Michael Clinton, ’21SPS, M.S. Nonprofit Management, is a seasoned publishing executive, with over forty years of experience in the magazine industry. At Hearst, he served as President and Publishing Director, Executive Vice President, and Chief Marketing Officer during his 23-year tenure. He continues to be special media advisor to Hearst’s CEO. Prior to Hearst, he was Executive Vice President at Condé Nast, where he made his start and was Publisher of GQ. In 2019, Clinton enrolled in the Nonprofit Management program to further pursue his nonprofit work.
This fall, Clinton is publishing Roar Into the Second Half of Your Life (Before It’s Too Late), a book to help readers identify fresh goals and take meaningful action to achieve a purposeful life.
You have a storied career in publishing. What led you to pursue the Nonprofit Management master's degree? What led you to Columbia's program, specifically?
Throughout my publishing career, I was always involved in nonprofit work, including Chairman of Volunteers of America/Greater New York, Chairman of the Magazine Publishers of America, Executive VP of the Board of Trustees of the International Center of Photography, and more. Some friends and I also started a 501(c)(3) called Circle of Generosity. I’ve always loved the sector and wanted to learn more about it, which is what led me to the program. When I did my research, I felt that Columbia had the best offering of classes.
Were there certain classes or professors that have made an impact on you?
There were so many classes that made an impact on me. Art Taylor's Ethics class, John Tyler's class on Social Business, and Dr. Erwin de Leon, who taught Data Analytics and Metrics in the Nonprofit Sector and was my capstone leader. Those professors and others helped shape my thinking about the sector. I have applied so much of what I learned in my board work for various nonprofits, as well as expanding my own foundation. It made me realize how much I didn't know!
My biggest discovery was learning about the exciting area of social business hybrids, such as Benefit Corporations. This model requires a deep commitment to social purpose while running a responsible business. It's my opinion that all brands and companies are going to have to stand for something, whether it is climate change or food insecurity or social justice. As more and more companies embrace this idea, social business and the impact that it has will be more and more relevant.
What inspired you to write Roar?
So many people get stuck in midlife. They want to change careers or lifestyles, but don’t know how to do it. Also, if you are healthy, the odds are that you will live to be 90. That means you might have multiple careers, loves, and lives. The future will look very different for people very engaged into their 80’s. Roar is a manifesto for exploring the second half of life and how you can fulfill many goals and dreams--and more importantly, pursue new ones.
How did you source the career and life stories told throughout the book?
In the book, I interviewed over 40 people who made a major change in their life at 45+. They were sourced through a search by my editorial assistant, Olivia Crane, as well as through word of mouth. They are beyond inspirational, including a first-time novelist at 62, a woman who decided to become a medical doctor at 53, and several people who leaned into the nonprofit world as founders.
Roar introduces a four-part process to take meaningful steps to live a purposeful life: Reimagine yourself; Own who you are; Act on what's next; and Reassess your relationships. How does this process help mid-career professionals reorient themselves, and how does it lead to living a purposeful life?
The ROAR acronym is broken down into 12 chapters of stories, but also key takeaways and resources to reshape your path moving forward. While there is a lot of inherent ageism in our culture, there is also a lot of self-imposed ageism. We shouldn’t think about words like “age appropriate,” we should think about “person appropriate.” ROAR is designed to let you acknowledge that you can start a new career at 60, give birth at 50, or start a new romance at 80. Life should get bigger, not smaller, but a lot of it is based on one’s own mindset. There is also a concept called “life layering,” one that I personally created in my early 40’s. It’s been a formula for a purposeful and fulfilling life.
Do you use the book's recommendations in your work with nonprofits or philanthropy efforts?
In the Reassess section, there is a chapter called “Reassess Your Community and Your Relationship with It.” Its message is to get involved, and the many ways that you can do that through nonprofit service, philanthropy, running for office, and more. At the end of the day, giving back is the ultimate human behavior. We have a responsibility to each other throughout our life’s journey.
The book releases September 7th, 2021 and is available for preorder.
Learn more about Columbia’s M.S. Nonprofit Management program, which prepares graduates for leadership roles within mission-driven organizations in a wide variety of contexts, including global and community nonprofits, foundations, education, healthcare, the arts, or as fundraising and development experts.