I spent this weekend reading two books.

One was a hoary old classic marketing book, THE 22 IMMUTABLE LAWS OF MARKETING:  Violate Them At Your Own Risk! by marketing strategists extraordinaire Al Ries and Jack Trout which was written in 1994.

This slim book took the world by storm in its day for a good reason.  The master marketers were the first to distill down their work and life experiences into marketing “laws” that still apply to this very day.  It’s a good one for any wannabe marketer to have on their shelf.

Gavel: Ohio Supreme Court by Andrew F. Scott via Flickr [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]
The second book was a joyous romp of a read.  The book, LIFE IS GOOD, THE BOOK: How to Live With Purpose and Enjoy the Ride, is written by Bert and John Jacobs and is the story of how “two ordinary brothers from Boston, who didn’t want a job but weren’t afraid to work,” built a company worth more than $100 million by selling t-shirts with the help of their friends.

It’s a very good read, authentic and honest, that incorporates told-from-the heart stories and a picture album of their wonderful shirt designs and the people who made it all happen having fun.

It was also a real-life illustration of the Ries-Trout Fifth Law, The Law of Focus, which says, “The most powerful concept in marketing is owning a word in the prospect’s mind.”

You burn your way into the minds of your customers by narrowing your focus to a single word or concept, these mavens say.  And your customers will help you build your world around that concept.

The corollary to that law is this:  “The leader who owns the word owns the category.”


The rollicking tale of the Jacobs boys’ journey is part of their brand legend .

Starting in 1989, the Jacobs brothers wandered around, crisscrossing state lines in a nondescript mini-van hustling their shirts to no avail.  By 1994, with $78 between them, the boys were ready to throw in the towel.  They had, after all, given it their best shot.

As they drove home to Boston, they were talking about the daily flood of negative news. Between them they agreed that the only thing that could counter the mindset that arises from swallowing all that negativity was a different one with which they were very familiar.

It was a mindset that they had learned from their mom, Joan – untrammeled optimism in the face of constant obstacles and obstructions.

This You-Tube video, published by RogiDream,  features two short poems by the brilliant Charles Bukowski who had a genius for hitting the heart.  They are spoken by Tom O’Bedlam and speak to the real power behind the concept of optimism.

Optimism really is not about swimming in peaches and cream, you know.  It is about fighting the good fight and staying with it no matter what.

The highway talk led the brothers to one idea that led to one shirt design that became the brand called “Life Is Good.”


After every road trip, the brothers threw a coming-home party to celebrate making it back to home base.  Even though they were depressed and tired, they went ahead with their ritual.

At each of these parties it was their practice to tape sketches of all of their newest t-shirt design ideas on the walls of their apartment and encourage their friends to comment on the ideas by writing on the wall.

The design that got the most kudos was the result of their highway talk:  a line-drawing of a good ole guy with a baseball cap on his head and a wide grin.  The caption said, “Life Is Good.”

When they printed up 48 shirts with that one design and took them to a street fair to hawk, they were amazed.  All of the shirts (including the two they were wearing) sold in less than an hour to a wide array of people.


Naturally they made more of the shirts.  They kept on selling and LIFE IS GOOD became their brand name.

The concept grew and evolved as more and more people joined in the fun and the brothers kept listening to the suggestions from their customers.  More and more people jumped on for the ride.

The result became that $100 million company that uses art work and shares inspiring stories from their customers.  Their designs, all focusing on the power of optimism,  were magnetic.  People flocked to join a tribe who sincerely believes in the power of optimism.

These days, ten percent of the company’s annual profits goes to help kids overcome poverty, violence and severe medical challenges.  Their nonprofit LIFE IS GOOD Kids Foundation positively impacts the lives of more than 100,000 children a day.

Festivals and celebrations are a part of corporate life.  So is helping people.

Here’s a YouTube TEDx talk at Beacon Street recorded in 2013 featuring one of the brothers, Bert Jacobs, “Do What You Like, Like What You Do.” The company’s grown a bunch since then.

