Patrice Tanaka, Founder & Chief Joy Officer of Joyful Planet LLC, interviews people who are actively living their purpose and contributing to a more joyful planet. This interview spotlights Sabrina Horn, Managing Partner, Technology Practice, Finn Partners.
PT: Sabrina, what I love and admire about you is how you’re pursuing your passion and living your purpose in both your personal life – as the amazing mom of two daughters, and in your professional life – where you have been celebrated as one of the most successful entrepreneurs in the PR industry, an innovator and a CEO focused on creating a great workplace culture. Recently, you joined forces with Finn Partners, heading their Technology Practice, where you have the opportunity to bring your expertise and talents to this fast-growing agency known for having a great culture. Someone once described you as “an exacting, straight shooter practically incapable of your run-of-the-mill PR bullshit,” which I absolutely love! So, let’s talk turkey about purpose. Can you tell us about what really drives and guides you? What is your life’s purpose?
SH: My life’s purpose is: to love and be loved. At the heart of this statement is passion, drive, motivation…always for something, someone, some place. To do anything without love, without that passion, makes the act seem or feel a little empty, or perhaps a waste of time, a grind. Not that it becomes pointless, but it can become an obligation, busy work, something one has to do, not something one wants to do. If and when at all possible, life should ideally be about living with purpose, doing things one wants to do that provides meaning, toward some personal end goal. This is ultimately, living life to the fullest in my view.
The second piece of this is: when doing something one loves, one tends to do it with greater care, and with love itself. Doing something with love produces a greater outcome, because it might be done with greater attention to detail, or quality, which might be reflected in its design, or strategic content, or customer service.
And the last piece of this is: when we do something with love, it generates love, and comes back and gives you some kind of love in return. The saying what you put out there comes back 10 fold is true. Love is a reciprocal act, and I find that doing things I love, with love, makes me feel good inside just from the sheer act of doing it. And usually, hopefully, those on the receiving end will express degrees of appreciation, gratitude and love that will come back to me and make me feel loved. Love begets love. If we all put a little more kindness and love out in the world, there might be a little more love coming back, circulating around ourselves, our communities, and businesses. So, I work and live with love generously, because it’s purposeful, fulfilling, gratifying, and it ultimately comes back to me. Of course, we all want to feel and be loved. But this doesn’t just happen by itself. Love is earned, and it must be cherished, protected, and respected. It is my guiding principle. To be loved and get love, we must put it out there in all of the many little ways both obvious and subtle that we can. Love is a cycle. Rinse and repeat. It is self-perpetuating. When we stop putting it out there, it starts to diminish in return, dwindling, ultimately stopping the cycle. Until we rekindle that love in a different way toward a different purpose. It could be for a different job or task, and sometimes for a different person.
PT: And, how did you arrive at your purpose, which I believe leverages your greatest talents, expertise and passion in service of people and planet? Was there a triggering incident?
SH: I arrived at my purpose by realizing when it became time to sell my company after 24 years, as I raised my daughters and successfully sent one off to college last year, and moved in and out of a personal relationship over the last several years. All three events involved an enormous amount of love, the greatest form of self-expression, giving, making an effort, trying, never giving up. In the first case, I think I just realized that my work as CEO of Horn Group had been successfully completed. It’s not that my love for it ran out, it was simply time to love doing something else for my career.
In the second example, the love we have for our children is endless and timeless, and yes, sometimes, our role as parents can be a thankless task (especially during challenging teen years)! But wow, it is when we see our offspring fully loaded with all the best we could give them, teach them, going off into their freshman dorm room, that we feel that flood of love and the love that exists in that accomplishment.
And then there is the love that exists in relationships. I’ve often thought that if we all spent as much time caring about our relationships as we do caring about our careers, that the divorce rate would be much lower. Even when relationships don’t work and they end, there is still love there, even if it is only a memory, or just a spark. I suppose getting older and wiser helps get us out of transaction mode and see the bigger picture about things. And then there was just that one day on the train as I was commuting in to the city, after I read your chapter that it came to me. My purpose is to love and be loved. The output of our love may change, or it may not last, or it transitions, or it gets stronger, or stays the same. But it is always there to varying degrees, and it always gives back to varying degrees. All I know is, I need to love, I am all about love, and I love experiencing it, what it returns, and how it makes me feel, rejuvenates me, fills me with ideas, new plans, and yes, more love.
PT: Once you determined your purpose, did you begin to (more) actively live it? How did you begin? What did you do?
