The Power of Positive Thinking—And Oprah Podcasts

My roommate—who is a self-proclaimed mess right now, both personally and professionally—has started downloading podcasts from Oprah’s Spirit Channel to re-center herself. Last week she pulled out a notebook and began rattling off inspiring catch phrases—nuggets of wisdom such as “remember your spirit,” “what we dwell on is who we become” and “never speak out against the beef industry.”

My roommate was having, as Oprah would say, an “aha moment.”

While some of Oprah’s phrases are a bit much—as is her “Live Your Best Life” coffee-table book that now sits in our living room—I do appreciate certain sentiments, such as turning every negative into a positive.

For example, when I got caught in a torrential downpour seven miles into a bike ride last week, instead of fretting over the tidal wave building in my shoes, I decided to look at it as a free shower. That tiny bit of Dove soap I was rationing would live to see another day.

I was tested again the following day when I went to a Mexican restaurant and was forced to order in Spanish. Instead of panicking because I couldn’t properly articulate my desire for green sauce, I decided this would be the perfect opportunity to practice my foreign language skills. "Uno chicken enchilada and uno cheese enchilada, por favor!"

It isn’t always easy to be a glass-half-full type of person, but I do recognize the power of optimism.

So, too, does Bert Jacobs. When he founded the apparel company Life is good in 1994 with his brother, John, Jacobs says it was the outlook of optimism that his company promotes that made it a success.

Although Jacobs says he and his brother didn’t have any business acumen or money, they did have a sense of optimism—and an optimistic message to share with others.

“We are very much about finding ways to blur the line between work and play, and between what you want to do with your life and what you want to do with your career,” says Jacobs, who will share the Life is good story during the 2012 NAA Education Conference & Exposition Thought Leader session “Good Vibes Are Contagious” at 8:30 a.m. June 29, 2012, in Boston. “Many people think that I’m a person who really likes business. Okay, but that doesn’t mean that I was born for business.” (Just as I was not born to speak Spanish.)

Whatever Jacobs initially lacked in natural skill, he made up for with passion, perseverance and positivity. He credits the optimistic way in which he runs his company to his mother, in particular, who would ask each of her six children to tell her something good that happened that day when they sat down for dinner. (My mother, on the other hand, would ask me to stop inhaling my macaroni.) Despite an often chaotic household, he says his mother always saw the glass half-full.

Oprah would be proud.

For more on Bert Jacobs’ message of optimism, check out Management Insider in the May issue of units, which mailed May 8. The e-version is available here.