Archive for the ‘Motivation’ Category

Tribute to Chuck Fontana, Sr.

This has been a sad week for me and my family. My beloved Uncle Chuck Fontana passed away last Thursday, after a short but noble battle against pancreatic cancer.

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?

The Beauty of Impermanence

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

  1. It’s easier to tear down someone else’s work than to build something remarkable yourself.
  2. There’s more good than evil in this world.
  3. 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.
  4. Like sand, we all have qualities within us that are soft as well as other aspects that are gritty and sharp.
  5. 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.

Big Hunger versus little hunger

What do you hunger for?

Last week, I had the privilege of attending the United Way Power of the Purse luncheon to raise money for programming to help families living on “the financial edge.”

This was United Way of Central and Northeastern Connecticut’s 3rd Power of the Purse luncheon and they had more than 1,200 people in attendance and raised over $220,000! It was a fantastic outcome for a very worthy cause.

Their keynote speaker this year was Dr. Tererai Trent.  Dr. Trent grew up in a poor rural village in Zimbabwe. She dreamed of going to school, but the family couldn’t afford to educate her, only her brothers. She taught herself to read and write by doing her brother’s homework.

She was married off at age 11. By age 18, she had had four children (one died as an infant). By then, she had little hope of getting educated. In fact, every time she shared her dream of an education with her husband, he would beat her to keep her in line.

One day a woman named Jo Luck of Heifer International came to the village and gathered the women in a circle for a chat. Joy asked Tererai what her dream was. She immediately answered “To go to school and be educated.” Joy then told her “if you desire your dreams, then they are achievable.” Upon hearing this part of Tererai’s story at the luncheon, I felt very proud to be a financial supporter of Heifer International!

“It is achievable.”

Tererai shared with the United Way audience that Jo Luck saw her potential and encouraged her through the power of mentorship.

She immediately went to share this discussion with her mother, who encouraged her daughter to “write down your dreams and bury them near the house.” This was an old tradition in Zimbabwe and Tererai felt immediately motivated. She wrote down four goals:

  1. go to America and get educated
  2. get a College Degree
  3. get a Master’s Degree
  4. get a Ph.D.

Her mother encouraged her to add a 5th goal. “Your dreams are bigger if they are connected to your community. So Tererai wrote the 5th goal as:

5. Come back to Zimbabwe and improve the lives of women and girls

Writing down her dreams and goals was an exercise in the power of the pen.

From the day she buried her list of dreams in a small tin jar in the garden under a rock, it took her 10 years to earn her G.E.D. It took her another 10 years to achieve her Ph.D. Moving to America with her husband and five children, she held down 3 jobs while also going to school. When you have that kind of hunger, I suppose you can tolerate a higher level of work-life imbalance.

“Why did I defy my father, my society and my role?” she asked, “Because I had hunger to redesign my life.”

“There’s a difference between little hunger, like wanting a new pair of shoes, and big hunger – wanting a meaningful life. Life without meaning makes people bitter. I had a big hunger for an education.” She risked it all to pursue this dream and satisfy this big hunger.

The power of hunger was essential for Dr. Trent to believe in and pursue her dreams for an education. But to fulfill her fifth goal, to come back and help others, she needed the power of the purse. That’s when’s she met Oprah Winfrey. With a generous donation $1.5 million from Oprah, Dr. Trent was able to open up 10 schools in Zimbabwe. Watch this video for an update on the Matau Primary Schools as part of her new Tinogona Foundation. Tinogona means It is Achievable!


I have a dream (it’s just a little fuzzy right now)

I have started to question some of my long-held goals and aspirations. I wonder how many of them are ego driven. I wonder if there isn’t something bigger and more important that I should be focused on. I’ve started to notice the things that get my attention and create tons of energy for me, like attending the United Way Power of the Purse luncheon and hearing Dr. Trent’s story and the dream that she hungered for.

I have this feeling deep inside me that I was put on this Earth to change the world for the good. I feel called upon to help improve the treatment of and opportunities for women and girls. The mistreatment and violence against women (even in fictional movies) deeply disturbs me. I see so many imbalances between the genders and wonder what the world would be like if both men and women were equally respected and allowed to lead and to contribute equally in the home, in the workplace and in the community. I think men would benefit as well.

