Podcast 322: Pick the Right Word, Have Both a Weekend and a Weekday Book, and a Conversation with Actor, Singer, and Instagram Sensation Leslie Jordan


I went to Kansas City! I was so happy to see our parents for the first time in such a long time. 

Try This at Home

Pick the right word.

We discuss research about the power of precise emotional language, in what’s called “labeling.

I mention my friend Susan David’s book: Emotional Agility: Get Unstuck, Embrace Change, and Thrive in Work and Life (AmazonBookshop).

This idea is related to the importance of taking the time to “identify the problem.”

Happiness Hack

Have a weekend book and a weekday book, for different levels of reading complexity. A great hack for everyone doing #Read21in21.


Leslie Jordan is a writer, singer, and Emmy Award-winning actor,  known for his roles in shows like Will & GraceAmerican Horror Story, and most  recently, Call Me KatDuring the height of pandemic lockdowns, millions of people tuned in to Leslie Jordan’s Instagram feed where he talks about the pandemic, life, his Southern roots, and his show business career.

Elizabeth gave him a gold star in episode 301 for his Instagram feed—she especially loves when he sings a hymn every Sunday.

He has certainly made good use of the pandemic period. In addition to his Instagram feed, he released the album Company’s Comin’” of his version of classic gospel hymns sung with an all-star guest list. And he has a new book, How Y’All doing? Misadventures and Mischief from a Life Well Lived (AmazonBookshop).

We talked about

  • what it was like to be bored, stuck being safer-at-home in Tennessee during the pandemic, and suddenly become an Internet sensation
  • how his years of sobriety led to his realization that “Happiness is something you have to work hard at. It does not just happen.”  
  • whether it’s a challenge to radiate such happiness, humor, and energy
  • how he found his way back to hymn-singing after many years away

Some insights from Leslie

  • “I just wanted a place where people could come and laugh.”
  • “Sobriety is a big part of my life. I have 22 years.”
  • “I love the fact that in recovery, they make you write.”
  • “All my fears were just imagined.”
  • “You realize how you go through the day fear-riddled.”
  • “I just have a huge capacity for happiness. I don’t have many off days.”
  • “Eat right, exercise, and be kind to others.”
  • “We all need a spiritual path of some sort.”
  • “It is in the seeking that I have found my faith.”
  • “Hymns were the music of my childhood.”
  • “I have to make lists. I make lists of my lists.”

Leslie’s Tendency

Leslie Jordan is an Obliger. (If you want to find out if you’re an Obliger, Upholder, Questioner, or Rebel, take the free quick quiz here.)

Leslie’s Try This at Home

Make lists. A classic!

Elizabeth’s Demerit

She hasn’t been posting pictures of Puerto Rico. (If you want to see pictures, you can look at Sarah Fain’s Instagram feed, @sfain.)

Gretchen’s Gold Star

I give a gold star to our mother and father for nothing in particular, just being such great parents. I was so happy to get to travel to Kansas City, after such a long time, to see them both.


  • Created by popular demand! You can download and print my free PDF of Happiness Hacks from the Happier podcastClick here to download it for free.

What we’re reading

Elizabeth: Leslie Jordan’s How Y’all Doing?: Misadventures and Mischief from a Life Well Lived by Leslie Jordan (AmazonBookshop)

Gretchen: John Lanchester’s The Debt to Pleasure (AmazonBookshop).



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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.