Patrice Tanaka, Founder & Chief Joy Officer of Joyful Planet LLC, interviews people who are actively living their purpose and leveraging their greatest talent, expertise and passion to help create a more joyful planet. This interview spotlights Daryl McCullough, CEO, Citizen Relations.
PT: Daryl, what I love and admire about you is how you’re fully living your purpose in both your personal and professional life and, as a result, are one of the most authentic, open and decent CEOs in the PR industry. I know that family is your bedrock and because of this you treat your colleagues as part of your extended clan. One of your own former employees said about you, “Daryl is a true PR guru, a creative genius, and a first rate human being.” It’s not surprising that you have built such a highly successful, global PR agency, recognized by the PR industry and clients, alike, as one of the best firms in the business.
You once shared your life purpose with me and I was blown away. Most people, including leaders, have not determined their life purpose and/or cannot distill it down to a succinct, concrete statement. You’re among the less than 20 percent of leaders who can. Will you share your life purpose with our readers please?
DM: Sure. It’s been clear to me for a long time – even before I knew it was called a life purpose – that I wanted to “Pay the power of family forward” in my life and career.
PT: How did you arrive at your life purpose, which I know we both agree leverages our greatest talent, expertise and passion in service of people and planet?
DM: I’ve always known I was blessed with a wonderful, loving family. My family mentors are not just my parents, but siblings, aunts, uncles and, in particular, my Grandmother Nora. In fact, I’m writing a screenplay about Nora’s life. After losing her husband at an early age, she raised a large family of 10 children by herself through the Great Depression and World War II. Nora later came to live with my parents and our family. She is an unsung heroine, as are my parents who were both modestly educated and hard-working; their greatest gift to us, after unconditional love, was to make sure that all five of their children went to better schools and colleges than they did. They worked hard and gave selflessly to us. I’ve been truly blessed with a wonderful family, one that instilled values and ethics in me to help me be a better person and a better leader. It’s not lost on me that not everyone has been so blessed with such riches – hence my purpose of “paying forward the power of family.”
PT: Once you determined your purpose how did you begin to (more) actively live it? What did you do?
DM: I’m not sure it was a conscious choice. One moment that was pivotal for me was when I came out as gay to my parents. They listened carefully, and didn’t say anything other than: “If you’re happy, then we’re happy for you, son. That’s all we want for you – to be happy, healthy and all you can be.” That was quite a statement for parents in rural, conservative central Pennsylvania in the heart of Amish country. I chose then and there – in my early 20s – to never go backwards, to live my life “out and proud” both personally and professionally and to, hopefully, be a role model for others who might have had a less than supportive coming out than me.
PT: Did knowing your purpose in life change what you do in your professional life in any way? Or, in your personal life?
DM: It’s always been important for me to treat others as I’d like to be treated. One small example has paid very big dividends for me professionally. I worked closely with dad and mother in the family business, and I took cues from both as entrepreneurs and business owners/leaders. My mother highly valued personal touches at home and at work. She was a card and letter writer – and to this day I honor that tradition by sending handwritten notes and cards to family, friends and employees. This takes time, but there’s no better way to reinforce a personal relationship. Employees who left my firm 20 years ago still fondly remember my anniversary cards and congratulations notes. It makes me smile, knowing that my mom would be happy about this.
PT: How does it feel to be living your life’s purpose? Specifically, how would you describe it in terms of the success, fulfillment and joy you experience?
DM: I have always gotten great joy from sharing my family experience in personal stories and photos and via social media posts. I believe that people draw wisdom and mentorship from unlikely places and I know in sharing anecdotes about my family, people regularly tell me it inspires them to live more fully or to hold their loved ones more closely. That’s the very definition of my purpose.
PT: What is the result of knowing and actively living your life’s purpose? Is there a power that comes from being informed by your life’s purpose so that you can more actively live it?
DM: People give back in lots of ways: volunteerism, philanthropy, even via sharing art. I think sharing the meaning of family at home, play and work gives me a sense of pride and fulfilment that those other forms of giving back – all of which I do – don’t give me.
PT: What are your greatest hopes and dreams for the life purpose you have chosen?
DM: I don’t have delusions of grandeur about my purpose – frankly it’s personal and makes me feel good and more fulfilled to live with purpose. If anyone else benefits from my purpose, that’s a bonus. If it creates even a little bit bigger of a butterfly effect, that’s great.
PT: What do you think you would be doing now if you hadn’t determined and then actively begun to live your purpose?
DM: I’m sure I would be in the field of communications, but perhaps I wouldn’t have been as successful in agency leadership. I believe the mark of a good leader is one who leads by example, and that’s firmly imbedded in my purpose.
PT: How important do you think it is for individuals to discover their life’s purpose? And, do you think businesses would be wise to help employees discover their purpose because purpose-driven employees certainly help to drive purpose-driven organizations?
DM: I think purpose makes the journey more complete, the experiences more rich and the outcomes more profound. Of course we could live for ourselves in an insular fashion, as many do. But having a purpose often helps make choices clearer and confident decision-making easier. Businesses that want to do more in the world than simply fulfilling their business mission should determine their purpose. And they should empower their employees to determine their individual purpose. Together, employers and employees could work to create more meaning inwardly and outwardly in their worlds … a value-add with real-life, positive impacts.
PT: What advice would you give others about discovering their life’s purpose?
DM: Explore, with an open heart and a conscious mind. Follow where that heart and mind tell you to go…with purpose.