Toni Munoz Kaufman: Living with Joy Amid Health, Job Crises #34

Warwick Fairfax

September 8, 2020

She had a great corporate job, doing what she felt called and equipped to do. Then Toni Munoz Kaufman contracted SARS, which nearly killed her and did cost her a lung. As she recovered, she was laid off. But her joyous spirit and wisdom passed down from her father pushed her to persevere and help other Baby Boomers overcome their crucibles as entrepreneurs.
To learn more about Toni Kaufman, visit www.tonikaufman.com

Highlights

  • How a dream vacation turned into a health nightmare (10:00)
  • What it was like to have SARS … and how it differs from COVID-19 (15:55)
  • The ongoing health challenges even after recovery (16:15)
  • How shew began to move beyond her crucible (17:47)
  • The choice to not live limited by your crucible is yours (20:50)
  • The critical importance of having a sense of humor (22:25)
  • Her professional crucible faced by 60 million Baby Boomers (27:05)
  • A childhood crucible hidden for decades (31:11)
  • The keys to personal reinvention and helping others (34:29)
  • Steve Jobs on connecting your life’s dots to leap forward (38:43)
  • Her favorite part about helping people (40:06)
  • The importance of mentors (42:00)
  • Top takeaways from the episode (47:10)

Transcript

Gary S:
Welcome everyone to this episode of Beyond the Crucible. I’m Gary Schneeberger, the cohost of the podcast and the communications director for Crucible Leadership. And you’ve clicked play on, and we hope you’ve clicked subscribe to, a podcast that deals in what we call crucible experiences. And you’ll know what a crucible experience is because chances are you’ve been through one. Those are the painful moments in life; the failures, the setbacks, the traumas, tragedies. Sometimes they happen to you, sometimes you have a hand in causing them. But what they all have in common despite many different circumstances is that they tend to knock the wind out of your sails. They tend to knock you off the trajectory of your life.

Gary S:
They can be extraordinarily painful. But the reason that we talk about them here on Beyond the Crucible is not so that we wallow in them. We talk about them to learn the lessons of them. We talk about them with you so that you can learn the lessons of your crucible, so that you can chart a course toward what we call a life of significance. And with me on this podcast is the host of the podcast, the architect. I’ve called him once before, now it’s going to be twice, the Lego master of Crucible Leadership, Warwick Fairfax. Warwick, welcome. This is going to be a good show. I know our guest. I’ve talked to her before. She’s a spitfire. This is going to be a good one.

Warwick F:
Absolutely, very much looking forward to it.

Gary S:
Our guest, the aforementioned spitfire, is Toni Muñoz Kaufman. Toni Kaufman was born and raised in Mission, Texas and is known for her television production, casting, and entrepreneurial ventures. She’s the host of the popular radio show and podcast, The World Class Mentors, designed to highlight and honor the powerful influence of mentors in people from all walks of life. Toni had the honor of being on the presidential transition team to bring home former President, George H.W. Bush, and served as his personal technology instructor and staff support manager. We could get a whole hour out of just that.

Gary S:
Toni presented and was known as a technical evangelist for Microsoft products, and she was honored in the Top 10 Women in Computing. Toni’s productions and casting background in English and Spanish are famous for her discovery of international talent and beauty across the televised game show industry. She has produced the Latin Grammys, the Texas Music Awards, Family Feud, American Idol in Spanish, and America’s Next Top Model in Spanish. Toni’s well known as a corporate and marketing professional with extensive experience in communications. She has a rich background within a variety of industries and an experienced executive at management levels. Having read all that Toni, I feel vastly underqualified to be in this conversation.

Warwick F:
Wow. Well, Toni, thanks so much for being here. What an amazing life you’ve had. I mean, just the experiences and what you’re doing now with helping folks be entrepreneurs and mentors sounds fabulous. But just help us understand a bit about Toni, family, how you grew up, just a little bit about who Toni Kaufman is.

Toni K:
Thank you so much. Well, Mission, Texas is where it all sprung from. But my father’s family, the Muñoz Veriale family, actually have been in South Texas since the 1600s. And so while that was happening, it’s so funny because my mom was in Chihuahua, Mexico, and my grandmother was a concert pianist. So she was married to a doctor. And during the revolution, they had to come across to Pecos, Texas. So Pecos and Mission are kind of… We’re as Texas as you get, right?

Warwick F:
Wow. So when some people talk about, “Oh, we’ve been here for generations,” it’s like, you may have, but we’ve probably been here a few more generations than what you have. Before a whole bunch of people started coming into Texas, we were here.

Toni K:
Yeah. It is funny because the original land grant from the King of Spain was a 25,000 acre land grant. And so, when I found that out when I was in high school, I went to my dad who owned a farmer’s insurance agency. And I went, “Dad, dad, how much of that is mine?” And he looked at me and said, “About that much, but it’s as deep as you want it.”

Warwick F:
Sounds like he had just a funny sense of humor. He was quite the character.

Toni K:
He was my hero. Yeah, he really was.

Warwick F:
Wow. Well, just out of curiosity, I would say he was your hero. I know hopefully a lot of us, our dads and moms were our heroes. But what about him just made him somebody that you admired so much?

