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Life is good Festival + an interview with John Jacobs

We are less than a week away from the upcoming Life is good Festival at Blue Hills, and this past Friday I had a chance to chat with John Jacobs, co-founder, and Chief Creative Optimist at Life is good. He’s also the father of two (a newborn and a toddler) and a Magic Beans customer. I was excited about the festival before our conversation, but afterwards I felt almost evangelical about it.

Life is good produced its first festival back in 2003 in Maine, raising over $52,000 to benefit Camp Sunshine, a retreat for children with life-threatening illnesses. Over the past seven years, their festivals have grown in magnitude and impact and they are poised to reach new heights this coming weekend. They are aiming to raise $1,000,000 for their Life is good Kids Foundation.

The Festival isn’t just about raising money though. There will also be some amazing musical entertainment on three different stages, including a dedicated “Good Kids” stage that will feature acts like Dan Zanes, Laurie Berkner, and They Might Be Giants. They’re also doing a ton of other kid-friendly activities, including a huge mural mosaic project.

The scope of this event is stunning, and we are really looking forward to being a part of something so special.

10 questions for John Jacobs

What’s the big idea behind these festivals?
We realized after 9/11 how powerful our brand could be at pulling people together around something positive. People get inundated with negative news these days and its not good for anyone’s psyche, so when they do see something simple and positive they want to be a part of it.

Why is optimism so important?
Our mom, Joan Jacobs, was the inspiration of our brand. I’m the youngest of six kids, and we had a small house and limited funds and our mom was always in the kitchen singing and laughing.

We saw her positive mindset all through our childhood, and we learned you can either spend time harping on what’s wrong with the world, or you can focus on what’s right with the world. What you focus on tends to be what grows. That’s what our mom has taught us and we’ve seen that it’s true over and over again with our friends, our family, and our customers. People who have seen the most adversity embrace our message the most because they have so much perspective on what’s important.

How do you help your own kids to be optimistic?
You can teach them playfulness, because those two go hand in hand. Today I taught my 2-year old to hum, because that’s how you can sing along even if you don’t’ know the words. Because anything can be fun if you make it fun.

How is the Life is good Kids Foundation helping kids?
This past year, we joined forces with Project Joy, an incredible organization that works with kids facing various forms of trauma – violence, illness, extreme poverty. These kids can’t sit on a therapist’s couch (even if they could afford to), but their lives are dominated by fear after a trauma. How do you help them break out of that cloud of fear? We’ve found that physical play is so important for helping them reconnect to other kids and redevelop their confidence and self esteem and their ability to look at the world through positive eyes.

Project Joy learned years ago that they could impact more lives by training childcare providers than by working directly with kids. So now we’re training Playmakers. These qualifying childcare providers get put up at a hotel for a weekend and given this amazing training in playfulness – it’s a huge experience for them and they leave with a bounce in their step, ready to spread the word. Thousands of kids are being impacted.

How do you play with your kids?
My 2-year old son is really into his wooden railway train set right now. We also do a ton of reading with him – it’s so much fun because he’s getting more verbal every day. I love when he says ‘octopus.’

Are you a Mac or a PC?
I’m a Mac.

What’s on your iPod?
I’m so low-tech, but I’m fascinated by Pandora right now. I have old school favorites like the Beatles. But right now it’s all about the people who are playing at the festival. I love Ben Harper and Jason Mraz.

Who is your hero?
Can I name a few? First would be my mom and my wife, no question about that. Then Ralph Waldo Emerson. Satchel Paige was a pitcher who played in the Negro Leagues and always had a positive attitude. Norman Rockwell, Dr. Seuss, Bob Dylan.

Is there any country you hope to travel to someday?
Italy. Or Bhutan. They have the #1 happiness index.

What is your dream job?
I am so lucky. Since I was four I loved to draw and write and that’s what I do every day. I have a dream job and I wouldn’t change a thing.

Buy your tickets now at lifeisgood.com/festivals. You can also become a fundraiser and raise money for the Life is good Kids Foundation. You might even manage to upgrade your ticket to add some great perks.

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