[0:02:24.5 ] MB: Today we have another exciting guest on the show, John Jacobs. John is the cofounder and chief creative optimist for Life is Good. As well as the author of Life is Good, the book. He and his company had previously been featured on CNN, CNBC, Nightline, Today, the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal and much more.
John, welcome to the Science of Success.
[0:02:46.9 ] JJ: Matt, thanks so much for having me and Life is Good.
[0:02:50.1 ] MB: We’re very excited to have you on here. So to kind of get started, I’m sure many listeners are familiar with the Life is Good brand, but maybe they don’t know your story. I’d love to kind of hear your story, your background and kind of how you got started.
[0:03:02.4 ] JJ: Sure, let’s see, my brother Bert and I were finishing up college in the early 90’s and we’re looking for a way to combine art and business. We always liked to draw, to write, to create but weren’t really sure what we’re going to do for careers and we saw T-shirts as an accessible way to combine those two things. We had done a little bit of T shirt design back in college. So we designed some shirts, we got out on the streets of Boston. We’re from Boston and still live in the city of Boston; love it.
At the time, we were getting out on high foot traffic areas and just hawking shirts in the street to people coming back from work, anywhere there’s a lot of people and we didn’t find much success early on. Had some fun trying to find the right combination of sayings or art that resonated with people, but I would say we were wildly unsuccessful in that first year and yet we loved — we still felt like in some ways, we’re in college mentally so we said, “Why don’t we buy a used van and start traveling around to college dorms and try selling our shirts in the dorms?”
So we did that, thanks to our brother Ed, we went to an auction, we were able to get a real cheap van and then we started going up and down the east coast and we’d map out this seven week road trips where we would show up at a different campus every night and have a few duffle bags and the back of the van was filled with T shirts and we would just run through the dorms, knocking door to door and asking people if they want to buy our shirts.
Again, we had a lot of fun but we did not have much financial success and we were kind of looking for that right combination. We took a lot of notes, we kept journals on the road so we had an in and an out column for money and we spent virtually nothing other than gas, just getting by and we’d sleep on top of the shirts in the back of the van at the end of the night. And we’d go down as far as Virginia, up as far as Maine and hit every school in the east coast and we ended up doing this for the better part of five years between ’90 and ’94.
The biggest thing that we learned, because we really hit a point where it was becoming clear we didn’t really have a business and we weren’t sustainable financially, we started doing some custom work like for landscape companies or softball teams or drawing cartoons for people, anything to make a little bit of money and we got enough to rent a dive apartment outside of Boston and that would be our home base when we got back from this road trips. Often times, we would throw a keg party when we got home for our friends and put up all our art on the walls and ask them for feedback.
It was kind of our first focus group before we knew what that term meant. One of the conversations we had that repeatedly on the road was about how the media seem to inundate people with negative information and no matter where we went, it seemed like people were talking about the latest disaster or tragedy, fires, murders, disasters and those things happened, a lot of bad things happened in the world but a lot of good things happened too.
We felt like the media wasn’t presenting a balance of those things. We wondered in our long conversations in the van, remember, this is before cellphone time, we had a lot of time to talk about anything and we wondered if we could create something that help people focus on the good that was kind of a rallying cry for optimists. That led to this one drawing of this face, he didn’t have a name at first but he just had a big smile, some sunglasses and a beret.
He was sort of a symbol of free thinking and we may not have the word yet but it’s a symbol of optimism and we have one of those parties when we got home from a long unsuccessful road trip in 1994 and our friends just kept writing notes around this one drawing and one woman wrote, “This guy’s got life figured out.” The next morning when we woke up, we looked at the wall, there was so many comments written either on the wall or little post it’s about this one drawing that we said, “We’ve got to do something with him.”
We kind of distilled all the comments down to this three words, “Life is Good” and those three words really changed our life forever and the very next week, we took our — we printed our firstLife is Good shirts, 48 of them and by the way Matt, I feel imbalanced talking for this long but you encouraged me to do so.
[0:07:51.3 ] MB: Keep on going.
[0:07:53.0 ] JJ: Okay, I’m almost going to breathe. But basically, we printed our first shirts, there were 48 of them, we took them to street fair at Cambridge mass, It really changed our life because we had been doing this street fairs and selling in dorms, hawking in the street for five years but we’d never seen a response like we got that day. The 48 leg is good shirts, were among maybe 15, 20 other designs on the table but that one pile just disappeared in less than an hour.