It’s all good.


LIFE IS GOOD, THE BOOK lists ten “superpowers” that can be developed to enhance your own optimistic mindset:  Openness, Courage, Simplicity, Humor, Gratitude, Fun, Compassion, Creativity, Authenticity and Love.

The brothers devote a chapter to each of these attributes, ending each one with ideas and suggestions for growing your own.  And they promise:  “The Life Is Good superpowers will help you overcome obstacles, drive forward with greater purpose, and enjoy the ride of life.”

That is also a very good thing….

Here’s a poem:


The cycle continues:

arising, becoming, crumbling away,

then born again in some new-old form –

a never-ending relentless pattern

flowing, spiraling through this life,

in this world of dust.


And here’s me: 

trying to dance on top of this turning wheel…

moved to try to direct it, even…

(not that there’s a steering wheel).


It rolls on, it rolls on,

and I keep trying to play with it,

reiterating halcyon days of youth

when us kids took turns

rolling that abandoned old truck tire

down the grassy hill behind the baseball field,

trying to keep from crashing it through

the mean old neighbor-lady’s hibiscus hedges

and running over her half-blind old English bulldog.


Rolling that tire back up that hill

was part of the price for playing.


Laughing was the best part.

by Netta Kanoho

Header picture credit:  Life Is Good by Herr Olsen via Flickr [CC BY-NC 2.0]



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Thanks for your visit.  I’d appreciate it if you’d drop a comment or note below and tell me your thoughts….











20 thoughts on “LIFE IS GOOD

  1. I just love poetry, thank you so much for article. The video with Charles Bukowski was great, I am going to get the book “Life is Good” for my kindle today. I am really looking forward to reading it. Thank you again for Food for the Soul. Take Care, Heather

    1. Heather, thank you for your visit and your comments. I am so glad you enjoyed the post. Please do come again….

  2. Truly inspirational. Life is good and we have the power to build our own life the way we wanted it to be! No matter what the odds will be, we can beat it as long as we have the courage to fight and to keep on going until we reach the peak of success. The 2 videos have taught me something great and this is the power of optimism and to enjoy every bit of our journey in life whether good or bad, we still learned something from it which will make as grow, prosper and be better person. Thank you for sharing a very powerful post! 🙂

    1. Hey, Deljar:

      Thanks for your visit and your comments. I’m glad you found it helpful. Please do come again.

  3. Optimism is a great characteristic to have, especially today with all the crazy things going on in our world. However, optimism should be paired with DOING things. As you mentioned being optimistic while accomplishing something no matter the difficulties is the way to go. However, I often see people (even in my close circle) just being optimistic without doing nothing. The world doesn’t owe us anything and optimism won’t change that. If we want to have something we must earn it. We have to be worth getting it. That’s what most people don’t understand.

    1. Hey JohnB:

      Thanks for your visit and for sharing your thoughts.  I do agree with you:  Positivity without doing anything except blathering is just blowing air-bubbles!  It does not get anything done.  You’ll notice, though, these guys did do a lot of somethings.  They credit it all to maintaining a positive attitude. 

      Please do come again….

  4. Emmanuel Buysse says:

    This is very inspirational, I think it has been a great post.

    The two videos have been quite helpful to finish understanding the rest.I like the way you inspire people through these words, definitely my next book on the list is “life is good”.

    I have always thought that having optimism is an essential part of success, because every day is a personal motivation that you have and that is driving you little by little until you achieve your goal.

    Thanks 🙂

    1. Hey Emmanuel:

      Thanks for the visit and for sharing your thoughts.  I am really glad you found the post helpful.

      Please do come again….

  5. Hi Netta, really liked your idea about living with a purpose. And that is exactly what I keep talking to others in my circle (friends and family). Find a purpose and life would become easier for you. I am very impressed with a few of the quotes too in your article. “The leader who owns the word owns the category.”

