Agree? “You Cannot Be a Leader Until You Have Learned to Be a Follower.”

Of his plebe year at West Point, Aldrin notes: “What we were being taught…is that you cannot be a leader until you have learned to be a follower.”

–Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin, Jr., Return to Earth

Buzz Aldrin is one of the astronauts who made the historic moon landing in the Apollo 11.

Do you agree that in order to lead, you must also know how to follow?

Podcast 87: Live From Seattle! Pick Your “Happiness 911” Song, Deep Dive into Manifestos, an Interview with Chris Guillebeau, and More on the Four Tendencies.

It’s time for the next installment of  “Happier with Gretchen Rubin.

This episode was recorded live! Elizabeth and I were at Town Hall in Seattle on October 13. We had such a great time. Thanks to everyone who came.  Elizabeth and I had fun doing a live video on Facebook before the show. If you want to see what everything looked like, watch here.

Elizabeth mentions the Seattle-based  novel Where’d You Go, Bernadette? by Maria Semple.

podcastliveeventseattleegkristenTry This at Home: Identify your “Happiness 911” song. Please send us your Happiness 911 song! Email your choice here. We’re making a Spotify playlist, so we can all listen to everyone’s choices. You can find the Spotify list here or on your smart-phone app, you can find the playlist by searching “happierwithgretchenrubin” (one word).

Deep Dive: We take a closer look at manifestos. We talked about this in episode 76, and we’ve received so many great ones. (By the way, Adam loved Elizabeth’s Marriage Manifesto.)

podcastliveeventseattleegchrisInterview: Chris Guillebeau. His latest book is Born for This: How to Find the Work You Were Meant to Do.


Happiness Stumbling Blocks for the Four Tendencies. If you want to take a quiz for the Four Tendencies, to find out if you’re an Upholder, Questioner, Obliger, or Rebel, it’s here.

If you want to know when my new book The Four Tendencies hits the shelves, sign up here.

Happiness Hack Speed Round: We took happiness hacks from the audience. So many great ideas packed into a short time — thanks, everyone.

coloringbookhappinessprojectrubinIf you’d like to get my coloring book, you can pre-order one here. One of our audience members mentions the book Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder.

Elizabeth’s Demerit: Elizabeth started using Candy Crush again.

Gretchen’s  Gold Star: Contact lenses!

Click here to get the Wedding Readings PDF now

If you want easy instructions about how to rate or review the podcast, look here.

Remember,  I’m doing weekly live videos on my Facebook Page about the podcast. To join the conversation, check the schedule. 

As always, thanks to our terrific sponsors

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1pixHappier with Gretchen Rubin - Podcast #87

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Want to know what to expect from other episodes of the podcast, when you listen toHappier with Gretchen Rubin?” We talk about how to build happier habits into everyday life, as we draw from cutting-edge science, ancient wisdom, lessons from pop culture—and our own experiences (and mistakes).  We’re sisters, so we don’t let each other get away with much.

HAPPIER listening!

Have to Give a Toast, Speech, or Presentation? 11 Tips for Improving Your Stage Performance.

Over the summer, my father happened to meet Livingston Taylor at a conference, and he was so impressed by his presence that he urged me to look him up.

What I discovered is that Livingston Taylor is a singer-songwriter and a professor — he teaches a class on Stage Performance at Boston’s Berklee College of Music. (He’s also the brother of James Taylor.)

I watched some of his videos on stage performance, and I also read his book, Stage Performance.

Just last week, Elizabeth and I did our second live show for the Happier podcast,  in Seattle. It was great, and thinking about Taylor’s tips was a big help.

I love practical advice.