All different kinds of people from all different walks of life, we had Harley Davidson guy, we had a skateboarder kid, we got a school teacher. All these people, looking around and then picking up that one shirt and buying it from us and we were stunned, we were out of out of Life is Good shirts in an hour and we finally had what we had been looking for, we just didn’t really know what to do with it from that point.
[0:08:49.2 ] MB: You know, the point you made about negativity in the news, I think that’s something that’s so important and we’ve had a couple previous episodes on the show where we’ve talked about that and something I really believe in is just kind of finding a way to sort of tune that out or do something to sort of oppose the fact that when you turn on the TV, it’s a robbery, a fire, X, Y, Z people dying when in reality, there’s so much good in the world as well.
[0:09:15.1 ] JJ: Right. Actually there’s hard data that supports the idea that we’re living in a most peaceful time. You’d never know that if you turn on the news but it’s a fact and people are living longer than ever, there’s a lot of huge, healthy trends out there but unfortunately, the mansion or news media found the formula decades ago that if they scare people, people feel like they hear to watch to protect their lives, protective family. That’s a frustrating thing but we’re trying to do our small part to help people focus on positives.
We really believe that what you focus on grows and all of us have obstacles and opportunities in our lives every day. It’s really a choice we make in the morning, what we’re going to focus our energy on. It doesn’t mean we totally ignore the obstacles or the hardships or any of that. It’s just we’ve learned this lesson in a real deep way from our customers. I mentioned, we didn’t know what to do with this successful shirt when we finally had it, we ended up getting basically doing what we did in the dorms but transferring it to retail, we didn’t know how retail worked and how things got into stores.
But we just started knocking on retail doors and asking if they’d testLife is Good and slowly we got a few small mom and pop shops to do that, they were successful. I remember our first account calling for what you’d called “the reorder” and we had never heard that term before after five or six years in business. But eventually we got some momentum, people started spreading the word to other retailers, and next thing you know we had 10 accounts, a hundred accounts and we had accounts outside of New England and spreading across the country and we got sales reps and we’re learning the nuts and bolts of the business.
But the most impactful and powerful thing that happened was totally unexpected. Yes we got letters from people saying, “Hey, I love your hiking shirt, I love the shirt with this character Jake with his dog, I love my dog, I love gardening, I love doing yoga, playing guitar.” Those kind of letters we started getting but we also started getting letters just as many from people going through great adversity. People facing, losing loved ones, wrestling with cancer, going through chemo and they would say things like their hat helped them stay positive during chemotherapy or we all woreLife is Good shirts to the memorial service for my brother who is a very positive person.
Incredibly moving, letters and emails, we didn’t really know what to do with them as we try to figure out the business. We sort of put them in a drawer, it took us a few years to realize all we have to do is share this letters and they can lift people and we started doing it internally, cut companywide meetings and then eventually we post them on our website and as soon as we shared one story, 10 others would come in and a hundred others would come in because we realized they helped people feel less alone and more of empowered to take on and overcome their own adversity.
Again, I said it earlier but all of us face it whether it’s super dramatic or more day to day challenges. But we all need a lift from each other and one person’s story, particularly someone who has been through something really difficult, if they’re able to focus on gratitude as a foundation and I’m so lucky to have one friend to have a sandwich today to be breathing right now, to go outside, to have a little time with my dog like it’s incredible. We found that people that do face great adversity tend to have a deeper reservoir of gratitude and a real rock solid foundation that we can all learn from.
A lot has come out of those letters and really the direction of our company and the depth of the message have come from listening to our customers and that sort of set us on a certain path to create a kid’s foundation and try to help make life good for a lot of kids who are dealing with some major adversity in their lives.
[0:13:24.7 ] MB: I find it amazing that it’s often the people facing the toughest challenges that this message resonates so deeply with.
[0:13:33.4 ] JJ: That’s right. I think if someone were to see a shirt or hat or anything, those are the things where we’re most known for but if they could look at it and say well that’s easy for somebody to say the pictures of hiking or they might think the name is about sunny days and ice cream and freebies. In reality, we found that on the darkest days, that’s when optimism is most powerful and take the most extreme examples that we’ve encountered since we stated the company.
