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Building a Business on Optimism and Authenticity

“It’s strange how many of us choose to stuff our lives with busyness and distractions. When we’re too busy, we don’t do anything well. Our relationships suffer, our performance at work suffers, and we don’t enjoy our lives. Yet being “crazy busy” is a badge of honor for some people.”― Bert Jacobs

Bert and John Jacobs, the brothers who founded the Life Is Good T-shirt company, grew up in Boston.

In their book, Life is Good, they wrote that there were often difficult things happening around the house. But their mom believed life was good. So, every night as the family sat around the dinner table, she would ask her six kids to tell her something good that happened that day.

Those words changed the energy in the room and usually led to fun and sometimes bizarre discussions. Instead of griping about bad things that occurred, they would be laughing about something good that happened.

“She showed us that optimism is a courageous choice you can make every day.”

They say her unwavering positive outlook on life is what inspired Life Is Good — with the mission of spreading the power of optimism.

John and Bert began their business selling t-shirts on the streets of Boston. They tell this story about the importance of authenticity: “We were young and looked pretty unprofessional. At early trade shows, retailers would often stop by our booth and ask us if they could speak with the owners. It started getting on our nerves, so at one show in Atlanta we decided to both wear business suits and ties. It was phony  and wasn’t us.

Towards the end of the show, we opened a new account with a shop on the West Coast. As the buyer was leaving our booth, he looked at us and asked, 'What’s with the suits?' When we explained, he gave us a gold nugget of wisdom: 'Know who you are and act like it.'”

This was a big moment for them and has impacted their approach to branding and running the company.

Neither of them has worn a suit since.

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