Toni K:
My dad always…. And he passed when I was 20, and that was in 1975. Don’t do the math. And so my dad always let me believe that I could do whatever it was I wanted. And the story behind that is, I would walk into his office one day and I would say, “Hey dad, I know what I want to be when I grow up.” And he’d say, “Okay, what?” I said, “I want to be a double naught spy.” And he goes, “Oh, okay. Well you need to go to college for this. You need to do this kind of work. You need to do this kind of study. And you could probably do that.”

Toni K:
Okay. The next week I’d come back and, “Hey dad.” “Yeah.” “I want to be a brain surgeon.” “Oh, well, okay. You have to study this. You have to go to school for that.” And he would always lay it out just… The next time I came back in, I said, “Dad, I got it. I got it. I want to be an interpreter for the United Nations.” “Oh, well, yeah, you can do that. This is what you’ve got to study, and this is what you got to…” Then the next time I did that, I walked in and I said, “Dad, I got it. I got it. This is it. I want to be a lawyer.” And he looked at me and he goes, “Over my dead body.”

Warwick F:
That is great.

Gary S:
Bravo, bravo.

Warwick F:
Yeah, that was one step…

Toni K:
That was my dad.

Warwick F:
… too far for her. What an amazing role model. I’m sure he’s probably who he was and how he treated you and all, it’s probably has been inspirational how you try to help others, I would assume. Do you ever say to yourself, “Gee, what would dad do in this situation?” kind of thing?

Toni K:
Oh, always. It’s so funny because that’s how I honor men. And when I do my public speaking and when I do bring things up, I hope that I can inspire young men to be that kind of an image and that kind of a role model for their daughters because it’s so needed right now. And at the same time, I inspire moms to get their sons… Get them back on the whack here. We got to make sure that they grow up right.

Warwick F:
That would be a whole nother talk, and that would be a great book. But traditionally, you had dad’s work and, I don’t know, 80, 100 hours a week. And hey, it’s changed a bit. But 30, 40 years ago, it was like, okay, I bring home the bacon and my wife raises the kids, which is obviously not helpful or right, but just this kind of checkout. Obviously some are either checked out or abusive. And so, there are are good dads. Obviously, I have three kids in my 20s, and I do my level best to be engaged. And-

Toni K:
I know it’s hard. I know.

Warwick F:
But yeah, there’s times when they’re small, they go so fast. And so it’s funny. I want to shift here because… But yeah, you’ve really got me thinking here. So it wasn’t what I was going to talk about necessarily, but it’s all good. One of the things I think that I’m blessed by with my kids, we write cards at birthdays, and I love writing. And so one of my kid’s good at that too. I have two sons and a daughter. My boys got the more athletic genes, which actually is from their mother.

Warwick F:
I’m not that athletic but my wife is. Anyway, but the boys, they played soccer and tennis. And pretty much every card, they said, “Dad, thank you so much. You were at my soccer game and practices.” And then they’re like in their 20s. Every single card, they say this. It’s just the thought of just showing up for something as small as your kid’s activities, whether it’s soccer, ballet, recital, whatever it is, it doesn’t feel like much, but it must be. Because every single card they’ve written over the last, I don’t know, X years, they always say that.

Toni K:
I love that, and those are the memories. Those are the things that we leave behind. My dad had two favorite sayings that I always love. One of them was, “A frog is pretty to another frog.” I won’t go into the details of that, but he did explain that to me a lot.

Warwick F:
Okay. Dad, unpack this a bit more. Where are we going with this?

Toni K:
The other one was, you know what, don’t take life too serious. If you’re not dying and you’re not going to jail, everything else is second place.

Warwick F:
That is-

Toni K:
So just relax.

Warwick F:
That is so good. So I want to talk a bit about, you’ve had a couple of crucibles. I know there was one that you had was kind of eerily familiar with the world that we live in now with COVID. So talk about that first one, and maybe the background to what were you doing professionally as all this happened because you’ve led a very busy life and very active.

Toni K:
Right. I was fortunate enough to be the Chief of Staff of Global IT for the SAP Division, Hewlett Packard at that time. And I was a project manager for infrastructure, a lot of downing buildings and upping buildings, kind of a thing. And for those in IT, you know exactly what I’m talking about. But we decided that before… Because we have… My husband and I had three of his, two of mine, and two of ours. So we were down to the two of ours. Everybody else is married and gone. So I figured the last… Before we get to the point where your kids say, “Okay, I’m not going on vacation with you. That’s embarrassing.” Before they got to that, I figured we’d pull them into the living room. And I say, “Okay guys, pick a country. I want to see the world. I want to see country.”

Toni K:
So we all decided there was two factors involved in it. One is it had to be wonderful. And two, there had to be a Disney property on there because we had Disney Vacation Club points and we got free hotels wherever we went. So of course, the first one on our list was Disney Tokyo. Tokyo, Disney in Japan. And so, we got our flights, got everything over there. The first thing that I noticed as we got off, this was 10 years ago, this was 2010, was as soon as we got off the plane, not only were we taller and a little bit bigger than most Japanese people, but every single person everywhere was wearing masks in Japan.