11 Tips for Improving Your Stage Performance

  1.  Focus on the audience. See them, hear them, look out at them. As part of this…
  2. Acknowledge where you are. What venue, what city?
  3. Remember that your performance is just one aspect of the audience’s experience, which is also colored by the people they’re with, what else they’ll do with their day, etc.
  4. Manage stage fright by thinking about others’ experience, instead of your own discomfort.
  5. Stay flexible, stay responsive to the audience and whatever happens. (This is very, very tough for me.)
  6. Stillness is essential to establishing control; be willing to be still.
  7. If you’re tense, your audience will be tense. If you’re still and at ease, your audience will feel that way, too.
  8. Because it’s important to be at ease, use material that you’re comfortable with, so that you can be present in the performance, instead of struggling with your performance. (This one surprised me –so often we’re told to challenge ourselves at every turn, but Taylor points out that meeting a challenge makes it hard to be aware of the audience.)
  9. Watch out for white noise — air conditioners, ventilation systems, anythings that affects sound.
  10. Direct your attention to the people at the most distant parts of the room, then gradually work your way forward — you don’t want to lose people in the back because you’re preoccupied with the ones closest to you.
  11. Accept applause. Don’t use “thank you” as a signal that your performance is over. Rather, at the end, be still, take a slight bow to signal the end, then if they applaud, thank them. Along the same lines, at the beginning, be still, give a slight bow, accept applause.

In my experience, one of the hardest thing to master? Accepting applause. It’s a great problem to have, but it’s a challenge to do it gracefully.

At some point, just about all of us have to get up in front of a group and perform — whether it’s a toast at a wedding, an announcement at a parents’ meeting, a presentation before colleagues, a pitch for clients, or a speech at a conference. Fear of public speaking or performance is a big happiness stumbling block.

What other tips do you use to help yourself feel more comfortable performing, and to do a better job?

A Little Happier: Do What You Love, and Then Your Friends Hire You.

I was reminded of this Secret of Adulthood just again last night. At a party, I was talking to someone I’d known from law school, who had gone on to be a very well-established artist.

I asked her how she made this (fairly unusual) transition. It was a long, interesting story, and at one point she said, “I got to know a lot of artists, just from going to shows and doing all the things that interested me.” Those artists didn’t hire her, but knowing them helped her make the shift.

Plus I was recently at another party, also with a bunch of friends from law school and from my clerkship with Justice O’Connor. They were mostly working as lawyers or in business, and they said how funny it was that many of them now were the clients of others, and that it was fun to work together in this way.

Of course, this observation wouldn’t be true in every kind of career, but it does seem to me that when we follow our natural interests and inclinations, we readily form the relationships that can help us to succeed.

Agree, disagree?


Check out Yogi Tea. When it comes to enjoying life, little moments — like drinking a delicious cup of tea — can make a big difference.

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“If I Have a Regular Daily Routine and I Stick to It, I Can Be Much More Productive.”

Interview: Sharon Shinn.

I love to read, all different kinds of books. One of my friends shares my taste for fantasy and science-fiction, and we swap books back and forth.

A few months ago, she gave me a copy of Sharon Shinn’s Troubled Waters, and I was hooked. I’ve been working my way through all of Sharon Shinn’s books, and she’s written a lot.

If you want to try these novels, I’d start with the “Elemental Blessings” books — I was thrilled recently to get an early copy of Unquiet Land, her latest addition to that set.

Side note: In these “Elemental Blessings” books, the forty-three possible “elemental blessings” play a large role in the development of the characters and in the culture of that world. These blessings cover many aspects: joy, intelligence, beauty, creativity, love, travel, surprise, swiftness, power, triumph, luck, health, and so on.

If you know these books, you may be interested to know that Shinn very kindly drew my blessings — which are just about the least glamorous blessings imaginable! Certainty, endurance, and patience. Sheesh. But they’re surely wonderful blessings for a writer, for whom it’s so important to have an idea and stay sitting in the chair long enough to hammer it out.

Because I’m such a fan of Sharon Shinn’s books, I wanted to ask her about habits, creativity, happiness, and all the rest.

Gretchen: Which habits are most important to you? (for health, for creativity, for productivity, for leisure, etc.)

Sharon: Like everyone else on the planet, I have too much to do and not enough time to get it all done. I find that if I have a regular daily routine and I stick to it, I can be so much more productive than if I just make a list and hope for the best.

I basically have two jobs—I’m an editor for a bi-monthly association magazine, and I write science fiction/fantasy novels—and I do both of these jobs from home. However, the magazine is essentially my full-time job, so it gets more of my time. One of the reasons I stick pretty closely to a routine is so that I can find enough hours to work on my books. On weekdays, I spend from roughly 9 to 5 working on the magazine, then I take a 30-minute break to walk or exercise, then I spend a couple of hours in the evening writing fiction.

