Podcast 75: Develop a Minor Expertise, a Deep Dive into Signature Color, and How Do You Help a Rebel Sweetheart to Get a New Job?

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

Update: We won an award! At the recent Podcast Movement conference, Happier with Gretchen Rubin won the Academy of Podcasters “Best Health and Fitness Podcast 2016.” Exciting!

Try This at Home: Develop a minor expertise. Right now, I’m obsessed with color. The most fascinating, delightful subject ever.

Happiness Hack: I love the app TimeHop. It shows me what I was doing one year ago today, four years ago today, etc. Fun memories. If you like this one-year-ago-today way of remembering, you might enjoy The Happiness Project One-Sentence Journal: a Five-Year Record. I have to say, I’ve been surprised by how popular this journal has proved to be.

Deep Dive: So many fascinating comments and observations about having a signature color, coming off our discussion in episode 71. Listener enthusiasm got me color-obsessed!

Listener Question:Two listeners ask the same question: How do you help a Rebel sweetheart pursue a career change? If you want to take the Four Tendencies quiz, to find out if you’re an Upholder, Questioner, Obliger, or Rebel, it’s here.

Elizabeth’s Demerit and Gold Star: In a single afternoon, Elizabeth got  a demerit for losing her temper with Adam, then she got a gold star for being spontaneous and going to get a drink at a hotel bar with him.

Remember,  I’m doing weekly live videos on my Facebook Page about the podcast. To join the conversation, tune in Tuesdays at 1:00 p.m. Eastern.

As always, thanks to our terrific sponsors

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Happier with Gretchen Rubin - Podcast #75

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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.

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  • Mimi Gregor

    After decades of garage-saling, I have become a minor expert at it. I know where every street in my “territory” is, and can plot a route each week that maximizes my time and my car’s fuel. I know which neighborhoods have the best/worst stuff, and I know to avoid community sales (too many children’s things. I don’t have kids.) I know how things should be priced, and if they are too high I can negotiate a better price. I know to bring lots of ones and also some change. Garage-saling is a real happiness boost for me, because I depend completely on serendipity to make things that I want come my way — and you’d be surprised how often I find just what I was looking for. Also, I have many interesting conversations with strangers, and oftentimes get an impromptu garden tour.

  • Julia

    Speaking of coffee, I am a minor expert at tea! A few years ago I tried loose leaf tea, and started trying different kinds and learning about it, and joined a tea club at school!
    For signature colour, mine is a bright green/teal (like a greener Tiffany Blue, or the David’s Tea logo colour). I had a travel mug, shirt, and sunglasses in that colour, and painted my kitchen table with it even though everyone thought it was too bold! It is strange because other than that most of my wardrobe/design is dark greys and blues, but I make an exception for my signature colour.

    • gretchenrubin

      What a fun expertise.

  • Carlotta Bosso

    I’m a minor expert in…you! I read everything multiple times, I listen to all the podcasts and lives and I cite you as my happiness guru!
    my signature color is red. if something also comes in red, that’s my choice, since I was a very little kid. that is probably why I also love China , ( maybe i’m a minor expert in that too…ah! )

    • gretchenrubin

      Wow! I’m thrilled and honored.

    • Peggy Herman

      Carlotta ~ I was thinking the same thing! I also have a minor in Gretchen. Catch myself saying several times a week – “that reminds me of something Gretchen Rubin wrote/talked about regarding happiness/habits/family/etc…”

      I gave my identical twins boys signature colors when they went to preschool, so their teachers and classmates could distinguish them easier. Kevin (blue) and Michael (red) – a little alphabetical order built in – K/B comes before M/R.

      • Carlotta Bosso

        heheh how cool is this! ‘minor’ buddy!

    • K.

      I think I might also have a minor in Gretchen! My husband says he feels like he knows her because I talk about the books and podcast so much.

      As for the signature color, I’m having a really hard time deciding, but I think it will be a shade of either green or purple. As a kid, my favorite color was sea green, and I’ve always loved Hunter green and deep purple. It’s so hard to choose! But searching for a signature color on Pinterest has been delightful, so no complaints!