Toni K:
Because everything’s subways, you ride the subways for everything there. And so, I was like, we’re good Americans. What could possibly happen in seven days? Let’s just not worry about it. So we went and saw everything. What happened was that without knowing it, on the way back which was a 17-hour flight, I noticed there was a lot of coughing on the plane. And so, I didn’t think anything of it. We landed back in December. By the middle of January, I was getting coughy. It was just dry hack, not productive coughs at all, just dry hack. And it was getting to where I was doing it so that you were coughing so much you got your headache. We’ve all had coughs like that where you get the headache.

Toni K:
And then those by February, I had already started going to doctors to find out what it was. We’re in Houston. We’ve got oil refineries here. The air is not that great. And plus, we’re at sea level. So, I got seven doctors, seven different diagnosis, asthma, you name it. I mean everything. And that turned out to be even worse. Because by the end of February, I was having all out coughing attacks every five minutes. Not five minutes would go by. And on March the 7th, I remember being in the living room. My husband was watching a football game and I had one of these attacks. I was sitting on the couch, and I heard my rib crack. I broke a rib from coughing.

Warwick F:
Oh my gosh.

Toni K:
And I looked at him and I said, “Not only can I not stop coughing, but this is really painful.” And we headed off to the emergency room. And after 10 days, they decided the main thing they could keep me alive with was intravenous steroids. And for those of you who have ever had intravenous steroids, you know that they burn going in. So every vein with… The thing would last two or three days, and then it was burned out. And so after those 10 days, I remember I was in ICU. I couldn’t stop coughing. They couldn’t control it. They didn’t know what the hell was going on. And so, a doctor… And I’ll never forget her. She’s the most beautiful little doctor. She’s a beautiful blonde. It was her first day. She was a pulmonologist, and she walked in and she said, “Let’s do a bronchoscopy. Let’s find out what’s really going on here.” And sure enough, H1N1 came out in the wash. And I was like patient zero in my opinion for what the heck was going on.

Toni K:
So yes, I had SARS. And it was just, wow. Talk about life changing. After that, from one day to the next, you’re already in ICU. But now you’re in ICU and they’re wearing yellow hazmat suits around you. So the good news was that we had a cure so to speak. It took a while, but we had a cure, and it was called Tamiflu. And Tamiflu worked really well against H1N1. We don’t have that now. There’s still no Tamiflu for what’s going on right now. And so 37 days later, I was still in ICU. Nobody… I couldn’t get any family. Nobody could come visit. And they moved me to a hospice, and I didn’t know what the hell that meant. With my Hispanic background, I figured, okay, if this is my time, I’m going to get the angels. I’m going to get my grandparents. My father’s going to stand at the edge of the bed. I’m going to see some relatives. They can come on. They never showed up. So nobody ever showed up.

Toni K:
I was all by myself in this hospital room wondering where the family was, so I guess I wasn’t supposed to leave then. But now, I need to tell you that my background has always been very athletic. I was either a dancer or a swimmer. And my sister and I did the 50-mile swim, and we taught swimming all our lives. So I was… I remember, they took me down in the wheelchair the first time out of my room to go to therapy. And I remember seeing all the tables and then they had these little bicycles with the pedals that you can pedal. And I was like, piece of cake, man. I could do… He says, “I want you to do one minute on this.” And I’m like, “Sure.” I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t do one minute. What had happened was that the fibers, the shards of glass so to speak, that SARS brings into your lungs had so heavily compromised my right lung that it was so scarred that it was not really functional.

Toni K:
So I had to learn how to walk again, how to talk again, how to breathe again. I couldn’t get one sentence out without running out of air, and I couldn’t walk 30 steps to the bathroom. So when I was finally allowed to go home, and thanks to intravenous steroids, I was 210 pounds now. So I was just totally bloated. And when you do steroids for that long, you start losing your eyesight. Yeah, because I couldn’t… I remember looking up at the TV in the hospital room and I couldn’t see the screen at all. That’s when I told my doctor, and she immediately sent in an eye doctor, and we kind of cured that. But I was also a diabetic, and I was on 27 pills twice a day by the time I got home. That was my experience with this. So it scares the heck out of me when I hear what’s going on. People really, you need to take this serious. This is not… It’s not about your freedom. It’s not about all that. Just put out a mask, will you? Don’t end up like me. Just don’t.

Warwick F:
Oh my gosh, absolutely. And that’s such a horrific thing to have gone through, especially having been athletic. It was obviously life-changing.

Toni K:
Very much so.

