and giving back. How are you doing?
When we’re busy and accomplishing our goals and making a living, we just keep on truckin’. There’s no reason to ask the above questions. But every so often, there comes a moment or an event that catches our attention and we learn what’s important to us.
7 GUIDING QUESTIONS:
1. Who are the significant people that you love or admire (this may surprise you.) Do they know it? Show it.
2. List the most important things you care about. Are you engaged? Engage.
3. You have one last day or hour; what do you feel/do? Feel it; do it.
4. If you die tonight, what needs to be in order that may not be? Get it in order—now.
5. You have a year left until you retire. What do you want to accomplish? Where do you give back? Plan your legacy.
6. You are here (wherever in time); how do you spend your time? Schedule it.
7. Every day you interact with people. Do you make a difference in improving their lives, in a small or large way?
THE QUESTION: What’s your priority, and where do you focus?
Today is time (you may not have a tomorrow) for self-assessment. Then reach out for an objective assessment. Any leader needs a tough guide, just like a patient needs a doctor, and a 49er needs a coach.
About the guest writer: Marcia Daszko is a transformation and innovation thought leader, consultant, coach, & keynote speaker. Her company, Marcia Daszko & Associates, operates a network of consulting professionals that guide and educate leaders and executives in cutting edge management methods and thinking. Marcia believes that when people think differently, they can act differently. Learning a philosophy of management based in a theoretical foundation is key—and it is the differentiator between adopting management fads (even fads with multi-million dollar advertising budgets behind them) and achieving great success. You can connect with Marcia Daszko a multitude of ways: telephone (408)398-7220; Email: firstname.lastname@example.org; via Social Media: Twitter at @MarciaDaszko or linkedin.com/in/marciadaszko or by going directly to her web site at http://www.mdaszko.com/