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372: Make the Plan, Use the Print Function, and Susan Cain Describes the Beauty of the Bittersweet


Try This At Home: Be the one to make the plan. Sometimes, we wish someone else would make the plan — but if we want something to happen, we have to take on that responsibility.

Happiness Hack: To make it easier to follow an online recipe, use the "print" function to open a version that doesn't include a lot of extraneous material.

Interview: Susan Cain

Susan Cain is the renowned author of the #1 New York Times bestseller Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking (Amazon, Bookshop). Her TED Talk on the power of introverts has been viewed more than forty million times, and we also highly recommend her article about how deeply and horribly she dreaded giving that TED talk.

She has a new book that just hit the shelves: Bittersweet: How Sorrow and Longing Make Us Whole (Amazon, Bookshop)

Bittersweetness is a tendency to states of long­ing, poignancy, and sorrow; an acute aware­ness of passing time; and a curiously piercing joy at the beauty of the world. It recognizes that light and dark, birth and death —bitter and sweet—are forever paired.

If you’ve ever wondered why you like sad music . . .
If you find comfort or inspiration in a rainy day . . .
If you react intensely to music, art, nature, and beauty . . .

Then you probably identify with the bitter­sweet state of mind.

With Quiet, Susan Cain urged our society to cultivate space for the undervalued, indispensable introverts among us, thereby revealing an un­tapped power hidden in plain sight. Now she em­ploys the same mix of research, storytelling, and memoir to explore why we experience sorrow and longing, and how embracing the bittersweetness at the heart of life is the true path to creativity, con­nection, and transcendence.

We talked about questions such as...

  • What inspired Susan to tackle this subject
  • Why Leonard Cohen is so important to Susan
  • How different cultures and languages have different terms for this idea
  • How people get this "bittersweet" feeling from different artworks
  • how parenthood can evoke a bittersweet feeling
  • how we might experience transitions as changes
  • how Susan addressed the subject of "the bittersweet" — or, as she called it then, "the happiness of melancholy" — for the first time on my blog! Here's the interview she did, back in 2012.

Susan Cain's Tendency: Obliger.

Susan Cain's Try This at Home: Go for a walk.

Demerits & Gold Stars:

Elizabeth's Demerit: Elizabeth hasn't moved her watch charger from her office into her bathroom, so she's been struggling to keep her watch charged—which is important, because her watch helps her keep up her daily steps.

Gretchen's Gold Star: I give a gold star to my daughter Eleanor, for taking on so much responsibility when our dog Barnaby needed stitches.


  • For most people, outer order contributes to inner calm. If you crave more outer order, I've created a set of tools to help you not just clear clutter, but keep it clear. Click here to jump-start or boost your clutter-clearing habit.
  • For many, it's Spring Break time — which is a good time to remember the wisdom of teachers. If you'd like my free PDF featuring Proverbs of the Professions: Teachers, you can download it here.

What we’re reading:

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