Do What You Like, Like What You Do: Bert Jacobs at TEDxBeaconStreet

Translator: Laura Pasquale
Reviewer: Adrienne Lin I’m honored to be here. I find these TED talks fascinating and inspiring. Some of these people, the speakers, are so smart that they just hurt my brain. (Laughter) I’m not going to hurt anybody’s brain.
(Laughter) That’s my first promise. Every day we have a choice
when we wake up: We can focus on
what’s wrong with our lives, or we can focus on
what’s right with our lives. In the next 10 minutes,
I’m going to illustrate how focusing on what’s right with our lives, rather than what’s wrong with our lives, is the best way to fix
what’s wrong with our lives. Moreover, focusing on
what’s right with the world is the best way to fix
what’s wrong with the world. This is my nephew, Oliver. Oliver is 3 years old, and I went for a lunch date with him
the other day. And so, I picked up Oliver. We live in downtown Boston. It was nice weather,
so we went to a picnic table. That’s a picture of Oliver enjoying
a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. And so, that’s the end of my speech. Thank you! (Laughter) So, Oliver
– while I was getting the lunch out – jumped off the table and there was an elderly woman
at a bench near us, very elderly woman. And before I could stop him,
I thought maybe she was homeless, because her bag was a little bit dirty, and before I could stop him,
Oliver introduced himself. And the woman said, “How old are you?” And Oliver said, “Guess.” And she said, “I think you’re four.” And he said, “I’m three and a half! How old are you?” (Laughter) And the woman said, “Guess!” And then Oliver took a step back
and looked at me for help. (Laughter) And I was, like,
“Dude, you’re on your own!” (Laughter) You can’t win with a woman’s age, right?
(Laughter) So, Oliver knew he was on his own,
he took a step forward again, he looked at her
and gave it his best shot. “A thousand?” (Laughter) I’m dead serious. And so, before I could apologize, the old woman was laughing
at the top of her lungs and Oliver was laughing,
and I started laughing. Pretty soon she joined us
and we just made friends. And you know, when we were kids we were all optimistic,
we all lived our lives like this. And Oliver showed me something
that day because he focused on the opportunity,
he didn’t focus on the obstacles. Unfortunately, as we get older, we tend to focus on the obstacles
and not the opportunity. So, we become skeptical as we get
older, instead of living like this, and we live a bit more like this
and we become pessimistic. Don’t give me that look, any of you,
because you’re all guilty of it. Maybe not you guys, not yet, right? So, the thing is that nobody
wants to be pessimistic. Being a pessimist is not fun to be around and pessimism adds anxiety
and stress to our lives. The reality is that everybody
on the planet wants to be happy. Some people think that
having nice things will make them happy. Some people think that being at
some special place will make them happy. The reality is that the only
thing that can make us happy is our disposition,
our view of the world. This is my mom, Joan. And Joan and my dad raised 6 kids on about enough money for 2 kids. And my mom had a special trick: she’d get all 8 of us at the dinner table, and of course we had as much dysfunction
happening in our home as any typical American or Boston home, and my mom would
cut right through all that, and she’d say something very simple, “Tell me something good
that happened today.” And she taught us something, because
she changed the energy in that room. This is a picture
of my younger brother John, who’s my business partner
with Life is good. He’s on the bottom bunk
and I’m on the top bunk. If anybody in here has
ever met my brother John, he’s a bit of a space shot, and if you look closely at the radiator, it’s very clear that he’s been
snacking on the lead paint. (Laughter) My brother and I are
the youngest of 6 kids, and if you visit my parents
— they live in Needham — and there’s bookcases and bookcases filled with photos
of my older brothers and sisters. This is one of three photos
of my childhood. (Laughter) And when I look at the picture,
I’m like, “Mom, I can forgive you
for not taking the photos, but how about putting some sheets
on the bed?” (Laughter) So, when my brother and I
graduated from college, armed with no money and no experience but some good advice from Mom, we started designing T-shirts and
selling them in the streets in Boston, and soon after we bought a van;
we called the van “The Enterprise.” We told each other we’re going to boldly
go where no T-shirt guy has gone before. So, we got in that van, believe it or not, and we traveled for 5 years, and we slept in that van
on the road every night. And we had many great conversations
on the road, but one changed our lives forever. It was a conversation about
how the media inundates our culture
with negative information, always telling us
what’s wrong with the world, but rarely telling us
what’s right with the world. And the result of that conversation
was Life is good, the brand. Seemed silly to trademark those 3 words, it’s almost like trademarking “hello.” So we got lucky in many respects, but we were drawn to being optimistic and we believed that there
was power in being optimistic. What was more important to us
at the time, and what was a question mark, is it commercially viable? Will people actually buy those 3 words
“Life is good” and other optimistic messages? Well, they did. Two days later,
in the streets in Cambridge, we sold 48 shirts in 45 minutes. It scared the heck of us,
because we didn’t know what to do. But the business started growing,
despite our lack of business acumen. I don’t have time for all the mistakes
we made, but trust me, we made lots of them. But the brand idea was strong
enough that it carried us. We began to blur the line
between work and play, and so to us this is what
a board meeting looked like. We really didn’t know what was
happening with the business, but it was growing underneath our feet. And the more shirts we designed,
the more people bought. So in the first 6 years, the first day when we sold
those shirts in Cambridge, we had $78 in our pocket. And in 6 years it became
a $3 million business. We thought we were on our way to the moon
