Podcast 279: Halfway Through 2020: Check In with Your #20for2020 list and #Walk20in20—and a Spotlight on Bryan Stevenson’s “Just Mercy.”


The next 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 in July, so send us your questions and comments using the hashtag #happierpodcastbookclub. And follow me on Goodreads to join the discussion there.

Try This at Home

Reevaluate your “20 for 20” list.

July 2 is the midway point of 2020, so it’s a good time to reevaluate our lists. In episode 149, we talk about our “18 for 2018” lists, in episode 203, we discussed our “19 for 2019” lists, and in episode 255, we revealed our “20 for 2020” lists.

Nutshell: Many items on our lists haven’t been done—the pandemic has caused a lot of disruptions in our plans.

Gretchen’s 20 for 2020 list:

Writing and Reading and Podcasting

1. Go to Met every day 

2. Summer of Woolf (last year was Summer of Proust)—now changed to the Summer of Black Authors and the Autumn of Woolf

3. Make a Scrapbook of “Now” (repeat from 2019)

4. Have a scent party and a flavor party

5. Work on my playful projects: Color; “My America Feeling”; “Report to the Committee on Exploration”; “Why and How I Quit Sugar,” my aphorism book — underway

 Health and Exercise

6. Start Pilates

7. Back exercises — underway, though they don’t seem to be doing much 

8. Walk 20 minutes in ’20 — underway 

9. Weekly walk with a friend — underway 

10. Get a colonoscopy — I used Cologuard instead. Thanks, listeners, for letting me know about this option!

11. Get a shingles vaccine


12. Re-do the Life Timeline books for me, Eliza, and Eleanor 

13. Catch up on my photo albums


14. Have eight people over for dinner, six times (repeat from 19 for 2019)

15. Have a podcasters’ party

16. Make an effort to look more visibly happy to see people

Upping my game

17. Money 2020: improve my reporting system for my professional income and expenses 

18. Wear make-up every day


19. Identify an organization that we want to donate to as a family — Bail ProjectNAACP Legal and Educational Defense Fund, the Osborne Association, and others 

20. Reach out with love — now more than ever, I’m thinking about this idea all the time, and how I can live up to this transcendent aim in my own life.

Elizabeth’s 20 for 2020 list:

    1. Get Jack’s passport renewed
    2. Plant a vegetable garden; later changed to “Get a voice coach”
    3. Celebrate twenty years of writing partnership with Sarah
    4. Moms’ spa trip
    5. Cut down on processed food, eat more vegetables, “cook” twice a week — underway
    6. Paint her fingernails for special occasions
    7. Read 20 novels (20 novels for 2020) — underway
    8. Write a will
    9. Create and sell Happier in Hollywood merchandise
    10. Get together with college friends in Miami
    11. Complete the first fiction podcast with Sarah — underway
    12. Go to spin class (repeat from 2018)
    13. Go to the Integraton (repeat from 2019)
    14. Get the perfect gold necklace! (repeat from 2019) — crossed off the list; not right for these uncertain times
    15. Love without expectation
    16. Wear her blazers at least three times
    17. Take a week-long family vacation
    18. Figure out the latest version of Final Draft software
    19. Buy three extra phone chargers
    20. Have monthly dinners with our neighbors
    21. New item: there are many items Elizabeth can’t do, but along with her writing partner Sarah Fain, she’s adding a new one: she plans to do whatever she can do in 2020 (and beyond, of course) to provide opportunities for black writers and to make Hollywood a fairer place.

July 2 is the halfway point of the year. If you’d like a deadline for any items on your list, aim for July 2.

Happiness Hack

Use a clear bubble umbrella for safe social distancing in rain or shine.

I mention a fun article about how Queen Elizabeth matches her umbrellas to her outfits.

Spotlight on a Black Writer

Bryan Stevenson’s brilliant memoir Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption is a book many people are talking about these days; it appears on many anti-racist reading lists—not surprising, given that it was a #1 New York Times bestseller, and among several other awards, was named one of the “100 Notable Books of the Year” by the New York Times Book Review in 2014.

Bryan Stevenson is a renowned lawyer, social justice activist, and founder and executive director of the Equal Justice Initiative in Montgomery, Alabama. He’s won numerous awards, including a MacArthur Foundation “Genius” Grant. He’s argued several times in front of the Supreme Court.

Under his leadership, EJI has won major legal challenges eliminating excessive and unfair sentencing, exonerating innocent death row prisoners, confronting abuse of the incarcerated and the mentally ill, and aiding children prosecuted as adults.

I highly recommend Just Mercy—it’s a profound, thought-provoking, beautiful page-turner about some of the early and significant cases in his career. It would be great choice for a book group, especially a spirituality book group.

On June 16, 2020, Stevenson released a short, thought-provoking video called “How We Arrived Here.

Checking in


At 2020’s halfway point, we’re revisiting our initiative to “Walk 20 in 20.”

If you’d like to use the don’t-break-the-chain chart, you can download it for free here.

Our listener Marcie had an interesting twist to make this daily walk a spiritual exercise, as well. In her Rhode Island neighborhood, she’s been “walking” the pilgrim route of the Camino de Santiago.

Gretchen’s Demerit: I completely forgot about my “20 for 20 list.” It fell right out of my head.

Elizabeth’s Gold Star: She gives a gold star to the 2017 Netflix show Glow: “In 1980s LA, a crew of misfits reinvent themselves as the ‘Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling.’” There have been three seasons, with thirty episodes.


  • If you’ve fallen off the #Walk20in20 wagon or want to jump in now, you can download a free checklist to track your walking progress here.
  • If you wonder if you’ve developed a bad habit during the time of the coronavirus, but you’re not sure how to make a change, consider my book Better Than Before. It’s full of different habit strategies, so that you can choose the one that works for you. Learn more here.

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