  • gaijinhousewife

    I’m a minor expert in Japanese style flower arrangement and am slowly developing my knowledge of flowers. I love it when my friends ask me for advice on how to arrange flowers they have bought at the shop or picked from their garden. My mother’s minor expertise is diagnosing illnesses, though she never graduated high school or went to medical school a day in her life. She diagnoses us all before we go to the doctor and come home with the exact same thing she already told us we have. My signature colour (coral fluorescent pink) also brings me joy whenever I see it, and I’m going to look into scent more too as I notice my daughter has a very keen sense of smell and would also enjoy it. It was such a treat to listen to this episode whilst I was jogging this morning. It really does make my day a little happier and I’m excited every time Wednesday rolls around.

  • gretchenrubin

    That’s a major minor expertise! So fun.

  • I have a few minors! I’m good at shopping, from helping other people choose gifts to finding rare items on eBay. I also love writing and editing, so family and friends ask for my help when they have an essay or research paper to write. My signature color has been pink since childhood – I try not to go too overboard with it, but I have tons of pink possessions and clothing. For me, neon pink is an instant happiness boost.

  • Kristine

    I really like the idea of having a minor expertise. My boyfriend actually came up with the idea to do this, in the form of his new year’s resolution. Each year he wants to choose a subject that he is interested in and then study that subject throughout the entire year. For 2016, he picked the Sumerian civilization. He has read several books (which, by the way, he was not a reader before this project), watched documentaries, purchased posters, visited museums, listened to podcasts, etc. Next year, he will pick a new subject to immerse himself in. He got me to join him and I chose to study Frida Kahlo. It has been a lot of fun learning about something that I’ve always been interested in and then sharing all of our findings together.

    • gretchenrubin

      Great approach to this!

      • Jennie Williams Lutton

        Gretchen, it would be great if you reminded us of this in a podcast near new years!

  • Nora Eberl

    Gretchen, I saw this pendant and thought of you! http://www.uncommongoods.com/product/color-wheel-pendant

    • gretchenrubin

      LOVE it! My color obsession in jewelry!

  • Le Genou de Claire

    Minor expert: this is an area I need HELP with. I’m a minor expert on SO many things that I was given a nickname “dilettante” by my college professor… that was 25 years ago and I am still the same way. My problem is, I have no major expertise and my minor expertise lead to nothing “productive” other than in spending money on courses, equipments, (being a textbook introvert) spending time on online groups, pure consumption of knowledge and acquiring new skills. Yikes!! I do have this tendency that if a subject interests me, I will dive in deep, really deep and sometimes for months/years. If only it pays to be a professional student, I’d go back to college full time and earn many more degrees.

    Here are some of my “major” minor expertise:

    Foreign language (I’ve managed to learn 5 so far, all as an adult. I’m also interested about child development and language/sound acquisition, such as in learning how to play violin and try to do it with my 5 year old son — he is now my guinea pig for foreign language learning)

    Fiber art (which includes knitting, crochet, spinning, fiber dyeing, sewing, weaving, etc. by taking courses, joining online groups, continually trying on new techniques, projects, etc. The clutter of yarns, fibers, dyes, fabrics and equipments are immense in my house, yet I know that for e.g. hand-knitted items or hand-sewn items are rarely worth in dollar the time and effort it takes to make it. Just look at the plethora of things on Etsy and the cheap, almost disposable fashion at H&M and Zara.)

    Reusable menstrual products (yes, odd but it is a world of its own)

    Beauty & skin care (I follow business news, fashion show trends, makeup artists YouTube/Twiter/Instagrams, and regularly reading latest FDA news for rules & regulations for cosmetics, skin care, and clinical trials on PubMeds. My latest stint will be doing my sister’s wedding makeup next month)

    Tea (nuts about this, to the point that I joined a plantation tour in Asia and pestering my friend’s mom — who is from South India — how she prepared her chai tea)

    Meditation (books, courses, retreats, you name it..)

    … and a few more that are more minor.

    I need to know what to “do” with all these minor expertise. I feel that these interests have turned me more into a consumer — I wish there’s something I can do with them that I can share, not just for my own pleasure/consumption of knowledge and acquiring new skills. Perhaps anyone out there may have a clue? Would anyone really pay for a dilettante, stay-at-home mom for a makeup lesson? knitting lesson? sewing lesson? how to read and understand biostatistics on (drug) clinical trials?

    • K.

