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In observation of Women’s History Month, we are featuring blogs written by women who work at Vitalyst about their experience at the annual Pennsylvania Conference for Women, which was recently held in Philadelphia. Our Vice President of Marketing kicks off the series with a post about keynote speaker John Jacobs, co-founder of the Life is Good company.


At the recent Pennsylvania Conference for Women, John Jacobs, co-founder and chief creative optimist of the Life is Good company, inspired us with his optimism. Appearing clad in a classic Life is Good T-shirt sporting the phrase “Spread Good Vibes,” he shared with us the story and evolution of the company he and his brother, Bert, created and why he views optimism as a pragmatic strategy for living life.

Life is Good's John Jacobs

At the recent Pennsylvania Conference for Women, John Jacobs, co-founder and chief creative optimist of the Life is Good company, inspired with his optimism. (Photo by Marla Aufmuth/Getty Images for Pennsylvania Conference for Women)

Jacobs and his brother credit their mother, Joan, as the first powerful optimist in their lives, and the inspiration for Life is Good. She always encouraged her children to focus on the positive. So the Jacobs brothers started the company to bridge the inspiration provided by their mother with their passion to make a living by creating art. When you start with a positive, you can create momentum—and anything is possible.

They started designing and selling T-shirts in the streets and at college dorms up and down the East Coast. They struggled, but learned that it’s healthy to stay open to feedback—good and bad. That’s what makes you stronger and smarter. They also believed that you need to constantly try new things and either succeed or learn. Take the word failure off the table and look for feedback and lessons to learn, then move forward.

Spreading the Power of Optimism
Life is not perfect. Life is not easy. Life is good.

By creating a company focused on giving back and supporting the communities around them, Jacobs said he and his brother have learned that “accomplishments come from people you help, not awards you receive.”

One of the most powerful messages for me that Jacobs shared was the result of inspiration he and his brother received from their fans. The company started receiving letters and emails from people fighting to overcome hardships, like serious health issues or losing loved ones. For Jacobs, their courageous stories demonstrated how optimism can empower even those facing the most difficult times.

On the Life is Good web site, clicking on any word in the “optimism tree” leads to stories that are meant to inspire. (Illustration: Life is Good, Inc.)

On the Life is Good web site, clicking on any word in the “optimism tree” leads to stories that are meant to inspire. (Illustration: Life is Good, Inc.)

We do not all have the same opportunities, Jacobs said. He suggested we draw inspiration from those who stay positive despite significant challenges. Rather than saying “I have to” do something, express it instead as “I get to!” So, when you wake up and are dragging yourself out of bed tomorrow to go to the office, remember that you have the privilege of going to work and that you are fortunate that you “get to” go to a job. One word can change your entire viewpoint. Jacobs believes that optimism empowers us to explore the world with an openness and eyes toward solutions, progress and growth… and makes life a lot more fun.

Jacobs’ perspectives hit home with me because I typically consider myself as someone who sees the glass half full. But there are times, when life and work get overwhelming, that I forget how important an optimistic outlook can be. Like Jacobs’ family, when my husband, my daughters and I sit down to eat dinner, we each recap something good that happened that day to remain focused on the positive. The conversations it starts are refreshing and have created an uplifting mealtime tradition.

Professionally, when frustrations creep in, thinking of Jacobs’ optimism will be a good reminder to recognize that challenges present themselves at every company, in every job—embracing each of those as an “opportunity” is a chance for professional growth and a positive impact.

We all crave meaning in our lives and the chance to create ways to rally around a larger purpose. Every morning we can decide what to focus on. As for me, I’m going to take his suggestions and see what happens.


John Jacobs is co-founder and chief creative optimist of the Life is Good company, which spreads the power of optimism through inspiring art, a passionate community and groundbreaking nonprofit work. Last year, he and his brother Bert wrote “Life is Good: The Book/ How to Live with Purpose and Enjoy the Ride” (September 2015).

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