I am so excited to be interviewing Neil Pasricha who is the number one New York Times best-selling author of The Book of Awesome Series which has spent five years on best-seller lists and has sold over a million copies. He has also written the number one international best seller, The Happiness Equation: Want Nothing + Do Anything = Have Everything. He’s written a children's book called Awesome is Everywhere. One of the most popular TED speakers of all time, Neil is a frequent keynote speaker and the director of The Institute for Global Happiness. With degrees from Queen’s College and Harvard Business School, Neil currently lives with his wife and sons in Toronto.
Welcome, Neil. Thanks for coming on “Moms Don't Have Time to Read Books.”
Neil Pasricha: Thanks for having me, Zibby.
Zibby: This is seriously such a treat. As I was going through all the materials, I don't even know how to come up with the questions. There's so many things I wanted to talk to you about. Let's start first with your book The Happiness Equation: Want Nothing + Do Anything = Have Everything, which is your science-based -- obviously you know this -- approach to happiness using positive psychology studies. I was actually a psych major, so this is particularly interesting to me. You basically answered the question, what's the secret of happiness? You have nine major secrets and in that, many other secrets. That's enough of me talking. You tell me what the secret to happiness is.
Neil: You're a mom of four, right?
Zibby: I am a mom of four.
Neil: You're a mom of four. I was a dad of zero when my wife Leslie and I were coming home from our honeymoon. Literally on the plane she's like, “I don't feel well. I'm not feeling good.” We do a scheduled layover, six hours in Malaysia. She finds a pharmacy. She finds a place to lie down. We get back on the plane. It’s a twelve-hour flight home. On the airplane, she goes to the little, tiny bathroom. She comes back to our seats. She says, “I'm pregnant.” She bought the pregnancy test in the airport pharmacy, did the pregnancy test in the airplane bathroom, and told me she was pregnant fifty thousand feet above sea level.
Why do I tell you that story? Because when I landed home in Toronto as a father of zero -- we just got married -- I was like, “Oh, my gosh. I'm going to be a dad in nine months.” I then spent the next nine months writing a three hundred-page letter to my unborn child on how to live a happy life. The Happiness Equation, that book you just showed me with your hand, is that letter. I don't know if you noticed. You probably didn't because most people don't. On the copyright Library of Congress page in two-point font, I even have a little note hidden in there that says, “To my baby, I wanted you to have this in case I didn't have a chance to tell. Love, Dad.”
Zibby: That's so sweet.
Neil: Then you said, “What's the...” so I should tell you that.
Zibby: I did not even write a Post-It to any of my four kids before they were born. Now I feel terrible.
Neil: No. I also submitted it to a publisher. They printed it as a book. I am a writer. That is why I wrote it. Then of course, I'm going to publish it. Maybe I'm exploiting my children and you're actually just not exploiting your kids the way I was. What's the secret to happiness? Honestly, my parents and your parents, everyone's parents, they're liars. Everyone's parents in the whole world are liars. You know what they say when we were kids? They say, “If you do great work, then you'll have a big success. Then you'll be happy,” common parental wisdom. If you study really hard, then you'll get good grades. If you're East Indian like I am, you'll become a doctor. Similarly if anyone's in a career right now, it’s “Work really hard. Then you get a promotion. Then you'll be happy.” When I tell people this, they're like, “Yeah. My parents said that to me.” I'm like, “Don't you say that your kids?” They're like, “No way.” I'm like, “You don't say ‘Try to get into a good school. We want you to get a good job’”? Of course you do. Every parent says that to their kids.
After reviewing over three hundred positive psychology studies to write the book, I can now tell you without a shadow of a doubt that model is fundamentally reversed. Actually, we shouldn't tell our kids, “Great work leads to big success, leads to being happy.” We should say, “Being happy leads to doing great work, which leads to the big success.” All the research supports this. What happens when you're happy and you walk into a workplace or you walk into a classroom? You're more productive. You're more creative. You have higher sales. Literally, everything goes up. What happens if you're operating like that? Guess what? You're more likely to get promoted. You live a lot longer. Again, all the success stuff goes up. The fundamental thesis of The Happiness Equation the book is a reversal of that unfortunately totally incorrect parental wisdom.
