Sunday, May 1, 2011

Speaking of Awesome...

When is the last time you did or saw something awesome? 

My guess is that most will reply: “oh...the birth of my daughter, ” or “we visited the Grand Canyon!” or “last year I ran the New York City marathon” - and yes, I agree - these are the very big, very cherished, very “high on life” moments of awesomeness. But I bet if you close your eyes and thought of the unstoppable giddiness tap dancing 'round your belly – if you thought about how you actually felt in those very big moments - you would realize that you probably glimpsed that same euphoric haze… like… twenty minutes ago. Maybe you dropped your cell phone on the sidewalk and then realized it was perfectly fine. Phewwwww. Awesome. Or when you took your ponytail out at the end of the day and your entire body sighed with relief. Ahhhhh. Awesome. Or you woke up this morning, and for a moment you thought today was Monday, then realized it was Sunday. Yipeeeeee. Awesome.

Neil Pasricha, Author - The Book of Awesome
It seems most of us are going through our days - waiting for the glory of  the next very-big- awesome-moment; the straight A’s, the I do’s, the corner offices – so much so, we have completely lost sight of the precious gifts unwrapping themselves right in the palms of our hands - the little ones.

Most except for Neil Pasricha.

I found him on twitter. Someone was following someone or maybe someone was following me - I don’t recall exactly who tweeted what to whom and when – but I do recall feeling a certain “kinship” with him, as I learned that, like my own, Neil’s journey began in a very personal way; sinking into a dark night and wondering how he might climb his way back. Would he ever feel joy again?

Then one day, while meandering through the produce aisle he came upon the “the strange mutant hybrid of nature's most hideous vegetables…broccoflower” and thought, that’s pretty awesome. Aha! Life is awesome! Suddenly he realized that he had a choice. He could “swish and swirl in gloom and doom” or he could "grieve and face the future with newly sober eyes.” To my (our) very great benefit - he chose to the world of awesome - and embraced the sacredness of the simple joys now swarming his every day. His books, The Book of Awesome and the latest release, The Book of (even more) Awesome, are remarkably universal collections of  the “that's so cool” moments in life. His delightful blend of humor and humanity is a wake up call coming straight from the heart; it is a friendly tap on the shoulder; a whisper in the ear; an opening the window to a fresh spring day – all reminding us that no matter how great the wrench in our plans, how sleepless our nights, or how badly we screw the whole thing up, in the end, life always wins, because it is, in fact, awesome.

As a fellow awesomeness seeker, I couldn’t help but reach out to him for a close-up look at his big journey of little joys. Here’s what he said during a recent e-chat:

I'm sure you did not roll out of bed one day and say, "hey, you know what? For the next year I'm going to start writing down every little thing that makes me smile," right? What exactly did lead you on this journey to recording life's, often underrated, "awesomeness"?

Well, to be honest, 1000 Awesome Things and The Book of (Even More) Awesome came from a pretty tough place. I was living in the suburbs of Toronto and was watching my marriage of two years break down and my best friend battle a serious mental illness. It just felt like everything was swirling and twirling with gray clouds above my head each day. One day my wife came home from work and summoned the courage through tears to tell me she didn't love me anymore. My friend who was suffering the depression very sadly... didn't make it. And I was aching to find something positive, something smile-worthy, to focus on every night. That's why I started writing about wearing warm underwear from the dryer, getting called up to the dinner buffet first at a wedding, and snow days every night.

What was the very first awesome thing you captured on paper? Do you have a favorite "awesome" moment?

Bizarrely, it was #1000 Broccoflower -- the strange mutant hybrid of nature's most hideous vegetables. I could probably go on and on about how broccoflower represents the core of The Book of (Even More) Awesome -- taking pleasure in small, simple moments in front of our eyes. But the truth is that it just made me smile on the day I started the blog. It was just a random awesome thing.

At what point did you realize that you had stumbled onto a concept that was not only unique, but tremendously relevant to our "troubled times"? Was it simply by the number of web views? A feeling? Or, did something else happen that motivated you to continue your search...

Ha ha, well, I don't think it is unique! I'm not sure writing about the smell of rain on a hot sidewalk, hitting a string of green lights in a row, or coming back to your own bed after a long time away from home is.... anything special. It's a gratitude journal, a focus on simple pleasures, and a love for the life we're living. I mean, I love writing about these moments. And I'm lucky that other people love reading about them. But I don't think I'm anyone different or special or unique. Believe me, the fact that The Book of Awesome has been on bestseller lists for a year straight has been most surprising to me.

Did you laugh or cry more while writing the books? It's a tossup for me, as a reader.

Hmmm, well I think maybe laughing and crying come from the same place. I don't know how to put it but the root could just be these stirring and swirling clouds feeling, of passion, of life and energy towards beauty. Whether it's a smile at remembering your childhood friend's phone number, the joy of getting the keys to your first apartment, or the sense of satisfaction when you crunch a dry brittle leaf on the sidewalk, it's just... feeling and love and passion for the world we live in.

What has been your favorite reaction to the book?

Ha ha, that's a toughie! I'm massively flattered and thankful that preachers send me letters saying they read these awesome things in their sermons and teachers mail me photos of their classroom's "Wall of Awesome" or send me a copy of Miss Nelson's Third Grade Book of Awesome -- with handwritten entries about putting ice cubes down your brother's T-shirt. Textbooks have used 1000 Awesome Things as a case study and Guy Kawasaki's new book "Enchantment" writes all about 1000 Awesome Things and The Book of Awesome. And all of these responses are so flattering.

But I think my favorite reaction to the book has just been my parents -- who are both senior citizens now -- just glowing and saying they're proud of me. They came to Canada as immigrants from Africa and India about 40 years ago and I firmly think their eye-twinkling sense of wonder of the world around them helped get my sister and I excited about the awesome things in our own lives. Seeing them so happy and enjoying this ride along with me has been a lot of fun. They were the first two of the thirty-million hits on the blog and they've checked it every morning for three years.

Now, I have one for you Neil…I woke up to the smell of fresh hot coffee today. It was marvelous. I opened my eyes and thought, “this is it, this is what he means”. For these new moments of joy, I thank you.

Need more awesomeness (and truthfully, who doesn’t)? log onto: