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Life Purpose Is Your Competitive Advantage

With Patrice Tanaka

Published on: Nov 9, 2018

A succinctly articulated life purpose will help focus and drive us to achieve what is most important for us to achieve. Patrice Tanaka, serial entrepreneur, author, and public speaker on business and life purpose, says knowing your purpose is like having your own personal North Star helping you navigate the challenges of life. It will help you to make decisions in a very focused and efficient way to achieve what it is that you’re trying to do. Patrice co-founded three award-winning PR and marketing firms, including the largest employee-owned PR agency in the US. Her agencies have been ranked as the number one most creative and most esteemed and recognized as one of the best places to work in PR. Patrice is the founder and Chief Joy Officer of Joyful Planet LLC, a business and life strategy consultancy, working with individuals and organizations to discover and live their purpose to unleash greater success, fulfillment, and joy in their personal lives, businesses, and communities. Patrice talks about choosing joy, living in gratitude, her passion for samba, and how she founded Joyful Planet.

Life Purpose Is Your Competitive Advantage with Patrice Tanaka

Life is unpredictable and it can often feel impossible to find a balance between what you want and what you have. Perhaps you are feeling trapped or constrained because of your cultural boundaries. Whatever the case, I’m glad that you are here with me. You will hear stories from Asian women who have found a way to create a life that gives them the power, freedom and choice to be who they want to be while respecting their culture. Let me introduce to you, Patrice Tanaka. Patrice Tanaka is a serial entrepreneur. She cofounded three award-winning public relations and marketing firms, including the largest employee-owned PR agency in the United States. Her agencies have been recognized as the number one most creative, most-esteemed and the best places to work in PR. After a success for 35-plus years of that career, Patrice started Joyful Planet, a business and life strategy consultancy. Working with individual and organization to help them discover, live their purpose in their business and in their community.

Patrice wrote three books, Becoming Ginger Rogers in 2011, Beat the Curve in 2016, which she co-authored with the renowned management consultant and coach, Brian Tracy, and Performance 360 released on September 2018, which she coauthored with Richard Branson and other leaders. Patrice has been honored by many organizations including PRWeek, PR as a foundation, Public Relations Society of America, The Holmes Report, New York Women in Communications, Asian Women in Business, Working Mother Magazine, Girl Scouts of Greater New York, University of Hawaii and many more.

Welcome to the Asian Women of Power podcast. Please give us a background of your family. Where did you grow up?

Thank you for having me as a guest on your podcast. I’m very excited to be talking to you and your audience. I was born and raised in Hawaii. I moved to New York City in my early twenties. I’ve been living here since then although I go back to Hawaii three times a year. I’m a third generation Japanese-American.

Who or what inspired you to get into public relations and marketing field?

When I was going to the University of Hawaii, I majored in journalism at a time when Watergate was at its height. A career as a journalist just seemed to be an exciting one that took advantage of my writing abilities. I worked as a journalist in Hawaii for a couple of years. Then I was asked to cover a story on the island of Maui about an exciting new resort called Wailea. I went to Maui. I did a story on this resort and I fell in love with the property and the island. The fact that the PR director was giving me a helicopter flightseeing tour of the property and the entire island I thought, “That’s such an exciting job. I wish I had her job as PR director of this resort.” I remember saying that to myself because I don’t often say, “I wish I had what someone else has.”

A year later, that same job was offered to me. I totally forgot that I said I wanted that job. At the time, I was torn between wanting to move to Manhattan, which was my childhood dream to live in Manhattan or to go to Maui and take a job in PR and learn this new profession which I didn’t know much about. I decided to go to Maui, take the PR job and learn about PR for a couple of years so that when I finally did move to Manhattan, I would be able to pursue a job either in public relations or in journalism. That’s what I did. It was an exciting site inspection that I was given by the PR director for the Wailea Resort that made me think about PR as a career. Before then, I had not thought about PR as a career at all. Our exposure to different people and different things ignites our imagination. Sometimes we follow that and I became a PR person.

When and how did you start your first PR and marketing firm?

I moved to New York City two years after I took that job in PR at Wailea. I set an intention to only stay at that job for two years because I didn’t want to get stuck on Maui when I wanted to be living in Manhattan. As it turns out, when I resigned and I was filling out all the papers that you have to complete when you resigned, I noticed that I had been at that job for two years to the day. I had forgotten that I said that I only went to stay for two years. I moved to Manhattan without a job, without an apartment, without much money in my account, just a hope and a dream that I would find a job in PR.

I was pretty confident that I would because my dream was to live in Manhattan. I figured that when I got myself to Manhattan everything would turn out well. My parents were nervous for me that I might not get a job too quickly. I knew I would get a job. In fact, my greater concern that I have was that I would get a job too soon after I arrived there and not give me enough time to find an apartment, open a bank account, and figure out the lay of the land of Manhattan. I set an intention not to be working until two weeks and six weeks after I arrived in Manhattan.