Yes we’ve had times with the economy has tanked when we’ve been at war, even like 9/11 or more recently again we’re based I Boston and we had the Boston marathon bombing in 2013. In both cases, I’ll just go back to 9/11 for a moment, we kind of froze for a few days because we had a really young company, we had a lot of momentum and this thing went down and we didn’t know if it was appropriate to be sending out boxes of shirts that said Life is Good because it didn’t really feel that way in the days after 9/11.
Then, a quiet woman in our warehouse at a companywide meeting raised her hand and said, why we can’t do a fund raiser to help the victims. We decided to do that and it was our first large scale fund raiser and it was simply putting the word out to our partners and to our team that 100% of the profits would help the victims. That shirt just took off so fast and we ended up raising over $200,000. At the time it was a lot for us and it happened really quickly and that was a great lesson for us that especially in the bad times, people need a light to gravitate toward, they need something positive to rally around.
That led to us creating the Life is Good festivals which were events, usually around some quirky theme like let’s break the world record for most lit jack o lanterns in one place one time. Let’s find the world’s greatest backyard athlete. Usually kind of a light fun theme to get people outdoors together but there was always a series underlying cause. Hey, there’s people out there that don’t find it so easy to see the glass half full to live their lives wide open and embrace newness because they’re dealing with poverty, violence, illness.
There’s a lot of kids that are dealing with that every day of their lives. It was a huge lesson for us to learn and then just to close that loop on the Boston marathon, we had a similar experience where we were, our offices at the time were two blocks from the finish line so we had a lot of our team out there cheering on the runners when the bombs went off, we had a teammate severely injured like shrapnel head to toe, we literally didn’t know if he was going to live to the next day and yet when we visited him the next day, in the hospital, the first thing he said was I’m grateful.
He had seen people killed, he had seen people a lot worse off than him. Most of his wounds healed over time and we were focused on making sure our team was healthy and we had counselors talking to people. Meanwhile, our customers were saying hey, guys, it’s time for another fund raiser shirt. Can you do one? We just spent a few days focused on our team internally and then we said, they’re absolutely right. We made a shirt that the prevalence saying in our city which is a tough old city is Boston strong which is a good saying about resilience but we felt we were witnessing something more than that.
We watched, first of all, EMT’s jumping in the middle of the chaos to save people, to help people and then you broaden the lenses a little bit, you saw runners running an extra mile to give blood. You saw people lending their cellphones, opening up their homes to strangers, you heard about doctors working 50 hour shifts of surgery to help the victims, it was like one act of whatever you want to call it.
Hatred or confusion from two people and that was what the news kept focusing on, they wanted to keep showing the bomb going off and the victims and we’re saying there’s something much bigger happening here and all this love poured in from around Boston and then well beyond Boston, around the world helping, it was compassion coming in from everywhere and the shirt we ended up making simply said Boston on the front with a little heart and one of the O’s on the back, it said, there’s nothing stronger than love.
That shirt we put on our website, we said, we told people 100% of the profits will go to the Boston one fund for the victims and their families and that shirt ending in a matter of five or six weeks sold more than we’ve ever sold of any shirt and we ended up raising over half a million dollars for the one fund. For us, we were proud of how resilient our city was and how quickly we got back to being who we are and trying and move on from this terrible incident but we’ve been more proud, the world’s choice to focus not on hate but on love that they witnessed in the aftermath of the marathon bombing.
[0:19:03.7 ] MB: That’s an incredible story and it’s inspiring that you have served this one act of hatred and violence and it created almost a wave of love and from so many different people.
[0:19:15.7 ] JJ: That’s right.
[0:19:17.9 ] MB: So in the same vein as that, what is the sort of driving purpose of Life is Good?
[0:19:24.6 ] JJ: Our mission is to spread the power of optimism and we really have learned, first, we have to give credit to our mom, Joan Jacobs. She was the number one inspiration for our brand and we grew up in a chaotic little house with eight people, my brother Bert and I are the youngest siblings and we were lucky in a lot of ways because we’re tight family but we definitely dealt with some adversity and some strain and a big part of that was our dad who was an avid outdoorsman, very hands on guy that worked in a machine shop and our mom was more running the circus at home overseeing the six kids and doing all the stuff that a lot of moms did in the 60’s and 70’s and just running the household and they both were in a very serious car accident when Bert and I were in grade school.
