Podcast 116: Start a Side Hustle, a Travel Hack, and the Stumbling Block of “Raising the Bar.”

Update: Elizabeth’s new podcast Happier in Hollywood launches on May 18!

Try This at Home:  Start a side hustle. We were inspired by Chris Guillebeau‘s excellent podcast Side Hustle School (which is part of The Onward Project, by the way).

Elizabeth and I interviewed Chris during our live event in Seattle. If you want to listen, it’s in episode 87.

Chris’s terrific book, Side Hustle: From Idea to Income in 27 Days, is available for pre-order.

If you want to take the quiz to see if you’re an Upholder, Questioner, Obliger, or Rebel, take it here.

Also, I now have a cover for my book The Four Tendencies. We worked on it for a long time, and I love the final version.
The Four Tendencies by Gretchen Rubin

The Four Tendencies is now available for pre-order. (If you’re inclined to buy the book, it’s a big help to me if you pre-order; pre-orders build support among booksellers, the media, and other readers.)

Happiness Hack: When Christa travels for work, she takes pictures of Mr. Potato Head in various places. This gets her out of the conference venue and is a fun thing to send to her children.

Elizabeth mentions the father Stephen who photo-shops pictures of his baby in dangerous places (see above). You can see more photos here.

Happiness Stumbling Block: Sometimes, with very good intentions, people “raise the bar” in a way that takes the satisfaction out of our achievements.

Listener Question: Sarah asks whether it’s a crazy idea to keep a chart of “keeping-in-touch goals” to strengthen her relationships.

Demerit: Elizabeth doesn’t make timely decisions.

Gold Star: I give a gold star to my daughters’ school, which has many lovely, fun traditions for seniors to celebrate the end of high school. If you want to hear Eliza talk about a school tradition on her podcast, Eliza Starting at 16, listen to the bonus clip at the end of this episode, or listen to the whole episode here.

Two Resources:

  1.  If you’d like a discussion guide for my Better Than Before, you can download it here; for The Happiness Project or Happier at Home, download here. Or email me to request what you want.
  2. Speaking of my books, Mother’s Day approaches. If you need a gift for a mother in your life, I will self-promotingly suggest that one of my books might make a good gift. The books, the coloring book, The One-Sentence Journal for Mothers, there’s a lot to choose from.

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As always, thanks to our terrific sponsors

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Also check out Texture. Get access to all your favorite magazines — including back issues and bonus video content — in one super-convenient place. Try the app Texture for free by going to Texture.com/happier.

Also check out ThirdLove, the lingerie brand that uses real women’s measurements to design better-fitting bras. Try one of their bestselling bras for free, for 30 days, by visiting ThirdLove.com/happier.

1pixHappier with Gretchen Rubin - Podcast #116

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Want to know what to expect from other episodes of the podcast, when you listen to the award-winning Happier 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!

Want a new podcast to listen to, with the same vibe as Happier? The Onward Project is the family of podcasts that I’ve launched, for podcasts that are about “your life–made better.” The first shows are Side Hustle School and Radical Candor. Elizabeth’s show with her writing partner, Sarah Fain, will be Happier in Hollywood, so stay tuned for that on May 18.

HAPPIER listening!

  • Anita

    The pictures of the dad photoshopping his daughter are hilarious! thanks for the link!

    • gretchenrubin

      Elizabeth gets the gold star for that, I hadn’t heard about it. Love this idea.

  • Le Genou de Claire

    I’m a stay-at-home mom, I’d LOVE to start a side hustle. I have pages upon pages of ideas for my side hustle (or things I can do for it), but I just don’t know where to start/paralyze by thinking/pessimistic about my ability (I have no business background)/ etc. etc. etc. And yes, I listened to Side Hustle school podcast. I wish Chris would share the FAILED side hustle stories more so I can see the process, than those who are successful in the end (I’m sure for 1 successful side hustle, hundreds/thousands have failed).

    Anyone have any insight?

    • gretchenrubin

      Great point!

  • Leek

    Do you have any resources for how to create a website for a side hustle?