Zibby: Excellent. It’s good to see that it’s turned on its head. My son the other day, he’s in fifth grade, he puts his head in hand. He's like, “You think my shot at Princeton is over?” Oh, my gosh. Maybe I need to take you out of private school in New York. [laughs] You're eleven.
Neil: They’ve got too much pressure. Kids have too much pressure.
Zibby: It is a lot of pressure. That's funny. Aside from turning it on its head, you had so much other really amazing advice from tiny, actionable steps like taking three walks a day. It was such a great manual for figuring out how to do that first part of your equation better. As you know, it’s an awesome book. Speaking of awesome, your book series, The Books of Awesome, incorporate so many everyday reasons to be happy. Some of my favorites from your book were bakery air, finding a mix tape from your ex, untangling a really big knot -- I'm going to say particularly in a necklace because those drive me bananas.
Neil: I can picture the tiny, coiled, gold chains.
Zibby: That's the bane of my existence.
Neil: Just barely nudges out headphones.
Zibby: You have to push the -- my gosh. And solving the Wheel of Fortune puzzle. Calling out Jeopardy answers in a taxi TV is also high on my list.
Neil: [Indiscernible] addicted to those.
Zibby: Those are good. I read that you started the whole blog out of a place of sadness. Why don't you tell me how that came about and how it launched this entire enterprise of books of awesome and journals of awesome and everything else.
Neil: Enterprise, that's funny. I just told you the story about how when Leslie and I got married she told me she was pregnant on the plane. If you go back just over five years before that, actually what happened is my wife who I was married to, not Leslie, told me she was not in love with me anymore, which was a total shock. We had just bought a house. We were planning to have kids. That happened a few days before my closest friend took his own life. I had known that he had suffered from mental illness. One in four of us do. Anxiety rates are increasing. Loneliness rates are increasing. We know all this stuff. I'd talked to him on the phone the night before. These two things happened all at once. I'm suddenly trying to sell my house, trying to process a divorce, trying to write a eulogy. I've lost forty pounds due to stress. Everybody at work is like, “You look great,” because that's what we say to people that suddenly look like they lost weight. I felt terrible.
One day, I got home from work. I went on Google. I literally typed in “how to start a blog,” and clicked the “I'm feeling lucky” button. I started a blog called 1000AwesomeThings.com where I decided for a thousand straight weekdays I was going to write about bakery air, or putting warm underwear on right from the dryer, or getting called up to the dinner buffet first at a wedding, or flipping to the cold side of the pillow in the middle of night. As you know from reading The Book of Awesome, sometimes it’s one sentence. Sometimes it’s twelve hundred words. It depends. Old, dangerous playground equipment, that's 1,200 words. I’ve got a lot to say about hot slides and real dangerous equipment. I did that every single day for four years. The blog won the -- it sounds so crazy, weird to say this -- it won the Best Blog in the World award at the International Academy of Digital Arts and Sciences, which I bet you haven't heard of because no one has. I won this twice in a row. When you win something like that, then all the literary agents and stuff said, “Someone else said you're good, so I guess we should write a book about you.” Then the book deals and stuff came. That's where I got The Book of Awesome, The Book of (Even More) Awesome, The Book of (Holiday) Awesome, five Calendars of Awesome, two Journals of Awesome, and the App of Awesome.
Zibby: Click here to buy. [laughs]
Neil: No imitation gruel like Krusty the Clown. Nine out of ten orphans can't tell the difference.
Zibby: [laughs] You also wrote a children's book, which my kids love, Awesome is Everywhere. I've gotten used to these books that you have to shake like Press Here.
Neil: Tap the Magic Tree.
