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Highlights of Commencement Address by Bert and John Jacobs
Bentley graduates are armed with superpowers, thanks to Bert and John Jacobs, brothers and co-founders of the Boston-based Life is good (LIG) company. The dynamic duo addressed approximately 1,000 Bentley University undergraduate students at the 94th Commencement ceremony on Saturday, May 18, 2013. Speaking to an estimated audience of 8,000, they shared some of their company’s core values, delivered in the optimistic “LIG style” that has become the trademark of their apparel and accessories, and iconic smiling stick figure, “Jake.”
“At our company we refer to our core values as the ‘Life is good Super Powers.’ These are superpowers accessible to all. And they can help you find fulfillment not just in your careers but in your lives,” John said of values that include creativity, courage, love, authenticity, gratitude and fun. It was a lively day filled with audience participation, as the brothers launched Life is good Frisbees into the audience throughout the address, each one representing a particular superpower.
Recalling the devastating events surrounding the Boston Marathon, Bert described the company’s response: a Boston t-shirt to benefit effected families. “Our hearts go out to the families of the three we lost… to those who were badly injured. But we felt it was our job to focus on what was right rather than what was wrong.” Citing first responders and people who came together, he added, “One act of hate is no match for millions of acts of love. Love is a superpower!”
John shared how LIG’s authenticity is felt by customers. “Anyone who thinks they’re going to build a business or brand alone is not paying attention … the customer has taken control … that can be a bad thing if people view you as artificial … they can tear your business down … if they view you as authentic, they will help you build your business up … Whatever you choose to do, choose a career that you can be authentically passionate about, something that’s an extension of who you really are … Above all else, to thine own self be true. Authenticity is a superpower!”
Bert explained how the company has taken to heart the stories from customers who have faced adversity. “We no longer say “have to” — ever. We never say “I have to go to a late meeting” or “I have to work late” … we “get to.” And it carries over into your life beyond your business. If you ever say you “have to” go grocery shopping you’re missing the point. You “get to” go grocery shopping. You “get to” do your laundry because you get to stand on two legs … Gratitude is a superpower!”
Bert and John concluded with a super power that got people up on their feet: fun. They cued up the brass band and to the beat of the popular song “Thrift Shop” by Macklemore, belted out a song written especially for Bentley grads. “Tell us what you see, optimism’s key, it’s how to be, we guarantee, sing if you agree. We gonna let it fly.”
The Jacobs brothers each received an honorary doctor of commercial science degree at the ceremony.
ABOUT THE SPEAKERS
Bert and John Jacobs are co-founders and Chief Executive Optimist and Chief Creative Optimist, respectively, of The Life is good Company. Jake, Life is good’s iconic hero with the contagious smile, teaches men, women and kids that optimism is fun, healthy, and empowering.
In 1989, the Jacobs brothers designed their first t-shirts. They began selling their designs on the streets of Boston out of an old van at colleges and fairs along the East Coast of the United States. In 1994, following a not-so-successful road trip and a combined sum of just $78 in the bank, they returned to Boston, unsure of the future of their business. After gathering friends at their apartment to share stories and ask for comments on their new drawings and sayings, one image received considerable favorable attention: the beret-wearing, smiling stick figure and the phrase "Life is good." The brothers named the character Jake and printed up 48 shirts. At a street fair in Cambridge, Massachusetts, the shirts sold out in less than an hour. They began to sell shirts and hats featuring Jake in local stores and the demand for the merchandise grew quickly, as did national recognition of the brand.
Life is good expanded its product lines from t-shirts and caps into a lifestyle brand that features optimistic apparel and accessories focused on positive messages and emphasizing simplicity, humor and humility. Today, Life is good products are sold by over 3,500 retailers nationwide, six company-owned stores and on lifeisgood.com. The innovative company focuses on forging meaningful, emotional connections, and relies heavily on its community of Optimists to help spread the power of optimism.
Life is good also holds an annual two-day celebration of music and optimism, The Life is good Festival, which raises money for kids in need. The Festival features three stages of nationally known musical talent, hands-on games and interactive arts activities. More importantly, the festival is a one-of-a-kind fundraiser for The Life is good Kids Foundation and creates a community of fundraisers. The Life is good Kids Foundation receives 100 percent of the funds raised at the Life is good Festival.
After graduating from Villanova University in 1987 with a degree in Communications, Bert worked as a ski instructor, pizza delivery man, and substitute teacher. John graduated from the University of Massachusetts in 1990 with dual degrees in English and Art. He began designing and selling t-shirts after college and also worked as a substitute teacher to supplement his income during Life is good’s infancy. Bert and John are the youngest of six siblings from Needham, Massachusetts and they credit their mother with teaching them to face the bumps in the road with a smile. The Jacobs brothers see simplicity, humility and a sense of humor as the three keys to Life is good’s continued success.