When life sends us turbulence, we tend to search for happiness, but Neil Pasricha believes what we should be doing is practicing happiness. As a best-selling author, public speaker and the founder of the Institute of Global Happiness, Pasricha tries to guide corporations and their people toward happiness. His TED Talk has been ranked as one of the most inspiring of all time, and he has addressed hundreds of thousands of people, including Fortune 100 companies, Ivy League schools and royal families in the Middle East.
This January, Pasricha will coach salon owners and stylists as a keynote speaker at Serious Business, but first he gives SALON TODAY a little preview:
SALON TODAY: What inspired your award-winning blog, “1000 Awesome Things?”
Pasricha: “I went through the worst year of my life unfortunately. My wife left me—she knew the marriage wasn’t healthy but I couldn’t see it at the time. To add to that, my best friend committed suicide. In midst of this horrible year, I started the blog as a way to cheer myself, a form of online therapy. I’d come home from a terrible day and write a blog about the smell of bakery air, or wearing warm underwear fresh from the dryer or thinking it’s Thursday when it’s really Friday. Slowly over time, writing the blog really did change my mood.”
SALON TODAY: How did you evolve through that process?
Pasricha: “I didn’t know this at the time, but our brains are naturally oriented to look for the negative and there is so much negative news out there. In our brains, we have the amygdala—it’s essentially a problem-scanning machine. When writing my blog, I was carving new neural pathways that were looking for the positive.”
SALON TODAY: Which of your 1,000 blogs got the biggest reaction?
Pasricha: “The Other Side of the Pillow, which of course is always cool seemed to resonate with young, old, rich, poor, black, white—we can all relate to the cold side of the pillow.”
SALON TODAY: In your TED Talk, you spoke of the three As of Awesome, can you walk us through them?
Pasricha: “Number one is Attitude. We’re all going to get bumps, we’re all going to get lumps. Nobody can predict the future, but we do know it won’t always go according to plan. Having a great attitude is about choosing to move on whenever life deals you a blow. The second is Awareness. We all used to be three years old, and we need to practice what it was like to see something for the first time. So when you get the perfectly crispy hot dog at a baseball game or experience the beautiful smell of rain on a hot sidewalk, try to see it like you’re seeing it for the first time. The final A is Authenticity, which has to do with being you and being cool with it. I think authenticity is the pathway to living a very meaningful life.”
SALON TODAY: As the founder of the Institute for Global Happiness, your mission is to increase happiness in organizations. What kinds of things do you do to raise corporate happiness?
Pasricha: “There is research that says, for many of us, the place where we are the least happy is the place we spend the most time—work. The purpose of the Institute is to give managers free tools that they can use with their teams to create happier workplaces. For example, I teach people how to create a meeting that shares a daily happiness practice and I ask for feedback from people who tried it and I get flooded with emails of how well it worked. Most of the practices are simple things, such as going on a nature walk, doing a 20-minute meditation, implementing a simple gratitude practice or reading a book of fiction—things we don’t do because we are so busy.”
SALON TODAY: Do you have any specific advice for helping salons spread happiness?
Pasricha: “Most people suffer from low confidence, and that is going up because social media feeds us an endless array of people who are prettier than us, smarter than us, and have more followers than us. I think the job of the salon and the stylist is to replace that lost confidence. Yes, you create the external beauty, but the harder part is helping create the internal beauty. Because you have a relationship with your client, you can be a sounding board. If you have the courage and energy and time to say ‘Tell me more,’ you will always be surprised at what people share when they know they are being listened to. And when they do start talking, they start to develop their own answers to their problems, which restores confidence. Then, they will leave the salon looking the best they’ve ever looked, and feeling the best they’ve ever felt.”
SALON TODAY: If you could advise us to do something to boost our own happiness, what would you recommend?
Pasricha: “Reading, especially fiction from a real book, where you can’t multitask, actually expands your EQ (emotional inteliigence), meaning the areas of the brain responsible for empathy, compassion and understanding open up. So I started a Podcast called “3 Books” which shares books that have shaped people’s lives. Eventually I want to create a list of 1,000 books. Now you might realize I’m a little obsessed by the number 1,000, and I’ll tell you why. The average life span is 1,000 months long, and the average time we are awake each day is 1,000 minutes. I try to include the number 1,000 in my work so that we are constantly reminded of the fragility and shortness of life so that we, of course, live our best lives.”
Hear Neil Pasricha live at Serious Business, which will be held in New Orleans, January 19-20. For more information or to purchase tickets, visit SeriousBusiness.net.