Fortunately our mom who had seatbelt on, she just broke her shoulder and she healed. Our dad wasn’t as lucky and he lost the use of his right arm, that new disability for him, his physical limitations, combined with the financial pressure of trying to feed a family of eight, it really led to frustration every day and a lot of yelling in the house and it made for really tense atmosphere at home and yet when we looked back, we think of our mom who was always singing, telling jokes, telling stories, laughing and one thing she would do at the dinner table that really helped us a lot in retrospect, she’d look around at each kid and say, “Tell me something that happened today,” and as simple as that sounds, it changed the energy in the house.
And instead of complaining about anything a kid might complain about; assignment, a teacher, a peer. Instead, we were finding some absurd or positive or funny nugget from the day, just sharing that one thing and it created momentum in the dining room in the house and like I said, it changed the energy in the house and we didn’t probably realize it till we’re 20’s but that was a conscious decision she was making every day, not get pulled in to some of the heavier stuff that was happening in our house and focus our energy on the good.
That helped us give us a bit of a foundation and then the real big one was getting this letters and emails from people that really underscored this notion that even when you’re facing the hardest adversity, there is a way to consciously shift your mind toward the positives and to kind of grow that good in your life instead of getting consumed by the negative and we all know people that are able to do both of those things and meaning well — you know what I mean. It really led to a foundational philosophy for our company that all of us have a choice when we wake up in the morning to focus as I said earlier on obstacles or opportunities.
We just believed that a lot more good comes out of focusing most of our energy on the opportunities and growing those. We’ve seen it come to fruition in our own lives and even more compelling is the stories we received that prove that even if you’re in the worst possible situation, this kind of philosophy gives you a much better chance to get through it and to prosper and to be happy and fulfilled in your life.
[0:23:06.8 ] MB: I think this is a great opportunity to dig in to some of the lessons from Life is Good the book. I know the book talks about sort of 10 super powers that anybody can tap into with optimism obviously being one of the biggest and most important. Tell me a little bit more about that?
[0:23:23.2 ] JJ: Sure. Well we believe that the 10 super powers really came about over time we kept picking up this recurring messages from our customers about what’s most important to them and it ended up being what most companies might call their 10 core values but we think super powers are a lot more fun to say and we feel like unlike bullet speed or herculean strength or X-ray vision, these are super powers accessible to all of us and optimism really enables us as human beings to access this super powers on a daily basis, these are things like authenticity, creativity, gratitude, love, humor.
All of these things when combined lead us to living a more happy and fulfilling life and the book, we ended up devoting one chapter each to a super power and found a way to weave the stories of our customers as well as our own story, as well as a lot of fun top 10 list sand quotes, a lot of playful imagery and some of our best graphics and photos. It’s all combined in there but the real heart of the book is these 10 super powers and really how individuals can bring them to life and sort of tap their power in their everyday life. Each chapter ends with tips for how to access these powers and how to bring them to life on a daily basis.
So it started by request from our publisher, National Geographic. The request was, “Can we do a business book?” And the more we talked about it, we weren’t as excited about that because we feel like a lot of businesses start in the garage or basement and yeah, our origin story is fun but we want to go a lot deeper and as soon as we started talking about the super powers, we knew this is what the basis of the book should be and this is something that we feel like is the most powerful thing we’ve come across and we want to share it with as many people as possible.
[0:25:33.6 ] MB: For somebody that struggles to have an optimistic outlook and for example, I feel like personally I’m kind of naturally sort of a pessimistic person. What do you think that — what are some tips or strategies to sort of shift your perspective?
[0:25:47.4 ] JJ: I think gratitude can play a huge part and it’s starting with — some people do gratitude journals, some people try to weave it in before meals or lunch, special meal a day. I think those are two very tangible ways. One huge one that we’ve learned from our customers is this phrase, “get to”. It came in a form of one letter but it really represents the mindset of a lot of this letters and emails we’ve received, it really is the notion that, let me give you example like at work, at Life is Good, we try as best we can not to say “have to”, “we have to go to a meeting, have to work late, have to work on this assignment.”
We get to do these things because we have jobs and you can apply it to any part of your life, you can say to yourself, I have to go grocery shopping or get to go grocery shopping because I live in the land of abundance that has grocery stores and accessible food. I have to pay the bills or I get to pay the bills because I have a roof over my head. It’s so simple but it’s one word that can shift us from a common and then when I say us, myself included, all of us can fall in to a moment where we feel like we’re burdened, where we’re almost martyrs for fulfilling the responsibilities we have, whether it’s worker’s responsibilities or family or friends that we have to do these things.