Six weeks to the day, I start working at a small travel PR firm because I specifically targeted travel PR firms, having come from being the PR director for the Hotel Intercontinental Maui in Wailea. Sure enough, one of the outreaches I made was to a small travel PR firm who hired me because I had the experience of being PR director for a world-class destination resort, Wailea. I start working at a small travel PR firm of five people. What I do know at the time was it was a revolving door agency because of the boss, the owner of the agency, was not an easy person to work for. Within the next three months, four people left.

All of a sudden, I was the second most senior person after the owner of the agency. I helped her to build that agency over the next seven years because we were together quite well. She was focused on selling and winning new business. I was focused on servicing the clients that she won. We worked together quite well. I helped her to build the agency over the next seven years. At which time, we were acquired by TBWA\Chiat\Day, a big hot creative ad agency whose clients included Apple computers, Nissan, and Energizer. They still work for these brands.

My boss left within a year of our being acquired by TBWA\Chiat\Day. I was running the PR subsidiary. One day our biggest client came to me and said, “We love you, guys. You’ve helped us to build our brand. However, our senior executives think there’s going to be a recession.” In a prophylactic measure, they’ve asked all of us, all the senior executives at the company to cut their expenses by 15%. In order to extract those savings in the PR area, they decided to consolidate all of their business with another agency who had most of their business, which is what they were going to do which I thought was a smart strategy. However, we’re going to lose our biggest account. If I told my boss at TBWA\Chiat\Day we were losing our biggest client, he would maybe terminate the three people that I had working on that account pretty much full-time. I didn’t tell him because I figured I could come up with a solution to avoid having to terminate three dear colleagues.

At the end of the day, the only solution I could come up with was that I would have to spin off our subsidiary and set up as an independent PR agency where I was the CEO. I would be in-charge of hiring and firing. I could elect not to fire those colleagues. That’s what I did. I convinced my colleagues to follow me in a management buyback. We set up an independent PR agency called PT & Company in July of 1990. This agency was wholly owned by the thirteen of us involved in the buyback. Included in the thirteen were the three people I would have had to fire if we stayed at TBWA\Chiat\Day, our former parent company. That’s how I started my first PR agency not because I always wanted to have my own agency, but because it was the only solution I could come up with to avoid having to fire three dear talented colleagues. I called myself an accidental entrepreneur because of that.

What about the second PR and marketing ad agency?

After building our first agency, PT & Company for twelve years, we were very successful. It was primarily because of a purpose that we articulated for our agency. I felt that we had a no-name startup agency in a city with thousands of established PR agencies and in a country where there are tens of thousands of PR agencies. I felt that we needed to communicate who we were and what we were committed to doing, and that would serve to distinguish us from all of our competitors. Our purpose was to create great work, a great workplace and great communities that were healthy sustainable communities. This purpose was one that all of our employee owners were very focused on and committed to. Because of that, we were able to build the agency and attract the types of clients that we were interested in attracting, clients who were committed to building healthy sustainable communities.

We won a lot of recognition and you alluded some of that; number one most creative PR agency in the country, number one most esteemed PR agency in New York City. We were always on among the best places to work in PR in the annual rankings of PR agencies. We achieved a lot of recognition, won a lot of awards. We had a lot of great big-name clients: Microsoft, Avon, Godiva Dyson, Liz Claiborne, Mercedes-Benz, Wines from Rioja, Spain. Some target corporation, a lot of great clients.

We built that first agency over twelve years and then we decided to sell that agency to another agency around our size to create joined forces, to create a larger mid-sized national agency CRT/Tanaka. We did that for eight years. Then we decided to sell CRT/Tanaka to a Minneapolis-based PR agency, Padilla Speer Beardsley to create PadillaCRT, which were the largest employer and PR agency in the country with 240 employee owners in six geographies. We grew through selling and creating successively larger midsize PR and marketing agencies. I left two years after creating the last agency, PadillaCRT. After three agencies selling and integrating all three, I was ready for a different challenge and different work, which is when I left to start my Joyful Planet Consulting.

Life Purpose: We need to communicate who we are and what we’re committed to doing. That would serve to distinguish us from all of our competitors.

Did you sell it? Are you part of the owners and you sold your share?

Yes. We were our owners. In our first agency, we were all employee-owners but as people left, ownership consolidated in fewer and fewer people. Towards the end of my first agency, we probably had seven of the original thirteen. We’ve grown the agency to more people than that but it grew. I was always part of the ownership group that sold the agency. When I sold the agency to CRT/Tanaka, I was a co-owner of CRT/Tanaka, which we then sold to Padilla Speer Beardsley which was an ESOP. Everybody there was an owner as well. I was an owner of PadillaCRT. In every step of the way, I was an owner and then we sold to create successfully larger agencies.

Tell us about your husband. Where did you meet him?

