[Cue the music]
You ain’t got no kind of feeling inside
I got something that’ll sho nuff set yo’ stuff on fire
You refuse to put anything before your pride
What I got will knock your pride aside
Tell me something good
Tell me that you love me, yeah
Tell me something good
Tell me that you like it, yeah….
[Cue the credits]
Tell me Something Good by Rufus
Written by Stevie Wonder
If you remember the 1974 hit (rerecorded in 1991 by Lee Aaron and again in 2006 by Pink), then I’m betting you just sang those lyrics. If this post had an audio introduction, this would be the song. Now that you have that song in your head, let me tell you a story of two little boys growing up in Needham, Massachusetts about the same time that Stevie Wonder wrote that song.
Bert and John were the youngest of six children. Life wasn’t always easy for this lower-middle class family struggling to make ends meet. When the boys were in elementary school, their parents were involved in a serious car accident that would injure them both and create significant emotional and financial challenges for the family. While their mother suffered a few broken bones, their father wasn’t as lucky. His injuries were more severe causing him to lose total use of his right hand. Unable to work and faced with a long road of physical therapy, he became angry and depressed. The bills began to pile up and adult stress trickled all the way down the family to the youngest kids. It’s safe to say that their lives were neither perfect nor easy.
“Tell me something good.”
Despite the hardships, their mother believed in the power of optimism and saw the opportunity to teach the children a valuable lesson that would stay with them for years. Each night at dinner, she would ask all six kids to share something good about their day. One simple phrase – “tell me something good” – changed the energy of the family and their outlook on life for years to come. “She showed us that optimism is a courageous choice you can make every day, especially in the face of adversity. That optimism was something that our family always had, even when we had little else,” the boys would later write in their 2015 book Life is Good: The Book.
Today, John and Bert Jacobs will tell you that their mother’s optimistic outlook is what inspired them to become entrepreneurs selling t-shirts out of a van at street fairs. After five years of struggling, they decided to give it one last shot before calling it quits. They printed 48 shirts with a smiley face and three little words. “Life is good.” Within 45 minutes, they had sold every one. That little company has grown into the $100 million clothing empire, Life is good. Far from those difficult times around that cramped kitchen table in Needham, the Jacobs brothers continue to pass along their mother’s wisdom to their employees. The simple phrase, “Tell me something good,” is one shared often within the organization to focus on positivity, creativity, progress, and successes across the organization.
So, here is your challenge today: Focus on what is right. Share the good stuff. Let others catch your optimism, and pass it on. As the tagline reads, “Life is not perfect. Life is not easy. Life is good.”
And, because you know you want to…
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You might also enjoy reading Live on Purpose. If the music moves you, check out Boost Cognitive Power and Creativity with Your Playlist.
Dr. Melissa Hughes is the President and Founder of The Andrick Group. Melissa specializes in growing our capacity to learn as well as employee engagement, effective communication strategies, and the unique dynamics of the multi-generational workforce. Having worked with learners from the classroom to the boardroom, she incorporates brain-based research, humor, and practical strategies that impact how organizations think, learn, communicate and collaborate.