Those of us aiming to lead happy lives and enjoy happy retirements might take a few pointers from the late, great Johnny Carson.

For most of us, the best thing about Johnny Carson's job was the pleasure that he brought to millions of Americans for 30 years. He came across as a modest, decent person, and he built a legacy of dignity and warm humor. For Mr. Carson himself, though, perhaps the best thing about his job was that he was doing something he enjoyed doing, something he did well. That's a win-win scenario for which all of us should strive. If your job doesn't have you waking up eager to go to work, take some time to think about what you're good at and what you'd enjoy doing all day.

Mr. Carson was fortunate that his job paid well, which afforded him as luxurious a lifestyle as he wanted. His wealth level was certainly quite removed from that of many of us, but that doesn't mean we can't have a pretty cushy retirement, too. Don't think it's out of reach.

A cushy retirement probably is out of reach if you just grumble to yourself about retirement now and then, and stress out about it, and rarely take any action. But if you take some time to assess what you have, what you'll need, and how you might get there, you might be surprised. With a little planning and patience, your golden days might shine brighter than you expected. Let us help you, too -- perhaps with our Rule Your Retirement newsletter (which you'd be silly not to at least sample for free) or perhaps by trying our TMF Money Advisor personal financial planning service, which offers actual professional advisors for you to consult. (That's right -- real people evaluating your personal situation, all for a very reasonable rate.)

Another retirement lesson we can learn from Mr. Carson is to enjoy and take an interest in life as much as possible, post-retirement. Sure, he may have yearned to be back behind his desk (or maybe not), but he kept busy. For example, it recently came to light that he was sending in jokes to David Letterman for use on the air. Mr. Carson also did some traveling, even taking the time to study Russian and Swahili, languages of places he was going to visit. Maybe you'll never afford a yacht -- but with some planning you may well visit Kenya and Russia in your retirement, saying "Jambo!" or "Zdravstvuite!" to the locals.

I don't know whether Mr. Carson invested in many stocks, but he certainly enjoyed poking fun at some companies. Of his employer, NBC parent General Electric (NYSE:GE), he quipped, "The greatest accolade I think I've received: GE named me 'employee of the month.' And God knows, that was a dream come true." He got in some hot water with McDonald's (NYSE:MCD) when it sold its billionth hamburger and he noted, "Why, do you realize that if all the meat in those burgers were stacked up, it would stretch to here?" (raising his hand just a foot from the top of his desk).

Share your memories of Mr. Carson on our Television Banter discussion board, or just drop in to see which shows are being dissected.

Longtime Fool contributor Selena Maranjian does not own shares of any companies mentioned in this article.