Warwick F:
I guess, now obviously, they would be having a COVID test in a heartbeat. But back then, I guess it wasn’t really that widespread in the US and people didn’t know about it. When bad things happen, you sometimes think, well, why couldn’t they give me that bronchial test day one rather than day 50 or whatever it was?” I’m not a doctor, but it’s like, okay, you’re coughing. Why wouldn’t you do some bronchial tests? But what do I know? But did those thoughts run through your mind? It’s like, maybe you could have had that other lung if they’d done some tests earlier or-

Toni K:
I’m lucky, and I’m glad, and God had other plans for me obviously. But I remember laying… You come back, you lay down in your bed, and you feel this blob. So I decided to start going through… I still had my laptop. So I decided to start going through a couple of things. And the reason for that was my sister who passed from cancer, she was the tomboy in the family and I was the girly girl. And so she was always rough and tough and doing some amazing things. I could hear her voice. Every time I’d start feeling sorry for me, she was right in my ear going, “Yeah, get over it.” That was her thing, “Get over it.” And I was like, “Okay, okay. I’ll figure out what I need to do.” So I set up a plan, I call it the 30-30 plan. It was 30 minutes for 30 days of half-hour shows. And the first one I picked was Joel Osteen. And then the second one was the very tough lady who’s also a minister preacher, because she reminded me of my sister.

Warwick F:
Joyce Meyers?

Toni K:
Joyce. Thank you so much. And so I watched them, and then I decided to start learning how to breathe again so that I could get a sentence out. And in YouTube, there was a breathing method from a doctor from Russia called Dr. Buteyko, B-U-T-E-Y-K-O. And I started listening and understanding all about breathing. The other thing I figured out was that there’s two types of people that are in much worse shape than I was, and they’re still getting through it. So what’s my problem. And so, the first one is… And I did a lot of studies. I read all the Johns Hopkins. I went to the Mayo Clinic. I did as much research as I could. But the two people were people who had completely compromised immune systems, the AIDS people, the HIV people. And then we had the people who were going through chemo and cancer. So that was my reasoning is it could be worse, so get over it, right?

Warwick F:
Wow. It’s funny. One of the things you mentioned in prep form is you said, it kind of resonates here, never give up, never surrender, which sounds like almost a Winston Churchill-

Toni K:
Yeah.

Warwick F:
… kind of thing, which is awesome. Believe in God, believe in yourself, double your faith. Did those sorts of themes… Was that part of what helped you not just come back physically, but then emotionally probably, the amount of athletic things you could do is probably different? So there was some probably having to relearn but also accept that life will be a bit different and not feel sorry for yourself, and-

Toni K:
Very much so, very much so. Yeah. I have to fall back on the Galaxy Quest model; Never give up never surrender. But-

Warwick F:
Absolutely.

Toni K:
… yeah, the reality is the choice is ultimately yours. You can sit there and feel sorry for yourself for the rest of your life. You can have every reason in the world for not walking again or not being able to go back to whatever kind of a life. I couldn’t even imagine that I could never speak again, because I’ve been a speaker, I’ve been a producer, I’ve been in cast forever. And so getting one sentence out was… I really had to build back to it. And by the way, when you overdo it and you’ve only got one lung, the lung that’s working goes like this, like stop. And at that point, you’ve got to remember to sit down and shut up until it releases. So your body regulates you when you’re about to overdo it. So I’m one of the few people that take nitro to release the lung not the heart.

Warwick F:
Wow. Well, I know unfortunately you’ve not just had one but two crucibles. But before we shift to the second one, it’s just interesting to me your attitude of being positive, do what you need to do, research Johns Hopkins, Mayo Clinic, figure out how you can get back and get healthy, accept the fact that we have limits. We all have limits which is a whole nother discussion. And I’m trying to understand what that is, but also not be bitter. You could have been angry at doctors. You could had said, “Whose idea was it to go to Japan in the first place?”

Toni K:
Mine.

Warwick F:
I suppose it’s probably fortunate maybe that it wasn’t husband or the kids or whatever. But when things happen, it’s easy to dwell on anger and bitterness. And as we’ve said in other podcasts, obviously, sometimes somebody does something. There needs to be consequences, and that’s obviously fair and has to happen. But being angry at the world or whatever, it doesn’t serve you. And so clearly, you knew that and you didn’t go there. You didn’t dwell on anger and bitterness or feeling sorry for yourself. You just got on with it. It got better, had a positive attitude, had spiritual influences. So there are some lessons learned for people who go through difficult crucibles, certainly health crucibles.

Gary S:
And I would add one thing to that work for the listener, go back 10 minutes, 12 minutes to when Toni started talking about this very traumatic, very life-threatening experience that she had with SARS, and listen to the way she talked about it. Listen to what life is like on the other side of that experience. I almost felt bad that I was laughing with her as she was talking about what happened, because she talks about it with such humor. She talks about it with such joy in what it’s like on the other side.

Gary S:
You may feel like your experience right now listener, your crucible, is that very traumatic thing that you may not be able to get back from. We are in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic as we have this conversation. You or someone you may know may indeed be fighting that disease. And I hope that you can camp out in the last 12 minutes of this conversation and hear the energy, the laughter, and the perspective that Toni has brought to her truly traumatic experience. Because that, I think it’s fair to say, Toni is your attitude through that, one of the reasons that got you through it?

Toni K:
I think so too. And to finalize the story, I’m sitting on a plane going to a speaker conference back probably December. I always sit at the very first row by the window all to myself. And by the way, I use those little nose plugs, the HEPA filters called First Defense, which I found on Shark Tank by the way. So you just put these little HEPA filters on your nose and this was before masks. And so, I always sit up front. And that flight, this beautiful lady sat next to me with this gorgeous coat, and we started a conversation. And I know we’re going to… I’ll do it fast, Gary.

