Book notes: Get to Be Happy by Ted Larkins

Get to Be Happy by Ted Larkins book summary review and key ideas.

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Get to Be Happy: Stories and Secrets to Loving the Sh*t Out Of Life by Ted Larkins


“The secret to my happiness started during my high school days (yes, drugs were involved) and continued through hitchhiking across the country, through the suicide of my girlfriend, through bartending in many cities around the country, and then a move to Japan. I lived there for nine years, helping start a $500 million business, including a LARKINS (my last name) line of product, finding enlightenment and meditating in Zen temples in the mountains of Hiroshima, meeting Mother Teresa in Calcutta, partying with Bon Jovi, experiencing the death of my business partner and then the loss of my daughter, and all the life lessons that come with the following statement: I get to do this!” -Audible

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Opening thoughts:

I actually met the author over 3 years ago (June 2018) when he spoke at a work event. He gave a talk about what this book was about, and I put this book on my list since then. I’m excited to finally read this book, since the theme of this month for me is happiness.

Ted gave a great talk at my work training event. I’ve been wanting to read his book ever since.

Key notes:

  • The “get to” principle:
    1. You get to do much of what you do, and each thing you get to do is something many others cannot
      • This feeling brims with compassion for others and gratitude for what you have
    2. You get to experience this life in the first place 
  • Book reference: Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert

Chapter 1: Get to Know the Get-To Principle

  • The get-to principle: at any given moment in any given circumstance facing any given task, you say to yourself or out loudI get to do this”, smile, then do what you’re going to do
  • Two outcomes:
    1. Feeling of intense appreciation for your life because others can’t do or have something you can
    2. A deep understanding that life itself is a miracle
  • You don’t need to climb Mount Everest to have an incredible experience. Simply being fully aware of the present moment can make any grand experience pale in comparison and blow your mind
  • Practice: repeat the “smile, get to, do it” mantra at least 10x a day for 30 days

Chapter 2: Get To Grow up

  • Practice: Remember a time you did some radical thing when you were younger
  • Get to, smile, and relive that moment

Chapter 3: Get To Parents

  • Our parents were doing the best they could based on what they were taught by their parents, and so on. So give them all a break and make the change you want in the world starting now
  • Ted recounts both of his parents’ lives and this experience when they passed away
  • Practice: If your parents are living, call them and say I love you. Be quiet in the moment with them. If they’ve passed on do this exercise in your mind. Do the same thing as often as possible with everyone
  • Get to, smile, say I love you

Chapter 4: get to high school

  • Practice: Get out your high school yearbook and find someone you were mean or unkind to. Find them on social media and apologize 

Chapter 5: get to regret – part 1

  • Practice: Think of something you regret doing. Feel the uneasy feeling and remorse. As a human, you always have the choice to forgive others and yourself

Chapter 6: get to hitchhike across the country

  • Practice: Create a vision board of things and adventures you want to do. Look at it everyday

Chapter 7: get to regret – part 2

  • Practice: Remember some of the people you know or even a specific person who has passed away. Reflect on the relationship
    • If you could see them now, what would you reminisce about? What would you say? How would you hope they’d answer?
    • Feel sorrow and sad but also feel glad for the time you did have with them
    • Feel compassion and gratitude for your own life
  • Get to, smile, Rest In Peace friend

Chapter 8: get to go to prison

  • Practice: Sit quietly for 10 minutes and feel your own freedom

Chapter 9: get to bartend

  • Practice: Embrace the experience
  • Get to, smile, liquid buzz

Chapter 10: get to wake up

  • Practice: Think about something you wanna do in life. Commit to doing it for 30 days. After that, decide if you want to do it again for another 30 days

Chapter 11: get to San Diego

  • Practice: Look at your younger life and see if you can spot patterns that lead you to who you are today

Chapter 12: get to pilots license

  • Practice: Next time you’re in an airplane, sit at the window and look out. Marvel at the magnificence of what you’re doing

