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 Brian Maloney, CEO & Founder at CUSP NYC and Associate Curator at Cheryl Hazan Gallery.
PT: Brian, what I love and admire about you is how you’re pursuing your passion and living your purpose, in part, through the amazing work you’ve done over your communications career, including creating a successful PR agency, Maloney + Fox, and now at your exciting, new entrepreneurial venture, CUSP NYC. Can you share your life’s purpose with us? I define a life’s purpose as one that leverages your greatest talents, experience and passion in service of people and planet.
BM: To sum it up simply, I believe my life purpose from a very young age has been to convince those around me – friends, family, co-workers – that “they can” and for me to be as supportive as I can to help them achieve whatever they want. From running marathons, learning how to cook, or having confidence to begin an art collection, my purpose now is to help those find inspiration through powerful, creative and energetic outlets.
A dear friend of mine accelerated this avenue of thinking for me 20 years ago. Zoe Koplowitz, the celebrated “world record holder of last place marathon finishes” wrote a truly inspirational book called “The Winning Spirit” and her philosophy touched me deeply. Here is a woman with Multiple Sclerosis, and Diabetes, “running” international marathons and showing the world that with true grit and spirit you can accomplish anything if you put your mind to it. “Advil also helps,” she says.
I reference Zoe here because she has greatly influenced how I have developed and defined my own “purpose.” I could barely run for 10 minutes at a time and because of Zoe’s motivation, I’ve run 15 full marathons worldwide. From these experiences, I went on to also coach more than 25 novice runners, encouraging them that “yes you can, one step at a time.”
PT: When did you discover your life’s purpose? Was there a triggering incident?
BM: While I believe discovering my purpose has been a culmination of many life moments – both sad and happy – like losing my mother to cancer when I was 17, getting married, having children, meeting Margie Fox while at PT&Co. – I do recall one defining “POW” that put everything into perspective for me.
I call it “The Taco Sauce Moment.”
It was this point where as the US Brand Marketing/Managing Director at Ogilvy PR, I was reviewing a 100-page document loaded with data and meta data and more data about “how to get Millennial Moms to buy more Old El Paso Taco Sauce.” And then, it hit me like a basket full of jalapeno peppers. Part mid-life crisis? Part turning “FIVE ZERO”? Maybe, but it was this moment where I decided to completely reboot my career through a prism of what I was interested in – art, music, food, design – and not necessarily hot trends for Cinco De Mayo dip recipes.
PT: And once you determined your purpose did you find yourself begin to actively live it? How did you begin? What did you do?
BM: While I was pretty gung-ho out of the gate for my career UEY, Margie Fox gave me a great piece of advice (as she always has) – “take a breath, let things settle in, and don’t immediately tell everyone exactly what you’re doing,” and added, “because you don’t know that yet.”
And she was right.
I spent two months really thinking about how I could reinvent myself from the inside out and thought about what I truly wanted to do with the remaining 20+ years of work life. I determined that everything from this moment on would be deeply rooted in things that inspire me creatively – art, music, food, design – and centered all of my energy against these four buckets.
I created a new consultancy called CUSP NYC (which loosely stands for Creativity Unleashed to Solve Problems) and built a creative practice that is less about PR, per se, and more about bringing beauty, excitement and joy to people, work groups, and companies in a multitude of ways and hopefully inspiring them to do the same.
The more I began discussing my new thoughts and ideas to former co-workers, friends, and my very patient husband Stelian, the more my path and purpose revealed itself. I created “The Idea Trip” to help develop fresh ideas in an exciting new format – brainstorming while experiencing fine art and street art exhibitions, eating great food, meeting artists and entrepreneurs, exploring outlier neighborhoods and drinking a cocktail. All with the purpose to help solve a problem or two, using powerful creative channels for inspiration and building team relationships at the same time.
The graciousness of gallerist Cheryl Hazan afforded me the opportunity to open up CUSP NYC Gallery in Tribeca, celebrating emerging and established artists. I also use the (small) space as a creative development area as we share it with one of NYC’s only functioning Mosaic Tile Studios where colorful, brilliant mosaic installations are made.
Ilene Shaw, a design dynamo, asked me to participate with her to help develop an exciting new design project called “The Design Pavilion” which recently made its debut during NYCxDesign in 2016. I’m also involved with a massive and visually stunning public art installation scheduled to debut in NYC 2017 called Pollinate in the Park.
Perhaps one of the biggest boosts for me during my career transition was being selected by the Norwood Arts Club to curate its Lounge Gallery for a year. This led me to hone my curatorial skills for both new and established art and sculpture collectors and bring art to those who might be just a little bit intimidated, or not even know where to begin to start an art collection.
PT: Did knowing your purpose in life change what you do in your professional life in any way? And, in your personal life?
BM: Absolutely – my purpose in life is inextricably linked to just about everything I do now – both professionally and personally. As a father, this has become even more critical to my own happiness – bringing joy and beauty to people through creative expressions is fulfilling – teaching and guiding my children to absorb and appreciate these colorful life moments is immensely gratifying.
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?
BM: I feel like my hair is much bouncier.
I received an unexpected bit of feedback that gave me great confidence with my new ventures. A former co-worker said:
“Your career redirection gave me great inspiration and has made me stop and really think about redefining what makes me happy.” And that was incredibly fulfilling to me.
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?
BM: This new direction is very exhilarating. It allows me to explore creativity in newer, deeper ways and bring that energy and thinking to the programs and clients I’m working with. Knowing that what you’re doing has purpose and impact is very gratifying and grounding.
PT: What are your greatest hopes and dreams for the life purpose you have chosen?
BM: That my children grow up with a deep appreciation of all things art, music, food and design. So far, so good. (They’re five.)
PT: What do you think you would be doing now if you hadn’t determined and then actively begun to live your purpose?
BM: Going to meetings and eating bad deli sandwiches at yet another windowless brainstorm where the idea is “to create a video to go viral.” After that meeting, I would go back to my desk, reviewing staff utilization and margin points – and then have a meeting about that. But seriously though, this was happening and I knew I needed to shake it up – I felt it deeply and it was very real that I needed to repurpose my purpose.
PT: How important is it for people to discover their life’s purpose? What advice would you give others about discovering their life’s purpose?
BM: Years ago, my therapist summed me up this way – “Your life is a mosaic and it’s my job to discover all of those pieces and put them together in a way you understand.” It’s ironic, now, that CUSP NYC Gallery is located in the Mosaic Tile Studio. Finding one’s purpose is really like creating a beautiful mosaic of yourself – find your design, cut your glass, select your grout, piece it together and stand back to see what transpires.
I read in one of your previous blog posts about the writer being inspired by The Celestine Prophesy. I related to that a great deal. So my advice might be “read this book, be open to everything, trust your instinct and use your powers for good.”