and we were just enjoying things. And people asked, because we have a
Life is good Kids Foundation these days, “Did we start with the idea
of an integrated model, for-profit and non-profit?” Trust me, I had no idea
what an integrated model was and I guarantee you,
my brother had no idea what it was. (Laughter) We were just trying to avoid
getting a job. (Laughter) And we were enjoying it and
we were doing well with that, okay? That’s when something surprised us. We started to get mail from people
who faced severe adversity, and we really didn’t know
why they were writing. I’m going to read an example of a letter, and the letter came from
one of these two boys. I still haven’t met them,
but one day I will. “Dear Bert and John, my name is Alex. I have a brother, Nick, and we are 10. We both have extra challenges
in the world, but at the end of the day,
we still have each other. We were both born early
and weighed only 1 pound, so we had a lot of growing to do. When I was born, I had my leg amputated. Nick is legally blind. Me and Nick have all of your shirts,
with all the things we like doing best, but if you ask us what we do best and what makes us happy
and laugh the most, it is just being together. I know now that Nick has
more challenges than I do.” This is my favorite part because the kid’s 10 years old, it’s like
he’s been around the world, right? “But he says and does things that
make me laugh and forget feeling bad. I don’t know how to describe it, other than to say that I love him. You’re lucky to have a brother, too.” He doesn’t know my brother. (Laughter) “I hope you do fun things together.
Your friends Alex and Nick.” So when you get a letter like that,
what do you do? (Applause) You know? You get a letter like that, it shows
you the depth of optimism, it shows you gratitude
for what you do have, and it makes you think, “I’ll never
say I have to do something again. I get to do something.” We get to do the laundry,
because you get to stand on two feet. You get to go grocery shopping,
you don’t have to go grocery shopping, because when you go grocery shopping, you get to look at the labels
with two eyes. So here’s these kids asking for nothing. They really called just to say “hi”
and hang out. So we did the only logical thing
anybody would do at that point. You probably guessed it. We started a pumpkin festival. (Laughter) And the pumpkin festival
raised money and awareness for children facing unfair challenges. And we had it up in Portland, Maine. And if anybody’s been to Maine
in October, it ain’t bikini weather, okay? (Laughter) We didn’t know if anybody would show up
to our stupid little party or not, but people showed up. Lots of people showed up. And this woman showed up
14 months pregnant in a bikini. (Laughter) She brought her husband, Mr. Positive Man, and whoever this guy was,
was escorted from the premises. (Laughter) That festival grew and grew, and eventually we broke the
Guinness World Book of Records for the most lit pumpkins
in one place at one time, on the Boston Common. Eventually the Life is Good
– and it raised – that first year it raised over $100,000. In 2006 on the Boston Common
it raised half a million dollars, every penny going to kids who need it. The pumpkin festival has now become
the Life is Good Music Festival. This attracts 30,000 optimists. Thirty thousand optimists for a weekend,
who get together and hear great artists. This is Michael Franti in the picture; we’ve had Dave Matthews;
we’ve had Jack Johnson this year. So it’s fun for us, we’re still blurring
the line between work and play, but we weren’t born for business,
business was born for us. Business is a tool and our optimism and open-mindedness allowed us to listen
to those boys and other letters and convert what we were doing
to be a little more meaningful. This kid, I have no idea,
he’s at one of our festivals and I don’t know what he’s looking at, but we literally blew his mind. (Laughter) The community of optimists
has grown, okay? So, social media has a way, I mean, the Internet was only invented in 1989, in a short period of time
something remarkable has happened, and it’s a beautiful thing for humanity. For the first time
in the history of the world, customers – the people who buy things – have taken control from
the people who sell things. So my brother and I are still busy
making mistakes with our business, but you know what?
People believe in us. They believe in us. They don’t care
that we make business mistakes. The believe in us, they believe
what we’re doing is authentic. We now donate over 10%
of the profits from Life is good, no matter what we do,
to kids that need help. So people read about that, and they care about the causes
that are important to them, and they invest in them. That is the way that capitalism is going. Capitalism isn’t broken, it’s been abused. And optimism and open-mindedness
enables us to see that. For us, this is just the beginning
of our road trip. We just signed a deal with Hallmark, a 5.5 billion-dollar company. I get millions and billions mixed up. (Laughter) Everything we ever put on a T-shirt is now going to be on a greeting card. You know why
that’s just particularly cool? Because 10% of our profitability
from that will go to kids who need it. So we’re harnessing one of the big,
bad capitalistic companies out there to do great things, and you know what? Hallmark and Life is good
are attached at the hip now. We signed a second deal with Smuckers, another company that’s over $5 billion. I got it right that time. (Laughter) The thing that’s cool about that:
we’re making gourmet coffee. I don’t drink coffee, I don’t know
anything about coffee, I don’t care. Ten percent of the profits
from that coffee is going to go to kids that need it. We’re going to travel
throughout the world. We’re going to bring our
little brand everywhere we go and we’re going to help kids
all over this world. We’re not selling the company
and we’re not going public. We’re doing what we like
and we’re liking what we do. You each have a road trip.
Your life is a road trip. And we all share
the road of life together. Be good to each other, love yourself, love each other, and enjoy the ride. (Cheers) You too! (Applause) Give me a high five. Atta boy! Thank you!


