Tag Archives: boss

Podcast 108: Use Your Shower as a “Happiness Booth,” Use Your Smart-Phone as a Magnifier, and a Question from the Movie “Before Sunrise.”

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

Update: Along with her writing partner Sarah Fain, Elizabeth is busy getting ready to launch her new podcast Happier in Hollywood. And by the way, if you love listening to podcasts, this is the month of “#Trypod,” when we’re all helping people discover new podcasts or help show them how to listen to podcasts. So encourage people to #Trypod.

Try This at Home: We got this idea from our listener Rebecca: Use your shower as a “happiness booth.”

If you want to hear our interview with Rosanne Cash in episode 22, and hear a clip from “When the Master Calls the Roll,” listen here.

Happiness Hack: You can use the camera on your smart-phone as a magnifying glass. Who knew?

Know Yourself Better: Inspired by the 1995 movie Before Sunrise, we discuss the question: Do you feel more like Celine, who feels like an old woman looking back on her life, or more like Jesse, who feels like a kid pretending to be a grown-up?

If you’re interested in this idea of “anticipatory nostalgia,” I talk about it at the conclusion of my book Happier at Home.

Here’s my one-minute video, The Years Are Short.

Listener Question: Our listener Cindy likes to go for a walk by herself during lunch, but now her boss wants to join her. How does she maintain her solo walk?

Demerit: Elizabeth has the habit of falling asleep when she’s putting Jack to bed at night, taking a nap, and then staying up for another few hours.

Gold Star: I give gold star to our mother and father related to signing up for exercise training sessions.


If you want easy instructions about how to rate or review the podcast, look here. Remember, it really helps us if you do rate or review the podcast — it helps other listeners discover us.

I do weekly live videos on my Facebook Page to continue the conversation from the podcast — usually on Tuesdays at 3:00 pm ET. To join the conversation, check the schedule.

As always, thanks to our terrific sponsors

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Happier with Gretchen Rubin - Podcast #108

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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.

HAPPIER listening!

“The Habit of Daily Exercise Was Probably the Most Important and Unexpected Thing I Learned at Business School.”

Interview: Kim Scott.

I’ve known Kim for many years. She and I (and my husband Jamie, too) worked at the Federal Communications Commission together. After that job, I switched to being a full-time writer, and she worked in a bunch of different places, including three failed start-ups, Google, and Apple, and wrote novels.

I’m thrilled that with her co-host Russ Laraway, she’s heading the terrific new Radical Candor podcast on The Onward Project family of podcasts that I’ve just launched — podcasts about your life, made better. The Radical Candor podcast is about being a better boss, a better colleague, a better team member.

I love talking to Kim about workplace issues. She has such interesting things to say about how to be a terrific boss or colleague who has high standards, and who can help people grow and improve, but also be kind. It can be a tough balance.

Her book Radical Candor: Be a Kick-Ass Boss Without Losing Your Humanity comes out in a few months — a terrific books, with fascinating stories from her own life (including mistakes and failures, always my favorites), practical suggestions, and profound insights.

As a side note, I thought of Kim when I read this line by Gertrude Stein in The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas, as she described her friend the poet Apollinaire:

“The death of Guillaume Apollinaire at this time made a very serious difference to all his friends apart from their sorrow at his death. It was the moment just after the war when many things had changed and people naturally fell apart. Guillaume would have been a bond of union, he always had a quality of keeping people together, and now that he was gone everybody ceased to be friends.”

I’ve never known exactly how she does it, but Kim also has this quality of “keeping people together” to help them be friends. I’m going to ask her to about this on the Radical Candor podcast! How does she do it?

Naturally I wanted to quiz Kim about her habits.

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

Kim: I declared 1999 the Year of my Fantasy. I quit my job and did only the things that I wanted to do. It turned out that not having a job was enormously productive: I wrote a novel, I worked at a pediatric clinic in Kosovo, and I started Juice Software. The reason I was able to do so many things that year was not because I wasn’t working, but because I started the year out focusing on how to be happy. I found three habits were responsible for keeping me happy:

  1. Sleeping 8 hours a night
  2. Exercising 45 minutes a day
  3. Having a real conversation with somebody I love every day.