      I think there’s something really wonderful about how much you love learning for its own sake. Do you feel badly about not being “productive” with your areas of expertise because you really want to share them, or because we live in a society obsessed with productivity? If you really want to share, I think the makeup, knitting, or sewing could all be things people would be interested in learning! Sewing and knitting are really hip these days, and a lot of young people might want to take a class. And of course, earning a little extra money is always nice and feels validating.

      If you’re just feeling outside pressure, though, maybe you could just embrace the fact that you’re an interesting, well-rounded stay-at-home mom with lots of hobbies! And you can always share in just the way you’re doing with your sister’s wedding — by lending a hand to do makeup for family and friends, by or knitting or sewing gifts, etc.

      • Le Genou de Claire

        Thanks for your kind, and thoughtful reply! What an intriguing comment: pressure v.s. internal motivation to share.

        I can tell for sure it is not about the external pressure to share. And true, we do live in a society that values productivity above all else. I am quite content with my skills but happily share to anyone who have interest. My gripe about all these minor expertise is that each one of them consumes in a way that I can (hypothetically and in reality) deplete resources that otherwise could be used in my family (being a stay-at-home mom, our income is drastically limited, and finance looks a bit like gymnastics, maybe I should develop a minor expertise on this :-D). A simple example: sewing projects could easily cost as much as a week’s worth of meal (fabric, time, etc.) yet I feel this urge to create, to tinker, try out different pattern, different level of difficulties, etc.

        I think I’ve struck a balance that my family don’t go without food for a week, v.s. nurturing my own many interests that keeps me being me. I just wish these interest manifest in a different way than just consumption (of money, knowledge, time, etc.)

        P.S. I’m already thinking ahead that when my son is in elementary school, I may teach sewing/knitting to the children. Thanks for suggesting.

  • Last year I became a minor expert on Louisa May Alcott. Near the beginning of the year, I picked up the Select Letters of Louisa May Alcott and The Journals of Louisa May Alcott at the library. As I was reading through, I realized I had only read a few of her writings and then made it my goal to read through her entire bibliography in 2015. I didn’t quite make it as some of her early short stories are no longer in print. But I did have the opportunity to also visit Concord, MA last year and go on the tour through the Orchard House. If interested you can find the whole journey under the hashtag #LMABibliography on Instagram.

    • gretchenrubin

      I LOVE Louisa May Alcott’s work – love this expertise!

  • Julina S

    Why can’t Elizabeth’s stripes include her signature green? Either black and green, white and green or – gasp – all 3. She likes stripes, she likes her particular green… I just don’t see that they have to be mutually exclusive.

  • Andy __

    I chose a signature colour without even knowing it. I was so excited to hear you speaking about this on this episode. My husband left me in May last year and it was such a low time. But I was determined to make a change, I just didn’t know how… but I needed a new purse and I picked one in a pretty greenish blue colour (kinda like Tiffany blue, only deeper). Well that purchase then prompted the purchase of new stationary, pencil cases (I am a mature aged university student) cushions for the new couch and linens for my bed all in varying shades of this teal colour or in shades of blue or green that blend with it. It has has just a soothing unifying effect on my whole life, I now feel like all aspects of my life are starting to gel again. But probably the one purchase that has helped with this is a Kikki K planner (just like a filofax) in my signature colour. Thank you for the podcast it has been lovely getting to know you both and to learn the tips and tricks that you dispense.

  • Great episode, ladies! My signature colors are soft pastels: mint green, ocean teal, and periwinkle. Although, I’ve been really fascinated by fuchsia, orange, and pink lately. My mom’s signature color has definitely been raspberry. I’ve heard that the colors in your life can change based on what’s happening in your life at the time. It’s fun that you’ve been diving into color, Gretchen. My minor expertise has definitely been community development. Can’t get enough of placemaking, community building books these days!

  • Audrey C.

    Rebel here. YES. I am struggling right now with the job search issue. I was about to go out and launch a very involved search until my husband (Obliger) started asking too many questions. He then told me that he thought I wasn’t trying hard enough! Now I’ve become totally stressed and put off the search. Instead of all my possible production, I couldn’t help but hold myself back because I felt trapped and scrutinized in my own plans. He said that he wants to be more involved in my search and doesn’t think I am being responsible enough to manage my own time. It’s frustrating for him because I don’t function the same way and he doesn’t understand. Everything would have been fine if he had just completely left the subject alone. So naturally, now I’m completely blocking him out of knowing my plans so I can get something done. So frustrating!

