Archive for the ‘Motivation’ Category

A very personal resume

I was in a yoga class this past Saturday when it dawned on me that August 23rd held special significance. Three years ago, I completed my final chemotherapy treatment. I had sent ovarian cancer out of my life for good (hopefully!)  I remember that day because it’s also my mother’s birthday. Two good reasons to celebrate!

  • This photo was taken during my last chemo session. I decided to dress up and wear a wig to celebrate the occasion in style. Why not?!

When I shared this triumphant news with my yoga instructor, she praised me for being strong and resilient. She then told me about a book that she had read titled, When bad things happen to good people, by Rabbi Harold Kushner. This book had been very helpful to her as a young widow with three young children, dealing with the sudden death of her husband in a freak accident.

I have not read this book, but just the mention of its title got us into a conversation about overcoming adversity and hardship. What person on Earth has not experienced some kind of adversity? Trauma affects all people. Suffering is universal; it’s the human condition.

We agreed that it’s what you do after the hardship that makes all the difference. Difficult experiences can shape your life positively or negatively, depending on your response and attitude.

Suddenly the phrase, “Resume of Your Life” popped out of my mouth, and I knew it was an idea worth sharing on this blog.

Have you ever wanted to write a full-disclosure resume?

I got this crazy idea in my head to write a resume of my life. That is, recording the key events and milestones that I had experienced over the different periods, from childhood to adulthood. It could serve as an outline for a possible autobiography, if I ever wanted to write one (or if anyone would ever want to read it). It would take less time and could serve as a good reflection on my life (if not memory jogger).

How I structured the Resume of My Life

Using the format of my existing professional resume (created by my friend and resume writer, Bree Gurin), I began organizing my life events in decades (in reverse chronological order). Since I couldn’t remember the specific year in which things happened, my age in decades seemed like an easier way to organize and capture the major events in my life. Maybe you are like me and you can remember what you did on your 30th birthday, but need a calculator to figure out in which calendar year that milestone occurred.

I gave each decade a theme (e.g., My 50′s = Resilient Survivor; My 40′s  = Adventures in Parenting ; My 30′s = Marriage, Living Abroad, Career Growth; My 20′s Single Ambitious Career Woman, etc.)

In bullet point format under each decade, I listed the major events, decisions, failures, victories, hardships and lessons learned. I included only the ones that really stood out to me as benchmark experiences. I honored each one as a valuable life lesson.

When all of that was done, I pushed my chair back and reflected on what should be at the top of my Life’s Resume. What would be my personal summary statement? (versus summary of professional expertise?) In place of Competencies, what Attributes and Gifts would I capture on my personal resume? This section perhaps held the greatest value for me in this exercise.

When it was done and I had printed it out, I couldn’t help but wonder what themes and experiences would continue to shape me as an individual in future decades. This exercise made me see that my life’s experiences, both good and bad, were valuable.

To share or not to share?

I considered sharing the Resume of My Life on this blog, but I have decided that it is too personal to post on the worldwide web. Something like this is better shared one-on-one with selected individuals.

But I did want to share the top portion with you, so you could get an idea of what/how you might work on your own. I feel that this exercise will be useful in the development of your personal brand and living your personal brand values.

Resume of My Life

Kathy McAfee  – “The Great Encourager”

Global Difference Maker whose personal mission is to change the world for good by inspiring people to direct their talents and resources to make a difference for others. A woman of action who lives her life with a fierce urgency of now. Bold and determined, Kathy puts herself and her ideas out into the world to take hold and grow. Kathy possesses a dynamic presence and compelling qualities that win people over. A good friend, loving daughter, loyal wife, thoughtful sister, aunt, niece and cousin, Kathy strives to make other people happy, while also being content herself.

Gifts and Attributes

Relationship Building Business Curiosity Positive Attitude
Creativity and Imagination Self-Healing /Resilient Action – Doer
Thought-leadership Nurturing Lifelong Learner
Writing – Blogging Appreciation/Gratitude Money Smart
Public Speaking Volunteer-leadership Organized
Marketing and Branding Generous – Philanthropic Self-Motivated
Communication Skills High Energy Inspiring

Do you possess some of these same gifts and attributes? What words would you include on your personal life resume?

What would Buddha say?

As you reflect upon the events that have shaped your life and made you the person that you are, I want to share one more insight. It comes from the book that I am reading called, The Trauma of Everyday Life, by Mark Epstein, MD. According to Wikipedia, Dr. Epstein (born 1953) is an American author and psychotherapist, integrating both Buddha’s and Sigmund Freud’s approaches to trauma, and writing about their interplay. In his most recent book, The Trauma of Everyday Life, he interprets the Buddha’s spiritual journey as grounded in Buddha’s personal childhood trauma.


(Trauma) …is not something to be ashamed of, not a sign of weakness, and not a reflection of inner failing. It is simply a fact of life.”

