Neil Pasricha is a Canadian author, entrepreneur, podcaster, and public speaker characterized by his advocacy of positivity and simple pleasures. He is best known for his The Book of Awesome series, and “The Happiness Equation” which are international bestsellers.
In this heartfelt talk from TEDxToronto, he reveals the 3 secrets (all starting with A) to leading a life that’s truly awesome.
Neil Pasricha – TEDx Talk TRANSCRIPT
Thank you very much.
I am absolutely thankful and grateful for this opportunity and I feel massively underqualified, and I’m looking forward to spending the next 18 minutes with you doing 3 things: I really want to tell you the Awesome story, I want to take you through the 3 As of Awesome, and I want to leave you with a closing thought.
So the Awesome story:
It begins about 40 years ago, when my mom and my dad came to Canada. My mom left Nairobi, Kenya. My dad left a small village outside of Amritsar, India. And they got here in the late 1960s. They settled in a shady suburb about an hour east of Toronto, and they settled into a new life.
They saw their first dentist, they ate their first hamburger, and they had their first kids. My sister and I grew up here, and we had quiet, happy childhoods. We had close family, good friends, a quiet street.
We grew up taking for granted a lot of the things that my parents couldn’t take for granted when they grew up – things like power always on in our houses, things like schools across the street and hospitals down the road and popsicles in the backyard.
We grew up, and we grew older. I went to high school. I graduated. I moved out of the house, I got a job, I found a girl, I settled down – and I realize it sounds like a bad sitcom or a Cat Stevens’ song – but life was pretty good.
Life was pretty good. 2006 was a great year. Under clear blue skies in July in the wine region of Ontario, I got married, surrounded by 150 family and friends.
2007 was a great year. I graduated from school, and I went on a road trip with two of my closest friends. Here’s a picture of me and my friend, Chris, on the coast of the Pacific Ocean.
We actually saw seals out of our car window, and we pulled over to take a quick picture of them and then blocked them with our giant heads. So you can’t actually see them, but it was breathtaking, believe me.
2008 and 2009 were a little tougher. I know that they were tougher for a lot of people, not just me.
First of all, the news was so heavy. It’s still heavy now, and it was heavy before that, but when you flipped open a newspaper, when you turned on the TV, it was about ice caps melting, wars going on around the world, earthquakes, hurricanes and an economy that was wobbling on the brink of collapse, and then eventually did collapse, and so many of us losing our homes, or our jobs, or our retirements, or our livelihoods.
2008, 2009 were heavy years for me for another reason, too. I was going through a lot of personal problems at the time. My marriage wasn’t going well, and we just were growing further and further apart. One day my wife came home from work and summoned the courage, through a lot of tears, to have a very honest conversation.
And she said, “I don’t love you anymore,” and it was one of the most painful things I’d ever heard and certainly the most heartbreaking thing I’d ever heard, until only a month later, when I heard something even more heartbreaking.
My friend Chris, who I just showed you a picture of, had been battling mental illness for some time. And for those of you whose lives have been touched by mental illness, you know how challenging it can be. I spoke to him on the phone at 10:30 p.m. on a Sunday night.
We talked about the TV show we watched that evening. And Monday morning, I found out that he disappeared. Very sadly, he took his own life. And it was a really heavy time.
And as these dark clouds were circling me, and I was finding it really, really difficult to think of anything good, I said to myself that I really needed a way to focus on the positive somehow.
So I came home from work one night, and I logged onto the computer, and I started up a tiny website called 1000awesomethings.com.
I was trying to remind myself of the simple, universal, little pleasures that we all love, but we just don’t talk about enough – things like waiters and waitresses who bring you free refills without asking, being the first table to get called up to the dinner buffet at a wedding, wearing warm underwear from just out of the dryer, or when cashiers open up a new check-out lane at the grocery store and you get to be first in line – even if you were last at the other line, swoop right in there.
And slowly over time, I started putting myself in a better mood. I mean, 50,000 blogs are started a day, and so my blog was just one of those 50,000. And nobody read it except for my mom.
Although I should say that my traffic did skyrocket and go up by 100% when she forwarded it to my dad. And then I got excited when it started getting tens of hits, and then I started getting excited when it started getting dozens and then hundreds and then thousands and then millions.
It started getting bigger and bigger and bigger. And then I got a phone call, and the voice at the other end of the line said, “You’ve just won the Best Blog In the World award.”
I was like, that sounds totally fake. Which African country do you want me to wire all my money to?
But it turns out, I jumped on a plane, and I ended up walking a red carpet between Sarah Silverman and Jimmy Fallon and Martha Stewart. And I went onstage to accept a Webby award for Best Blog.
And the surprise and just the amazement of that was only overshadowed by my return to Toronto, when, in my inbox, 10 literary agents were waiting for me to talk about putting this into a book.
Flash-forward to the next year and “The Book of Awesome” has now been number one on the bestseller list for 20 straight weeks.
But look, I said I wanted to do three things with you today. I said I wanted to tell you the Awesome story, I wanted to share with you the three As of Awesome, and I wanted to leave you with a closing thought.
So let’s talk about those three As.
Over the last few years, I haven’t had that much time to really think. But lately I have had the opportunity to take a step back and ask myself: “What is it over the last few years that helped me grow my website, but also grow myself?”
And I’ve summarized those things, for me personally, as three As. They are Attitude, Awareness and Authenticity.
I’d love to just talk about each one briefly.
So Attitude: Look, we’re all going to get lumps, and we’re all going to get bumps. None of us can predict the future, but we do know one thing about it and that’s that it ain’t gonna go according to plan. We will all have high highs and big days and proud moments of smiles on graduation stages, father-daughter dances at weddings and healthy babies screeching in the delivery room.
But between those high highs, we may also have some lumps and some bumps too. It’s sad, and it’s not pleasant to talk about, but your husband might leave you, your girlfriend could cheat, your headaches might be more serious than you thought, or your dog could get hit by a car on the street.