Doug Abrams on writing a book with the Dalai Lama & Desmond Tutu, and the time it takes to become human

When we create our stories each week, one of the most agonizing decisions is what to call people. How do you distill a life—in the case of our storytellers, an otherworldly life—into the three or four words of a title scroll?


At the “Books For a Better Life” Awards Ceremony the other night, a common refrain from the some of our nation’s most celebrated writers was the glee at seeing their name tags next to The Dalai Lama’s and Desmond Tutu’s. Or hearing host Elizabeth Vargas announce their book title in the same breath as the international best-seller “The Book of Joy,” which DOUG ABRAMS wrote with His Holiness and Archbishop Tutu.

“The Book of Joy” went on to win the “spiritual” category for the prestigious award. But even if it hadn’t, the story of this book is where we needed to launch this project: firmly rooted in joy.

A couple of months ago, we were delighted when “The Books for a Better Life” Awards team invited 3-Minute Storyteller to augment the stories of their 2017 finalists. Being entrusted to share insights from memoirists who’ve bared their souls, or to mine for meaningful stories from best-selling authors who craft these powerful works was both exhilarating and overwhelming. It gave me a small glimpse of what Doug Abrams must have felt curating “The Book of Joy.”

Although he jokes he “kept waiting for Oprah Winfrey or Anderson Cooper to step in,” Doug masterfully steps into the work of his lifetime. Imagine facilitating the week-long conversation between the world’s most luminous spiritual leaders, both Nobel Peace Prize Laureates, at the twilight of their lives, to capture their wisdom for generations to come.  No-o pressure!

Doug and his team accompanied Desmond Tutu to Dharamsala, India to join the Dalai Lama as he celebrated his 80th birthday. The plan:  to create an enduring gift to the world by sharing the practices, science, and stories that surround joy from two of the most exuberant moral leaders on the planet.

Doug begins our series of conversation sharing his own winding path towards joy.

A theme has emerged in so many of our conversations: how the “don’t worry, be happy,” “just be positive!” cultural messages have eroded our capacity to embrace the fullness of our humanity. Doug’s youth was spent chasing happiness. But with the help of his beloved friend “Arch” (Doug humbly downplays it, but it’s clear he & Tutu are bros), he awakened to the wisdom that without sorrow, there cannot be joy.

Doug puts us in the moment where the two ‘mischievous spiritual brothers’ greet each other on the tarmac in India.  It’s a moment of virtuous sensuality that highlights Doug’s gifts as a storyteller and artist.  Being in Doug’s presence, it was clear just why he needed to be the one—in fact, why he was the only one with the unique blend of talents and grace—who could have shepherded this book into existence.

We hope you follow with us in the coming months as we introduce books that will make your life better, writers who will fill your hearts up, and storytellers who will give you good company in your own awakening to joy.

To learn more about Doug Abrams’ visionary work, check out

To learn more about the vital work of “Books for a Better Life” and the National MS Society, please visit

And most of all, please, read the book:

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