5 Things Oprah Taught Me about How to Give a Good Interview.

One of the biggest thrills in my professional life was being interviewed by Oprah herself, for her amazing Super Soul Sunday series. Yowza!

The interview airs on November 8, at 7 p.m EST/PT on OWN (find your station here.) Please watch. I’ll be live-tweeting while it airs.

Doing the interview was exciting on many levels, but among other things, I learned a lot about the interview process. Oprah is the master, and it’s always a rare privilege to learn from a true master.

1. Oprah was extremely prepared and referred to my work several times.

This is an obvious point for an interviewer, but still it was a good reminder of how important that is, to the interviewee.

2. She really listened — it felt like a real conversation, a real exchange.

I know from experience that when doing an interview, it’s all too easy to refer to a list of questions, and to move to the next question no matter how someone answers.

3. She talked herself.

There’s a tricky balance for interviewers — you don’t want to talk too much yourself, but perhaps counter-intuitively, if you talk too little, an interview can fall flat.

4. She made me feel like I surprised and intrigued her.

When I’m interviewing someone, I want to have a moment of genuine connection and learning. That often means surprising or puzzling another person. Oprah has heard it all, and she’s read my books, yet she made me feel like I was saying things that genuinely intrigued her.

5. She was in control.

The first time I went on the Today show, to talk about my book Power Money Fame Sex, to be interviewed by Matt Lauer, I was so nervous. An established writer said, “Don’t worry about this interview. He’s the best at that job, and he’s the best prepared — this will be one of your easiest interviews.” And that was true. (You can watch the 2000 interview here. I can’t bear to watch, so have never actually seen it!)

Same thing with Oprah. A friend who had been on Super Soul Sunday said, “Relax. Oprah is the master, she’s the best, so just think about being yourself and answering from the heart. Don’t feel like you have to be in charge of the conversation.” And that was true. I really enjoyed the conversation — so much, that I forgot to be nervous.

I was also a lot calmer, because my sister Elizabeth was with me — that made the whole adventure much more relaxed and fun. Here we are taking a selfie before leaving the hotel to go to the recording. Note Elizabeth’s excellent hair — no hair or make-up for me yet.

I hope you’ll watch! Sunday, November 8, OprahElizabethandGretchenSelfieHotelOWN channel, at 7:00 ET/PT. Be sure to join me on Twitter during the show.

Revealed! Book Club Choices for November. Excellent Reading.

First, a moment of self-book-promotion — feel free to skip.

I’m excited, because the Better Than Before Day-by-Day Journal just hit the shelves. Part resource, part tool, part keepsake — it will help you change your habits. To watch a short video where I show the book and describe its design, go here.

Now, for the recommendations! Because nothing boosts happiness more than a great book, each month, I suggest:

· one outstanding book about happiness or habits

· one outstanding work of children’s or young-adult literature–I have a crazy passion for kidlit

· one eccentric pick–a widely admired and excellent book that I love, yes, but one that may not appeal to everyone

Shop at IndieBound, BN.com, or Amazon (I’m an affiliate), or your favorite local bookstore. Or my favorite, visit the library! Drumroll…


A book about happiness, good habits, or human nature

Plant Dreaming Deep by May Sarton (a journal)

Buy from IndieBound; BN.com; Amazon.


An outstanding children’s book:

Little House in the Big Woods by Laura Ingalls Wilder. (I was astonished to realize that I haven’t yet recommended this book, one of my all-time favorites. Also the inspiration for some of the best writing I’ve ever done in my life, on the last page of Happier at Home.)

Buy from IndieBound; BN.com; Amazon.


An eccentric pick:

Pure Heart, Enlightened Mind : The Life and Letters of an Irish Zen Saint by Maura O’Halloran

Buy from IndieBound; BN.com; Amazon.

Some readers have said that they wished that I’d describe and make the case for my book choices, instead of just providing links. I’ve noticed that many times, when someone describes a book to me, I want to read it less. And often, weirdly, the better a book is, the worse it sounds.

Nevertheless, because so many readers have requested it, I’ve decided to give a bit more context for these choices in the book-club newsletter. So if you’d like to know more about why I made these selections, check there. To get that free monthly book-club newsletter, and to make sure you don’ t miss any recommendations, sign up here.