My late husband, Assadullah Hakiek, was from Afghanistan. We met in York City when I was working at my first PR agency. He was a waiter in the Greek restaurant that was next-door to our agency. We would break for dinner at about 5:30 or 6:00 P.M. Go next door to this Greek restaurant, have dinner. Then we would go back to the office and work for another three or four hours. Those were crazy days. My husband, he was a refugee from Afghanistan during the war when Russia invaded Afghanistan and Afghanis fled across the border to Pakistan and India, and told them to petition to come to the United States as my late husband did.

He was working as a waiter and completing his Master’s degree in Civil Engineering. He was going to college when the Russians invaded Afghanistan. His studies were interrupted and he was conscripted into the Russian army. They gave him and his fellow students no choice. It’s either be conscripted in the Russian army or we throw you into prison. He and his college classmates, about fifteen or sixteen, all conscripted into the Russian army. At some point, they are able to flee across the border and escape. He was able to successfully petition to come here and be accepted as a refugee. That’s when I met him. Soon as I saw him, I remember thinking to myself, “There he is.” For some reason, I knew that that was the person that I was meant to be with. It’s one of those old Hollywood movies where the lights go down the music comes up and there’s a spotlight on that person. I saw him and I recognized, “There he is.”

He was the love of my life, we were together for 23 years. We were married for seventeen of those years. Just before we were married, he was diagnosed with having a brain tumor. Over the years, he had several brain tumor surgeries and post-operative treatments. When conventional treatments were no longer effective, we saw alternative treatments all over the place. He lived for seventeen years after his brain tumor diagnosis, which is confounding to his doctors at Columbia Presbyterian because people don’t usually live that long but he did. It was a function of him. Even with a brain tumor, he saw himself as one of the luckiest guys in the world. Nobody with a brain tumor would consider themselves a lucky person. He did because his faith, he was a Muslim. His religion gave him a lot of comfort. Because of his religion, he wasn’t angry or questioning, “Why me?” He just accepted it as, “This is what is meant to be for me.” He just made the best of it. I always admired that because I’m not like that. I have a pain, I complain. He never complained, which is another thing that was shocking. He went through some difficult treatments. Throughout it all, he always maintained a positive outlook which was very inspiring for me.

You must love him a lot. You already knew he was diagnosed with a brain tumor, but you still decide to marry him. What did your family think about that marriage and the situation that you get yourself into?

My parents at that point were used to me doing whatever I was set on doing. I’m persevering, persistent and passionate. If I want to do something, I’m going to do it. My father is Japanese-American second generation, as my mother. I’m one of three siblings. All three of us married non-Asian men and women. My father says to my mother, “None of our children are marrying Japanese-Americans?” My mother said, “I guess not.” She walked away from him. That was the end of the discussion. It occurred to me, I wonder if they do have a problem because they never said to me, “Don’t marry him. We don’t like him.” I was curious when I asked them if they have had that conversation. My mother relayed that conversation. Her only response to my dad was, “I guess not,” and walked away because she didn’t want to have any more conversation. She believed that if that’s who her children want to marry, that was their decision, not her business or my dad’s business either. My mom was amazing and a great person.

Your dad is Japanese and your mom is also Japanese. Both of them were second-generation.

Yes, but my mother was very unusual for a Japanese-American woman of that era, of that time. She was very warm, outgoing, generous and loving. She had a million friends. We couldn’t go anywhere without her being stopped. All the time people went to come up to her and say, “Hello, how are you?” They would give her a hug and she would ask about their family, their children. She’s also a very successful entrepreneur, which set an example for me because I thought, “Her life is so exciting.” She gets all dressed up and go out and do her thing. She was involved in a multi-level sales business called Constan, which is like an Amway-type business where she was selling everything from food supplements to household cleansers, to undergarments, to fashion. They sold everything. My mother was very successful. It had 60 people working in her group all independent salespeople just like her.

Every year she had a new car. One year she was crowned Queen of Sales at the National Sales Conference at the Hotel Del Coronado in San Diego. She was that person, very glamorous. She always wore these huge cocktail rings. Her hair was or always done up and she was always beautifully dressed. It was always like a costume. She liked to get dressed. She was my hero and my role model. My father was a little threatened by her because she was not your stereotypical demure and docile housewife. She probably had more money than he did doing her sales. My father was a civil engineer and didn’t like what he was doing, but he did it uncomplainingly for 40 years that he did his job. They were an unusual coupling. I always wondered how they ever got together. They were so polar opposites. I had both of them in me. Sometimes it’s a struggle because I am like my father, but I’m also like my mother.

You carry both of their genes. Sometimes you act and think and feel like your dad. The other times, “I want to have fun, be glamorous and dress up,” so you feel like your mom.