Zibby: Exactly, all that stuff. Your book took that one step forward where you're zooming with your fingers, if it’s an iPad, which the kids loved. I feel like I'm on Candid Camera or something. I had to pick up the book. When you said dive into the ocean, I'm like, I think we’re going like this. I put it over my head. My daughter takes the book. She jumps under. I love that even a book, you turn on its head and somehow make the experience a little more memorable and fun. How did you come up with that?
Neil: This is so funny you say this. I love how we’re jumping all over timeline-wise. We started in Neil gets married again. That's where The Happiness Equation comes from. Then we went back five years before where I got divorced. I lost my close friend. I'm writing down awesome things to cheer myself up. Flash forward now to when Leslie and I have our first child. We now have three boys, by the way, all under five years old, as of the time of recording this. We had our first child. My son loves rain. Everyone else is like, “Put on a hat. Put on raincoats. Cover yourself with an umbrella.” Literally, it’s one of his favorite things. He loves rain. He loves feeling it on his face. I realize as an adult, oh my gosh, I haven't felt rain on my face on purpose since I can remember. It’s been over thirty years since I could remember feeling rain on my face.
Why do I tell you that story? We’re trying to teach adults how to meditate because anxiety is skyrocketing. Depression is skyrocketing. Loneliness is skyrocketing. Suicide rates are skyrocketing. Hey everyone, ignore the barrage of annoying ads and clickbait that is firing at you from every TV screen and in the corner of every elevator all day. Why don't you just close your eyes and do some deep breathing for five minutes? We’re trying to teach adults this stuff. Meanwhile, I'm looking at my kid. Everyone who is a parent knows this. My kid’s doing it. They're literally already accomplishing the ultimate Buddhist meditation. If you're standing outside staring at the sky letting the rain fall on you and smiling, you did it.
The purpose of my children's book, which is called Awesome Is Everywhere, is to help teach adults or children who have forgotten how to do this five-minute guided meditation to re-expose their senses to the simple things around you. The reader begins in outer space. As you said, you tap the Earth, [indiscernible], turn the page and zoom in. You tap the Earth. You zoom in again. Turns out you're going to West Africa. You tap it again. You're going a little deeper. You get all the way down to sea level. Then you flip the book over your head. You go underwater. I'm saying, “Hold your breath.” You come back up. Touch the sand. Tap the sand. You go down to the sand on a microscopic level. Then you eventually shake the book and zoom all the way back out. How did this come about? That's the story of why I wrote it. More interestingly for your more bookish type audience, this is a good warning tale for anyone that wants to write a kids’ book.
I signed that contract that said Neil will do a kids’ book. I won't say which publisher, but a big publisher in New York. They said, “We’ve got your kids’ book outline done. It’s going to be $6.99. We’re going to print it on newsprint. It’ll have crossword puzzles and stickers.” I was like, “That's not what I want to do.” They're like, “That's what we want to do.” I want a $22 full-color hardcover. We had a huge fight. I ended up breaking the contract. I actually did the book I wanted to do on my own. I partnered with an animation studio. We bought our own photographs. We hired someone with a camera in the Caribbean to take pictures for us. Literally, I did all that work. Guess what? Then the publishers came back and said, “We like that. We’ll buy that.” That's why it’s come out from Penguin publishing. All I'm saying is do what you want. Otherwise, the market will tell you to make something that's crappy.
Zibby: That's, in part, taking your own advice that you have throughout the books. Do what you love. You do you. Then see what happens afterward.
Neil: The cliché that you'll never regret doing the right thing even if it doesn't turn out well, but you might regret doing the wrong thing even if it does turn out well.
Zibby: I'm going to think about that for a little bit.
Neil: [Indiscernible] on the fact that you did it for the wrong reasons. If I had made a $6.99 crossword puzzle, sticker-filled book that sold a million copies, it would still be gnawing at me that the kids’ book I wanted to do never got made, whereas the fact that I made this book that was the way I wanted to -- by the way, they tell me it’s the world’s first ever interactive, hyper-realistic book in the world, ever. I got to partner with this cool amination studio that worked for the Discovery Channel. I got to have fun with it. Did it sell a million copies? No. I can't tell you how happy I am with what came out. It’s a product that I'm very happy with. What's that worth? You know what I mean?