Currently I serve on the board of two local nonprofits that are actively working to help women and girls. I am a very vocal supporter of these organizations (YWCA and Soroptimist) and their missions. I just joined the United Way Women’s Leadership Council -a global network of some 55,000 members in 143 U.S. communities. I’m hopeful that connecting with more of these volunteer leaders who share my mission and values will help to illuminate my purpose and path.

I just ordered this workbook, Dreams are Only the Beginning, from my colleague, good friend and author, Dr. Dorothy Martin-Neville. I have had the privilege of rooming with Dr. Dorothy at two conventions in the past. Just being in her enlightened presence is a motivating gift. I’ll let you know how her workbook helps me gain clarity on my dreams and what I am really hungering for. Join me on this journey, if you like.

So what do you hunger for?

I’m not talking about the little nice-to-have things, or the possessions and experiences that you think you want or need because other people have them. What is it that you really long for?

You need to understand the difference between goals and dreams. They go together certainly, but not all goals are linked to your dreams. Some goals are just exercises in keeping up with other’s expectations of you or some societal view of success.

Perhaps it’s time to re-examine your goals with the challenge question “For the sake of what do I pursue that?” or “Why is this so important to me?”

Moving away from corporate life to entrepreneurship

Today I am celebrating seven years as an entrepreneur. It was seven years ago today that I drove to Hartford to register my new business entity as a limited liability company in the state of Connecticut. I remember that day as if it were yesterday. It was one of the best career moves that I ever made. After twenty years in Corporate America, I successfully re-invented myself as an entrepreneur.

Perhaps this is something that you’ve been contemplating?

Watch this video of a TV interview with me and Jim Pellegrino and read the article below to see if you’ve got what it takes to make it as a solopreneur (company of one) or entrepreneurial (builder of new businesses):

Benefits that I’ve enjoyed living the entrepreneurial lifestyle

It’s always a trade off: one set of benefits for another. But I have to say that the benefits I’ve experienced in building and running my own business have been truly enriching and meaningful to me and my family. Here’s a short list of what I appreciate about being an entrepreneur:

  1. Flexibility. You make your own hours and have the luxury of working from home if you like. No long commutes or wasted time in the car. If you need to be home at 2:00pm to let the electrician in the house, you can do that without asking anyone’s permission. If you want to exercise in the morning and start your work day at 9:30am, you can do that without infuriating your boss or jeopardizing your job. I have found more work/life balance since becoming an entrepreneur.
  2. Choice. You decide who you want to work with and whom you’d rather avoid. You hire and fire your clients,vendors and strategic partners. Nothing and no one is forced upon you. You choose who you want to associate with.
  3. Fewer boring meetings. My day is not booked solid with obligatory meetings. I now look forward to meeting with clients, prospects and networking contacts where we exchange valuable information and no one is wasting anyone’s time. So much corporate profitability and life force is lost in meeting hell. As an entrepreneur, YOU control your own calendar.
  4. Valuation. You decide what you are going to charge for your products and services. While you need to be market competitive, you set your own rate card. You determine your own salary and professional fees. If you want to be a premium player, go for it. Just make sure that your customer experience and brand delivers on that promise of premium.
  5. Play to Your Strengths. In every “job” there are tasks and responsibilities that you do well and those that you dread. Working for someone else, you just hope that you get more of what you like and do well. As an entrepreneur, you have the choice to outsource the crap – that is, the jobs and tasks that you have no talent or tolerance for, like bookkeeping, administration, graphic design, etc.(no disrespect to bookkeepers, virtual assistants or graphic designers – I NEED YOU!) Of course, there is a strong urge as an entrepreneur to do everything yourself. I believe this is driven from a mind set of “I don’t have a lot of money to hire someone, so I better do it all myself.” This is a mistake. Outsource as much as you can, but keep control and oversight of all marketing and financial aspects of your business.

What you need to be successful as an entrepreneur?

Before you quit your corporate job, take a review of the next section of the internal and external stuff you need to have in place prior to crossing over to the entrepreneurial side.