My dad was definitely an introvert. He didn’t have any friends. He was very quiet, but he had some strong virtues. He was totally responsible. He was always going to take care of his family and always do the right thing with us. My mom was very warm and generous. She loved everybody. All the kids used to come and play in our house, in our yard because my mother always gave everybody hugs and kisses. She’s a great cook. I have both parts of them, the good and the bad.

Your PR and marketing company was in Manhattan at that time and the 9/11 event happened. You mentioned it altered your life completely. What’s going on in your life at that time?

I was here in this city during 9/11 and like all New Yorkers who were here during that time, life after 9/11, for many months we were all still moving on from the shock and horror of that event. There is life before 9/11 and life after 9/11. I was already exhausted from building my first agency over the previous twelve years with twelve other partners. I had a lot of obligations like taking care of my husband who had a brain tumor. Then I had a lot of other obligations to professional and civic organizations. In every area of my life, I was taking care of other people whether they were family, clients or colleagues or civic organizations that I was involved in. Then 9/11 happened and all of a sudden, I could barely get out of bed. I was so depressed. I had no energy.

It was at that point that I would see an executive coach, someone who one of my partners had been seeing. She was very helpful to her so I thought she could help me as well. I went to the coach and explained to her that I was burnt out, out of gas. I needed help. The coach says, “I can help you. First, I need you to do one thing for me. I need you to rethink your purpose in life from this day forward.” When I heard that, I was annoyed because I’ve gotten finished telling her that I had no energy to even get out of bed when she’s asking me to rethink my purpose of life for the rest of my life. I tried to negotiate with her. “Let’s work together for a few sessions and then maybe I can find the energy to rethink my purpose in life.” She said, “I hear what you’re saying but no, I need you to rethink your purpose so I can help you live your purpose and in doing so, you will feel better.”

Life Purpose: Choose Joy, be mindful of it, and share it with others.

Over the next two weeks before our next coaching session, I considered and rejected many possible life purpose statements. Finally, I came up with one that I could believe and everything else sounded like a little BS. I felt they were either empty or tied to some future I might not have. I went to the coach two weeks later. I shared with her my purpose and I said, “My purpose was informed by the people who died on 9/11 who went to work that day in the Twin Towers and didn’t come home for dinner,” which to me was a shocking situation. Those people went to work like they did every day before then fully expecting to come home and do whatever it was that they were going to do that evening for the rest of their lives and they didn’t come home.

I knew they were caught short from me not having done any or many of the things that were most important for them to do in life. I didn’t want to be caught short like that. My purpose in life was this, to choose joy in my life every day, to be mindful of that joy and to share that joy with others. It was a three-part purpose. Choose joy. Be mindful of it. Share it with others. I told her that if I could live my life this way every day, I could be good to go get no matter when it was my time. I would have been doing what was most important to me every day to the moment that I die. She said, “I love it. I love your purpose. What brings you joy?” I was taken aback because I was like, “What? Nothing is bringing me joy right now. You said to rethink my purpose for the rest of my life. I want the rest of my life to be more joyful because my life at present is not filled with joy.” It’s the opposite of joy. I said like, “Nothing is bringing me joy right now.”

She then asked me, “Name one thing that has brought joy in the past.” Before I can even think about the answer to that question, I blurted out, “I love to dance.” I was surprised that that was the first thing that came out of my mouth. In talking to her, I remembered that when I was eight years old or around there my dream was to dance like Ginger Rogers. I grew up on all of those old black and white films of the 1930s and 1940s. My favorite films were about Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire. They always seemed to be living in Manhattan and dancing at swag supper clubs dressed in evening attire, her in an evening gown. They’re dancing cheek to cheek in some Foxtrot or something. I thought, “If I went to New York, that’s why my life would be.” That’s why I always wanted to live in New York because of that childhood dream of dancing like Ginger Rogers. When she heard that, my dream to dance ballroom went back to eight years old, here I was when I was to see the coach at 50 years old. In the 42 years, I had never taken a dance lesson. She gave me homework for my next coaching session that before my next coaching session, I had to book myself a ballroom dance lesson.

A half an hour before my next coaching session two weeks later, I’m finally on the phone trying to book myself a dance lesson. That’s how I started ballroom dancing. It was the best thing that I ever did because it was something I wanted to do since I was eight years old. I finally started doing it at age 50. Even though it was very awkward at first, I show up for my first-hour long lesson. I’m supposed to learn the foxtrot I’m stepping all over my teacher’s feet and my feet. It was awkward but at the same time very exciting because I was finally going to learn the Foxtrot. I keep showing up every week for my hour-long lesson. Soon enough, I started having fun and laughing. I could feel joy come seeping back into my life, even flooding back into my life because I started taking more lessons. I started getting into ballroom dancing and then I started competing in local ballroom competitions and then traveling across the country to compete in ballroom competitions. Some years later I decided to write a book, Becoming Ginger Rogers, to share what I learned from ballroom dancing.