In any event, I assure you that, for all the books I choose, I love them; I’ve read them at least twice if not many times; and they’re widely admired.

If you read last month’s recommendations…what did you think?

And please, send me your recommendations! Recently a reader told me about a a Noel Streatfield book that I’d somehow missed, and another reader gave me many science-fiction entries for my library list. I love getting suggestions.

Habit Short-Cut! Use the Time Change to Help You Change Your Habits. Painlessly.

For Better Than Before, when I talk to people about the habits they want to change, they often mention that they lack the time for a new habit.

To clear time to schedule a new morning habit, many people try waking up a bit earlier, but this can be tough for people who struggle to get out of bed.

One trick? Use the upcoming time change to add an hour to your morning.

Make Time for Something Important

Daylight Saving Time ends as 2:00 a.m. on November 1, and you can use this as a painless way to add an extra hour to the morning. (Obviously this only works if you live in a place that follows DST.) Getting up earlier is a great way to make time for something important to you.

We all love to “fall back” and to get that extra hour of sleep on Sunday morning. It’s a great boon to get a little extra sleep. In fact, car accidents and heart attacks are more common in the week after Daylight Saving Time starts, because losing that hour puts stress on people’s bodies.

But while you may love that extra hour of sleep, consider not sleeping in, but instead get up after your customary time. Your body is getting up as usual, but the clock will say that you’re up an hour early.  And there’s a lot you can do with that hour–especially if the people around you are still sound asleep.

Change Your Surroundings

Remember, when it comes to habits, it’s easier to change your surroundings than to change yourself or other people. It’s easier to get in the habit of waking up earlier by getting up at the same time, when the clock changes, than to train yourself to get up earlier.

A reader commented: “A couple years ago I decided not to reset my clock at the end of daylight savings. I had thought of myself as a night owl, but suddenly had writing/exercise time.”

You could use that time to do something like exercise or work on a project–or maybe you want to use it for pure pleasure. I have a friend who wakes up early to read for fun.

The morning is a great time to form a regular habit, because self- control is high, there are fewer distractions, and it’s highly predictable.

Now, this system wouldn’t work for true “owls” who stay up late and sleep late. But for many people, it’s possible to make a very satisfying use of that hour.

Get Yourself to Bed On Time

NOTE: If you try this strategy, you must also go to sleep earlier! It’s so, so, so important to get enough sleep, and if you lose an hour in the morning, you need to gain that time in sleep. (Here are some tips for getting yourself to go to bed on time.)

Where would you rather have the hour? At the end of the day, or at the start of the day?

Most people would use those slots in very different ways.  The hour of 6:00-7:00 am looks very different from the hour of 11:00-mindnight. Which hour would contribute the most to your happiness?

If you suddenly had an extra hour in your day, how would you use it? Have you ever used this method–or any other–to shift your waking time?

Agree, Disagree? “Completion Is Powerful.”

Happiness interview: Lewis Howes.

I got to know Lewis Howes when mutual friends put us in touch, and I got to be a guest on his terrific and very popular podcast, The School of Greatness, which is all about what makes great people great. You can listen to our conversation here.

His new book, The School of Greatness: A Real-World Guide to Living Bigger, Loving Deeper, and Leaving a Legacy, has just hit the shelves. The subtitle says it all! Fun facts: Lewis is a former professional football player and two-sport All-American and a current USA Men’s National Handball Team athlete. Yowza.

Lewis interviewed me, and I was eager to interview him, to hear his thoughts on habits, happiness, and related subjects.

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

Lewis: I feel so good when I meditate every morning and evening. I only meditate for about 13 minutes, and use the same guided meditation every day, but it makes a big difference for me. I’m not perfect at it, but it helps me stay on top of my emotions and manage overwhelm when I do it consistently.  I think some type of focused breathing and visualizing what you want your life to be on a daily basis is extremely healthy.

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

Sports were my life growing up and through college, so at 18 I knew the value of a schedule and commitment to it to see results. What I didn’t realize then was that the most powerful habits are the ones that you choose to form and stick to when no one else is holding you accountable. It took me a while to figure this out after I was done playing professional sports, but I was able to eventually pull on my previous experiences and re-create some solid habits from sports into my adult life.

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

Yes. When I get into something new and exciting (like a new sport or hobby), I get INTO IT. It’s all I want to do. So I won’t let myself get a puppy (even though I REALLY want a French bulldog) because I know I would get nothing done. I would just play with my dog all day.