    • gretchenrubin

      Look at the Side Hustle site and listen to the podcast Side Hustle! I believe Chris did a special episode on creating websites.

  • Maddie

    Listenning to this, I realise my mum is a never-ending bar raiser! I have had a difficult time in my university studies due to perfectionism and related mental health issues. To help manage this and so I have more mental space, I’m doing my masters degree part time. It’s been going well and this year I got onto the dean’s list. I told my mum, and the first thing she said was “so why don’t you start studying full time?”. I know by saying that she was trying to show that she believed in me, but it felt so deflating. As an adult, at least I have the self-awareness to back myself, and the empathy to know she meant well (she raises her own bar all the time too, it wasn’t personal), but I think with kids noting when and how you place expectations on them is so important for attaining a healthy attitude towards acheivement and, on the flip side, setbacks.

    • gretchenrubin

      That’s the thing about raising the bar – usually, it’s very well-meant. So it’s good to be aware of it for ourselves, and to see why something nice someone has said may actually feel upsetting.

  • Sandra Paskett

    You are so lucky if you have a bar raiser! My mother is a bar ignorer! ‘Mum I have just achieved….XYZ’. Mum: ‘Have you hung out the washing yet?……I will just get the casserole out of the oven’. Or even worse ‘What would you want to do that for?’

    • gretchenrubin

      So true! That’s a great reminder – to see the good side of something that seems negative, and to remember that the opposite issue may be as difficult or worse.

  • Laura Jolna

    Sarah’s question about keeping a relationship chart really resonated with me as I’ve been doing this since the end of last year. I’m an an introvert and really have to push myself to make connections.

    I have two methods that have worked really well for me. The 1st is I keep a “Connections” list on my Trello board with the names of everyone I want to keep in touch with by phone regularly. Trello is great because I can write notes on what we spoke about last (i.e. what is going on in their life & what’s currently important to them). I also write the last date we spoke, which keeps me on my toes to not let too much time go by

    My 2nd method utilizes the strategy of scheduling. At the start of each month, I review another Trello board called “Experiences”. On this list, I have the names of everyone I want to get together with regularly, with the same notes about them that I have on my ‘Connections’ list. Reviewing this list at the start of each month triggers my sending emails or calling to schedule dates with them. It’s been super helpful and I really enjoy it. And, as an Upholder, I’ve stuck to it. Happiness boost!

  • Sarah

    This doesn’t exactly fit the category of “raising the bar,” but when we called my now-husband’s parents to say we were engaged, they congratulated us and then said, “it’s about time.” It was a little deflating, even though they were probably trying to say they wanted me to officially join their family sooner.

    Also, I can really relate to Elizabeth’s decision procrastination. #obligerproblems

  • Liz Harr Pettie

    I have a side hustle I love. I am a stay at home mom to two small kids. Like Elizabeth and I believe Gretchen as well I love creative writing, but it’s hard to find time and energy. My writing friend and I founded our side hustle: WordTango two years ago. We designed weekend writing classes and a writing community for busy writers like us. Many of our classes are generative and we have several Flash fiction classes so writers are able to walk away with a fresh piece of writing after one weekend. As an exhausted mom I need tight deadlines to prevent procrastination and writing buddies (aka accountability partners) to cheer for me on and thus my side hustles not only works as a small business it also helps fulfill my ambitions of creative writing.

  • Yep, as someone pointed in the comments below, starting a website is my side hustle. Im finally starting a good amount through affiliate revenue. It takes work to be sure, but I recommend everyone to give it a go.

  • Andrea Colbert

    As an avid runner, I have people “raise the bar” on me all the time! It’s awful! After I ran a personal best in half marathon, many people asked me when I was going to run a full marathon. It was so deflating to me since I had set a goal and trained very hard and diligently to reach my goal in the half marathon. It really seemed to minimize what I had accomplished. It’s even worse if I tell them my time. They always say that next time I can run faster. To make matters worse, raising the bar always seems to come from non-runners—they have no idea how hard it can be!