  1. Thank you I need this. .. I believe in me and everybody , I have always believed in optimism, I am probably legally blind but I don't know because I quit going to the eye doc 4 years ago because I had to inject myself take steroids, and chemotherapy meds . Going to the doctor was so uninspiring and I fell deep into his spell not anymore I am looking for the tiniest of creatures and I am so happy

  2. It's like a mixture of Jesus, Mark from "the Room", and the vocalist from Maroon Five in one person.

  3. Somebody ought to start a Life Sucks T-shirts to compete with him prob sells well at the funeral and political conventions

  4. “Love yourself, love each other”…
    And most importantly don’t forget to marrry me!! 🤣❤️🙏🏽

  5. Wow, first of all, I was wearing a life is good T-shirt yesterday and I just randomly watched this video. I love this brand, bought me first life is good thing (a hat) 20 years ago!

  6. Honestly…..that letter was a fully blown LIE. its just amazing how anyone could buy into that and think kids actually write like that . He wrot hat letter himself to make a point, and thats not cool. Life is bit more crude. Signed: a realist

  7. I have two life is good shirts ❤️ I love them to pieces and it weirdly makes my day better to remind myself that life is good. It can be bad but if you only focus on what's bad you will enevitably be blinded to what is good. 😊

  8. what great brothers, thanks to a great mom!!! they just showed us what optomism can do!! i don't know but the sincerity of this young man absolutely touched my heart!! Abe Lincoln said,"you're as happy as you make up your mind to be." good to live by!! sometimes it's hard to ]just stop yourself when you know you're being cranky or contrary and change yor demeaner to a postive cooporative one. but, it's not always easy, when you don't feel like it. your spouse asks you to do something, and instead of argueing, just get going and do it, happily. makes all the difference in the world!!

