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Podcast 287: Steer Clear of Quicksand, Beware of Catastrophizing, a Whimsical Hack, and a Spotlight on Baratunde Thurston


Update: Lots of updates this week!

For many years, I’ve chosen a one-word theme for the year, and my theme for 2020 is “Infrastructure,” because I’ve realized that I need more infrastructure.

I’m planning to hire a Growth Strategy and Operations Executive to lead the business side of my work. This person will be a thought partner, a second brain, someone who will get to know everything about what I do and will think strategically about growth and execution. This person will have extensive experience that will allow them to identify, vet, and lead new opportunities for growth, and grow and manage a team, with a focus on budget, numbers, and metrics.

If this description sounds interesting to you, and you have the appropriate experience, please read a longer description here and consider applying (link below).

I'm sharing this post publicly because it would be wonderful to find the right person within my own community—someone who's already familiar with my work, and who connects to it in their own life.


In other news, because my bestselling book Happier at Home starts with the idea that “September is the other January” and September is drawing near, I’m giving away a copy. If you'd like to win a signed, personalized copy of Happier at Home, to enter, follow my Instagram account @gretchenrubin, "like" the give-away post, and comment on the post tagging three friends. If you win, I'll send you a signed, personalized book. (Give-away is only open to U.S., alas—mailing costs.) The last day to enter is this Thursday, August 20.

We're getting so many great hack suggestions for our upcoming Very Special Episode 290! Keep them coming to

In our Book Club episode 283, Ann Patchett recounted how she tossed the first version of her brilliant novel, The Dutch House. In a twist, this decision meant that our listener Erin Geiger Smith went on to write her own book Thank You for Voting: The Maddening, Enlightening, Inspiring Truth About Voting in America (Amazon, Bookshop).

Try This at Home: Steer clear of quicksand.

I mention the distinction between abstainers and moderators.

Happiness Hack: Send someone a life-size cardboard cutout portrait—of a grandchild, manager, friend, etc.

Whimsical and fun—and I was surprised how affordable it is. You can also get table-top cardboard cut-outs, ones that just show the upper body, and a face on a paddle.

Spotlight on a Black Author: Baratunde Thurston.

I quote one of my favorite aphorisms, from G. K. Chesterton: "It is easy to be heavy: hard to be light."

Baratunde Thurston is known for his ability to use new technology and humor to communicate important ideas across a variety of media. Among other things, he has worked for the satirical news outlet The Onion and The Daily Show with Trevor Noah.

I highly recommend his New York Times bestseller How To Be Black (Amazon, Bookshop). It's a memoir, social criticism, activism—thought-provoking, a page-turner, and laugh-out-loud funny.

I'm also eager to listen to his podcast, a limited six-part series called We’re Having A Moment. Description: "We all feel it in the United States. We are having some kind of moment. Where it goes, we can't say, but right here, right now, something significant is happening involving race and in particular, policing.”

I just watched his 2019 TED Talk (very prescient) and signed up for his newsletter Recommentunde.

Happiness Stumbling Block: Catastrophizing.

Catastrophizing is when we magnify negative consequences, assume they’re certain to happen: "If my sweetheart breaks up with me, I’ll be alone forever, I will never be happy again."

This is a very pressing issue right now, given everything that's going on in the world. We also talked about in our Very Special Episode 240: “Use the Emergency Kit for Anxiety, Worry, and Stress.”

Elizabeth and Sarah talked about catastrophizing in episode 168 of Happier in Hollywood, and when they asked for people to post in their Happier in Hollywood Facebook Group, they got a huge response.

In the episode, I try to quote Mark Twain, but it turns out he didn't in fact make this remark—though it's often attributed to him: "I'm an old man and have known a great many troubles, but most of them never happened."

Listener Question: A listener asks how I organize my children's literature reading groups. One of my favorite questions! For more on these groups, read here.

Gretchen's Demerit: Although I know better, I allowed my office get really messy. Outer order, inner calm—it really works for me, so why did I do this? It's the classic mistake of doing something to make myself feel better that actually just makes me feel worse.

Elizabeth's Gold Star: Elizabeth gives a double gold star: one for a mother who kept a journal for each of her three children, and also for her daughter, who set her mother's words to music as a gift. You can watch the video here. Beautiful, so moving.


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