    Also, in regards to the “keeping in touch goals”, I do this with my Aunt. For health reasons, she recently moved in with her son in a state that is far away from where I live. I use the beginning of the month as a trigger to send her a letter recounting what my family, and specifically, my two active, teenage boys have been doing. She used to live near us and we saw her often, so I don’t want her to think we have forgotten her since she has moved away.
    (As you can probably tell from my comments, I am an upholder.)

    • gretchenrubin

      Great examples —

  • Kate Cerrone

    I have a side hustle that is becoming more lucrative than my day job. As a retired attorney, I was asked to come help in the office at my church. This was right in line with one of your observations: “Do what you love, and your friends will hire you.” Over the last two years that I have done the work at the church I love, I kept in touch with a attorney friend and I was telling her how I was helping streamline the church’s office. She said, I would love for you to come do that in my office. Who better to manage a law office than someone who has been a lawyer themselves? I took her up on it and started doing about 20 hours a week at her office in addition to the 20 I was doing at the church. Now I need to prioritize between the two offices as far as the hours I am spending so that the office that needs the most work gets the right attention. This involves some very understanding coworkers at both places and I am advocating for the value of my services in both places. Your podcast, in addition to Side Hustle School and Radical Candor have been great resources for me! Thank you!

    • gretchenrubin

      Terrific! That’s great to hear –

  • Ellen

    I love this podcast and look forward to it every Wednesday. Thanks!

    Regarding keeping in touch, I find it helpful to put reminders in my calendar for significant events coming up in my friends’ lives. I do this after I have just seen them and they are on my mind. Not just birthdays but children’s graduations, big lectures they are giving, scheduled surgeries, etc).Then I send a text on that day or sometimes a gift. This usually results in a little thank you e-mail or text and a little update on our lives. These updates foster a feeling of closeness as mentioned in a previous podcast.

    Also, taking a page from Gretchen and Elizabeth, my New Year’s resolution this year was to send a treat to a friend each month. Sometimes an unexpected event like illness dictates who needs a treat, but otherwise I pick someone with whom I would like to keep in touch but have not seen for a while. Last year, instead of sending gifts, I sent letters. A handwritten letter is so rare these days that it is itself a treat. I was writing one in a restaurant in an airport and the server exclaimed that it was so special to see handwriting again. The readers of my letters may not be so excited about the handwriting – it looks nice but is hard to interpret.

    Regarding decision making, I have the same problem. Often one has to choose between two or more things that are not appealing and has to decide which is less unappealing. These decisions are draining and best made early in the day before decision fatigue sets in. I read somewhere about a study of parole judges in Israel in which they noted they made tough decisions after breakfast and lunch but later in the morning or afternoon were more likely to make the default decision (keeping the prisoner in jail). They also found that the ability to make decisions was restored by consuming glucose, the fuel of the brain (not suitable for Elizabeth or Gretchen). I schedule these types of decisions for the next available morning, when my energy is high. If a decision involves choosing between many options that have to be evaluated, I start by either an elimination round or a gathering of information needed for the decision. This preliminary task does not seem so daunting as the whole decision and I find I am able to make myself do it. Sometimes, once I have started the preliminary task, I am able to continue on to make the final decision or choice. If not, I am better prepared to make the final decision and have shortened the process required considerably.

    For the record, I am an obliger with a moderate penchant for obliger rebellion.

  • Brittany

    The picture of the baby sitting alone on the bridge terrifies me!

    • gretchenrubin

      As we discuss on the podcast, it’s a photoshop joke.

  • Heidi Starks

    Raise the bar. What is it called when you do it to yourself? And the reason I loath the phrase, “Do your best, that’s all you can do”…. but I could have done better, I can always do better.

  • Leslie Rieger

    Your discussion of “raising the bar” reminds me of an experience I had as a child – 6th or 7th grade. I brought home my report card with all As and one A-. My dad’s comment: “what’s this A- for?”. As an adult, I’ve come to the conclusion that he thought he was being funny, but at the time, I was absolutely crushed. It really does evoke that feeling of never being enough, which is not a fun place to be.