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What We Really Need to be Happy

Someone once asked Billy Joel about the peak moment of his musical career. Was it hearing one of his songs on the radio? News of a tune cracking the Top 10? His agent calling with a long-awaited recording offer?

notes_and_keyboard.jpgNo, replied the multimillionaire pop sensation. It was when he scored his first-ever paid music job, $25 or $35 for playing the piano for a few hours in a dingy bar. Even decades later, winning that humble gig remained the high point of Billy Joel’s career—because it validated his life’s ambition and passion: to become a professional musician.

I know the feeling.

The height of my entrepreneurial career wasn’t the day I signed the contract to sell my company. It wasn’t when the first payment hit, adding another zero to my bank account balance. Both were exciting events, but after all the due diligence, negotiations, and paperwork, they had a feeling of weary inevitability.

The high point came more than a decade ago, when a reporter from the Nihon Keizai Shimbun—Japan’s counterpart to the Wall Street Journal—called to request an interview. Somehow he’d stumbled upon the soft-launch version of our Do-it-Yourself Import Center, a Web resource for Japanese consumers wanting to purchase goods directly from overseas vendors.

That call validated everything my wife and I had worked so hard to achieve. We exulted, holding hands and jumping up and down inrejoicing_at_sunset1.jpg our 90 square-foot office, whooping like junior high school kids.

At the time I had no idea that phone call would trigger a chain of events that eventually brought us fortune through the sale of our company. I hadn’t even conceived of selling our company (when that idea finally became conceivable to us, it also became achievable, but that’s another story). We were simply high on our own enthusiasm. There’ve been other peaks, but nothing yet has matched that moment.

Albert Einstein said it well:

We act as though comfort and luxury were the chief requirements of life, when all that we need to make us happy is something to be enthusiastic about.

Something to be enthusiastic about. ’Nuff said.

Holiday postscript: Billy Joel was quoted in the International Herald Tribune recently. The voice on his new anti-war single, “Christmas in Fallujah,” is not his own—he gave the recording session to a 21-year-old singer-songwriter from Long Island. The 58-year-old Piano Man felt he was too old to sing the song himself. Here’s what he wrote about it on his Web site:

I thought it should be someone young, about a soldier’s age. I wanted to help somebody else’s career. I’ve had plenty of hits. I’ve had plenty of airplay. I had my time in the sun. I think it’s time for somebody else, maybe, to benefit from my own experience.


That’s the spirit of gratitude Mark and I worked so hard to capture in The Scroll of Fortune, which you’re welcome to read online or download.

Now, we’re going to give ourselves the gift of turning off our computers for a few days over Christmas—a highly recommended technique for balancing fortune and fulfillment.

More great posts will follow the holiday. Check back with us on December 26, when we tackle the heady topic of Health Insurance for the Poor—and the Prosperous.

And on December 30, we take up the timely issue of New Year resolutions, examining How to Set Priorities.

Happy Holidays!

5 Comments to What We Really Need to be Happy

On Jun 26, 2008, Sara commented:

I love this. That means today just might be the height of my career. Okay, overly optimistic, but I enjoyed the idea that the most meaningful successes aren’t necessary the “biggest” ones.

On Dec 9, 2010, Laverne Serie commented:

That makes sense to me but does this?
There’s too much blood in my caffeine system.

On Jan 23, 2011, be happy commented:

What really hit me by this article is the passage stating:

“Now, we’re going to give ourselves the gift of turning off our computers for a few days over Christmas—a highly recommended technique for balancing fortune and fulfillment.”

How grand of a time would that be huh? We’ve all seem to be overtaken by technology. After I post this, I might as well turn my computer off and have fun with the family.

On Aug 6, 2011, Min Lee Alexander Cambridge commented:

I like to check out your blog a couple times a week for new readings. I was wondering when you have any other topics you write about? You’re a really fascinating writer!

On Aug 11, 2011, by Tim commented:

Thanks for the kind words, Min, as you can see we’re rather dormant. But you might want to check out http://businessmodelyou.com/


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