Inspirational speaker and author of The Book of Awesome Neil Pasricha gave a talk to around 700 Grade 8 students from public schools across Red Deer on inspiration, happiness and the key to a less stressful life.
Hosted by the Rotary Club of Red Deer, the discussion hit home for many, leaving the room quiet in moments and in sheer laughter in other moments.
“What we wanted to do was leave a legacy of the message of happiness and positive mental well-being especially with our young people,” said Neil Berg, District 5360 governor of the Rotary Club of Red Deer East. “It’s self-esteem and good mental well-being and ultimately suicide prevention as well.”
With his Ted Talk being one of the top 10 most viewed on the Internet, over 1 million copies of his books sold and three Webby Awards won, it’s no wonder Rotary picked to bring in the positive Pasricha.
But behind his star-studded adventure, what many people may not know is that he’s just like the rest of us.
He shared with the students his background, the three A’s of Awesome and five things anyone can do to turn their brains into a good mood, ultimately helping to deal with stress.
Born in Oshawa, Ontario, Pasricha grew up having a pretty good life with his sister, raised by good parents.
“Like a lot of us in Canada we grew up taking for granted all the things that my parents couldn’t take for granted. We had power in our houses, we had schools available to us across the street, we had a hospital down the road if we needed one,” said Pasricha in his discussion.
His parents, who grew up in India and East Africa didn’t have those luxuries all the time. “I was given the privilege of having a lucky childhood in this great country,” he said.
Throughout his life however, he didn’t always feel lucky as he was always very stressed, getting headaches as a result every day. His parents started taking him to doctors and specialists trying to find some sort of cure for his stress, but nothing was solved.
“The truth is it was just stress. For most of my childhood I was a stressed kid. I was tossing and turning every night. I couldn’t go to sleep and I wouldn’t sign up for anything at school.”
After some help from those around him, Pasricha eventually signed up for the school newspaper, and later, after high school he started talking to people a bit more. “What you find as you get older is that we’re all on the same team. We’re all on the same team together,” he said.
After graduating, getting a job, finding a girl and settling down, one might have thought his life looked pretty good. It did, but a number of years ago, things took a turn for the worst. He got a divorce, and his best friend, who had been battling with mental illness took his own life, all which happened just three weeks apart.
“I tell you that story not to scare or shock you but just to say this is the real world and you go through life trying your best and then we do what we can but sometimes it’s not enough.”
It was after these two devastating life events took place that Pasricha decided to make a blog to put a smile on his face.
“So I started writing and every night I’d come home and I’d write an entry on my blog so I started writing about waiters and waitresses who bring you free refills without asking – awesome, and I started writing about wearing warm underwear from the dryer. I started writing about little things.”
That blog called 1000awesomethings.com led him to turning that into a book called The Book of Awesome.
With millions of hits, awards and publishers lined up at his door for book offers, it still didn’t matter as to what Pasricha was going through on the inside. “It sounds like the end of a happy story. The only problem is I was the same person inside. You couldn’t just cure my head overnight.”
So the first thing Pasricha did was go through the basics of sleep, eat and exercise, something he abbreviates to SEE.
“On a given day I ask myself ‘did I ‘SEE’ today, did I do those three basics?’”
He also shared with the students what he learned through his ups and downs — the three a’s of awesome, which are Attitude, Awareness and Authenticity. “What is ‘Attitude’. It means every single day you get to pick your mood. It means every single morning you get to decide how do I want to be today?’”
He related the second A, ‘Awareness’ to a three-year-old.
“Having a sense of awareness is just about embracing your inner three-year-old, remembering that you used to be three years old.”
With the last A, ‘Authenticity’, he referred to NFL player Rosey Grier, who was this big, tall football player who loved to knit. “This one’s just about being you and being cool with it.”
Those three A’s are things he likes to think about every single morning. “I’m not perfect at this. I have good days and bad days, but when I’m having a bad day I try to think about these three A’s and I try to think about how I can live one of them.”
He finished off with something he calls ‘The Big Five’, which are things that help to reduce stress and improve one’s overall happiness. Those five include doing three, 20-minute walks a week, journaling, doing random acts of kindness, meditation and showing gratitude (sharing things one is grateful for). Doing one or a few of these in a week, he said, can really help and go a long way.
Pasricha is also the author of The Happiness Equation. For more, visit 1000awesomethings.com.