Zibby: Right. It could be a whole thing. You can zoom into anywhere you want. You could make many of these. I don't think you have trouble figuring out new ideas and marketing. I’ll just let that... [laughs]
Neil: I get asked to do a sequel, but I feel like ideas are cheap. I have too many things. I'm sure everyone's like this. I want to do this. I want to do that. Which one of those things do you want to spend a year of your life on? That's a much harder question.
Zibby: That's true. Let's talk about your podcast, “3 Books with Neil Pasricha.” It’s so great. You've been entertaining amazing guests. You're trying to cover a thousand books. Is that right? You do three books at a time. Tell me how you came up with this idea and your progress on this mission.
Neil: My podcast is a good example of me just being crazy. Remember I told you I did that blog called 1000AwesomeThings.com? It got popular. It won some awards. It ended up getting over fifty million hits. People are like, “What's the secret of success? Where'd you get the good idea?” It’s not a good idea. Everyone writes down stuff they like. They're like, “Why was your blog so popular?” I always thought it was the awesome things. Then I realized later, honestly Zibby, it’s actually the thousand, because it was finite. The last day I wrote my blog I had fifty thousand hits, but I had to stop because I promised everyone I was only going to do a thousand. When you make something finite in these days, it becomes more valuable. The reason I believe that is because we live in an era of infinite choice now. The fact that you could do anything in the world makes us trust the fact that you don't do many things. That's why we like buying cookies from the guy that just sells cookies in the mall. We don't want to go to the gigantic place that has everything because we don't know if you're really good at cookies. You ever walk by a restaurant where they have great Caribbean food and Chinese food and American? I don't trust that place. I want to go to just the Thai place.
I decided to copy my own model with the podcast. I did a thousand awesome things. Let me try to find the world’s one thousand most formative books. How would you go about doing that? There are books actually already printed saying “The thousand best books to read before you die.” Every time I pick up one of those books in the bookstore, Zibby, I'm like, “Who the heck are you? Why should I believe your opinion?” My idea is I've decided to interview 333 of the world’s most interesting and inspiring people I can find. I've promised myself that I will publish one new chapter of my show on the exact minute of every single new moon and full moon for 333 straight lunar cycles, which takes me all the way up to September 1st, 2031 at 5:52 in the morning, which will be my last full moon. I have it all planned out. I said I'm crazy. Of course what happens in between each chapter, that's the two weeks where I get the guest’s three books. I literally read all three books. I fly to them. Next week, I'm flying to New York to interview Malcom Gladwell. I fly to them. I sit down with them. I say, “Malcom, I read The Blind Side by Michael Lewis,” which by the way, spoiler alert, is one of his three books. It’s in my head because I just finished reading it. I say, “Here's what I picked out of this. Tell me how it affected your life. Why should everybody read it? Who would this be good for?” We open it up.
One day, I’ll do Malcom Gladwell, the greatest thought leader alive. The next day, I’ll also do the world’s greatest Uber driver, a guy with a 4.99 rating and five thousand rides who, by the way, is a fascinating interview. As always, I did it in person. I did it in the back of his Uber. It was a $95 ride. It was worth it for the amazing recording. I flew down to Key West. I interviewed Judy Blume. By the way, I don't know if you know this. Judy Blume, who is eighty-one, runs a bookstore. You knew that because you run a books podcast. Most people are like, “What do you mean she runs a bookstore?” She stands at the cash register. She's like, “Can I help you?” You don't even realize that's Judy Blume that's the bookseller at Books & Books in Key West, Florida. For anyone listening that's on a cruise ship right now or is driving around Florida, go to Key West, Florida. Get Judy Blume to sell you a book. She would happily do it.