    I have also decided to become a minor expert in bees! I just love them. I’ve wanted to be a beekeeper for years, so this would be a great time to explore that idea 🙂 Thanks!

    • gretchenrubin

      I do think that this is a way that the Four Tendencies can help. If you can explain to your husband why his well-intentioned attempts to help actually make it HARDER for you to focus and make progress, that may help.

  • Heather E

    Purple has always been my signature color, and it occurred to me listening to this podcast that besides really enjoying having the color, around me, it makes decision making easier. I find very often that I have decision fatigue, given all the little decisions I make before even getting out of the house, and having a signature color makes it easy – if I’m picking out anything small and relatively low commitment, I just default to purple. Phone case, purse, coffee mugs…I recently got a tattoo and had the artist accent it with my signature color (that of course is NOT low commitment). I’ve been defaulting to purple since high school twenty years ago, so I think my color is here to stay.

  • Jody McGowan

    For those who are having a hard time selecting a signature color, maybe this quiz will help — http://www.housebeautiful.com/room-decorating/colors/a339/color-personality-quiz/

  • Lisa Zieger

    I love listening to your podcasts when I run, and this one was no exception. As I shuffled through the neighborhood listening to you talk about signature colors I wondered what I would choose. As soon as I got home and saw my collection of Fire King Jadeite dishes I knew I already had one. This realization was reinforced by my water bottle, my desk light, and a lot of other small items, all in lovely jadeite green. I celebrated my discovery by purchasing nail polish in the shade “Jade” which I am now happily sporting on my toenails. Thanks for making a podcast that really celebrates the ordinary aspects of life!

    • gretchenrubin

      I love the color of jade. Beautiful!

  • Annie

    Love the continued discussion of signature colors!

    I am a bit late in commenting, but I relate 100% to having a signature color, and particularly one which has changed with me over time, as mentioned by one of your listeners! As a child, my signature color was yellow…Anna Banana..not to be confused with my two triplet sisters Jeanna-Blue-Jeans or Eleanora-here’s whatever color was leftover 🙂 . My parents decided that to make things easier on everyone, it was a necessity to dress us in these colors so that our teachers, babysitters, etc. could tell us apart!

    I still love the color yellow, but I naturally gravitate towards this color as an adult…a perfect blend of orange, pink, and red. It always makes me feel so happy to see it! Not pictured: poppy flowers artwork and Revlon lipstick in color no. 677 Siren.

    Thanks Gretchen & Elizabeth! Love your podcast!

  • Sarah

    Do rebels feel manipulated when someone tries to motivate them in the way that Gretchen recommended to the listener with the question about her husband’s job search? Just wondering….

    • gretchenrubin

      Great question! Rebels and non-Rebels, please weigh in on the issue of “manipulation.” This is something that I’m very interested to hear about.
      If you tell a Rebel, “I bet you can’t…” is that “manipulation?”

      Is it a bad thing to do?

      Of course it may be a plain statement of fact.

      Rebel, how do you respond?

      For many Rebels, it does seem that paradoxically, their desire to be free and not to have their choices controlled makes it easy to manipulate them.

      • Nis

        To me, a Rebel, saying “I bet you can’t…” would discourage me. It would also feel like manipulation, which I detest. I might feel the need to prove them wrong for a while, but then just feel so resentful and realise I’m not doing whatever thing for myself, so I would most likely fail. I would feel really horrible.

        However, what you described in the episode: just leaving me to my own devices, giving me helpful information, and saying “let me know if there’s anything you want me to help you with” is the best approach. I am astonished and baffled that others would prefer supervision.

        I’m not sure about reminding the Rebel of their identity and how it would be reaffirmed if they got a job. I think I would feel proud and bolstered IF the other person was sincere and not just saying it to get me to do something.

  • Pingback: Why Am I Obsessed with the Subject of Beautiful Colors? « Positively Positive()

  • LS Thomas

    I was thinking that perhaps if Elizabeth could tie her minor interest/passion for “Real Housewives” into something she would like to share with young adult readers or mold into a young adult format, it might give her a burning desire to write a YA novel, because she would have something to say. Some people considered “Heathers” a bit too adult for the YA audience, but it was a blend that really resonated with a lot of people. Just a thought. 🙂