    I really like the above quote. Great work! Keep it up.

    1. Thanks for the visit and for sharing your thoughts, LK.  I’m glad you are spreading the word and helping your heart-people remember that Life, indeed, is a very good thing.

      Please do come again….

  6. Twack Romero says:

    I always come away form you posts with a sense of ‘growth’ even if it I actually feel smaller in comparison to what is discussed in the subject matter, if you get my drift. If I ever needed any more reasons to strive forward in what I am trying to achieve, then I have just found two of them, Bert and John Jacobs. Real life stories always outweigh fiction in my mind, sometimes it’s fifty fifty but not often.

    Optimism to the pessimist is a waste of time as they think you will undoubtedly be disappointed. Sad that so many only ever see the world through that clouded, narrow viewpoint. We cannot begin to write all that unfolds in our lives on a daily basis but we can try to make each day better than the one before, not only for ourselves but for someone else. The example the brothers set with regards to their belief that business is a ‘tool’ should be a reminder to us all that there are different models to follow in our quest for success.

    1. Twack, thank you very much for the visit and for sharing your thoughts.  

      Maybe the thing most pessimists forget is that more things work out well than not, and it isn’t so much what happens to you that matters, it’s how you respond to it.

      I’m glad you enjoyed the post.

      Please do come again.

  7. Hello, What a beautiful and success story that you shared here. I didn’t know this story and thank you for sharing this positive message and encouragement here with your article and poems. 

    I like so much the last phrase, “Laughing was the best part”. I agree, despite what happened, we must be positive and do not forget to laugh and enjoy our life journey. Life is Good. 

    Thank you for sharing

    1. Alketa, thank you for the visit and for sharing your thoughts.  I am so pleased that you enjoyed the post.

      Please do come again.

  8. Well, I’d just like to say thanks for a brilliant article that is well written and informative. I have to say that I found this to be a very interesting read indeed. 

    The first book sounds like it was probably a blockbuster for its time. But is 1994 not a little bit outdated being as though the internet has come along in that time.

    1. Kwidzin, thanks for your visit and for sharing your thoughts.  

      My own feeling is that insights into human-ness and human behavior are evergreen.  I’ll put up the insights from a thousand-year old Taoist manuscript next to the latest techno-scientific understandings and call it all good (if the thoughts make sense to me).  

      Myself, I don’t think there are expiration dates on the good stuff.

      Please do come again….

  9. Such a fantastic story, Netta.

    Life is truly good; it all depends on our attitude towards it. Their mother’s effort in implanting a great mindset of optimism in the face of challenges really helped. A positive mindset helps to overcome challenges and worries. 

    I also admire the Jacobs brothers’ interaction with their customers. Building a solid relationship and listening to customers’ feedback go long.

    Although I learned a lot from their stories, my best take home is “Do what you like, like what you do.”

    Life Is Good is definitely a book to keep handy.

    Thank you.

    1. Thanks for your visit and for sharing your thoughts.  I agree that their mom had a grand influence on the boys.  It is an inspiration, that.

      Please do come again.

  10. Jerry McCoy says:

    This story about “Life is Good” is a perfect example of why having the right mindset is more than about the money made or not but in how much we are grateful for what we do have. Their story about optimism is an opportunity for us all to know we are given an opportunity to change another person’s life by helping them find their way. 

    The earlier video from Charles Bukowski is very valuable advice to each of us to JUST TRY. It does not matter if we succeed or fail but that we JUST TRY. The action in trying is more important than the results. We will see results of one type or another by the ACTION OF TRYING.

    Your poem at the end of the story holds so many memories for me. The joy of just being free and not having any of the daily problems telling me that I can’t do something. Just live life and enjoy it.


    1. Thank you for sharing your thoughts, Jerry.  I truly do love Bukowski’s poem.  It is such a true one, built by a master lover of Life-Its-Own-Self. 

      I’m glad you enjoyed my own little bit.

      Please do come again.

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