Why am I doing this? Why am I crazy enough to do this? Because I genuinely want to read the thousand most formative books in the world. I believe there's many problems with the book industry. One of the biggest is they print too many books. In English alone, 500,000 new books are published by the big five publishers a year. Another 500,000 by self-publishing. If you do the math, there's over two hundred million books available on Amazon. Like you, like your show, we’re always looking for ways to, in an era of infinite choice, trust someone's curated lists that we can sign onto. I don't trust Amazon. When I see an algorithm that tells me what to read, I don't trust it because I know they're getting paid to tell me stuff. I went on a gigantic rant there. That's the premise behind my podcast “3 Books.”
Zibby: I love that. That's so cool. Now I'm going to be looking in the back of all the taxis seeing if you're going to be popping up interviewing different taxi drivers. You never know.
Neil: I'm looking for interesting people. That's the thing. It’s not about fame. I sat beside a guy on a plane recently. He’s a gigantic rapper. I looked him up. He has five million followers on Instagram. I traded phone numbers with this guy. He was coming to Toronto. I said, “Who do you hang out with in Toronto?” He's like, “I don't know anyone, just Drake.” Okay. This guy might be good for my podcast. I was like, “Do you read books? Are you a book lover?” He's like, “Nope.” Damn. That guy is not qualified to be on my show, whereas I met these two Mormon missionaries. They're two teenage boys. They're both eighteen years old, away from their family for two years on a Mormon mission. Of course I met them because that's their job, to knock on people's doors. I start talking to them. Wow, that's a fascinating point of view. I interviewed them. Guess what their number one most formative book was?
Zibby: The Bible?
Neil: No, the Book of Mormon.
Zibby: Oh, the Book of Mormon. [laughter]
Neil: I knew nothing about it, so it was a great conversation. I felt like the dumbest person alive asking them about it. It’s a good way to learn.
Zibby: And it’s a great play. I don't know if you've seen it.
Neil: Oh, the South Park guys did -- no. It’s actually in Toronto now. I should go see it. I haven't seen it yet.
Zibby: It’s worth going to. It’s good. You wrote an essay which I want to plaster around my office called “8 Ways to Read (a Lot) More Books This Year.” People are constantly asking me, “When do you read books?” Like you, I read about a hundred books last year. I've been reading more and more now that I've been doing the podcast. I've somehow managed to fit it in. Then it builds on itself like you were saying in your article. The more you read, the more you get hooked on it. First of all, you said, “Today’s world is designed for shallow skimming rather than deep diving.” That negatively impacts how you read. Talk to me a little about that.
Neil: It’s so true. Our most base-level brain activities are being manipulated by cell phones, social media. The dopamine hits that we get whenever you look at your cell phone and it says there's fourteen unread emails, three unread text messages, seven notifications on Instagram -- there's a reason why all those apps fly in and fly out and are multiple colors. It’s not that the people that designed them are some evil geniuses petting a cat that say, “We’ll torture people with these devices.” Literally, the way programming and algorithm works is you keep going until people click. The problem is if you look around your own life -- I'm talking to myself. Wait a minute. I have two newspaper subscriptions which tell me a surface-level view of some random stuff every day. I have five magazine subscriptions. Hmm.
What if I cancelled all those, literally all of them, and I just read books? Then at the end of ten years, I’ll have a bookshelf full of books, full of knowledge that's in my brain, which sure beats a pile of old New York Times. Who cares about a fire that happened twenty years ago? I don't mean to sound cynical, but it’s more like you could care about it because you will get a dopamine hit and it’s really nice to know what's going on. The chances in the seven billion-person world that something disastrous is going to happen every ten seconds is very high. Do you want to pay attention to that? Sure. Go ahead. If you decide to change your mind to books, the benefits will far outweigh that. Once I realized that and I made that big decision -- it’s a big decision, by the way. I was a new junkie. I had two newspaper subscriptions. Who does that?
