Podcast 282: Do Good to Feel Good, Author Bruce Feiler Suggests Two Questions to Help Manage Transitions, and a Spotlight on Octavia Butler.

Try This at Home

Do good to feel good.

A listener explained that she shook herself out of coronavirus-induced listlessness by tackling a project that would help her father, a painter, by building a website for him. He was thrilled, and she was so energized by accomplishing this task for him that she was able to re-engage in her own projects. She notes: “My dad’s website is denisponsot.com if you’re curious.” Elizabeth mentions the novel Daisy Jones & The Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid (AmazonBookshop).

Happiness Hack

A listener suggests that one way to “put down the clipboard” when dealing with a child (or yourself!) is to use smartphone ringtones to indicate when it’s time to go to bed, take a nap, start dinner, etc. “It’s like your phone is the one with the clipboard, not you.”

Spotlight on a Black Writer

Octavia Butler was a science fiction author who won multiple Hugo and Nebula awards, and she was the first science-fiction writer to receive a MacArthur “Genius Grant.”

I discovered her through her collection Bloodchild and Other Stories (AmazonBookshop), which I loved. I just finished Dawn (AmazonBookshop), which is the first in the trilogy called Lilith’s Brood, and Kindred (AmazonBookshop). Some of her more famous works include Parable of the Sower (AmazonBookshop); Parable of the Talents (AmazonBookshop); and Wild Seed (AmazonBookshop)—first in her Patternist series, which is five novels.

I was very struck by this cover of the book of Dawn. My library didn’t have it, so I got used copy of the 1987 book. The cover shows two white women, one of whom is clearly meant to be the protagonist Lilith, even though it’s made very clear in the novel that Lilith is black.


Know Yourself Better

Bruce Feiler is an old friend who is the author of six New York Times bestsellers, the presenter of two prime-time series on PBS, and the inspiration for the TV drama Council of Dads on NBC. Bruce’s two TED Talks have been viewed more than two million times. He’s also well known for his work about the role of spirituality in contemporary life, in books such as Walking the Bible (AmazonBookshop), Where God Was Born (AmazonBookshop), Abraham (AmazonBookshop), and The First Love Story (AmazonBookshop).


His new book is Life Is in the Transitions: Mastering Change at Any Age (AmazonBookshop).

He suggests two know-yourself-better questions for when you’re going through transitions:

  • What are three personal projects on my plate right now?”
  • “What’s the biggest emotion I struggled with in the course of my transition?”


Elizabeth’s Demerit: She and Adam started clearing space for Jack to build a Lego town, but they stalled out.

Gretchen’s Gold Star: I give a gold star to my friend Debbie, who had the presence of mind at the start of safer-at-home to rent a dumpster. Her three grown sons came home for ten weeks, and they all worked to clean out the suburban house they’d lived in for twenty-three years. They filled a dumpster and multiple car loads of donations.

If this conversation puts you in the mood to clear clutter, check out my book Outer Order, Inner Calm.



Like what you see? Explore more about this topic.

Subscribe to Gretchen’s newsletter.

Every Friday, Gretchen Rubin shares 5 things that are making her happier, asks readers and listeners questions, and includes exclusive updates and behind-the-scenes material.