Welcome to “How You Living?” a transformative podcast featuring best-selling author, inspirational speaker and minister, Dr. Rick Rigsby—and, now, Dr. Rick.
Dr. Rigsby: Hello, friends. Thank you so much for tuning in today. I want to talk to you about being happy, specifically, making a choice to be happy. Let's go back to 1988. I know that for many of you, that is ancient history, but there are some of us around, relics, who would consider this to be nostalgia.
Back in 1988, there was a new concept being bantered about called the World Wide Web. The top movies in 1988, Coming to America, Who Framed Roger Rabbit, Good morning, Vietnam, and the Academy Award winner that year, Rain Man. Top TV shows included The Cosby Show, Who's The Boss?, Murder She Wrote, Matlock, and Cheers. [01:14.5]
In sports, we had the Summer Olympics taking place in Seoul, Korea. The Lakers beat the Pistons to win the NBA finals. The Dodgers beat the Oakland A's to win the World Series, and this was so long ago that the Washington Football Team actually won the Super Bowl.
I don't know if any of you can remember that far back, but in music, among Billboards Top 100 hits was this catchy tune by Bobby McFerrin titled Don't Worry, Be Happy. I wonder how many of you remember that song. It was a cultural Anthem. You heard it at ballparks. You heard it on the radio. It was the music bed for television ads. People sang it and hummed it and whistled it. [01:59.5]
Bobby McFerrin, a jazz artist with an adult following decides to create this song where he would sing acapella and use his body to make all these crazy sounds. It would go on to win two Grammys, Song of the Year and Best Pop Vocal Performance, a simple tune that made us feel better that offered a choice that says you can worry or you can be happy.
Come on, Rick. Is that as easy as it is to be happy? The easy part is making the choice, right? And when you make the choice, now you're placing a demand upon your will to follow that choice, so the answer is, yes, it is easy to make the choice to be happy and to live every day in a state of happiness.
Don't believe me? Oh, do I have a story for you today, friends? What if I were to tell you that I have discovered a man who has every reason in the world today to be angry, who should be riddled with bitterness and resentment? [03:10.8]
He lost family members, including, sadly, his father during the Holocaust. He barely escaped with his own life. Yet, today, eight decades after surviving the horrors of a death camp, he harbors knowing anger. He harbors no bitterness and he holds no resentment.
Let me introduce you to Eddie Jaku, a survivor of Auschwitz, who at the time of this podcast in 2021 is alive and thriving at 101 years of age. That's right, Eddie is 101 years of age as we record this today. Friends, Eddie’s story is so remarkable you might find it unbelievable. I read his book in one day after learning about him when reporter Harry Smith interviewed him on the TODAY Show. [04:06.4]
Eddie was born in 1920 in Leipzig, Germany, Germany. Eddie's father was a Jewish immigrant from Poland, who married and began his family, and settled in Germany. For centuries, Leipzig was the center of art and culture, and Jewish people were an integral part of that Eastern Germany society. Although they were Jewish, Eddie said, quote, “Our religion did not seem as important to us as being good citizens. We practiced our Jewish traditions. We observed our Jewish holidays, but our loyalty and our love was for Germany.” As Eddie says, “We considered ourselves Germans first, German second, then Jews.”
But everything changed after World War I. You all will remember Germany lost in World War I and Germany's economy was slipping into economic ruin following the war. The victorious Allied forces demanded reparations, more money than Germany could possibly pay. This resulted in food shortages and in fuel shortages. It resulted in staggering poverty and massive suffering. [05:18.0]
The German people were humiliated and they were angry. The Nazi party and Hitler promised the German people a solution and they provided an enemy. Hitler's wave of antisemitism resulted in millions of Jews killed during the Holocaust. Over a million alone died at Auschwitz, among them, Eddie's father.
In his book, The Happiest Man on Earth: The Beautiful Life of an Auschwitz Survivor, whose full name by the way is Abraham Salomon Jakubowicz, Eddie recounts the horrific episodes of torture during a seemingly endless journey from one death camp to another. [06:04.2]
His courage and resilience alone are enough to buy this book, but the promise, the promise he made to change his life if he survived is just breathtaking. Following a final attempt to escape, right at death's door, Eddie said, quote, “I made a promise to God that, if I lived, I would become an entirely new person, dedicating the rest of my life to putting right the hurt that had been done to the world by the Nazis and that I would live every day to the fullest.”