Zibby: I have three newspapers. [laughs]
Neil: You're better or worse than I was. For me, I made that decision. What else can I do? Then I was like, “Oh, I got addicted.” That's what formed the article. Link to the article, I can send it to you, whatever you want. It’s on Harvard Business Review. It’s like move your TV to the basement. Move your bookshelf to the front door, simple little design stuff like that. Here's one. Tell everyone what you're reading. Do it in a formal way. I started a book club, which is really just an email list. Everyone's like, “You should build an email list.” I was like, “I don't have anyone.” They're like, “What do you want to write about?” I was like, “I don't know. I want to tell people what books I'm reading every month.” Now it’s over something like 35,000 people a month. The reason I tell you that number isn't to say, wow, look at me. It’s to say I have pressure now every month to tell 35,000 people which books I read. If it’s getting close to the end of the month, Zibby, and I have two books read, I'm going to be like, oh my gosh, I’ve got to read three books this week. Otherwise, I'm too embarrassed to tell people that I had an off month. I now have applied pressure to myself.
Zibby: If you need some help with that pressure, I would be happy to write your mailing list for you with books that I'm reading. [laughs]
Neil: Why don't we have a guest post? You also have a regular list.
Zibby: I do.
Neil: I'm happy to put that in there. I’d love to.
Zibby: Awesome. That'd be fun.
Neil: In my next monthly book club, I can say -- I'd love to do this because I always try to point people at other ones. The only one I really know that does it is Ryan Holiday and Bill Gates, if he counts. He’s Bill Gates, but he does have a book club, and Reese Witherspoon. Okay, I guess there's a few. I'd rather recommend yours. I don't know if I have [indiscernible] Reese Witherspoon’s picks or not, or Oprah’s pick. Maybe I do.
Zibby: By the way, I feel like I have to defend newspapers here for a minute. I save them for a couple days. Sometimes I read twelve newspapers at once, fast, fast, fast. Not read, skim is a better word. I think you get so much information doing that and then ripping out the things that are valuable and not going online. Now you're cutting out reading. I've cut out news websites. I don't ever go online. I stopped all my alerts. Sometimes when I'm really behind on the paper, it’s like, “What do you mean? What happened?” It can be embarrassing because I can be behind. I still would rather get my news reading than online.
Neil: This is actually totally related to the point we were talking about earlier about finite over infinite because I was saying a thousand awesome things is better than unlimited awesome. I had to say a thousand formative books is better than an unlimited, endless supply of books. You're saying a finite newspaper with an end page is better than the unlimited incessant feed of never-ending-ness that comes online. We’re saying the same thing. You just came up with a system that worked for you. My system had to be total obliteration. Otherwise, I would not read any books. I probably don't read anywhere close to as fast as you.
Zibby: I've realized I read really quickly, which is helpful.
Neil: I also like the fact that you say that.
Zibby: That I read quickly?
Neil: It seems like everyone that reads fast, like I probably do too now, is always like, “Oh, no. I don't really read fast.” Of course you do. You read a hundred books a year. Of course you read fast. You're reading twelve newspapers in a pile all at once.
Zibby: I'm not bragging about it. I don't have a value on if it’s good or bad.
Neil: Do you find yourself choosing to read slow depending on what it is? Do you savor anything?
Zibby: Some of the more literary novels, I’ll go through and it’s sentence by sentence. Some are beautiful. I’ll reread them. Anything I find interesting, I dog-ear the page. Then I always go back over it. If I can remember what I found interesting the first time, then it’s important.
Neil: That's why I was asking. For Chapter 15 of “3 Books,” I interviewed Mitch Albom who wrote Tuesdays With Morrie. He’s sixty-something now. He’s got a new book out, The Next Person You Met in Heaven. I was like, “What are you trying to do now, Mitch?” He was like, “First, you find purpose. Then you find style. Then you find beauty. Now for me, it’s all about beauty. I'm trying to put out a beautiful piece of writing.” One of his books was Gilead, which is Obama’s favorite book or something. I've never read it. I like David Mitchell. David Mitchell, to me, is a very literary, literary fiction writer. He wrote Cloud Atlas. When I'm reading David Mitchell, I’ve got to tell you, I'm not reading fast. I'm reading very slow because the sentences are like magical little hors d’oeuvres. I purposely slow myself down to really savor the way you would savor a bite of chocolate or something like that.