We get to do this things because first of all, we’re breathing, we’re alive, let’s seize that opportunity while we’re here. Life is relatively short, let’s remind ourselves that we have a limited time and are we going to choose to bring positive energy to the day because the results tend to be better when we do but this get to phrase has been super powerful and it’s just a tool that is timeless if you put it in that frame, anytime you’re wrestling with something or it feels like a big burden, it’s like well, actually a lot of people don’t have access to a grocery store, a lot of people aren’t paying bills because they don’t have any income and that’s the most basic things that we start to take for granted.
When we find ourselves complaining about things like the weather or traffic, it’s kind of absurd when you compare to what a lot of people — you know how the parts of the globe are dealing with on a daily basis, for severe hunger, poverty, violence and yet sometimes we just need a reset button and that can come in the form of the phrase get to.
[0:28:32.3 ] MB: I love that phrase and that idea, it’s so simple but it creates this incredible perspective shift.
[0:28:38.8 ] JJ: Yup. We love simple phrases, maybe because we’re not capable of anything beyond that, but “yes and” is another one we love and it comes from improv comedy. I don’t know if you're familiar with that one, but with the principle law rule of improv is that you don’t negate the offering of another actor who is on stage because it tends to kill a scene. In order to keep some momentum, whatever your teammates says, you roll with that and you build on it, you augment it.
And we found in brain storming, in doing our best to be creative and finding new ways to spread the power of optimism with new phrases, with new images, “yes and” is a great tool to let ideas breathe a little bit for a minute or two before you get to a stage or a meeting where you’re editing out and you’re narrowing and you’re cutting ideas. You can really benefit from having a more wide open approach and it’s applicable to life as well. Whether it’s with a spouse or a friend or just having conversations that are more yes and’s and building on someone’s idea, instead of that, I think it’s unfortunately kind of hard wired in a lot of maybe all of us human beings.
The fight or flight thing or first thinking about why something won’t work or why it could be a threat. The news again helps build this into people too but if you can release that, try to take on that openness of a five or six year old, a healthy five or six year old who just is open to ideas that says yes to things that wants to explore, that’s a difficult thing for people to retain when we get older. Yet it’s super powerful when it comes to being creative and to building instead of knocking and that’s another favorite simple phrase, don’t knock it, build it and if I get tied back. I am so grateful that you’re giving us a forum here today to talk about what we believe more than anything right now, I think there is a lot of positive media out there, a lot of positive podcast.
Then there’s a lot of shows that just give people place to events and talk about what’s wrong. I think people that spend a lot of energy talked about what’s wrong without transitioning to solutions tend to hurt people’s desire or drive to progress, to grow, to try and do things. I think it’s so healthy that when people are listening to more and more of this content that I don’t mean my content book but what you feature on your show and other podcast or let’s say storytelling hour, things that stories that actually can lift people.
We’ve translated in the last year or two or a lot of the greatest letters we received to stories and video forum and that was incredibly exciting when the book came out. Our book, it gave us a reason to get out on the road and connect with customers to raise over a million dollars for our kid’s foundation with various events over around the country but the most impactful thing we did on that trip, we went coast to coast for 60 days visiting 40 communities and the most impactful thing was visiting the people that had written the most inspiring letters.
Some of them we’d never met in person and I didn’t know if their stories could be better than they were in letter form but there’s a few that just — people who have got incredible response to a couple of boys in Alex and Nick, twin brothers that were born a pound and as I said, had a lot of growing to do and they have — one of the kids has on leg, the other kid is legally blind and they wrote a letter when they were 10 years old and it’s all about how lucky they are and it’s just very moving and very eloquent for 10 year old to write and we share that video as much as we can, there’s another young woman who is now 27.
She wrote to us when she was 11, she was dealing with a prognosis that was — she had bone cancer and it looked like she wasn’t going to live another two years and yet she is alive today but more impressively, when she was 11 and dealing with hat prognosis, she was always cheering people up, anyone who interviewed her and should have brought to our attention because she was always wearing Life is Good hat and literally someone on a radio interview asked about the hat.
