Get weekly newsletter updates from Gretchen.

Podcast 278: Why We Should Do Something, and a Conversation with Sofy Solomon about Lessons from Safer-at-Home in a Childhood Bedroom—and How to Make Systems More Just.


Update: Remember, the latest book for our “Happier Podcast Book Club” is The Dutch House, the brilliant, page-turning novel by Ann Patchett. We’ll be talking with her on July 8th, so dive in and send us your questions by posting to social media using the hashtag #happierpodcastbookclub. And follow me on Goodreads to join the discussion there.

Try This at Home: Do something.

I find that sometimes I’m so worried about doing the right thing that—out of an earnest desire not to do the wrong thing—I have sometimes felt myself wanting to hold back.

But then I realized: The most wrong thing to do…is to do nothing. Even when people don't always agree about what that something should be, I should do something.

Happiness Hack: The "Measure" app will measure just about anything. 

I mentioned science-fiction writer Arthur C. Clarke's Third Law: “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.”

Spotlight on a Black Writer: James McBride.

James McBride is a writer and musician who was awarded the 2015 National Humanities Medal.  He’s very well known for his 1995 memoir The Color of Water: A Black Man’s Tribute to His White Mother which was on the New York Times bestseller list for more than two years.

I just read his latest novel, the bestselling Deacon King Kong, which I highly recommend. Now I can't wait to read his novel The Good Lord Bird, which won the 2013 National Book Award.

Know Yourself Better with Sofy Solomon: What did you learn about yourself from staying in your childhood bedroom?

Sofy and I belong to a children’s literature reading group together—one of the joys of my life.

When she’s not doing our assigned reading, she runs the Sesame Workshop Writers’ Room, which she helped create as a talent incubator for new writing talent from underrepresented backgrounds. The program has launched writing careers at Disney, Netflix, DreamWorks, and beyond.

When the coronavirus struck, by chance, Sofy was on vacation with her parents and younger sister in San Francisco, and they decided to be safer-at-home together in her parents’ house in Alabama.

Sofy has learned a lot about herself as she's been back living with her parents and her younger sister, re-reading her old journals, and looking at the books in her childhood bookshelves. We couldn't wait to ask her what she'd learned.

Looking at her old journals reminded her of how much she wants to create helpful routines. During quarantine, Sofy and her sister have started "sister challenges": they set a challenge for the week (writing, exercising, going to sleep earlier), and whoever accomplishes less has to clean the bathroom they're sharing during safer-at-home. Accountability + sisterly competition.

Looking at her childhood bookshelves also reminded her of why she's doing the work she does: to make sure that more stories get told, by more voices.

Sofy emphasizes that systems need to change—which  means reallocating resources to build systems that are more equitable in measurable ways. She asks:

  • How is the system sourcing talent? Is it casting a wide net?
  • Is the evaluation process as anonymous and bias-free as possible?
  • Are there clear channels for feedback and support so that the system can change?

Reading her old journals also reminds her that while she wants to do the work of fixing systems, she also wants to consider returning to creating her own work.

Sofy Solomon's Try This at Home: Treat your budget as your moral document: what and whom you choose to spend your money on is the most honest reflection of what and whom you value.

Elizabeth's Demerit: For his last project for fourth grade, Jack wrote his autobiography, and Elizabeth told him she'd find the autobiography she wrote—"Me, Myself, and I"—in fifth grade, but she never looked for it.

Gretchen's Gold Star: My fellow New Yorkers are doing a good job of wearing masks.


  • Need a quick jolt of energy and cheer while spending time at home? I’ve created a bingo sheet with 42 easy challenges to lift your spirits. Cross them off as you go and give yourself a gold star for each one. You can download the PDF here.

Quote From the Podcast

Looking at my [childhood] bookshelf has reminded me why I got into the work I do now, which is help find and develop new voices in the pipeline of artistic expression.
Sofy Solomon

More Episodes For You

icon onward

One Last Thing

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.”

Learn More

Get My Weekly Newsletter

Sign up to get my free weekly newsletter. It highlights the best material from here, my Facebook Page, and new original work.