Zibby: I also do that quickly. [laughs]
Neil: Do you really? That's what I was trying to ask you.
Zibby: That's funny. That's also why, on my podcast at least, I can't do that many literary novels. That's why I mix it up. I could never do two literary novels a week. They take forever.
Neil: [Indiscernible] with Neil Pasricha.
Zibby: There you go. You have an audiobook called How to Get Back Up. When I first read it, I thought you saying how to get backup, like how to get support. You meant how to get back up, which I realized once I started listening.
Neil: You read so fast. You read the two words together.
Zibby: [laughs] You released that as an audiobook first? This is right?
Zibby: Now you're writing it? Tell me about this a little bit too.
Neil: Basically, what's happening in the world right now, as you probably know, is everyone's trying to buy original content. Netflix started this terrible -- maybe positive, I don't know if it’s good or bad -- thing where they bought House of Cards. No one else has House of Cards. If you want to watch House of Cards, you have to use Netflix. It took everyone a while, but now everyone's like, “Wait a minute. If you just buy your own content and it’s good, then you have to come to our platform.” Why am I telling you this? Because Audible is in one of these arms races right now as the largest audiobook company. They're approaching authors like me, luckily, and tons of others. Michael Lewis has an Audible original. Adam Grant as an Audible original. Who doesn't? They're becoming content hounds.
I was approached. They said, “What do you want to write about?” Honestly, the thing I want to write about is a memoir. I want to write my life story, my family history. My mom fled East Africa while a dictator was ruling. My dad’s from a very poor family. I was passionate about it. They're like, “Cool. Write it.” So I did. It’s How to Get Back Up. I purposely paused. That's the memoir. I got to read it in the sound booth. My dad came down. He does cameos in it. It was honestly a lot of fun. Now you say are you writing it? Here's what happened. Simon & Schuster bought the rights to the book after. They were like, “We can't sell this. This isn't a book. This is a memoir. You're not famous. We want to read Clinton’s memoir, not Neil Pasricha’s. Who's Neil Pasricha?” I was like, “What about Mary Karr? She wrote The Liars’ Club.” They're like, “That's one in a million.” I'm like, “What do people want?” They're like, “They want what you wrote with The Happiness Equation, a cogent, coagulated little package with thoughts and wisdoms.” I totally completely forever have changed that book. It has now completely mutant -- what's the word? Morphed?
Neil: Mutated, thank you, into something totally different. The new book is coming out on November 5th of this year. It’s called You Are Awesome: Nine Secrets to Building Resilience and Living an Intentional Life. I guess the original [indiscernible] culture is that memoir has evolved into something wholly different and unique with a totally different structure, a totally different framing. It’s a book I'm very proud of and am very excited for, but it bears no resemblance to the Audible thing. This is part of what happens in publishing. Every time you go through a step, the whole thing changes.
Zibby: The resilience book sounds fantastic, but I would rather read the memoir but not have it be an audiobook. What do you do for people like that? I don't want to listen, but I want to read that. Do you have a copy?
Neil: I’ll email you the Word copy.
Zibby: [laughs] I'm just wondering what Audible was doing in that case. Obviously, they’ve done a good job.
Neil: Audible should start a print publishing unit? Readable?
Zibby: [laughs] Readable, exactly. I’ll call them next. I know we’re almost out of time. Talk to me for two seconds about the Institute for Global Happiness. How awesome is that?
Neil: Here's why I started the Institute for Global Happiness. By the way, if you want to email me, everything's at GlobalHappiness.org. It’s firstname.lastname@example.org. I always love hearing from people that listen to podcasts. Anyway, turns out that we’re not that happy. Let's start with that. Even though we live in the most abundant time ever in human civilization -- we live longer than ever. We are healthier than ever. We’re more educated than ever, I mean ever in history and then ever now. We’re not that happy. Loneliness rates have doubled. Forty percent of us live alone. Anxiety rates, now one in three college students have clinical anxiety. One in three, are you kidding me? One in four of us have mental illness. Suicide rates are rising. What's going on?