SH: I am perhaps more aware of my actions. At the start of a brand new year, I have been asking myself how do I feel when I do certain things? Am I doing them with great care and with love? Or are they just tasks that I need to perform, a means to an end. Surely some of that is fine, there are always things we have to do. But they can’t outweigh those things I want to do. So I suppose I am becoming more deliberate in my actions or decisions as I am more mindful of my life’s purpose. If I am not doing something with love, am I ok with that? What else would I be doing? Is there a different way I can do this that has more love in it? Is it making me feel loved or giving me something back in return? Is it ok if it’s not?
PT: Did knowing your purpose in life change, in any way, what you do in your professional or personal life?
SH: I suspect that I might pursue new or additional professional interests or have a greater ability to let new ideas come into my mind knowing this purpose. The awareness of this purpose is liberating and enlightening. As for my personal life, this year, I am choosing to let love take me where it wants to. Self-imposed goals for dating, online sites and the most unnatural and disappointing meetings of the most unsuitable candidates have not produced any results, or any love for that matter. I won’t give up on these channels, and my purpose to love and be loved is all about this. But I suppose I might carry myself differently, smile more, love myself first, love my work and create love in new work, in order to let love work its magic to find me, instead of succumbing to the momentum of mediocrity in pursuing love.
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?
SH: This is all a relatively new revelation and is just beginning. I would say, early returns indicate that I am a bit more focused on what I am choosing to do or not do, and I am enjoying the actual time spent doing those things a bit more. I feel a bit more centered and grounded and less scattered. I also feel much less tolerant of superfluous and dramatic behavior.
PT: What is the result of knowing and actively living your life’s purpose? Is there a power that comes from knowing your life’s purpose in being able to actively live it?
SH: I think there is tremendous power in this, and in going through this exercise of answering these questions. I think I am just at the beginning. I think it is hugely empowering. I think I knew my life’s purpose through many of the times in my life, although I was never as explicit or as articulate as I am here. When I had it, and I knew it, and felt it, my success was pre-determined. When I lost sight of it, or it changed, or circumstances changed, I was still successful, it just got harder, or more irritating. At it’s worst, I was in limbo, my intuition failed me, I became a little bored, and at times, maybe even a little sad.
PT: What are your greatest hopes and dreams for the life purpose you have chosen?
SH: To live my life to its fullest, with meaning, and impact. To make a difference in the lives I touch for the better, on an even broader scale than I have to-date. Maybe doing something completely different than what I have been doing, being focused, feeling healthy and having boundless energy that comes from being in love with what one is doing or who one is doing it with or for.
PT: What do you think you would be doing now if you hadn’t determined and then actively begun to live your purpose?
SH: I am still in transition of being fully aware of my life purpose and it is too early to know. I can’t imagine living my life without love, or loving and being loved. I would not be who I am today. For example, I can’t imagine not having started Horn Group 25 years ago. That was an enormous act of love. Having two children continues to be an enormous act of love. Similarly, it was impossible for me to continue to be in a loveless marriage and to continue to love and get nothing in return. So even getting divorced was an act of love for myself and my children, as odd as that seems. As I told our marriage counselor 14 years ago when he asked, “What does staying in this marriage look like for you Sabrina?” My response, “it looks like heading straight for the freezer section. It looks like a bird with no wings imprisoned in a cage.” So I think I have always lived my life to love and be loved, I just never had this purpose statement crystallized as a guiding principle.
PT: How important is it for individuals to discover their life’s purpose? And, do you think that businesses would be wise to help employees discover their purpose because purpose-driven employees could certainly help to drive a purpose-driven company?
SH: Well naturally yes. It is very much akin to being goal oriented, having KPIs, revenue targets, New Year’s resolutions, review/previews, metrics, and V2MOMs. But one’s life purpose is much higher and greater than these things. It is a vision. Maybe even higher than a vision, I’m not sure. Unfortunately, many of us will never know what our life’s purpose is, and may as a result only live up to 50% of our potential. The most successful companies, led by CEOs like Phil Knight, Steve Jobs or amazing athletes, or entertainers, etc., were fairly explicit about their purpose statements, or Why statements. Call them what you will, they became one with some kind of vision or purpose statement and their businesses, cultures, processes and people viscerally embodied that statement.
PT: What advice would you give others about discovering their life’s purpose?
SH: One must have a broad spectrum of time, calm and peace to reflect, so that the busy-ness of life doesn’t interfere or distract.
Sometimes a rough period of time teaches us something so profound as to bring this purpose to light and make us aware of it.
Write things down as they come to you, and ask yourself why you feel the way you do. Become aware by asking yourself questions, even if you don’t have the answer.
You have one life to live, and it is yours. Don’t waste another day of it doing something that doesn’t meet your life’s purpose. You have the power to make changes, even the smallest most minute changes, that bring you closer to your life’s purpose, to give it greater meaning, and ultimately serve the world.