Part of my purpose was not just to choose joy and to be mindful of that joy, but to share that joy with others. I want to share how I was able to bring more joy into my life simply by choosing joy, the joy that I experience from dancing. That’s how I got into ballroom dancing and how it changed my life. In fact, the subtitle of my book, Becoming Ginger Rogers, is How Ballroom Dancing Made Me a Happier Woman, Better Partner, and Smarter CEO. It did all of those things for me. That’s why I am forever grateful to the lessons that I learned in ballroom dancing, the joy that I got from choosing to do ballroom dancing even at the late age of 50. That’s how I got into ballroom dancing.

Is that the time that you start your second company?

I was still working in PR because I started taking up ballroom dancing in February 2002, five months. That’s when I came up with my purpose. Then shortly after that, I started taking ballroom dance lessons. My book came out in 2011. Over that time, while I was ballroom dancing, the lessons that I learned helped me to grow my business. I never would have probably thought about selling my agency and to close partner with another agency to form a larger mid-sized national agency. In fact, one of my partners at the time said, “If it weren’t for ballroom dancing, you never would have been able to sell the agency, and not been the CEO.”

He was quite astute in determining that because as a CEO, you’re the leader. In a ballroom dance partnership, the female is always the follower. I learned in a ballroom dance partnership that the role of a leader and follower is equally important. It’s not enough if you only have a strong leader and a weak or weaker follower. If you have a strong follower or weaker leader, you cannot win a championship. If you have an unbalanced partnership in that way. Both leader and follower have to be equally strong because they each have their roles. They’re mutually dependent on one another in order to navigate the ballroom floor and to perform well.


That lesson must have sunk into my psyche. I realized even if I’m not the CEO of our combined new agency, I would still have an important role being the vice chair and the chief creative officer, which is my title after the first agency. There are a lot of lessons I learned from ballroom dancing that helped me to build my business 800%, lessons like the value of close partnering. The biggest lesson I learned was the importance of being fully present; mind, body, and spirit. I always thought that I was fully present in all three rounds before taking up ballroom dancing. In taking up ballroom dancing, I realized that I was only present in my mind and my spirit, but not my body. I had spent so many years of taking care of everyone else. I stopped taking care of my physical self. Ballroom dancing made me re-engage with my physical body.

Dancing is a physical activity. In order to dance well, you have to be engaged in your mind and your spirit as well. In fact, the only way you can dance well is if you are fully present; mind, body, and spirit. I’ll give you an example that my teacher gave me. If you are worried about a misstep you just made, it’s going to impact your present step because your mind is going to be back at the mistake instead of just being fully present. Being fully present in executing your presence step full out and fearlessly is what produces your next step or your future. The only way to produce a great next step or your future is by executing in the present moment full out and fearlessly. If you’re too far ahead of yourself as I was often, worrying about difficult choreography ahead, you’re thinking ahead and not fully present. That is also going to affect your dancing. You’re not fully present. It’s going to mean you’re producing a less than great next step or a future.

It is an exercise and a discipline to be fully present on the dance floor, every moment that you’re dancing. There’s always something that’s happening around you. There are other dance couples. They’re moving sometimes in unexpected ways and they could unexpectedly veer right into your path. If you’re not fully present executing what’s happening and just following your partner wordlessly without arguing or negotiate, you don’t have time to do that. You just have to follow whatever your partner’s lead is to avoid an accident on the dance floor sometimes. If couples are not attuned to what’s happening around them and if they’re not moving well as a team, as a couple, it could be disastrous.

There are a lot of lessons like that in ballroom dancing. Another good one in which I love, women, in particular, do this. We play sometimes not to win, but not to make mistakes. That curtails your greatness. With dancing, it’s about dancing full out and fearlessly every time, every step of the way and it’s not about dancing perfectly, but dancing full out, all the time and pushing it to the edge. That is what suits great dancing. I was such a perfectionist that my goal was yes to do great work but never to make a mistake. Sometimes your interest in not making a mistake can override the possibility of greatness because you’re holding back a little.

In dancing, if you want to dance well and if you want to win championships, you can’t hold anything back. You have to leave it all on the dance floor. I love that idea. In fact, dancers don’t talk about much about dancing. They talk about perfection not as a destination, but as a direction. Every day you work towards perfection, but you never achieve it because it’s not a destination that you should be thinking that you’re going to arrive at. It’s just a direction. It’s all about continual improvement. That’s a great lesson too because just to be a perfectionist, it means a lot of times that you’re not taking the risks that you should be taking, and you’re not and executing full out to the edge, sometimes slightly over the edge. If you’re a perfectionist, you’re to worry about not ever failing or making mistakes or making a misstep. You can’t dance like that. It shows in your dancing. It looks like you’re holding back, not dancing full out and fearlessly. I extend all those lessons off the dance floor into my personal life and in my work life. I always want to live full out and fearlessly. I love your motto.

Live life loud.