Chapter 13: get to write a book

  • Practice: Start a journal. Write for 20 minutes every day for 30 days and then get it published. Not for the public but for yourself

Chapter 14: get to Japan

  • Practice: Make a list of the countries you wanna visit. Pick your favorite one and set a date six months from now as the day you land and start planning

Chapter 15: get to homestay

  • Practice: Consider being a host family for someone coming from overseas

Chapter 16: get to life in Japan

Chapter 17: get to build an empire – part one

  • Practice: Think of something you want to create and sell and imagine selling it in an online store. Take one small step towards realizing that
  • Get to, smile, start a business, create an empire

Chapter 18: Get To Olympics

  • Do what you love as often as you can. That’s all that matters
  • Practice: Make a list of hobbies you want to do in life such as playing an instrument, learning a language, writing a book, taking voice lessons etc. choose one and then make a list of 12 steps you can take to learn that skill
    • On the first day of each month, commit to doing one of those steps for the next 30 days
    • After a year, you will have improved tremendously

Chapter 19: get to build an empire – part 2

  • Practice: Buy a single lottery ticket. The payout has to be over $100 million and the drawing at least three days away. Keep it in your pocket and look at it several times a day, imagining what you would do if you won. When you don’t win, enjoy the amount of pleasure you got from only one dollar
    • Also don’t do this more than once a month

Chapter 20: get to enlightenment

  • Find some thing in your garden or buy a pot and plan some thing
    • Feel the soil and smell the earthly scent. Notice the sights and sounds around you
    • For five minutes a day, sit with your plans and watch it grow

Chapter 21: Get to Hang with Bon Jovi

  • Regular people and famous people are just people. They’re all trying to experience happiness in life
  • Practice: Remember your first concert and all of the details. Remember all of the smells and sounds

Chapter 22: get to brother nick

  • Practice: Think about your current best friend and remember how you met
    • Think about your first impressions and how your perceptions changed overtime. Repeat thinking of other friends

Chapter 23: get to India part 1

  • Practice: There’s something about a cup of tea that encourages you to slow down. Make a cup of tea (chai if possible), sit in a comfortable quiet place on the floor, and with great appreciation for life, sip the tea

Chapter 24: get to meet mother Teresa

  • Practice: Think of your favorite spiritual teacher and think of meeting them
    • How would you act and what questions would you ask?
    • What would you tell them, and what would you hope to hear?

Chapter 25: get to India part 2

  • Practice: Set a timer and start meditating. Breathe in, breathe out, and count. Continue to 10, then restart to 1. When your thoughts drift, start your count over
  • 10 minute meditation: 3 minutes think about all the things you get to do today or got to do that day. 7 minutes use the mantra “get to, smile, be here”

Chapter 26: get to larkins

  • Practice: One of the most powerful tools is getting to acknowledge how much incredible stuff you get to do each day
    • Write “I get to” 10 things everyday

Chapter 27: get to visa

  • Practice: Put on the song “Imagine” by John Lennon and really listen to the words all the way through

Chapter 28: get to tsunomori

  • Practice: Letting go of something lost requires being present and accepting the pain that comes with it
    • Acknowledging the pain is the first step towards letting go

Chapter 29: get to life partner

  • Practice: Think about your significant other, or yourself if you don’t have one
    • Remember a particularly fun time together. Recognize that even though there may have been challenges, the over all love is what matters
    • Even if you’ve gotten a divorce, appreciate the intention that was there. Love yourself 

Chapter 30: get to go home

  • Practice: Remember your wedding ceremony if you had one or a memorable birthday party
    • Really sink down and remember the details. Recall everything you can. Remember the details of the people. Most of all remember the person you married, their expressions, sensations
    • If another event, remember those you loved best on that day