I can’t manage that every day, of course. I take yoga classes one night a week, and sometimes I go out with friends instead, and other obligations often come up. But my goal is usually to have at least three nights a week where I can work on my books. I’m a little more free-form about my weekends, but I try to find time for at least one writing session on Saturday or Sunday as well.

To be fair, I can’t tell if that level of discipline can be called habitual or the clockwork doggedness of a slightly obsessive personality. I tend to get restless and cranky if there’s something I’m supposed to be doing and I haven’t had the chance to do it. And I’m not very good at relaxing. Although I always promise myself I’ll lie around and do nothing once I’ve finished all my tasks, somehow I always find another task to do.

Take a recent Sunday afternoon when I had no plans or obligations. I was thrilled with the idea of just stretching out on the sofa and reading a book. Instead, I made a pie.

Have you ever managed to gain a challenging healthy habit—or to break an unhealthy habit? If so, how did you do it?

I spend about 20 minutes every weekday morning doing stretching exercises. A number of years ago, I threw out my back, and it was agony—I couldn’t stand for more than a few minutes, I couldn’t sit at all, I could simply lie down and be miserable. It took weeks of physical therapy before I started improving, and I never want to be in that much pain again. So I do the exercises I was taught back then, and I’ve supplemented them with stretches I’ve learned in yoga and from a friend who’s a physical therapist.

The desire to avoid pain is a great motivator, but I don’t think I would be as faithful about the exercises if I didn’t make them a part of my morning routine. In fact, since they’re not part of my weekend routine, I rarely get around to them on Saturday and Sunday. So I know that for me, making the exercises habitual is the only way to keep my body healthy.

 Does anything tend to interfere with your ability to keep your healthy habits? (e.g. travel, parties)

Travel! When I’m on a trip, I don’t do my morning stretches, I don’t meet my evening writing goals, it’s like I’ve given myself a pass because I’m in a strange environment. On the one hand, that plays havoc with my productivity (and sometimes bothers my back). On the other hand, sometimes I worry that I’m too much a creature of routine, so I think it might be good for me to slack off now and then so I don’t become a total automaton.

But the minute I step into my own house, I’m back on track.

Would you describe yourself as an Upholder, a Questioner, a Rebel, or an Obliger?

I’m definitely an Upholder. I keep promises to friends and I honor my private resolutions. Occasionally this makes me a less-than-ideal guest, because sometimes I hold off on RSVP’ing until I’m absolutely certain I’m going to have the time and inclination to attend an event.

Being an Upholder can also make it hard for me to drop out of ongoing commitments that are no longer fulfilling or that have become too time-consuming. I sort of have to argue with myself to convince my brain that it’s OK to stop going to community choir practice, for instance. This is also the reason I don’t issue ultimatums to myself unless I’m really, really, really certain I want to end a current behavior. See the next answer!

Do you have any particular bad habits that you wish you could break?

Yes! Every night after I get settled in bed, I pick up the iPhone and start playing word games, usually Scrabble or Spelltower. I know it’s bad for me. I know the blue light will sparkle across my retinas and make me think it’s time to start waking up. I know that I’ll get so engrossed in the game that I won’t just play for a reasonable ten minutes, I’ll play for half an hour…or an hour. But at the time, that little break in the day feels like a gift to myself, and I look forward to it.

What I need to do is devise a time limit or cutoff time—No games after 11 p.m.!—and stick to it. But I’ve hesitated to do that because I know I’ll honor the restriction, and I’m not quite ready for that…

What’s a simple habit that consistently makes you happier?

I have a piano in the living room, but I rarely sit down and play. For a long time I felt guilt whenever I walked past it and realized I’d let another day go by without touching the keyboard except to dust it when I was cleaning the house. So a couple of years ago I decided that, any time I dusted it, I would also sit down and play it, if only for ten minutes. Since I usually clean the house once a week, this means I’m playing on a regular basis. I still wish I could find an hour a week, but it makes me happier to have these short interludes at the piano.

Oh, and I eat chocolate every single day. Usually in the afternoon. Is that a habit or an indulgence? At any rate, it makes me happy.

Have you ever read any of Sharon Shin’s books?  Which one is your favorite?