Poetry and Purpose: Five Questions for Cathy Carlisi

Written by

BCG BrightHouse

Aug 29, 2019 · 5-minute read

Just three years after BrightHouse was founded, Cathy Carlisi started working with us as a contract lead. Two decades later, she’s a Managing Director and our President of the Americas. As one of the longest serving BrightHouse employees, Cathy has an invaluable amount of tribal knowledge. We could fill this whole page with the list of her clients and accolades, but we settled for five questions to help you get to know her a little better.

You started with BrightHouse just three years after we were founded, what brought you to BH and what’s kept you here?
By my junior year of college, all my friends knew what they wanted to do when they got out. I knew nothing. My dad, whose advice served me many times (you’ll see if you keep reading), said, “Forget careers. Just write down what you’d like someone to pay you to do.” I scribbled, “I’d love to get paid to think of ideas.” Fast forward, and I’m an intern at a company whose owner would later found BrightHouse. Fast forward again, and I’m at BrightHouse, helping to think about the biggest idea of all, Purpose, and the sizable ideas it inspires. When I first joined, I wrote film scripts and Purpose statements. Today, I write growth plans and goals. Either way, I’m fortunate to continue to use creativity in ever-new ways to positively impact our clients and the world.

Which of our Purpose Principles is nearest and dearest to you and why?
Intelligence Having Fun. It comes from a quotation attributed to Einstein: “Creativity is intelligence having fun.” This is the magic of BrightHouse. Our process is laced with creativity, spiked with joy. We love the work we do and the people we do it with. If the client experience feels heavy or clunky, the output will too. Purpose should be a rocket booster that elevates everything it touches. That lift should begin with the process to discover and embed it.

You are a nationally published poet! Is poetry important to Purpose?
Many clients these days partner with us to embed Purpose into their culture, strategy, and brand. They may have a Purpose statement they wrote at an executive offsite, or that their branding agency or consultancy helped write. We like to first ensure these statements feel authentic, timeless, and inspiring: the tenets of a true Purpose. And, you could argue, the tenets of poetry. From your Purpose statement to how you embed meaning into day-to-day work, you need the objectivity that can only come from the outside, as well as a sense of humanity and eloquence, simplicity and brevity, or your Purpose will be little more than a glorified mission statement. And your performance may get a small pop, but it won’t be sustained. You must inspire all stakeholders to care about what they do, so they not only know, but feel that what they do matters .

You have a young daughter who is getting close to graduating high school, what advice do you give her about finding Purpose in life?
When deciding whether to major in biology (practical) or art (not so much), I called my father who once again gave me advice: “Do what you love, and the money will come.” He knew nothing about discretionary effort, but he knew everything about finding meaning in your work to drive success. With my 16-year-old, I say pretty much the same thing, with a little more BrightHouse methodology thrown in: Think about what you’re good at, what you’re willing to put in the hours to become great at, and then how you can use that to leave the world better than you found it. Love your work, love the world.

Cathy Carlisi and her husband Joe Paprocki at the BrightHouse Summer Anniversary Party.

You’ve worked with global companies and Fortune 500’s, spreading Purpose around the world. Why does Purpose work in so many different countries?
From Paleolithic cave paintings to Greek philosophers to pop music, humans have always sought meaning in their lives, have always craved Purpose. Whether you call it raison d’etre, entansyon, Mokuteki, Udēśa, øjemed, or Wạtt̄hupras̄ngkh, Purpose helps people understand not the meaning of life, but the meaning of their lives. So, whether you look out your window in the morning and see mountains or skyscrapers, desert or ocean, you’ll hop out of bed with more vigor, more zeal if you believe that what you do matters. That your role at work — how you’ll spend more hours of your life than in any other singular pursuit — makes you part of something bigger, something that positively impacts your organization and the world.

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