What’s something you know now about forming healthy habits that you didn’t know when you were 18 years old?

I had no idea how bad sugar is, how much of it is snuck into our food, or how much we need a little fat to deal with the sugar that’s in foods we don’t think of as sugary (milk, Cheerios, etc). I learned this only when I got gestational diabetes, and the experience of checking my blood sugar levels after every meal really changed my eating habits for the rest of my life.

Do you have any habits that continually get in the way of your happiness?

I like to have a glass of wine with dinner. I prefer two glasses. And unless I focus on not having that third, I reach for it. That much alcohol interrupts my sleep, which affects my happiness.

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

Sleeping 8 hours a night is probably the most important habit I have for health, creativity, productivity, and for enjoying leisure.

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

I quit drinking altogether for about 18 months to break my 3 drinks a day habit. Here were the things that helped:

  1. Having a ritual of a seltzer with a splash of cranberry juice and a lime
  2. Eating dinner earlier–often I was hungry and had a drink rather than eating something
  3. Eating food I really looked forward to eating
  4. Arriving at parties late

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

I am definitely a Rebel!

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

I have twins who are seven years old and go to bed at 8:00. The temptation to crawl under the covers with them as they are falling asleep is often overwhelming. When I succumb to it, I fall asleep too. Then I wake up around 11 with a crick in my neck and am unable to go back to sleep till about 3 am. It’s a disaster for healthy sleep habits!

Have you ever been hit by a lightning bolt, where you changed a major habit very suddenly, as a consequence of reading a book, a conversation with a friend, a milestone birthday, a health scare, etc.?

I never exercised regularly until I got to business school. I went to Harvard, where they really stressed the importance of daily exercise, and put their money where their mouth was. They spoiled all business school students with a beautiful gym and free personal trainers. Developing a habit of daily exercise was probably the most important and unexpected thing I learned at business school.

Do you embrace habits or resist them?

As a Rebel I resisted anything that looked like habit or routine from 1967-1999. Then, in an act of rebellion, I found that having a few habits made me so much happier and left me with so much more energy for other more important rebellions that I adopted a few 🙂

Has another person ever had a big influence on your habits?

You have been a huge influence on habits–both breaking them and adopting them. [Awww, thanks Kim!]

In 1998, I realized that I was in a habit of hating my work. I started talking to people about quitting my job so that I could break this habit, and you were one of the people I talked to. But, I wasn’t making any moves to actually quit. I kept coming up with reasons to delay quitting. Most people, nervous about the idea of my unemployment, reinforced my habit of staying in jobs I hated. But you looked at me one day and said, “Don’t forget to quit!” Your words rang in my ears over and over, and were a big part of what propelled me on the Year of My Fantasy.

You also helped me with a more mundane habit: flossing. Like you I hate to floss. You suggested toothpicks, and I took your suggestion. I now have toothpicks at my desk, in my bag, in my car. My dentist is pleased, and I feel virtuous!

A Not-So-Little Happier: Announcing the Launch of “The Onward Project” Podcasts!

Ta-da! In this not-so-Little Happier, I’m announcing the launch of a family of podcasts, headed by me, called The Onward Project.

These podcasts will make your life better — happier, healthier, more productive, more creative.

The shows are very different from each other, but they share a similar vibe. They’re fascinating, with great hosts, and they’re all full of concrete, manageable ideas, research, stories, and tips for how to make your life better.

The idea is that if you like Happier, you’ll like the other Onward Project shows, too.

Radical Candor 

Radical Candor from Kim Scott and Russ Laraway. Kim describes the podcast as “how not to hate the boss you have, and how not to become the boss you hate.” It’s all about how to be constructive, and critical when necessary, and also kind. If you want to look at Kim’s book Radical Candor, it’s here.  New episodes every Tuesday.

Side Hustle School

Side Hustle School from Chris Guillebeau. If you heard our episode 87, our live event in Seattle, you heard us talk to Chris — so you have a sense of what an interesting guy he is. In Side Hustle School, he talks about how to pursue a “side hustle” — a money-making project you pursue apart from your day job. It’s not a part-time job; it’s not a hobby; it’s something you create. Chris is a Rebel, by the way.  New short episodes every day.