Toni K:
It ended up that she was the pulmonologist in charge of about seven hospitals here in Houston. And so, that led me to, Hey, have you met Dr. Puppala? He was my pulmonologist, and Dr. Nayini, which I love as a sister because she saved my life that time, and she goes, “Yes, I know Dr. Puppala.” She said… So I told her my story. She looked at me and we talked for maybe 30 minutes. And as we were getting off the plane, she goes, “Toni, I know all about your story. We talk about you when we have our meetings. We all know about you. I just can’t believe I’m finally meeting you.”

Gary S:
Wow.

Warwick F:
So when she said that, she could have been talking medically. But I have a feeling she was talking more than that just about your spirit and your spirit of hope. Was that what you read into that comment?

Toni K:
I didn’t read into it at the beginning. I keep seeing myself as the guinea pig. But we both had a good laugh, and she invited me to speak to the hospitals when she got back. And of course, everything went crazy after that. But I just thought it was so interesting that I guess I’m a celebrity of sorts with the pulmonologist community.

Warwick F:
I have a feeling it was your spirit as much as the medical side that had an impact. And I don’t know, but I have a sense that that had an impact on the pulmonologist and the folks. So I wanted to ask about… The second crucible is interesting because it really leads into what you do now. And you had a job change challenge, a downsizing. I don’t know quite how you frame it. So talk a bit about what was the setting that led to that kind of second crucible?

Toni K:
Well, actually, my book, my print copy of my book will be released in September 30th. It’s called Act 2: Your Show Must Go On. And it was written originally dedicated to the boomers, because so many of us have found out the hard way that the American dream is dead, is as you were saying earlier, we were taught that you go to school, and you get a job, and you climb the ladder. You get the golden parachute, and then you’re fine. That’s not happening. And it’s funny because it actually hit this year, through my research, I knew that we had 45 to 48 million boomers out of work laid off, separated, fired from your job. And I was estimating based on research that within the next seven to 10 years, we were going to hit the 68 million. Well, guess what happened this year?

Toni K:
It’s not just boomers. It’s everybody. We’ve hit the 60 million and so souls out of a job right now. So what the book does is it concentrates on giving them what I call the four agreements, so to speak. The first agreement is, get your resume ready. Let’s go find you another job. The second one is the franchise industry is booming, caveat emptor, please buyer beware. The third choice is become a mentor. And the number one question I get when I talk about that is how do we monetize that? And the fourth agreement, the fourth road, your choice, which is just the one I’m hoping they will take, is to become an entrepreneur. And so, because that’s what opens the way. If you’re going to kill yourself for the rest of your life, do it for you.

Warwick F:
Makes so much sense. So what led you to that shift? What kind of job were you in when life changed?

Toni K:
I was on disability with HP, and I didn’t know it then. But if I had stayed on disability, I would have had 18 months of pay for about 70 to 80% of my income.

Warwick F:
Right.

Toni K:
But I was told that, “Come back to work, we’ll take care of you. We’ll let you work from home. We’ll make all the arrangements.” And within 60 days I was laid off. So not only did I not have any more income, I didn’t have insurance. And because of SARS, I was 100% not insurable for life insurance as well. I consider having that happen to us worse than a divorce, because your income’s gone too. And then you’re sitting there going, Oh my gosh, who’s going to hire me? And at that point I was 57 and I was… Obviously, I had to train five people to take over my job; three in India and two in Mexico. And wow, that hurt. That was a painful, painful experience.

Toni K:
Heck, it takes you three months to stop checking your email because that’s what we’ve been for so long. Especially boomers, we are our jobs. We are our title. And you work for, like you said, 60, 70, 80-hour weeks, and for so long that you don’t realize until you look back everything you gave up, how you couldn’t go to the kids’ performances or plays, or you’re always having to ask somebody for permission to let you off your work. And sometimes, you don’t get it to go to important family functions. And I was able to put my entire life in perspective. And you know what, I messed up. I just… There was so much more we could have done familywise that I was always putting my job in front of it. And so, that was a good slap in the face.

Warwick F:
With that particular crucible, it sounds like there are a whole bunch of lessons. There’s some commonalities with other crucible that you’re not somebody that sits there and says, “Oh, woe is me. I’m a victim.” That doesn’t seem like… That’s not Toni Kaufman. But-

Toni K:
Yeah.

Warwick F:
… obviously, it’ll be easy to say, “Well, that was unfair. I’m doing a great job and for whatever reasons, they make their decision.” So there was plenty of opportunity for you to be bitter and angry if you chose. It doesn’t mean that you condone or think it was fair, but you chose not to go the anger vindictive route or to feel-

Toni K:
Warwick, I’m going to give you the final crucible.

Warwick F:
Okay.

Toni K:
My sister died of cancer. My father had cirrhosis of the liver. My mom had cancer. My middle brother got cancer. And if you look at my maiden name, Gary, is M-U-N-O-Z. If you look for the Munoz, Borrow pits on Google, that’s the 40 acres I was raised on. We were raised on DDT.

Warwick F:
Oh, no.