Do you understand your prognosis and she said, I think I tended to take things for granted and ever since I heard what’s happening with my body, I don’t, I really realized how lucky I am and I’m trying to savor every day. It was incredible wisdom form an 11 year old and those examples are what fuel our company and just to make us want to spread this message as widely as we can and have people share more and more stories because that seems to be the thing more than anything else that list people and helps people through adversity.
[0:33:59.3 ] MB: For listeners who want to check that out, where can they find some of this videos?
[0:34:03.7 ] JJ: That’s at lifeisgood.com and there’s a button called “discover” and that will bring you to a really fun section of our site that features a lot of this inspiring, uplifting stories.
[0:34:16.8 ] MB: We’ll make sure to include those in the show notes as well. One other thing I wanted to touch on, you have a phrase, “life is not easy, life is not perfect, life is good”. I’d love to just hear your thoughts on that.
[0:34:29.6 ] JJ: Yeah, again, if someone was just introduced to our company and just saw the words “Life is Good”, some might understand the depth of those three words. Some might just say it’s sort of pollyannaish and yet the depth of our brand came from people like our mom and then this stories form people like Alex and Nick and Lindsey that I just mentioned. It really taught us, and that phrase is getting more popular on our product because it does acknowledge and we’ve always tried to acknowledge the darkness in the world, the adversity in the world, the strain that is inevitable in every person’s life at one time or another but that phrase sums it up nicely and it doesn’t mean, when we say Life is Good, it doesn’t mean everything is ice cream and freebies.
It’s a matter of mindset and choice. Okay, I acknowledge that there’s going to be really difficult times in my life and it’s going to be incredibly imperfect just like I am as a person. Whoever says that? Anyone has to look in the mirror and say, “I’ve got so many imperfections, my life has been quite a mix of highs and lows. I’m going through either a good stretch right now or rudely difficult stretch.” But if you step back and look at the whole picture, Life is Good and to us that means if you choose to focus on the good, that’s what will grow.
Acknowledge the painful points, maybe you’re right in the middle one right now and you say, at some point, it’s going to get better, I need to lean on some friends right now, I need to take care of myself, I need to be exercise, I need to talk to friends who understand what I’m going through. Maybe I need to see a professional about it and maybe I just need to recognize a window time where I have a physical ailment or I’m not in a job that I love. It could be any of those things but it’s really a mindset that says.
In the scheme of things, when you look at the whole picture, life itself and my life as a person is going to be good and therefore, that’s going to give me a little more resilience and a little more fire to try to drive through this difficult stretch and that’s what that phrase is all about, it’s acknowledging the hard parts and for your neighbor as well as yourself and saying together, we can make life good.
[0:37:06.1 ] MB: What is one piece of homework that you would give to somebody listening to this episode?
[0:37:11.3 ] JJ: Let’s see. I’m ranging to the super powers in my head and I would say two things. When you get home, if you live with anyone or if you get to work, if you work with any others, try devoting the first five minute to a real human connection with that person. Whether you’re getting home to kids, bring some levities, some humor, some fun. Whether it’s a fun story from your day, or just imitating some bizarre character, sharing a funny movie quote you love or — the point is, a lot of us go from task to ask, whether it’s work at home, and we start to form this checklist and that’s what dominates our minds and if we take just a few minutes to connect with people, all the other stuff gets a lot easier.
If you have to get through a bit of a laundry list or a plan for the weekend or what is the week ahead look like with your team at work or with your family at home or with friends, just spending those moment, that’s why fun and humor are both super powers in the Life is Good world because we found it opens doors, it relaxes people, it unites people, it makes them feel less like robots. Just taking those five minutes, it makes everything run a lot smoother and the other tip or homework I would say is — we really believe in trying.
When you try something new or a little bit outside your comfort zone, you either succeed or you learn. If you take failure off the table like, “Oh no, I don’t want to do that because I might not be good at it,” you inevitably grow and you grow as a person and you feel better that you’ve kind of stretched beyond that comfort zone and it is a chapter we have about courage where it says, “rejection, you can imagine rejection as your best teacher but think of it as your best teacher, as your best trainer.” That’s actually what makes you stronger is — and that, for my brother and I, that biggest period of that was probably the dorms for five years and we just heard “no” and sometimes a polite “no”, sometimes very rude “no”.