I’m so excited about these podcasts — these hosts are so engaging, with such interesting stories and perspectives. And I can’t wait to hear what you think! Let me know.

And to give a teaser, in March, two more podcasts will launch:

Happier in Hollywood

Yes, Elizabeth is doing another podcast! This one is with her longtime writing partner, Sarah Fain. It’s about how to be happier, healthier, saner, more creative, more successful, and more productive in a back-biting, superficial, chaotic, unpredictable, fundamentally world. I can’t wait to listen. Elizabeth and Sarah have the craziest stories.


We got a huge response after episode 52, when we interviewed Melissa Hartwig of Whole30. Whole30 is a very structured way of eating for thirty days, to re-set your body clock. As we discussed, it’s not an approach that works for everyone, but for many people, it’s life-changing (and I don’t use that word lightly). Her ideas resonated so much with listeners that I asked her to start her own podcast.

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

Want to get in touch? I love hearing from listeners:


Happier listening!

“Be Yourself, But Keep Your Inner Jerk in Check.”

Happiness interview: Bob Sutton.

I’m a huge, raving fan of Bob Sutton’s writing. His blog, Work Matters, is consistently engaging, and I loved his book, The No Asshole Rule: Building a Civilized Workplace and Surviving One That Isn’t.

Bob’s new book, Good Boss, Bad Boss: How to Be the Best… and Learn from the Worst, just came out, and it is every bit as good as the last one. Because I work as a writer, I don’t really have a boss or act as a boss, but even so, I found it fascinating. Bob has so many interesting things to say about what good bosses do and don’t do. There’s a lot of information that that is widely applicable, no matter what your job situation.

Because work and happiness are so closely related, I knew Bob thought a lot about happiness, and I was curious to hear what he had to say about his own happiness.

Gretchen: What’s a simple activity that consistently makes you happier?
Bob: Going for a bike ride. I go for about a 90 minute ride about 4 times a week in the hills behind Stanford University. I do other kinds of exercise when I don’t have time for that, but it isn’t the same. I have even come to enjoy getting an occasional flat tire – because the process of fixing it with a new tube and all that makes me feel resilient (I only learned to do this a couple years ago – I had had some long walks home before!)

What’s something you know now about happiness that you didn’t know when you were 18 years old?
I am a pretty emotional guy, I get very enthusiastic about people and events when things are god, and get quite unhappy when things are not going so well. In my old age – I am 56 – I am starting to learn the power of emotional detachment, especially when it comes to dealing with difficult people and situations. I think this is one of the most important pieces of advice in both The No Asshole Rule and Good Boss, Bad Boss. If you have a boss who is driving you crazy and can’t escape (at least for now), learning the fine art of not caring so much, of not letting it touch your soul, can be very soothing. The same goes for bosses who are stuck with people they can’t coach to being better people and better performers – and can’t get rid of it, at least for now. Detaching yourself emotionally from that person and instead focusing on the more constructive people that you lead can do wonders for both your team and your well-being. My efforts to improve this ability have helped me enormously. I am not exactly calm, and frankly, still have particular trouble containing myself in the presence of pompous assholes (and there are plenty of them in academia), but I am getting better. Indeed, I sometimes toy with writing a short book called “The Virtues of Not Giving a Shit.”

The other thing is that I have learned that I really am happiest and most civilized to others when I have had long stretches alone. That old saying, Satchel Paige I think, that “The social ramble ain’t restful” applies well to me.

Is there anything you find yourself doing repeatedly that gets in the way of your happiness?
Taking myself too seriously. Whenever I start feeling too earnest or too self-important, I get dumber, more difficult, and altogether unpleasant. My wife, Marina, does a pretty good of reminding me to stop being a jerk – and so do my kids (especially my youngest, 14 year-old Eve, is very socially adept.)

Also, I find myself getting distracted by the live action of emails, immediate challenges, and other of life’s little emergencies to the point where I can’t think clearly about long-term issues. I think people who know me would say that I am pretty good at ignoring the short term and focusing on books and such – but I don’t think I am good enough, and it makes me feel tired and unsatisfied.