That is the same idea. It’s just living life full out, fearlessly and not holding back because that’s what spells the difference between good and great. There are so many lessons from ballroom that I wanted to share, which I did share in my book. It taught me more than just how to ballroom dance. I can do the Waltz, Tango Foxtrot, Viennese Waltz, Cha-cha, Rumba, Swing, Mambo, Bolero. I can do those dances, but beyond just the steps of those dances, my whole orientation to life is a lot more about living life full out and fearlessly. That is what we all need to do with our lives in order to have the life that is the most exciting inspiring to us.

Women, in general, they would be a better partner if they take on dancing because most of the time, it’s hard for women who are very controlling to be in the ballroom and follow. They have to give up on the idea or the role of the leader. They have to totally surrender and let the men lead them.

Life Purpose: Live life full out and fearlessly. Don’t hold back because that’s what spells the difference between good and great.

You hit it right on the head and my teacher always used to say that the hardest women to teach ballroom dancing to were senior executive women, C-Suite women because they’re so used to being in charge and they want to lead. In fact, we used to have this joke he would say, “Will you let me lead?” I said, “You can lead,” because you can’t help yourself. If you know what the choreography, is then you’re just going to dance that choreography instead of waiting for your part to lead you in the dance, and then following him and dancing the choreography. It’s hard to get out of your head initially because we want to control everything.

In fact, they used to call me at my office, Ayatollah Tanaka, because I was very micromanaging, very rigid, “This is the way it has to be done,” and merciless when it came to mistakes or not striving for perfection. It’s like the parent whose child gives them a report card with 95 and they’re like, “Why can’t you get a 98 or 99?” That’s the way it used to be. After ballroom dancing or because of ballroom dancing, I like to think that my alter ego changed from Ayatollah Tanaka to Samba Girl. I’m a much better partner and colleague.

Tell us about that dance. Why samba?

I love the samba because it’s got a bounce in the dance that you have to reflect in your movement. It’s a party dance. It’s just so much fun. I’ve always loved Samba music. In fact, I love Samba music before I knew it was Samba music. There was something about me that always responded to that rhythmic beat. I love most of the dances. I dance American Rhythm and American Smooth and I love most of the dances. They’re all different. They each have a different personality and character. Each one is for a different mood. Samba to me is a dance of joy. I love Samba. My Twitter handle is still @SambaGal.

Tell us about Joyful Planet. What are you focusing on with this company?

I decided to retire from PR and marketing because I’d been doing it for over 35 years and I loved it. I won a lot of awards. I was inducted into the PRWeek Hall of Fame. I’ve accomplished a lot of what I wanted to accomplish in the PR and marketing space. I was thinking about what would I do next if I wasn’t doing PR. Looking back over my life, I realized that my life changed and it took off on a trajectory all its own the moment that I discovered and articulated my life purpose, which I mentioned earlier was to choose joy, to be mindful of that joy and to share that joy with others.

It seems a very simple statement but that statement changed my life. From the moment that I shared it with my coach and she made me tell her what brought me joy. I told her dancing and then all of a sudden, I’m taking ballroom dance lessons, fulfilling my childhood dream of dancing like Ginger Rogers. I could see over the past sixteen years since I discovered and articulated that purpose that I have accomplished a lot of things that are exactly what I wanted to do, probably twice as much as I accomplished in the previous 35 years.

Discovering and actively living your purpose is the most efficient and powerful way to unleash your leadership potential, greater success, fulfillment and joy in your personal life, in your business and in your communities. In business, you’re always looking for what’s the most efficient way to generate the result that you want. That’s what I netted out to. The single most efficient and powerful way to unleash greater success, fulfillment and enjoy your life is to discover and articulate and actively live your life purpose. I prove that to myself. I did a lot of research and I’ve just been doing a lot of work helping individuals and groups of people discover and articulate their purpose so they can start actively living it.

I did that in my personal life but also for my first agency where I articulated our business purpose, which was to create great work, a great workplace and great communities that work. That business purpose helped us within eight years to be named the number one most creative PR agency in the whole country and the number two best place to work among all agencies in the country. It was a very efficient way to generate the result that we were looking for. It’s a low-cost way of generating higher productivity and profitability. If everyone is involved in the enterprise, fully focused on the same purpose and embraces it, supporting and driving it forward, you are going to enjoy enhanced productivity and performance and profitability. In fact, there’s a lot of research showing that purpose-driven organizations and businesses significantly outperform profit-only focused businesses. It’s significant, something like 1,681% versus 118% growth. This is a study first of all S&P companies over a fifteen-year period.

There’s no comparison. If you have an organization, if you have a business you should be articulating and communicating your purpose as a business and as an organization, not just for internal audiences, but for external audiences. What a purpose does is communicate how you serve and create value for all stakeholders and how you serve the greater good. When you think about it, if consumers and customers know that you’re just trying to serve the greater good, they’re more likely to support you and more likely to patronize you. If they know that all you care about is profit, they don’t have the same desire to support you because you’re only in it for yourself. Business purpose and life purpose I felt were two things that individuals and organizations had to be able to articulate so that they could actively live their purpose and unleash greater success, fulfillment and joy in their personal lives, in their businesses and in their communities. It’s a win-win for everybody. That’s why I’m focused on life purpose and organizational purpose in my new Joyful Planet Consultancy.