But when we’re trying to sell our shirts in the dorms, so many times, thousands of times a week that we realize it didn’t hurt us at all and we just took notes, “Why didn’t they like our shirt?” And ever since then, I feel like that’s been a nice little reference point for us, no matter what stage of the company or stage of our life we were going through, it’s like we’ll shake it off and grow from it and that’s part of the magic of this life is exploring new territory and trying new things. It’s also what keeps relationships, friendships, et cetera fresh is being willing to try new things.
Either together or new hobbies on your own and so, I would encourage listeners to think about, is our hobby whether it’s guitar or writing or knitting, ever wanted to make a little short movie or is it work, is there some project in the garage or is there something you’ve always thought about doing it, “if you had the time”. We really believe in not just finding the time to do things that are, maybe seemed frivolous or very secondary like something related to your personal passion or your hobby.
Something that’s — you might put in a “fun category” and therefore you’re only going to do it on Saturday night or that’s a big thing we talked about in the fun chapters like, fun is not some desert you might get to at the end of your week. It’s part of the main course and if you actually weave it in, you consciously say, “In order to be healthy and to kind of refresh my own sense of optimism and playfulness, I need to look at my calendar and say yeah, I’m going to make time for my cooking, my craft brewing, my writing, drawing, my playing cards with my friends like playing guitar.”
That stuff is a huge replenisher and that’s a big part of what our kid’s foundation actually does is we work with child care providers, there’s a lot of burnout in positions like teacher, counselor, they’re doing such noble work but if they don’t’ take care of themselves, they can’t teach what they don’t — they can’t give what they don’t have, they can’t give joy, they can’t give curiosity, optimism, playfulness if they don’t have those things themselves.
It’s a long answer but I think the most important thing Is looking out for your own health and part of that is not just nutrition and exercise, it’s laughter, it’s fun and whatever brings you that sense of joy, make sure you schedule it into your weekly schedule so that time isn’t going by and you’re falling into this trap of “have to, I have to, I have to” and check this list off every week.
Instead, first of all, I get to do these things even the most mundane things, it’s helpful to look through that lens and then where did I carve out time to do things that just sort of feed your soul, that make you feel more you and make you feel joyful? That stuff is crucial to your own happiness and fulfillment. I don’t think it’s just an American thing or our ambition sometimes pushes us to a level where it’s all about productivity, we found in our business that if people are having fun at work, cracking jokes with each other, throwing the ball around, throwing the Frisbee around.
It actually makes us not just happier but more productive because our brains are more alert, we’re enjoying our time at work and it’s applicable to all of our lives so I’ve said it already, at least twice but the homework to me would be, think about what brings you joy, even if you haven’t done it in 10 years and say, “How do I weave that back into my life?” I’ll give you a personal example, I have always liked, loved movies, always want to make movies, don’t really know how to make movies but a friend of mine with a similar mindset many years ago, we were talking about it, we said, “Let’s just create some forum.”
We created this film festival and asked our friends to make a movie, eight minutes or less and the movies were pretty bad quality the first year but there’s probably two or three gems in there and we do it every two years and the quality has slowly increased but more importantly, we have a deadline, we have a supportive network of friends who want to do something creative and we’re doing it.
It’s over 10 years running and that might be for you like getting together to play music every month with a friend or two or knitting or gardening or whatever that thing is that brings you joy, make sure it’s not an afterthought that’s put away for some day but you actually say to yourself, this is important to my happiness and I’m going to actually schedule it on my calendar and I’ll leave it at that now.
[0:44:40.2 ] MB: That’s an incredible piece of advice and you touched on this once already but tell us again, where can people find you online?
[0:44:46.7 ] JJ: We’re at lifeisgood.com and there is a lot of fun content on there as well as product that we’re really proud of. I would encourage all listeners who sought out your podcast to go to the discover section because there is a really treasure trove of inspiring videos and content that can pick you up and a place to go back to whenever you need a lift.
That’s really what we’re trying to build with our website is a hub of optimism. Where people can come to be lifted and inspired and a community can share stories with each other to keep each other up and optimistic.
[0:45:28.4 ] MB: Well John, this has been a fascinating interview and incredibly inspirational story and obviously your company, Life is Good, it’s so inspirational as well. I just wanted to say thank you very much for being on the show.
[0:45:41.0 ] JJ: Matt, we’re so grateful. Life is Good is, and I am individually. Thanks so much for carving up time for us and I hope anything I shared will be helpful to your listeners and you.
[0:45:53.3 ] MB: Thank you.