“…the traumas of everyday life, if they do not destroy us, become bearable, even illuminating, when we learn to relate to them differently.” -

- Dr. Mark Epstein, author of The Trauma of Everyday Life (page 3)

Put this idea into action

Set aside at least two hours for this exercise. Download the TEMPLATE – Resume of My Life and save it to your computer. Fill in your name on the template. Have a copy of your professional resume on hand, which will be useful in referencing key dates, places and events from your work life.

Allow yourself to be completely honest about the events in your life: the good, the bad and the ugly. They all contributed to making you the person that you have become. No one else has to see this personal life resume, unless you decide to share it with them.

If you are a visually dominant person, you might enjoy putting the Resume of Your Life in a visual timeline fashion (just as magazines do to depict the history of a company).

When you are finished, print it out and review it. Reflect upon your life’s lessons. Avoid blaming others for the things that happened to you. Instead, take responsibility for your response, and pride in your perseverance and survival.

Make a plan to review your Life Resume and update it periodically. Keep up with the changes in your life.

Finally, always be on the lookout for cool things to add to your Life Resume. Every experience (good, bad and ordinary) can teach you something and add to the richness of your life.

Living your personal brand values

Walking down the hall of one of my client’s corporate offices last week, I saw these six power words artfully displayed in tall, bold letters on a wall. The letters must have been at least 18 inches high and the black printing against the white walls caught my full and undivided attention. The words were:







These are the LEGO® brand values. As they say on their web page, “The LEGO brand is more than simply our familiar logo. It is the expectations that people have of the company towards its products and services, and the accountability that the LEGO Group feels towards the world around it. The brand acts as a guarantee of quality and originality.”

Does it all start with personal values?

I was in a friend’s house last week and saw this piece of artwork hung in the entryway from their garage to their kitchen. Notice the clever positioning of “Family Rules.” Although intriguing and filled with positive ideas, there are certainly are a lot of rules to follow. Argh!

I wonder if the people who live in this house stopped noticing this visual communication after a while.

I imagine them walking right on by, unloading their groceries, coming in from work/school, without a second glance at this family manifesto.

And isn’t that what we all do? Slip back into unconscious awareness and old behaviors?  How often do we lose sight of our organizational and personal mission statements, and go on automatic pilot in our daily lives?

It got me to thinking about my own brand values.

What expectations do my clients, customers and friends have of my products, services and brand? How do other people experience me? How do I want them to experience me?

I’m wondering if you’ve spent any time pondering these questions for yourself. And not just for your organization, but for your own personal brand? What are the core principles that you strive to live each and every day?

As you read the rest of this blog post, please do so through the perspective of your own personal brand values.

Corporate branding versus personal branding

Over the course of my marketing career, I have spent many long hours writing, rewriting, brainstorming, facilitating, and unearthing vision and mission statements for various organizations.  It can be a tortuous process, involving many people and many long hours. I am sure this is where the expression “getting caught up in your underwear” originated from. In the end you have an unusual outcome – a statement of purpose that most people keep at a safe distance.

Marketing thought-leaders have tried to simplify the process. For example, Guy Kawasaki promotes Mantras versus Missions. “A mantra is three or four words that explain why your produce, service, or company should exist.”

Other people have tried to reinvent the process of getting to a vision/mission by calling it a “Manifesto,” or “Axiom” or “Credo.”

How do large, successful companies express their brand values?

I was curious about what brand values that other large, successful organizations have.

Starbucks serves up their brand values a little differently than most (but then, you’d expect that). I have summarized in one or two words what I believe each of their six pillars stands for:

Starbucks’ brand values

  • Our Coffee  (Quality)
  • Our Partners  (Diversity)
  • Our Customers (Human Connection)
  • Our Stores (Humanity)
  • Our Neighborhood (Responsibility & Community)
  • Our Shareholders (Accountability)

Google brand values are expressed through a philosophical manifesto “Ten things we know to be true.”

  1. Focus on the user and all else will follow
  2. It’s best to do one thing really, really well
  3. Fast is better than slow
  4. Democracy on the web works
  5. You don’t need to be at your desk to need an answer
  6. You can make money without doing evil
  7. There’s always more information out there
  8. The need for information crosses borders
  9. You can be serious without a suit
  10. Great just isn’t good enough

Amazon’s mission statement was harder to find. Every time I queried the phrase Amazon’s mission statement, the web site tried to sell me a book. Go figure? I finally found a short mission statement on the FAQ page of Amazon’s Investor Relations page of their web site:

“We seek to be Earth’s most customer-centric company for four primary customer sets: consumers, sellers, enterprises, and content creators.”

Further research into founder/CEO Jeff Bezos’s bio landed me on this page  where I garnered a little more insight into the founder’s vision and core values. “Our vision,” Mr. Bezos said, “is to be the world’s most customer-centric company. The place where people come to find and discover anything they might want to buy online.”