Is purpose the same as vision and mission?

No, a vision is what is the ideal future that you would want to create. That ideal future is something that you’ll probably never achieve, but that is because it’s an ideal state. Your purpose is how you serve the greater good and help to realize that vision that is ideal so it will never fully be realized. Your mission is much more internally focused about exactly how you’re going to do that. It usually speaks to the business lines that you’re in and that you want to be number one in this category. It’s more tactical than a purpose. Then foundational to all that are your values because you must have values that govern the organization. If you don’t have values that everybody buys into and lives up to, it’s not possible for you to efficiently achieve your mission, your purpose and your vision. It’s all levels.

You have co-authored with the biggest name in the industry like Brian Tracy, a world-renowned management consultant and coach, and Richard Branson, the billionaire and philanthropist. How did you get involved to be a contributing author for Beat the Curve and the Performance 360 books?

Everything builds on everything else. I’ve done a lot of writing. I’ve been in other people’s books. I’ve contributed to the writing. I’ve done blog posts. I was invited to participate in these two in these two books. I said yes. In the Beat the Curve book with Brian Tracy, I contributed a chapter which is entitled Live Your Life’s Purpose and Unleashed Your Joy, which is why I feel is the result of living your purpose that you do, unleash your joy. That’s why my consultancy is called Joyful Planet because the end-result of everyone that I help individual or organization to actively live their purpose, they are all contributing to creating a more joyful planet. The Richard Branson book, Performance 360, my chapter in that book is called Purpose: A Competitive Advantage in Business and Life. Both of these chapters from these books are on my website. They’re downloadable for free.

Becoming Ginger Rogers: How Ballroom Dancing Made Me a Happier Wolman, Better Partner, and Smarter CEO

Also, a chapter from my Becoming Ginger Rogers book can be downloaded for free from my website JoyfulPlanet.com. I’m excited about Performance 360 and my chapter, Purpose: A Competitive Advantage in Business and Life because that is the crux of why you would want to take the time to articulate your purpose whether as an individual or as a business. Knowing your purpose will help focus and drive you to accomplish what matters most. A purpose for an individual is how you will leverage your talent your expertise and your passion in service of other people and our planet. If you have succinctly articulated that statement, it’s something that you can focus on. It becomes part of who you are and it should galvanize and inspire you to want to live your purpose every single day. That’s why I feel that the power of a purpose statement whether as an individual or organization is that you memorize it. It’s powerful and it speaks to you. You recited it to yourself so that you become that purpose and you share it with others so people know who you are at your essence, what matters most to you and how you serve others.

Because of knowing that about you, they’re much more likely to want to engage with you and to invest more time in you. Frankly sometimes, they’ll want to help you achieve what matters most to you in life. People have to know that about you. You have to proactively share that in order for you to enlist that support that is available to all of us if we were able to proactively communicate this information, which is what people need to know in order for them to want to invest more time in you. If you can’t articulate that for yourself, nobody has the time to spend 45 minutes asking you 25 questions so they understand who you are, where you’re coming from and what you’re trying to do in your life and then be able to come up with, “Why don’t you talk to so and so? I could connect you with this person. Have you read this book? Have you seen this blog post?” They are only able to do that if you give them enough information to show them how they might support you.

I feel that’s why if people were able to communicate their purpose, they could enlist much more support that they’ve been able to that they’ve been able to enlist without that statement. That’s why I call it Purpose: A Competitive Advantage. If you’re the only one that can communicate your purpose and none of the people around you can, people are going to be more attracted to you and understand how they can help you to accomplish what matters most. It’s an advantage. I want to equip every single person with that competitive advantage especially women because we women need every advantage we can get in order to succeed. Women of color and Asian women, we could benefit from knowing our purpose and our purpose would be an advantage to us. We need every advantage we can get in order to succeed as wildly as we can.

What are you most proud of?

I feel very confident about my problem-solving abilities. I can always come up with a solution to every problem. I love those creative intellectual exercises. I tell people that the only reason that I started my first PR agency was that it was a solution to a problem that I had, which was that I might have to terminate three colleagues. I came up with a creative solution to avoid having to do that. I’m proud that I came up with a creative solution that prevented me from having to terminate three dear colleagues and building an agency that all of my shareholders and I can be proud of. That’s one of the things I’m very proud of. I’m also proud that I don’t have children of my own.