Internal Stuff:

  • Spirit of innovation. You must be able to see and think of new ideas that haven’t been done before. Innovation doesn’t have been something magical or dramatic; it can be the small enhancements that make people’s lives better. Get creative and innovate something.
  • Stomach for uncertainty. You must be willing to live without the luxury of regular paychecks and unlimited office supplies. You have to put in the time and effort to “prime the pump” and be patient and persistent in your new business development efforts. They will pay off, it’s only a matter of time.
  • Appetite and willingness to risk failure. Your success is anything but guaranteed. You will inevitably fail at something during your entrepreneurial journey. You will learn the most from your failures. You must be willing and able to get up after you fall.
  • Unshakable belief in yourself. People will poo-poo all over you as you embark on what appears to be a risky venture. These nay sayers may even be people in your immediate family. You must have confidence in yourself and a willingness to invest in your dream. At the end of your life, you’ll only regret the things you didn’t have the courage to do.
  • Your “why.” You must have a powerful, motivating reason why you want to do this. Connecting with your ‘why’ will help to sustain you during the difficult phases of running your own business.

External Stuff:

  • Written business plan explaining to someone else (like a banker) how you plan to make money. . It’s not good enough to have it all in your head. Get it down on paper. Be disciplined and do the strategic work upfront.
  • Marketing plan(a subset of your business plan). Who you will serve (your customers). How you will commercialize your idea. How you will go to market with your goods and services. Establishment of your brand. How you will leverage social media to build awareness and create ‘fans.’
  • Exit strategy outlining how you plan to get in, do well and then get out (and move on to your next adventure). Can you sell your business in the future? To whom and for how much? What assets do you plan to create to enhance your business’s future valuation?
  • Money. How you will fund the launch of your business? How much money will you need to sustain yourself (pay your living expenses) while also investing in the business? How long can you live without a paycheck? Will you need access to capital (loans, external investors?) If so, where/who/how?
  • People and connections. Who will help you get your business off the ground. Advisors to help guide you and get critical feedback on your strategize and plans. You might want to consider forming an advisory board for your entrepreneurial business.
  • Knowledge. I encourage you to “go to school” on entrepreneurship before you hang out your shingle. Read as many books on the subject as you can. I highly recommend the E-Myth Revisited by Michael Gerber. Consider enrolling in an entrepreneur certificate program at a local university or community college. I have been a guest lecturer at the University of Hartford’s Entrepreneurial Center. You may have a great idea that the world needs, but you’ll need to know a lot more than that to be successful as an enterpreneur.

The lessons of the past still apply

Below are the top 10 lessons that I shared out with my clients when I celebrated my 3rd anniversary in business in 2008 (just before the recession took hold). I thought a little review would do me good. After looking at this list, I can see that the advice I gave myself 4 years ago still applies today. These tips may give you a little head start as you consider diverting your corporate career path towards entrepreneurship and business ownership.

  1. Turn your business inward.
  2. Focus and specialize.
  3. It’s good to let go.
  4. Everyone has something to teach you.
  5. Spend time with motivated people.
  6. There are easier ways to make money.
  7. Ask and you shall receive.
  8. If it creates value, charge for it.
  9. You can’t get there alone.
  10. Invest in yourself

The road ahead

Sometimes I think about returning to Corporate America. I fantasize about the health insurance benefits and the biweekly paycheck that seems to come automatically. I long for the international travel and being paid to learn on the job. I miss the office parties and the free coffee. Someday I may go back to a “regular job.” I don’t allow myself to use the word ‘never.” I always want to remain open to all the possibilities that the future might hold for me. For now, I am committed to continue building and operating my business – Kmc Brand Innovation, LLC. And since I just received a shipment of 2,500 new business cards, I guess I am committed to this venture for the foreseeable future.


About the writer: Kathy McAfee is known as America’s Marketing Motivator and is author of the book Networking Ahead for Business. She is the sole owner of Kmc Brand Innovation, LLC, a training, coaching and speaking business. In her role as executive presentation coach and professional speaker, Kathy helps her clients to become the recognized leaders in their fields by mastering the art of high engagement presentations, more effective networking and personal marketing. To learn more about Kathy, visit one of her web sites, and



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