I looked into the research. I discovered that it turns out that the place that we are the unhappiest also happens to be the place that we are spending the most time. This is considered, in research, a very unsettling fact. Again, I discovered that the place we are the unhappiest is also the same place that we’re spending the most time. It is work. It’s work. For the vast majority of people, it’s work. Only eight percent of people, according to Gallup, are engaged in their jobs. The Institute for Global Happiness is meant to give free resources, free tools. It’s all free. We don't charge for anything on that. The only thing we charge for on there is me flying to you to give a speech. Me flying to you to give a speech pays for everything else. That's expensive, but there's only one of me. If I fly to you to give a speech and you pay me, that's why the website’s free. The resources are free. The articles are free. The mailing list is free. Everything's free. We’re giving people tools inside companies to help increase happiness in the workplace. That's the entire mission and purpose.
Zibby: So cool. I love it. Any advice to aspiring authors?
Neil: Oh, my gosh. So many thoughts. The biggest piece of advice I will ever give is also secret number nine from The Happiness Equation. The Book of Awesome was old dangerous playground equipment, warm underwear, cold side of the pillow. It was just stuff. The Happiness Equation, I'm an authoritative figure. I'm telling you what to do. The whole time I'm doing that -- I don't know if you can tell in my writing style -- I'm a bit uncomfortable with that. Who am I to tell you what to do? The guru model presupposes that you are walking up to a guru for advice. That's the problem. You actually need to come up with a change for yourself in order for it to be effective. The guru model is sabotaging itself.
I decided in the last secret of The Happiness Equation, which is the advice I'm going to give you now, to make the final secret don't take advice. I found an amazing quote from the 1800s by Charles Varlet that says, “When we seek advice, we are really seeking an alibi.” When your fifth grader is saying “I won't get into Princeton,” what he's actually saying is “Is it okay if I don't? Is it okay if I do?” He's seeking to confirm something inside himself that he may or may not already believe. Have you ever asked somebody “Where should I live? Where I should I work?” They're going to tell you where they should work or where they should live, or at least through their brain and their lens. You're just hoping that it agrees with the thing inside you. The answers are all inside you. Whether you're a writer, whether you are doing something totally different and you happen to stumble upon this podcast, or you're interested in becoming a writer, forget what anyone else says. That's really hard because everyone else is going to tell you stuff.
The market will show you what's on the best-seller list. You'll think that's the kind of book you need to write. The publishers will have success with one format. They’ll think your book should be that size and that color. After The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*** came out -- I bleeped myself there -- guess what? Every book was orange. Every book had the f-word on the cover for the next year. That is taking advice. [Indiscernible] don't take advice is people that puncture the homogenous nature of everything with their own clear and independent thoughts. That will always do better in the long run because at least if it’s not successful, you can be happy knowing that you held your integrity. You did what mattered to you.
Zibby: Neil, are you happy?
Neil: I'm totally happy. I have bad days. I will yell at my kids and I feel like a bad dad. I will get into a fight with my wife. I will hate traffic. The person I was ten years ago when I was starting to seek how to find happiness by writing this little blog has totally evolved into someone else. Am I perfect? No. Is it a practice? Yes. It’s like when you're doing yoga and at the very end, they're like, “Thank you for your practice.” They don't say, “Nice downward dog. You win. You're done.” They always say, “Thank you for your practice.” Happiness is a practice. It’s something you're always working towards and never quite there. I feel like I'm well on my way. I'm sure I have lots and lots to go.
Zibby: Thank you so much for coming on “Moms Don't Have Time to Read Books.”
Neil: I didn't even say this at the beginning. I totally relate to the title because my wife is a mom who doesn't have time to read books.
Zibby: It’s tough. Thank you so much.
Neil: Thanks, Zibby.
Zibby: Take care.