Six Core Values of Amazon:

  1. customer obsession
  2. ownership
  3. bias for action
  4. frugality
  5. high hiring bar
  6. innovation

Put this idea into action

Now that you’ve seen how the big boys do it, it’s time to identify your own personal brand values. This is not an exercise in copycat, although you might have recognized something of yourself in these icon company’s brand values.

Make a list of words or phrases that you live by. Include principles that you deeply care about. Don’t worry about how other people will react or perceive your values, just capture them on paper.

Write a few sentences about what these words/concepts mean to you. Use a journal to capture your free spirited thoughts.

Now, create some sort of visual picture of your personal brand values. I like to use to create a word montage. They call it a Word Cloud. I call it a motivating piece of visual communication. Here’s my Wordle visual depiction of my personal brand values as I understand them today:





The power of written recognition

Which action – complaint or appreciation – are you more likely to take?

1. Writing a letter of complaint to a company or asking to speak to the manager about an employee who gave you bad service; or perhaps broadcasting your grievances on Yelp or other social media to warn others to steer clear of the less-than-perfect service that you received at this establishment?



2. Writing a letter of appreciation to a company, recognizing an individual who treated you with above-and-beyond customer service; or sharing your delight on Facebook, Yelp or other social media, with the secret desire to help this particular business grow and prosper?

Let’s be honest…

I’d like to think that I am more prone to action #2, but it’s a lot more convenient to complain than to compliment.

You might be someone who frequently says “thank you” and who believes in the power of words of affirmation. You’ve seen how a simple smile can change someone’s day, or how an extra generous tip makes a big difference to a wait staff person.

How often do we go well out of our way to recognize excellence?

This weekend, my friend Bill Terry shared a personal story that motivated me to write this week’s motivating networking tip.

The upshot of his story is that because he took the time to write a letter of thanks to an airline, complimenting the service he received from a customer service agent at the airport (after his flight was canceled), she was hired as a full time employee and moved up her career ladder.

Bill could have just said “thank you,” and “have a nice evening.” But Bill went the extra mile, by recalling her full name (from her name badge) and taking the time to type a letter to the airline management. He found the airline’s address for customer response letters. He filled out an envelope, stuck on a first class stamp, and posted his letter of appreciation in a good-old-fashioned mail box. All of these actions Bill took, not knowing what would come of this effort. Would it really matter?

Yes! It mattered.

The next week Bill was back at the airport flying out of town again. He saw the same customer service agent. He waved to her as he walked by to his gate. She chased him down to say “thank you for writing that letter.” She proudly pointed to her new company badge. She had been working as a contractor, but the airline management had hired her as a full time employee as a result of receiving Bill’s letter.

Imagine how good Bill felt, knowing that his simple act of kindness and appreciation had made such a material difference in someone’s career and life!

Good work often goes unnoticed

We live in a consumer culture of high expectations and low appreciation.

If it doesn’t blow our minds, we are not completely satisfied. We brace ourselves for bad experiences and under performance (especially at the airport!) And yes, it’s a lot easier and more convenient to complain about service, than to praise the efforts made.

After all, misery does love company, and smiling requires the exertion of facial muscles.

But what would happen if we provided positive reinforcement after positive encounters? What if people took more time to praise in public, and let their momentary dissatisfaction dissolve like the small stuff that it mostly is?

How would this change our daily experience and interactions with others?

Put this idea into action

Think of someone with whom you have had a recent positive experience in the service arena. Were you pleased with your interaction? Were you happy with the service and help that they provided to you? Did they make you smile on a day that otherwise would have been gloomy?

Perhaps it was a retail clerk at a boutique that you like to frequent. Or the lady at your local grocery store who has been serving you for years and you don’t even really know her, but count on her to get your order right each and every time (and offer you as much savings as possible). Perhaps it is the customer service person whom you see when you take your car in for a service or repair.

Now exercise your power of positivity. Take a few minutes to research the name and address of that person’s boss. Call the business if you can’t find the information you need on line.

Take 5 minutes of your busy day to say thank you and to recognize the person who gave you this notable service. You are writing the letter to the person’s manager in hopes that your written feedback might positively influence their career, job, wages, opportunity, etc. Perhaps it will only result in an attaboy, but that’s good stuff too. Perhaps it will go in their personnel file to be called up at review time.

You may never know what impact your letter will have, but your actions have value because it makes you feel good too. Writing such a letter will leave you in a better mood – a more positive state.

I believe that small acts of kindness, words of affirmation and acting on appreciation, in both small ways and in large ways, can go a long way toward improving our experiences – the way we lives our daily lives.







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 video of my Uncle Chuck Fontana, receiving a surprise gift from his children and best friend Bill, on his 65th birthday.

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?

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