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

Working out daily is a must. In fact, just taking a break and getting outside at least once a day is a must. That is my foundation and lets me sort out my thoughts and get my emotions in balance.  Lately I’ve been playing a lot of frisbee in the afternoon for a break. Getting my inbox empty at the end of the day is something I believe in because completion is powerful and having things pile on you becomes overwhelming. I’m not perfect at it, but it’s so worth it to keep emails manageable. I also love going to the movies once or twice a week just to give myself a break and think about something besides everything on my plate.

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

When I was first getting successful in business (creating great financial results), I was working at my laptop for 16+ hour days and eating like I was still playing football. So I packed on the pounds. My family started calling me “Flewis” for Fat Lewis. I realized it was time to corral my sugar addiction (because I LOVE sweets, especially ice cream). I cut out sugar and gluten for 28 days and lost 28 pounds. Ever since then I’ve been able to keep my sugar addiction under control – thanks to a green juice every morning.

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

I’m a Questioner. If someone tells me to do something, or there’s a rule I’m supposed to follow, and it doesn’t make sense, I’m not going to do it. I’ll find a better way.

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

Being on planes and away from home a lot (especially this year with my launching my book and touring for it) it’s hard to keep a solid sleep and workout schedule, but I still make a big effort. I have to be in my best shape to pull competing with the USA national team, running my business, and having fun.

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.?

Yes, when I moved to NYC and realized my face was a fat as a marshmallow, I gave myself the 28 day challenge for no sugar and green juice, and it changed the game for me!  It was so challenging, but so worth it!

Do you embrace habits or resist them?

I love them once they’re made, but it’s super hard for me to make new ones. And if I have bad habits, it’s a big deal to change them. That’s why I surround myself with people who are good at what I’m not great at.

Podcast 36: Do You Always Ask “Why?” Maybe You’re a Questioner.

It’s time for the next installment of  “Happier with Gretchen Rubin.” (Remember, if you’d like to get an email alert every time we release a new episode, you can sign up here.)

Update:  Elizabeth, such a good sister, gives a plug for my book, Better Than Before — soon to be out in paperback. We also talk about Christmas Boot Camp, Dog-Car-Riding Boot Camp, and a great unpacking tip. Also, eggs. We’ve heard from so many people about eggs! My daughters and I are now eating lots of hard-boiled eggs.

Today is the second in the series of four episodes that we’re devoting to the Four Tendencies.  In last week’s episode, we talked about the Upholder Tendency; this week, it’s Questioner. To help shed light on the Questioner Tendency, we talk to brilliant agent Christy Fletcher.

To take the Four Tendencies quiz, go here. Find out if you’re an Upholder, Questioner, Obliger, or Rebel.

Try This at Home: Think about a few people in your life, identify their Tendencies, and try to put that knowledge to use. Understanding a Tendency can make it easier to manage conflict, come to agreement, and convince others of your point of view.

Strengths and Weaknesses of Questioners:  As Christy points out, as with all the Tendencies, the strengths and the weaknesses of the Questioners are the flip sides of each other.

Striking Pattern of Questioners: Questioners can get overwhelmed or paralyzed by their desire to get their questions answered — or they can overwhelm or annoy others with their desire for more information. We discuss how Questioners can get the benefits of their Tendency, and deal constructively with the downsides. Christy has some specific suggestions that work for her.

Christy’s Try This at Home: Say “yes” to something that makes you uncomfortable.

Listener Question: “As a Questioner, I love to research and will spend a lot of time questioning my own decisions. One of my biggest challenges is ‘decision paralysis.’ How do Questioners overcome decision paralysis?” To read more about the maximizer vs. satisficer distinction, which we briefly discuss, read here, or in Better Than Before, in the chapter on the Strategy of Distinctions.

Elizabeth’s Demerit: Elizabeth hasn’t been exercising as much as she wants to do.

Gretchen’s Gold Star: Jamie told our friend, “We’ve all done it.” Exactly the right thing to say.

Call for comments, questions, observations!

We’re spending four weeks talking about my Four Tendencies framework for human nature. We’ve already had many thought-provoking responses, but we want more.


Please, send in your questions and comments by voicemail, email, etc.

Happier with Gretchen Rubin, Episode #36

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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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