Chapter 31: get to cancer

  • He went on a 10-day silent meditation retreat. It was only after day 7 when he experienced the calm and silence in his mind
  • Practice: When you first wake up, the moment you come to consciousness, do the following: whisper “get to” smile, then “be alive”. Do it every single day

Chapter 32: get to live and die with nick

  • We all get to live, we all get to die
  • Keeping your attention on the evolving moment is for him the most effective way to live a satisfying life
  • Practice: Imagine you have three months to live. Think about how you’d spend them
    • Think about how intense each sensation would be if you knew it was one of the last
  • Get to, smile, appreciate life

Chapter 33: get to be pregnant

  • Most people, through their rituals of their religion, are creating a relationship with God
    • Meditation, prayer, counting beads, pilgrimages. All of it helping to get closer to God
  • Practice: Think about your religion. The rituals you follow and beliefs that have been passed down from your family
    • Honoring those rituals and beliefs, set them aside for a moment and think about what God or the Creator is
    • Enjoy those thoughts and let them go for now. Get to, smile, be with God
  • Practice: Next time you see an infant, put your attention on them for a minute. Hold them if you can. Realize how special life is and that each human on the planet is a miracle
  • Get to, smile, miracles

Chapter 34: get to Cole Grace

  • Their child was a stillbirth and surprisingly a girl, so they renamed her Cole Grace
  • What he realized that grieving is God’s way of making sure that we absolutely appreciate life so we keep it going
    • After we get through the grief, we hopefully learn to be present to the miracle of the unfolding wildness of life
  • Grieving is selfish because the more we grieve, the less we can feel gratitude for the experience we had with that being
    • Grieve hard, and then smile. You’ll be next, so the sooner you can get back to living in the now and not in the past, the more fulfilled your world will be. And the more you’ll fulfill what the world needs of yo
  • Everyday, whenever you can, remember breathe deeply and repeat to yourself: “get to, smile, life”
  • Practice: Go to the place where a loved one is buried or memorialized. Sit quietly there. Cry for a bit if it feels right, then laugh
    • Laugh with the beauty of the life you have and the life they had
  • Get to, smile, grieve

Chapter 35: Get to Have More Kids

  • All women who give birth in any way are heroes
  • Practice: Next time you’re with a child somewhere between the ages of 3 and 12, sit with your attention fully on them
    • No matter what they’re doing, know they are perfect just as they are.
    • Remember they were born and are going to die just like all of us and they are getting to do this thing called life
  • Get to, smile, be with kids

Chapter 36: Get To Be Happy

  • The decision to be happy, regardless of all outside circumstances, can be a spiritual journey and it’s probably one of the most important choices you can make
  • He feels it is our duty to be happy because we get to
  • Why not choose to be happy and spread that to the world? 
  • Practice: get to, smile, be happy

Closing thoughts:

This book was fantastic and delivered everything I was expecting. I think it also was a great read for me personally at this time in my life.

I think out of all the categories of books I’ve read, I think the ones on happiness are usually the most profound. I’ve read somewhere that everyone just wants to be happy, and all of the things we pursue are in hopes of obtaining happiness. However, obtaining happiness is far simpler than we make it out to be. It may not always be easy, but it’s definitely less complicated than what we all make it out to me.

What I really enjoyed about this book is that it wove together his personal story with powerful lessons on gratitude and living in the moment. Moreover, the practice sections at the end of each chapter remind the reader that practical application of what you learn is the most important.

One Takeaway / Putting into practice:

This entire book is just a series of practices that the reader can take away and implement, which is fantastic. However, in the spirit of choosing one, my choice would be:

  • The get-to principle: at any given moment in any given circumstance facing any given task, you say to yourself or out loud “I get to do this”, smile, then do what you’re going to do

Basically, it’s the premise of the whole book, so it made sense to make this the takeaway.


Ted Larkins shares stories from his life and gives practical insights on how to choose happiness despite the challenges you may face.

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Rating: 4 out of 5.


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