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On My Birthday…Thinking About Happiness and Having Impact

Today is my 52nd birthday–and I feel very, very blessed. In fact, since I was about 15, life continues to get better and better. 15-20 was better than what had come before–the time in my life when I figured out who I was and accepted it, began to make friends on my own, and experienced the last two years of high school, the very intense and wonderful ride that was my three years at Antioch College, and my first year finding my way in the world after school.

Today is my 52nd birthday–and I feel very, very blessed.

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In fact, since I was about 15, life continues to get better and better. 15-20 was better than what had come before–the time in my life when I figured out who I was and accepted it, began to make friends on my own, and experienced the last two years of high school, the very intense and wonderful ride that was my three years at Antioch College, and my first year finding my way in the world after school.

My 20s were very nice–getting married, and moving together to Western Massachusetts. And I published the first two of my seven books. I think my 20s were also when I made a conscious decision that I could have a happy or an unhappy life, and that I would choose happiness–and that the work I did and do to heal the world was a crucial component of that happiness, but not the whole thing. Since then, the universe has just showered me with blessings, even if they’re sometimes disguised as ugliness or hurt.

My 30s were even better, as I got to know my two amazing kids, born in 1987 and 1992, and as my writing and publishing career began to take really shape with the 1993 publication of Marketing Without Megabucks: How to Sell Anything on a Shoestring by Simon & Schuster, and then with my decision to buy back the remaining inventory two years later.

And my 40s? This was the decade where I began to make my mark on a wider world, not just my local community. I built strong communities in Cyberspace, transformed my home-based business into a global presence–and also had an impact in my own town, with the formation of Save the Mountain.

I founded STM to protect our much-loved local mountain from a very poorly conceived development plan. In all my years of organizing, this was the most amazing experience. I started the group when the first story in the local paper quoted a bunch of experts who said “this is terrible but there’s nothing we can do.”

I knew they were wrong. I figured we could gather a small group of activists and stop the project within five years or so. It astonished even me when we got hundreds of people to turn out at hearings, thousands to passively support us with petitions, bumper stickers, and so forth, a very diverse active core of 35, including scientists, legal liaisons, organizers, students, farmers, local landowners…it was the closest thing to a true consensus movement I’ve ever been involved with, bringing together people from all political views and even gaining support from town officials who had a reputation for opposing progressive change.

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And we won…in just 13 months.

That experience was one of the forces that shaped my decision to make change on a more global level, and to institute the Business Ethics Pledge campaign. I’ve given that campaign 10 years to see if it can make a fundamental change in the world.

Meanwhile, two years in, my 50s are already full of new books to write, new people to influence, new initiatives on sustainability and ethics, new countries to visit, plenty of fascinating client projects, land to preserve, speeches to give, and maybe even getting my office dug out of its clutter.

In short, I fully expect to have an awesome time and even surpass my amazing 40s.

I wish you, as well, an amazing 2009, an amazing next ten years, and a fabulous rest of your life. I’ll be right there, not necessarily enjoying every minute, but certainly enjoying every month and year.

Shel Horowitz, owner of FrugalMarketing.com, has been an activist since age 12. His books include the Apex Award winning Principled Profit: Marketing That Puts People First.

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