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


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. 

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 (AmazonBookshop). 

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 (AmazonBookshop). 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 and 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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