Some years ago, I decided that I would take the time and money that I would have spent raising my own children and support organizations that helped women and children to succeed. I spent many hours and a lot of money supporting three nonprofits that I’m very involved withGirl Scouts of Greater New YorkDancing Classrooms NYC and the Phelophepa Train of Hope South Africa. That way I can share my joy through these three organizations. Those are the two things that I would cite as things I’m very proud of.

What makes you feel at peace?

Knowing that I’m living my purpose every day because it is something that I consciously recite to myself. When I get up, I ask for joy and opportunities to choose joy. Before I go to bed every night, I count all the joyful episodes of the day to remind me of all of the joy I had that day. Sometimes if you don’t, you’re not mindful of it. It’s almost as if you didn’t have joy. That brings me a lot of peace. When I stay in gratitude, that also brings me peace because I realize how much joy and abundance I have in my life and how grateful I am for these gifts. I can’t help but be in a good place and at peace.

What do the word, power, mean to you? 

The ability to help others.


The ability to go to bed every night feeling that you’ve done your very best and it has helped a lot of people or just one person.


When I feel that I don’t need anything more, I’m complete. I’m filled with contentment and joy.


I love the word joy. It’s such a cute word because it’s only three letters with a big O in the middle. I read a definition of joy that to me rings true. Joy is the experience of the preciousness of life. To me, that perfectly captures what joy is for me. When I count the joyful episodes of my day, I count things equally. If I had a nice friendly exchange with a taxi driver or I won a big new piece of business, I count them equally because they both are joyful experiences.

What’s next for you?

More work, hopefully globally. I hope to create a more joyful planet by helping people discover, articulate and actively live their purpose. In that way, help to create a more Joyful Planet for everyone, for all of us.

Could you share with us three tips from your life lessons?

To your point, I love the idea of living full out and fearlessly. You say, “Live life loud.” I love that, live full out and fearlessly, hold nothing back. Two, I would say choose joy. It’s always a choice. We can choose joy or unjoy. I have friends who focus a lot on their ailments, illnesses, injuries and slights. You don’t have to choose to talk about those things. You can choose something that’s more joyful. It’s always a choice. Everything in life is not going to be joyful but you can choose something that is a better thought. Live full out and fearlessly and choose joy. For me, honoring your commitment is key. If I am not my word, if I am not what I say I will do, then who am I? That’s the basis for trust. That’s a basis for a healthy, productive relationship. It’s everything.

If our audience wants to learn more about you, where should they go?

Please come find me at JoyfulPlanet.com or email me [email protected]. I’m also on social media platforms, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and LinkedIn. Please come find me. I would love to communicate with you.

Thank you so much, Patrice, for sharing your story and your wisdom.

Thank you. It’s always a pleasure being on your podcast. I appreciate what you’re doing in the world and what you’re doing to create a more joyful planet.

Congratulations on what you have accomplished so far and best wishes in the future. For our audience, what is your number one takeaway from this interview? Let us know your thoughts. When you are ready to participate in the further discussion, please go to www.JoinAsianWomenofPower.com. Live life loud.

Links Mentioned:

Episode Quotes 

"My life changed when I had my purpose."

"Your purpose is your competitive advantage."

"Perfection is a direction, not a destination."

"In ballroom, both leader and follower have to be strong."

"When you dance, you leave everything on the floor."

About Patrice Tanaka

Name: Patrice Tanaka
Founder & Chief Joy Officer, Joyful Planet LLC
Website: www.JoyfulPlanet.com
• [email protected]
Social Media Profiles:
• LinkedIn/Patrice Tanaka
• Twitter/Patrice Tanaka
• Instagram/patricetanaka
• Facebook/Patrice Tanaka

Patrice Tanaka is a serial entrepreneur, having co-founded three award-winning, PR & marketing firms, including the largest, employee-owned PR agency in the U.S. Her agencies have been recognized as the “#1 Most Creative,” “#1 Most Esteemed” and among the “best places to work” in PR. After a successful, 35+ year PR & Marketing career Patrice started Joyful Planet, a Business & Life Strategy Consultancy, working with individuals and organizations to discover and actively live their purpose to unleash greater success, fulfillment and joy in their personal lives, in their businesses and in their communities. Life purpose and organizational purpose are the subject of Patrice’s best-selling book, Beat the Curve (2016), co-authored with renowned management consultant and coach, Brian Tracy, and her latest book, Performance360 (September 2018), co-authored with Richard Branson and other leaders. Patrice has been honored by many organizations, including PRWeek (2016 Hall of Fame inductee), PRSA Foundation (Paladin Award), Public Relations Society of America (“Paul M. Lund Award for Public Service”), The Holmes Report (“Creativity All-Star”), New York Women in Communications (“Matrix” Award), Association for Women in Communications, Asian Women in Business, Working Mother magazine (“Mothering that Works” Award), Girl Scouts of Greater New York (“Women of Distinction” Award), University of Hawaii (Distinguished Alumni), among others.

For longer bio on Patrice Tanaka visit http://joyfulplanet.com/about-joyful-planet/

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