Toni K:
The Hayes-Sammons plant which is a division of Halliburton had a poison DDT plant literally next to the playground of one of our elementary schools. And my father… They paid my father to go dump the red dirt over by the lake. We had 40 acres, and we had a two-acre pond and a 15 acre lake. And it was just funny because we had hills of red smelly dirt that my little brother and I, and my sister, we played Cowboys and Indians and all that kind of stuff. And we had… All I knew was that the dirt was smelly. And every time it rained, the entire fish population of our pond would die and they’d be floating. And that’s what I remember of the 40 acres. That was where we were raised, and that’s why my father died at 57, and my sister died at 52, and my little brother just passed this last May. And my mom had cancer back in the 80s. And so, what good would it do? And by the way, I think we’re given less than $2,000 in reparations is what I got for a multimillion-dollar settlement.

Warwick F:
Seriously, for that? I mean, you probably look at that and say that’s what my dad and sister, brother are worth? Really, that’s it?

Toni K:
That’s it. I haven’t been paid for that yet. I just signed the settlement because that’s all we’re going to get.

Gary S:
Wow.

Warwick F:
How do you avoid being so angry about how could… Did these people know? Did they not care? How could this happen? How do you not just get so angry and bitter? I don’t know how that’s possible not to go there.

Toni K:
I’ve always been a firm believer that you get what you look for. And if you’re looking for the bad, you’re going to find it. If you’re looking for the good, you’re going to find it. And you know what, the retribution, justice, everything that you hope would happen it’s not in my hands. There’s other people that are going to have to pay for that when they walk through those gates, and it wouldn’t do me any good. And so, we were some of the fortunate ones. There were literally children being born around that elementary school with one eyeball or no brains or the entire city. That was a huge settlement. Shame on them, but they’re not going to change my life.

Warwick F:
Wow. So you really… Despite all of these hardships, it feels like this doesn’t take you down. You’re obviously one… You used the expression about your sister like she was the tough one. I don’t know. Maybe you both kind of have some of that stern, tough fiber in you. Maybe it’s from your parents. I don’t know. But it sounds like you are every bit as tough as your sister was in the best sense of that word, and that’s remarkable. And so, you’ve had all these circumstances. You’ve had this what feels like an unfair removal from that company. And yet, you reinvented yourself, and used all you’ve been through to help others. So talk a bit about kind of… You’ve chatted a bit about those four ways, and you love mentoring and entrepreneurship. So talk about how you reinvented yourself, and then how you help others in a sense reinvent themselves.

Toni K:
When I got laid off, my husband says, “Hey, look at this positively. Think to yourself, you’ve been given an opportunity. Go to what made you the absolute happiest work that you would do for free.” And my brain immediately shot back to the mid 1970s, and I was the producer of about five hours a day of local origination programming for one of the first Valley cable television stations. And so, if you ever saw the Weird Al movie called UHF or VHF –

Gary S:
Yes.

Toni K:
All right, that was my life. I was the person in the dog costume. I was doing the children’s shows. I was running cameras for local bishops who wanted to have a 30-minutes conversation. And so I thought, that’s what I want to do. But I wanted to concentrate on people who are literally making a difference in this world and have the altruistic heart that even you have Warwick and Gary. You have the need to make this world a better place than how we found it.

Toni K:
And that is the speakers, authors, healers and coaches world. And that’s what I’ve been playing in. So with KDDM, who will soon be standoutuniverse.com, we are offering speakers, authors, healers, coaches, and boomers who are in transition the opportunity to monetize, to create a company, to make it grow, to serve others. And you know what, I haven’t met one person yet that isn’t trying to change the world, be the change they’re trying to be, they’re trying to see and/or help others. And that’s what I love about our community.

Warwick F:
That’s a wonderful vision. Some people want to change the world, but it’s like, how do I put food on the table for my kids, and our parents, grandparents, extended family, depending on their situation? And it sounds like your vision is to help people change the world, but also monetize, which for most people is like, if I can’t monetize this, I can’t do it. And so, it’s easy to be cynical in this world because there’s a lot of bad things happening. And sadly, some people are doing very bad things. But yet, there are people out there that people have hope that want to make a difference, that want to help others, that want to care. So it must be so affirming to be around those people, to hear their hearts and their visions. And it must make you think, gosh, I get to go to work today and listen to somebody’s hopes and dreams.

Toni K:
I know –

Warwick F:
What could be better than that?

Toni K:
How to make this happen. Isn’t that cool?

Warwick F:
Yeah.

Toni K:
That is… And I love doing it. So how you monetize it is I’ve got some mentors, and of course they create courses to help people. They create what I call a signature talk that takes them to a webinar, that takes them to an event, whether it’s a three-day live event or a one-day summit so to speak. And that’s basically… That’s been a lifesaver this year, is that all these live conferences and live events you used to go to are now live online events. And guess who’s producer? Background gets to help people create live online events. That’s part of what we’ve got. And it’s really been a lifesaver for us.

