Snowy days, having a whole row to yourself on a plane, popping bubble-wrap, finally untanging a really big knot, hitting a row of green traffic lights… these are apparently the little things in life that make us smile.
How do we know? Because a website called 1000 Awesome Things (which is dedicated to small pleasures such as these) has struck an unexpected chord with millinons of people round the world. Indeed, many are finding it provides an instant antidote to those days when everything seems to go wrong.
It happens to all of us and it is this kind of identification with its readers’ lives that has made 1000 Awesome Things such a big hit.
The blog is the brainchild of Neil Pasricha, a 30-year-old Canadian who describes himself as a ” boring guy who works in an office and eats frozen microwave suppers”. He was having a bad year when he came up with the idea for his blog.
“I had lots of personal problems,” he said. “My marriage was heading the in the wrong direction, my best friend was in a bad state of depression and the papers were full of heavy stuff: polar ice caps melting, pirates storming the seas, the economy on the verge of collapse.”
One chilly night in June 2008, to help him find a way out of the gloom, he decided to start a blog that would target “one simple awesame thing every single day”.
Unfortunately, his year then got even worse: “My wife came home from work and said, ‘I don’t love you any more’, and so we sold our house and I ended up in a tiny apartment. Also, my friend committed suicide.”
Pasricha decided he had two choices: “wallo in gloom and doom, or grieve and get on”. So, despite everything, he continued to blog. Every night, when he got home from work, he forced himself to think of just one happy event.
To start with no one noticed, apart from his mum and dad. But soon his simple yet clever idea was drawing in fans. A growing number of people round the globe, it seemed, were eager to read about the joy of switching from a queue in the supermarket to a freshly opened checkout lane; of finding that the socks from the dryer all matched up; of seeing one’s luggage again after a long flight
Within a year the website had won the Webby award for best blog of the year. It has now had more than 17 million hits, attracts 50,000 visitors a day and has spawned a bestselling book in the United States, not to mention translations in countries as diverse as France and South Korea.
In the process of brightening up other people’s lives, Pasricha has also changed his own. A television company has asked him to write a series based on his blog; las week he gave the keynote speech in Washington for a conference on the next generation of government leaders and he is in great demand as a motivational speaker.
The secret of the blog’s appeal, he believes, is that it embraces small events as if they are being experienced for the first time. “I’m not special,” he insists, “I just write about the sweet things in life.”
Such as? “I love three-year-olds,” he muses. “The way they stare at caterpillars, go slack-jawed at baseball games or pick a handful of dandelions for a vase.”
You may not identify with all of his “awesome” moments, of course. His whimsical catalgoue takes the form of a countdown that started at 1,000. After he embarked on it, a friend said: “Do you realise you’re only going to be done on April 20th, 2010?” He has yet to miss a day. By his desk (he works as a human reosurces manager), he keeps scrap paper so he can jot down ideas as they come to him.
When he’s stuck, he goes out to “grab chicken wings and beer with my friends” and asks them what’s made them laugh that day. “It’s not too hard,” he says.
“When I’m lying on a couch and someone throws a blanket on me, I smile and think, that’s awesome! When I put on warm underwear straight out of the dryer, I smile and think, that’s awesome!
“We all have these moments: you don’t really need us to point them out.”
Writer: Christina Lamb (International Culture, The Sunday Times)
- "He's a lot shorter in person."
- "Why don’t we take a survey of our customers and find out which device has the biggest market share?"
- "I don't know — should I continue to look the other way, or rat him out to the professor?"
- "So far I've just been getting caught up."
- "It was great meeting you the other day."