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Even from my earliest childhood growing up in New York I recall that wherever I went people were talking about how successful this or that person was—"He's a doctor", "He works for a big firm", "He made a lot of money in the stock market", etc. And again, even from earliest childhood, I could never understand why people always talked about how "successful" everyone was, with hardly a word about how "happy" this or that person was.

Many years later, just recently in fact, I came upon a wonderful article about a king (yes, a king!), of this fascinating little nation called Bhutan tucked away between such Asian giants as China and India. Bhutan is no ordinary nation. It is one of the most isolated nations in the world. Most of Bhutan is covered in forest, there are fewer than 2.5 million people in the entire nation, Buddhist culture and religion are everywhere and only in 1999 was the ban on television and internet lifted. Per capita income in Bhutan is around $1,400, ranked 124th in the world. More than 80% of the population live as subsistence farmers.

And here is the most fascinating point: despite being among the world's poorer nations, Bhutan is also one of the happiest nations on earth! Over 20 years ago, amidst criticism from Western economic experts that Bhutan was not developing "fast enough", the King of Bhutan went on record as saying "Gross National Happiness is more important than Gross National Product." The statement signaled his commitment to building an economy that is appropriate for Bhutan's culture and people, based on Buddhist spiritual values, and has served as a unifying vision for the economy. While Bhutan has been very successful till recently in isolating itself from world modernization and globalization, the big challenges are ahead as internet and television have entered the lives of Bhutanese only very recently…

In a survey in 2005, 45 percent of Bhutanese reported being very happy, 52 percent reported being happy and only three percent reported not being happy. Based on this data, the Happy Planet Index estimates that the average level of life satisfaction in Bhutan is within the top 10 percent of nations worldwide, and certainly higher than other nations with similar levels of GDP per capita.

While there will always be skeptics and "experts" who will dwell on all the many questions that can be asked about what is happiness, how is it measured, who says what, how it was measured, and so on…today more and more western economic psychologists, such as  2002 Nobel Laureate Daniel Kahneman,  question the link between levels of income and happiness.

I ask: can't we simply observe our lives, ourselves, the lives of those closest to us and understand that while money has importance to us in so many ways, happiness does not equal having money and having money does not equal having happiness? And once having done so, what do we do with that observation?

A wonderful video clip on Bhutan and Gross National Happiness

Pretty cool for a king, ay?

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You know how people always say, "He was an honest guy but, you know, business is business…", or " In order to succeed you need to cut costs and that means you need to make the most and pay out the least…inevitably you will be at odds with your workers…". And there are lots of other "classic sayings" which simply emphasize that a person of values has not business in being in business and a person of business will not have very strong values over time. Well, I have heard this stuff for tens of years and I am sure it is true in many cases…but not all! And the fact that it is NOT true in all is what gives us hope, a new vision, a new way of doing things.

I think the example of Grameen Bank is absolutely the best. Dr. Muhammad Yunus is a global leader in anti-poverty efforts, and has pioneered the use of "micro-loans" to provide credit to poor individuals without collateral. Dr. Yunus, an economist by training, founded the Grameen Bank in 1983 in his native Bangladesh to provide small, low-interest loans to the poor to help better their livelihood and communities. Despite its low interest rates and lending to poor individuals, Grameen Bank is sustainable and 98% percent of its loans are repaid – higher than other banking systems. It has spread its successful model throughout the world. Dr. Yunus received the Nobel Peace Prize in 2006 for his work. It was basically a case of a smart and caring individual coming forth with a creative idea that combined good sense with "good values": poor people (mostly women), given a chance and a fair way of developing, can create wonderful opportunities and things in this world. In other words, instead of cheating and exploiting the poor we can invest in them and in their desire to improve themselves…and then see what happens!

And there are many more great things happening in the social business entrprepreneurship arena. It fills me with inspiration and excitement…how can we do more to bring these two worlds together towards making our world a better place to live in?

Annita Rodick, The Body Shop

The Skoll Foundation

The Schwabb Foundation

Ben and Jerry's

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