Warwick F:
It’s funny how we have different things in our background. And I think for spiritual people of faith, which I think you obviously are, at the time, you don’t know how God, the universe is going to use all these strands. But it’s like, so what was the point of all that 70 stuff and dressing up in weird costumes, and interviewing chips and whoever. Where’s all that going to go? Or how in the world are we to know that a number of years later you’re able to use those things in a way to help others, right? I’m sure you probably didn’t see it at the time, but it does make you feel like somehow there’s a plan even if we don’t realize it at the time. Does that make sense?

Toni K:
Well, Steve jobs said it best when he did one of his talks at Yale. He said… And I know Gary is checking his watch now so.

Warwick F:
It’s all good. It’s all good.

Gary S:
It’s all good.

Toni K:
He dropped out of the university. And as he looks back, dropping out allowed him to take only the classes he wanted to take. His favorite class was on calligraphy. Talk about connecting the dots backwards. So what does Apple do? They create the graphic artist machine with all these wonderful fonts. And so, Apple becomes the graphic artist tool of choice because they have so much artistic calligraphy fonts that came with it at a time when Windows hadn’t created two type fonts yet, right?

Warwick F:
Right.

Toni K:
So he says, “The only way that you know that you had enough faith to leap forward is if you look behind you and connect the dots, because you can only connect them backwards. And if they connect to enough places enough times, that it will give you the faith and the impetus to grow forward to take that leap of faith, because you just saw how the puzzle connected behind you.”

Warwick F:
Right. And it gives you hope to take that next step. So that’s-

Toni K:
My favorite statement from him.

Warwick F:
That’s amazing. Once you’re helping people, it’s probably all fun. But what’s the most fun thing about what you do in helping people. What makes the light bulb wattage go up?.

Toni K:
Oh my God, the personalities. I see the celebrity within when I… Casting has helped a lot, right?

Warwick F:
Yeah. It’s another element.

Toni K:
But I see the celebrity here, and sometimes they don’t see it. But I could see it just by listening to them, talking to them. And then if… I think one of my favorite mentors is Iman Aghay. And he says something like, “If you can get people to see themselves the way you see them, then we’ve accomplished what we needed to accomplish to get them to spring forward.”

Warwick F:
That sounds like maybe your mission to help the world see these people the way you see them, right?

Toni K:
Give me the challenge, go ahead.

Warwick F:
Gosh. It’s like, you must wake up in the morning saying, I get to do this. It’s probably feels like… You mentioned Disneyland in a more challenging way before, but in a good way. I guess, obviously, it is a wonderful place. It must feel like Disneyland every day. It’s like-

Toni K:
Well, I’ll let you know that I was the person who choreographed and came out with Mickey, Minnie, Goofy and Pluto at all the back to school specials in Midwest, United States, from Brownsville to Chicago. We did 11 malls. We did 11 shows, and I was the idiot that would come out singing and dancing with the mouse. And are you ready for this? Hold onto your head, Gary.

Gary S:
All right.

Toni K:
I was Scooby-Doo. I was inside of Scooby-Doo.

Warwick F:
No, really?

Toni K:
We did the Scooby-Doo show.

Warwick F:
Wow. So with your kids and I see that you have grandkids at all?

Toni K:
Oh, I’ve got 11 grandkids now.

Warwick F:
So do they ever say, “Grandma…” I know there’s nana or a different name. Do they ever say, “Can you do the Scooby-Doo? Can you do Mickey or Minnie?” Do they ever say that to you?

Toni K:
They haven’t, but it’s so funny. My kids had the… I don’t know if that was a pleasure or not. They were probably the only few kids in the world who would walk in to see me during lunch breaks and would see Mickey, Minnie, Pluto, and Goofy’s head sitting on a table. And I remember my 18-month old just burst into tears. He thought I had killed them. He walked in and saw all the heads and all the bodies, and he just broke out into tears.

Gary S:
Oh my. Well, this is the moment in the podcast where I normally say it’s around the time that we need to land the plane. But given the fact that we just talked about Scooby-Doo, I’m going to say that it’s almost the time we need to hop in the Mystery Machine and drive away. So we got to get in the Mystery Machine. We got to drive away in a little bit. But one thing I wanted to say to you Toni, because mentoring and urging people, encouraging people to be mentors, you’ve benefited from them. You have benefited others being a mentor.

Gary S:
I just did a quick search for quotes about mentoring. And there’s a bunch of really good stuff here. But here’s what Denzel Washington said about mentoring which I think really sums up a lot of the joy that we hear in your voice or see in your face if we’re watching this on YouTube. This is what Denzel Washington said, “Show me a successful individual and I’ll show you someone who had real positive influences in his or her life. I don’t care what you do for a living. If you do it well, I’m sure there was someone cheering you on or showing you the way, a mentor.”

Warwick F:
Gary, that’s so well said, and I’m sure you would agree with this Toni. But mentoring younger people or as a younger person being mentored, I’m somebody that always wanted to learn from people back in my 20s and people who were older than myself. That combination, if you’re younger, seek somebody that you admire. Because if you ask them, “Hey, do you mind helping me? I’d just love to chat and get your advice,” most folks who are older would be delighted to help. Sometimes, they’re reluctant to impose themselves. But somehow, I think in our society, in other societies or decades gone by, mentoring, especially within families happened more. Maybe it happens less now. But it’s so important. So how do you help some of this mentoring happen both from younger to older? These relationships are so important. But do you have any wisdom on that on how you help foster mentoring relationships?