Now, many decades later, Eddie considers himself the happiest man on earth. He has been married to a sweetheart for over 70 years. Great children with grandchildren and great grandchildren. Now, at age 101, Eddie continues to go the world, travel the world, and share a simple message that happiness is a choice, a choice that he willingly makes daily. [07:11.3]
Friends, after you read his story, you will need no further evidence. You can trust me on that. I love some of his quotes in his book. In fact, I love them all, but here are a few of my favorites.
He said, “I do not hate anyone. Hate is a disease which may destroy your enemy, but will also destroy you in the process.” Isn't that good, friends?
How about this one? “It is never too late to be kind, polite, and a loving human being.”
Here's one of my favorites. “Happiness does not fall from the sky; it is in your hands.”
And I think probably my all-time favorite is this one. “Life can be beautiful if you make it beautiful. It is up to you.” [08:02.5]
Friends, I want to just simply and unwittingly encourage you to do a couple of things. First I want you to Google. Eddie's TED Talk. He gave it in Sydney, Australia, a couple of years ago, I believe in 2019. He got a standing ovation at 99 years of age. Google that TED Talk. The name is Eddie Jaku, J-A-K-U. Right.
Second, I would love for you to discover him the way that I did. It was an interview that reporter Harry Smith conducted with Eddie on the TODAY Show. If you would just stream the TODAY Show interview with Harry Smith, it's well worth the five-minute investment.
Then, third, buy the book. Just by the book, The Happiest Man on Earth, Eddie Jaku, J-A-K-U. I tell you, you will never regret it because the book is just filled with timeless wisdom and the book is filled with this just amazing hope. He just does such a beautiful job communicating that if you still have life, you have hope. [09:18.2]
You know I'm a big fan. I mean, I go all over the place telling people you haven't lost hope; you've lost perspective. And those were the simple words from another man who was born in 1920, Roger Rigsby, the wisest man I've ever met in my life, a third-grade dropout. In some ways, Eddie's lessons remind me and connect with the lessons that my father taught me—lessons like, be kind. Look out for other people. Always try to see the bigger picture. Always do your best to help others. Lift other people up. [09:56.7]
And I just really love this spirit, this human spirit of courage and resilience and hope, and now forgiveness and love, and harboring no resentment whatsoever and living with no bitterness, all the result of making a simple choice to be happy.
So, friends, please stream the Ted Talk. It will just amaze you. Second, go stream the TODAY Show with Harry Smith interviewing Eddie. It will inspire you. Third, buy the book, The Happiest Man on Earth. It will motivate you. It will lift your spirits. I want to tell you, it's raw. It chronicles in vivid details the horrors of the Holocaust, but in those episodes, you will see emerge hope, courage, resilience, and eventually a kind of overcoming kind of attitude that compels one to say, You know what? Every day, regardless of the circumstances, is a gift and I am going to make a choice to be happy. [11:17.4]
I get it. I know that Don't Worry, Be Happy is kind of colloquial. I understand and I get many people saying, perhaps even with cynicism, come on, it's got to be more difficult than just a simple choice. No, it doesn't have to be. It is a choice that we can make every single day.
Friends, if you didn't follow Bobby McFerrin’s advice in his song, Don't Worry, Be Happy, maybe you'll follow the advice of a Holocaust survivor who made this simple choice and changed the direction of his life. Here's to you, Eddie Jaku. God bless you and thank you for the wonderful example of forgiveness, of resilience, of courage, of hope, of making a choice to live a better life. [12:13.5]
Friends, that's going to do it for this episode. Until we meet again, this is Dr. Rick, asking you the most important question I can ask, how you livin’?
Are you ready to make an impact in your world right now? Do you want to stop existing and start living your best life right now? Dr. Rick wants to give you the first chapter of his bestselling book, “Lessons from a Third Grade Dropout”, absolutely free. Just go to www.RickRigsby.com/FreeGift to get the print or audiobook right now.
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