  9. WE NEED TO TALK I have created something that can feed the worlg in 3 years. this is proven no bull at all. 705-888-8171 Canada

  10. Good talk… My only question is why didn't he meet the boys? He used the letter in his talk but hadn't met the boys. I think he should have… just my opinion, but good talk.

  11. One of the great inspiring speech about positivity and gratitude. There is no way to happiness, happiness is the way. We all should do some kind of positive thing for our society, for the people who needs.

  12. “Everyday we have a choice when we wake up we can focus on what’s wrong with our lives or we can focus on what’s right with our lives, how focusing on what’s right right with our lives rather then what’s wrong with our lives
    Is the best way to fix what’s wrong with our lives, moreover focusing on what’s right with the world is the best way to fix what’s wrong with the world”

    So wise positive and true 💕 thank you! This goes on my wall 🙂 for inspiration

  13. This*.

    The world needs more people like this with this mentality. Just to say, God I'm so thankful. Sooo thankful. Thankful just to be here, conscient, and part of our world.

    Keep it up bro. You are doing an important job. Thank you!

  14. Why he is talking like a soldier giving order? This american confidence is so strange for other Nations..

  15. I appreciate what he's doing. He is helping children and people who needs help. And he donates a lot of money. But when he said capitalism isn't broken I thought about the children and people in Bangladesh who are making these shirts. Who is helping them? Don't get me wrong, I like the way he tries to help everyone but you can't help everyone as long as capitalism exist. That's my point.

  16. this guys funny and has a great way connecting with the audience. made me a little sappy. I loved every second. My grandma passed away a few years ago but LOVED life is good. That’s all she wanted for holidays. Life is good. Life is good. She loved anything you could get. Our friend tom, loves life is good. There are fans everywhere. It should be a staple in every home

  17. A talk from 2013 and I just saw it! Those google guys must improve their algorithms because this is what I have been searching for years. This is not fair! Great talk by the way.

  18. 9:40 is it just me, or is the woman’s dress really getting integrated with the background and you feel she has no legs.

  19. first half: he explains how capitalism works etc etc. second half: he promotes his company like crazy because he comes back to the 10% again and again. just some funny obvious mindwashing tricks. the first part is really true tho. you can never have enough. you will never be fulfilled until you begin to just be fulfilled with what you already have. no matter how much or less it is. just be content and you will be happy.

  20. A good enough world is one where everyone gives away all of their excess. I have your back and I don't have to worry about my back because you've got it.
    This is my standard since I was 28 until now in my early 50s. I've given until it hurts, personally.
    Is 10% much? Or merely much more than most companies give?
    Just because I imagine a much better world doesn't mean I shouldn't enact that world.
    My father was like me. He gave me a LiG shirt.

  21. Very inspired I’ve been wanting to do something for the needy , veterans, the elderly just haven’t figured out what and how, I loved your story

  22. This is outstanding, thank you! Inspiring beyond words. I’ve spent my life in the career grind. No more… I’m making the most of each day by changing my perspective👍

  23. Go to Google and search for the global truth project and read the
    book named The Present so you will discover all the answers of the big questions of life ⬆️⬆️

  24. Comprehensively the best ted-x talk I've heard yet, delivered in a t-shirt and unmatched shoes, smoothly spoken, while quietly executing the way were socialy conditioned, and condition others, bravo, negativity has no future.

    Just my thoughts : ) .

  25. Что за кретин. Пусть сначала обзаведётся своими детьми и раковой опухолью.

  26. Great speech but he first states ‘every penny goes to kids that need it.’ Then it turns to “10%”, hold up, that ain’t the same thing! I bet he grew his hair and wore those clothes to look more approachable. The deception is real, don’t take things at face value, lesson number two.

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