Reading List: Life is Good

UPDATED: October 24, 2015
PUBLISHED: August 29, 2015

After graduating from college in 1989, the Jacobs brothers decided that designing and selling T-shirts would be a lucrative career. They bought a minivan, dubbed it The Enterprise, and vowed to “boldly go where no T-shirt guys had gone before.” After five years and only $78 in profits, the brothers considered crossing off the T-shirts and parking the van permanently.

In the end, their optimism, a character trait nurtured by their mother, saved the venture. As they tell it, no matter what havoc reigned in their middle-class childhood home, at dinner their mother inevitably asked, “Tell me something good that happened today.” That simple question “changed the energy in the room,” they write, and years later inspired them to design a T-shirt emblazoned with the phrase, “Life is Good.” Those three simple words birthed a clothing brand now worth $100 million.

In this uplifting tale, the brothers narrate their journey from small-time vendors to big-time entrepreneurs, share their professional and personal struggles, explain their simple yet powerful philosophy of life (It’s not easy. It’s not perfect. It’s good.), and describe their socially conscious business (10 percent of annual profits benefit children in dire circumstances). They also introduce readers to the 10 “superpowers”—openness, courage, simplicity, humor, gratitude, compassion, fun, creativity, authenticity and love—that we all possess and can cultivate to enrich and improve our lives.

Illustrated with the brand’s iconic artwork, Life is Good is inventive, inspiring and an all-around delightful read.

by Bert Jacobs and John Jacobs
September; National Geographic; $25