As a kid Allen Klein dreamed of being a set designer.
When other kids were writing book reports he was designing shoebox dioramas of literary scenes.
Broadway obsessed, the native New Yorker as a teen-ager saw every major show, including the opening night of “Hello Dolly,” designed sets in college and was one of only 12 people accepted into the set design program at the prestigious Yale Drama School.
His spirit might have taken a dive after he discovered the graduate program had a “Survivor” like component.
Along with three others he was voted off the island, so to speak, after a year and told he had no talent.
Unbowed, Klein went on to become an apprecenticed in New York City and quickly was designing sets for national TV shows like Captain Kangaroo, Merv Griffin and The Jackie Gleason Show while his fellow Yalies were still doing college plays.
He’s tended to live his life that way, standing up to sourpusses with a smile and seeing adversity as an opportunity.
Now with his new book “You Can’t Ruin My Day: 52 Wake-Up Calls to Turn Any Situation Around,” the 77-year-old motivation speaker, writer and self-declared “jollytologist,” who splits his time between homes in San Francisco and Sebastopol, shares tricks for preventing sour people and frustrating situations from making you seethe.
“You may not be able to change a situation, but with humor you can change your attitude about it,” says Klein, who has written an entire canon of cheerful books that are variations on a foundational theme that we are responsible for our own happiness and well-being and it all gets back to attitude.
Collectively, he’s sold a half million copies of 25 titles ranging from “The Healing Power of Humor” to “Laugh When You Feel Like Crying.”
With his bald head and beard, Klein has the puckish look of a man perpetually on the verge of a chuckle.
He is given to wearing red clown noses, which he buys in bulk and passes out like candy to kids at the motivation talks he delivers before groups of business and health care professionals in need of a laugh.
He doesn’t tell jokes, but he gets people to lighten up, teaching through humor and coaxing people to simply switch their lenses so they can see the absurdity in life’s annoyances.
Now he wears little lapel pins with the warning words to grouches, critics, jerks and naysayers, “You Can’t Ruin My Day.
Klein uses a series of stories and anecdotes, a big back of tricks to draw upon when something or someone threatens to dampen your day.
They involve learning to let go, stop blaming, forgiveness, giving what you want to get back.
He recommends you stop complaining but a “good kvetch once in awhile” can be therapeutic.
He suggest one easy go-to antidote to frustration is finding a silly mantra. His is, “The moon is in tapioca,” which he confesses means absolutely nothing.”
Here are a few of his tips:
Five ways to be happier today and every day
1. Focus on what you have, not on what you don’t have. In Buddhist thinking, suffering comes non-acceptance. Stop resisting, start enjoying your life right now.
2. Keep happy reminders around…playful toys, photos of loved ones, clown noses, bubbles, cartoons, etc.