Is there a happiness mantra or motto that you’ve found very helpful? (e.g., I remind myself to “Be Gretchen.”)
There are three things that I say to myself:

“Think about how others around you feel, not how you feel or what you want.” (This makes me less selfish)

“Focus doing the best you can, not on doing better than others.” (This focuses me on intrinsic qualities and rewards, not social comparison and competition – I am much happier and nicer when I don’t see life as a contest… and as Dan Pink’s book Drive shows, focusing intrinsic rewards might make me creative too).

Also, I use a variation of Be Gretchen, but because I have the capacity to be a jerk (this is certainly a reason I wrote The No Asshole Rule), I say to myself like “Be Yourself, but keep your inner jerk in check.”

If you’re feeling blue, how do you give yourself a happiness boost? Or, like a “comfort food,” do you have a comfort activity?
Going out to a nice dinner with family or friends. That is something I just love about Europe, especially Italy and Spain. My kids – 14, 18, and 20 — rush from the dinner table at home, but last Summer they got into the swing of things in Spain, and were more than happy to sit around and talk happily through a two hour lunch and then a three hour dinner… and I am not even sure we were consuming more food or wine, it was just paced differently so none of us gained any weight. I also have some very delightful friends that I am always happy to have long conversations with – although the older I get, the less interested I am in academics as we can be a pretty boring lot (although there are exceptions like my friends Huggy Rao and Jeff Pfeffer). And as I already mentioned, exercise is key for me.

Finally, when I am in a bad mood, very often it is because I just have not had enough sleep – naps are wonderful things (this is an evidence-based statement!). I confess that I recently canceled a series of work meeting because my mental health was going south… instead, I took a nap, then went for a bike ride, and then went out for dinner with my wife and two of my kids. It was splendid idea and I felt better for days.

Have you ever been surprised that something you expected would make you very happy, didn’t – or vice versa?
I have had a couple big surprises — in different directions. This year, I faced the first serious health problem in my life – I had an aortic valve replaced and some related work done at the Cleveland Clinic. It was probably something I was born with that got worse with age. I was lucky in that I was not experiencing signs heart failure and actually spent a year getting shape for surgery. My recovery has gone well, but going into it, I thought that people who talked about such challenges as “a great experience” or the “best thing that ever happened to me” were just trying to reduce cognitive dissonance. Well, perhaps I am now as well, but it was an experience that did help me realize what mattered most in my life and what did not, and I am in much better physical shape than I was a few years ago (although I could still lose some weight) because of concerns about my health. I am also, I think, a bit more patient and understanding when dealing with others. And I do think the experience helped bring my family together at a time when there are plenty of forces pulling us apart – we have two kids in college and a very busy high school freshman, and they have plenty of other things to think about and do other than family stuff.

So, while I don’t recommend major surgery as a mental health treatment, it seems to have worked for me. I was very lucky that, in addition to being very competent doctors, I had great emotional support from my doctor in California, Jeffrey Croke, my cardiologist at Cleveland, William Stewart, and my surgeon at Cleveland, Marc Gillinov. They didn’t agree on everything and have wildly different personalities, but are each delightful and caring human-beings. Having the feeling that your doctors really care about you has, in my opinion, a huge positive effect.

Finally, I honestly thought that being married to the same person for a long time would get impossibly dull. This has turned out to be wrong – my wife and I have been living together since she was 19 and I was 21. Especially in recent years, our relationship seems to be getting better and better. Of course, there are always the daily ups and downs, but I do think that one thing that helps is that we have similar beliefs about what makes us happy – having good experiences and not having stuff, having our kids feel good about themselves, and we both are not overly social and need long stretches of peace and quiet – which isn’t always easy to find.

* Cultivating gratitude is very important for happiness, and a great site to help you do that is Thankfulfor, where you can keep a personal gratitude journal.

* Interested in starting your own happiness project? If you’d like to take a look at my personal Resolutions Chart, for inspiration, just email me at grubin at gretchenrubin dot com. Just write “Resolutions Chart” in the subject line.