Sometimes I wish I had super powers or could twitch my nose like Samantha the witch or jump on a Hogwarts Harry Potter-style broomstick — just to be able to travel instantly and sit down face to face with the fascinating folks I get to talk to. Especially when I “meet” someone I instantly fall in love with long distance.
That’s how I felt when I talked with Daryn Kagan. Kagan was at CNN for 12 years, traveled the globe, was on the air on 9-11-2001 and covered the Iraq war.
She traveled on tour with U2 (!).When her contract wasn’t renewed in 2006, she decided to make a big change and took a gamble: she created her own place (http://www.darynkagan.com/) dedicated to telling inspirational stories and focusing on what’s good in the world. (Sound familiar?)
In plain speak, Daryn Kagan is the creator and host of DarynKagan.com, an inspirational online community that features a daily Web cast of stories that “Show the World What is Possible.” She doesn’t think of it as a “happy news” site. “It is more focused than that,” she says. “I would call it ‘hopeful’ news.”
I heard about Kagan through a friend’s Facebook post. I was mesmerized and touched by her stories. I decided I had to talk with this person who seemed to be following a similar path as mine so I contacted Kagan and was able to finagle an interview via phone. Pull up a chair, grab a cuppa and join us for a little friendly chat.
Jeanne Huff: Daryn, what is your story? How did you get to where you are today? You started your Web site featuring online videos that tell inspiring stories and a focus on what’s good in the world — and you did that in 2006 — you were ahead of the curve!
Daryn Kagan: I just got laid-off before you. (Laughs.) You know, I think it’s important to be informed and equally important to be inspired. There are plenty of places to go (for information or news) if people want to be informed or feel crappy about the world.
I worship “the do.” For years I would think “when I do this, I’ll be happy.” In 2003 I went to Kuwait for CNN and I thought “I’ll do that and they’ll promote me.” I came back and they took somebody else.
About that same time, my boyfriend called. I remember I was shopping at the market, I was standing by the frozen peas. My boyfriend called and said he’d bought a ring — but not for me, it was for someone else.
That’s when I started my own inspirational journey.
JH: What is the most important thing you’ve learned?
DK: Wow. I think — especially women — have a chapter of reinvention. You realize you are not the thing you call yourself — an anchor or a reporter. The thing you call yourself goes away and you cry for a few days — and I highly recommend that. Then there’ll be a “now what” day and that’s when the power comes in.
There was a process, a few months of sad. Then I decided at some point I’m gonna need to reinvent myself. Kevin Sites was doing “In the Hot Zone” http://www.kevinsitesreports.com/ and I thought, you can have one of those?
It was a convergence of ideas. First, I went to Yahoo. (Laughs.) My pitch was ‘put the yahoo in Yahoo,” and the idea was that when you clicked on the Yahoo bug, you’d get a good news story. They didn’t get it.
Then my little sister said: “What are you doing? You don’t need Yahoo — do it yourself.” Everytime you don’t get picked, it’s heartbreaking. I thought, “if I do this, I get to pick myself.”
I love these kind of inspirational stories. I just started creating them. Sept. 1 was the last day I worked for CNN. I launched my Web site Nov. 13, six weeks after I left.
JH: You mostly feature inspirational stories about people. How do you find your stories?
DK: My big fancy plan was build it and they will come. I really believed that if you created a vessel for them the stories would come to me and it really worked out that way. People have good stories to tell and people want to be able to interact.
There’s a little square on my Web site that says “Tell Me Your Story” — I call that my magic box. I just open it up.
My favorite are what I call inside-out stories about people who take something they would have never picked and they turn it inside out.
JH: Can you give us an example?
DK: Kate Fletcher was a woman in her 60s who lived in Pittsburgh and was grieving over the loss of her husband. She heard about kids in Kenya who are HIV-negative but growing up without parents. (Kate went to Africa after her husband died. She came back, sold her house and volunteered to work with these girls.) She thought, as a widow at 70 and with no money, that she needed to start a school for these girls. And she did. She turned her grief inside-out. A lot of people get a lot of ideas on how to change the world, but they get stopped over how to do it.
JH: Do you have a favorite inspirational story?
DK: (Laughs.) That’s like saying “now I’m gonna make you pick your favorite child.”
JH: How many stories have you done, or how often do you do a story?
DK: I put up a new video every day. Plus, there’s a place on my Web site for anyone to post their own inspirational stories.
JH: What about books? Anything good you’re reading right now?
DK: Katie Byron, that’s who is turning me on right now. She’s my latest turn-my-head-inside-out. http://www.thework.com/books.asp
JH: So what’s next for you?
DK: I’m working on my second book which will come out next year, “Life Lessons of a Three-Legged Tripod.” (Kagan’s first book, “What’s Possible: 50 True Stories of People Who Dared to Dream They Could Make a Difference” was published in 2008 http://www.amazon.com/Whats-Possible-Daryn-Kagan/dp/0696238918) I’m working on a redesign of the Web site and possible other partnerships with bigger internet companies.
JH: Can you leave us with some of your favorite quotes?
DK: “Can’t screw up the right one, can’t make the wrong one work.” It means: if it’s meant to be, it’s meant to be.” And: “Fear is the result of your brain imagining the dangers. Faith is the result of your brain imagining the possibilities.” Someone posted it on Facebook.