The Coaching Habit Podcast

The Coaching Habit Podcast

The best strategies for leading yourself and others by tapping into the wisdom of thinkers, leaders, writers and coaches.

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Neil Pasricha’s One Best Question

You may know Neil Pasricha. He is the author of The Book of Awesome and his latest book, The Happiness Equation, offers fantastic insight into the science of happiness. In this episode, he shares his favourite question; a question that he uses to ask himself or to ask others to provoke a deeper impact.

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Full Transcript

Michael: It’s Michael Bungay Stanier, this is the Coaching Habit podcast. I’m talking to smart people from all over the place. Some of them are coaches, sure, but many of them are authors, writers, teachers, managers, leaders, people who have a perspective that’s useful to share about how they shape their own lives, how they help other people shape their lives to do more great work, have more impact, have a life of happiness, have a life of meaning, have a life of impact. And I am talking to my friend Neil Pasricha. He is a friend. I hang out with him all the time here in Toronto. And I love doing it.

You may know Neil. He is the author of The Book of Awesome, series of books there, all of which hit New York Times Bestseller status. His latest book, The Happiness Equation, fantastic insight in taking the science of happiness and making it accessible to people like you and me. TED speaker, and a real TED speaker. His talk, “The Three A’s of Awesome,” one of the most inspiring of all time from the TED series and you know how many inspiring talks there are in the TED thing, so that’s worth seeing. And he leads the Institute of Global Happiness and well worth checking it out to see the various resources that he offers up, there are newsletters that he offers up, and to get hold of his keynote speaking topics as well.

That’s a big intro, Neil, but welcome.

Neil Pasricha: Thanks for having me.

Michael: It’s a pleasure. So this is one of the kind of spin-off interviews that we do. We’ve done a main, had a main topic of conversation, which was wonderful, but here I want to focus on one thing and one thing only, and it is this. What’s your favorite question? I mean, we could call it a coaching question, if you like, but honestly, let’s take the coaching piece out of it and just say, “What’s your favourite question, a question that you use to ask yourself or to ask others that seems to resonate and have impact?”

Neil Pasricha: I’m gonna throw you a curve ball, Michael.

Michael: Okay.

Neil Pasricha: I’m gonna say that my favorite question is, “What is your favorite thing to do?” Back when I was 23 years old, and I was starting up my own Quiznos sub franchise with my dad-

Michael: I love that you did that. That’s awesome.

Neil Pasricha: Yeah, I was 23, and so it was almost 20 years ago. And I had no store, but I wanted to interview people, so I put a big sign up and said, “Hand me your resume,” and got every 16-year-old in town’s resume. And so all I did was, I called them all up on the phone. It was back when resumes had a phone number below the name. You know, now they just point you at some electronic device. And you called these people up. “Hello, can I speak to Brent, please?”


“Hi Brent, it’s Neil from the local Quiznos. Can you tell me what your favorite thing is to do?”

And that was the only question I asked. That was it. That was the only one. And you know what? A little like 2% of people, I called all of them, only 2% of people had something that they could talk passionately about.

Michael: Wow.

Neil Pasricha: Whether that was skateboarding or whether that was, I don’t care what it is. I just wanted to hear, does this person have some internal fire? That’s it. Do they have something that they’re passionate about, that they care about, that they want to do? And now I use that question in my back pocket, because first of all, it asks a few things. How self-aware are you? How open are you about what you love? What do you love? Why do you love it? How curious are you? There’s a lot of things baked in. So I love just asking that bluntly, “What’s your favorite thing to do?” And when I ask it, it’s amazing the array of responses you get and what comes out.

You’re a coach. This question can tie into, I think, larger career conversations, conversations about, I have something, I call it the “Saturday morning test,” which is, “What do you do on a Saturday morning when you have nothing to do?” It’s a question I like to ask because it gets at your favorite things and those hint at natural, deep-seated passions that you will be happier if you’re doing.

Michael: Right.

Neil Pasricha: So, “What is your favorite thing to do?” is my favorite question.

Michael: I love that. That is so great. And I love how it focuses on the person in front of you, ’cause I imagine for those people who have a thing to talk about, you see them light up when they start talking about it. And what an experience to be with that person as they’re illuminated by the thing that gets them excited, that is their favorite thing to do. That’s wonderful.

Neil, I’m gonna ask you in just a minute, if people want to find you on the web, where can they find you? But I’m gonna, just before I do that, I’m actually gonna mention your other TED talk, because I love that you did this. It’s` actually a TED listen. The title of it is, “How Will You Maximize Your Tiny Short Life,” which is pretty provocative. But what I love about it is, it’s a TED talk full of questions.

But Neil, if people want to find more about you and the work you do, where can they find more about that?

Neil Pasricha: Everything’s at, and it’s got like all my social media stuff and everything like that.

Michael: Perfect. Neil, it’s a pleasure. Thank you, my friend.

Neil Pasricha: Thank you, Michael.

Michael: Excellent.

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