Toni K:
Yes, my two mentors. I mentioned Iman a little while ago, but Jay Fassett, it’s so funny. They’re both Canadian. Those are my favorite mentors. But here’s my words of advice is, the best way to leverage, or as they say in Canada, leverage, the growth, your growth or your business growth is you’ve got to find somebody who’s been there, done that and can walk you through it. Why are you trying to find out, go through every hardship by yourself? Get yourself a mentor. It can do nothing but help, and there’s so many available. There are just so many available. And worst case, if you can’t find one, talk to me. I will recommend someone to you. I’d be happy to.

Warwick F:
Final comment on this is, to me, you’ve got to be humble. Be humble enough to say, I don’t know everything. And there are some people that have been down this road decades more than I have. So why not learn? If you’re not humble, you’re not going to learn. So that’s to me the starting point. Be humble, be open, be willing to learn, and you’ll be blessed as will the mentor be blessed. You’ve been blessed by a lot of folks that you’ve mentored. It’s symbiotic. It’s a double blessing. That’s a wonderful thing.

Gary S:
We have had a lot of truly inspiring conversation and some good applications here. Toni, I would be remiss if I did not give you the opportunity to tell listeners how they can find you and your business on the World Wide Web. How can they get to know more about Toni Kaufman?

Toni K:
Well, it’s under construction, but you can go to standoutuniverse.com and you’ll be able to see what we’re building there. You’ll be able to contact me immediately. I respond to everybody who texts me on Facebook. Facebook, my main profile is under Toni Muñoz, M-U-N-O-Z, Kaufman.

Gary S:
And that is Toni with an I.

Toni K:
I, you’re right. Yeah. My little brother was Tony with a Y, and my dad was Antonio. And when my dad passed, my mom named the parrot Tony. So we always had three Tonys and two Celias. But yeah, please feel free. It’s toni@standoutuniverse or standoutme.com is the quick way. Standoutme.com, T-O-N-I@. Just reach, I’ll listen.

Gary S:
Well, Toni, you and Warwick both have made this episode difficult for me. One of the things I do at the end of every episode is try to pull together, and I’m scribbling notes while you guys are talking, about what are some key takeaways that our listeners can follow to help them bounce back from their own crucibles. And I pull three every time, and it was hard to contain myself just to three here because the conversation was so robust. But here’s what I think from this conversation with Toni and Warwick, three takeaways for you listener that you can apply as you bounce back from your own crucible. Number one, as bad as it gets, and sometimes it gets very, very bad circumstantially, physically, and emotionally. Toni described that in her battle with SARS, how difficult that was. But as bad as it gets, do not give up. Hatch a come back plan. In Toni’s case with SARS, she developed a breathing plan.

Gary S:
She started with a breathing plan. Study, develop action steps, practice. Your crucible can be fought through. And as Toni said, the choice is ultimately yours. Takeaway number two, explore your options in the midst of and in the aftermath of your crucible. Take a long look at what you’d like to do. What are your passions? What are you really good at? What does the world need that you can offer? Then either find an opportunity where you can make your vision and passion a reality, or as Toni suggests and has lived, create an opportunity yourself. Become an entrepreneur and do your own thing. It’s worked out well for her. It’s worked out well for Warwick. It can work out well for you as well. And then the third point which we just talked about at the end of the conversation and Warwick had a…

Gary S:
This is a key part of Crucible Leadership, this idea of mentoring, being a mentor, and having mentors. So look in the aftermath of your crucible. In the midst of your crucible, look for an opportunity to mentor. The world needs what you know. So share it, and get yourself a mentor because you need what other people in the world know. As Warwick explained, it’s a symbiotic relationship. It’s a 360 … It’s the circle of life, if you will. Mentoring and being mentored is a critical part of bouncing back from a crucible. And that has been our discussion as it always is here on Beyond the Crucible. How do you navigate through and bounce back from those crucible experiences in your life? We hope you’ve enjoyed this conversation with Toni Kaufman. If you did enjoy it, we ask that you would visit us at crucibleleadership.com. You can find all the podcast episodes that we’ve done so far there.

Gary S:
You can sign up to get Warwick’s regular emails where he shares more details, unpacks more some of the concepts of Crucible Leadership that can help you in your effort to bounce back, to move beyond your crucible as the show is called. So until the next time that we’re together having a conversation about how to face your crucibles head on no matter how painful they may be, thank you for joining us here. And remember this as you go, and rewind this episode like I said earlier, and listen to the way Toni Kaufman described her crucible of almost losing her life to H1N1. Remember, in listening to her spirit as she talked about that, that your crucible is painful. It can be extraordinarily challenging.

Gary S:
It could even be life-threatening, but it does not have to be the worst time of your life. If you learn the lessons of that crucible, if you apply yourself to moving beyond that crucible, it can become the launching pad. It can become the beginning of the next chapter of your life which is the best chapter of your life. Because as we’ve seen from what Toni’s talked about today and we’ve seen every time we’ve had a conversation with Warwick, bouncing back from your crucible is your first step toward a life of significance.

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