Podcast 344: How to Do a Quick Good Deed that Could Have Big Consequences, a Hack for Cutting Ourselves Some Slack, and an Interview with Anderson Cooper


We’re announcing our next Book Club choice! It’s the outstanding memoir by Duke Divinity School professor Kate BowlerNo Cure for Being Human (and Other Truths I Need to Hear) (AmazonBookshop). If you’d like to get a sense of Kate, we interviewed her in episode 273. Here’s the description:

The bestselling author of Everything Happens for a Reason (and Other Lies I’ve Loved) (AmazonBookshop) asks, how do you move forward with a life you didn’t choose? It’s hard to give up on the feeling that the life you really want is just out of reach. A beach body by summer. A trip to Disneyland around the corner. A promotion on the horizon. Everyone wants to believe that they are headed toward good, better, best. But what happens when the life you hoped for is put on hold indefinitely? Kate Bowler believed that life was a series of unlimited choices, until she discovered, at age 35, that her body was wracked with cancer.

In No Cure for Being Human, she searches for a way forward as she mines the wisdom (and absurdity) of today’s “best life now” advice industry, which insists on exhausting positivity and on trying to convince us that we can out-eat, out-learn, and out-perform our humanness. We are, she finds, as fragile as the day we were born. With dry wit and unflinching honesty, Kate Bowler grapples with her diagnosis, her ambition, and her faith as she tries to come to terms with her limitations in a culture that says anything is possible. She finds that we need one another if we’re going to tell the truth: Life is beautiful and terrible, full of hope and despair and everything in between—and there’s no cure for being human.

Kate Bowler also has a terrific podcast called Everything Happens. I recently did an interview, where we talked about tough times. We’ll talk to Kate Bowler in an upcoming episode. #Read21in21

Try This at Home

Consider joining “Be the Match,” the national marrow donor program. In episode 343, for a “Four Tendencies tip,” we talked about a listener who, as an Obliger, created outer accountability for taking care of her health by joining the “Be the Match” national marrow donor program. Another listener wrote in to emphasize how life-changing these donations can be, which inspired Elizabeth and me to try to donate, and to help spread the word. 

Happiness Hack

Give yourself a “mercy week.” 

Interview: Anderson Cooper

Anderson Cooper is an award-winning broadcast journalist and political commentator; he’s the anchor of the CNN show Anderson Cooper 360° and a correspondent for 60 Minutes on CBS News.

He’s written two bestselling books: his memoir Dispatches from the Edge (AmazonBookshop) and a book co-authored with his mother Gloria Vanderbilt, The Rainbow Comes and Goes: A Mother and Son on Life, Love, and Loss (AmazonBookshop). If that’s not enough, one of his good friends is Andy Cohen, the radio and TV talk show host, producer, and writer, who among other things, is host of Watch What Happens Live with Andy Cohen and executive producer of the Real Housewives franchise.

Anderson and Andy do live tours together doing a “conversational stage show” called AC² – which Elizabeth has attended.  

Screenshot of Gretchen and Liz interviewing Anderson Cooper

Another fact about Anderson Cooper? His mother was Gloria Vanderbilt, so he’s part of the famous Vanderbilt family founded by his great, great, great grandfather shipping and railroad tycoon Cornelius Vanderbilt, who, when he died in 1877, was the richest man in America—but then within a hundred years, that fortune was gone. Now, with historian Katherine Howe, he’s written Vanderbilt: The Rise and Fall of an American Dynasty (AmazonBookshop). We discussed issues like…

  • how the story of the Vanderbilt family reminded us of the TV show Succession (which we both love)
  • why Anderson wanted to write this book as a letter to his young son about his family
  • why he didn’t have a child until after he was fifty years old
  • why his mother would love the book, even though it reveals some painful truths
  • how throughout his life, people assumed that he had a lot of money, even though that wasn’t the case
  • why he highlighted the women in the Vanderbilt family
  • how he mined his mother’s storage unit, which was packed with memorabilia, for information
  • how he began this project knowing nothing about the Vanderbilt family, and found the stories more fascinating than he could have expected
  • how his mother was famous from the time she was born
  • in episode 232, we talked about a passage from The Rainbow Comes and Goes where Gloria Vanderbilt writes about having “a rage to live,” and we talk about whether others had a rage to live
  • Anderson mentioned a poem—he’s referencing “Beauty” by Elinor Wylie:

Say not of Beauty she is good, Or aught but beautiful, Or sleek to doves’ wings of the wood Her wild wings of a gull. Call her not wicked; that word’s touch Consumes her like a curse; But love her not too much, too much, For that is even worse. O, she is neither good nor bad, But innocent and wild! Enshrine her and she dies, who had The hard heart of a child.

Some highlights…

  • “I always thought I would die at the age of 50 because that’s how old my father was when he died.”
  • “I’ve set everything up my life for any potential worst-case scenario.”
  • “I didn’t know what I would tell my son when he asked me ‘Who are these Vanderbilts that we’re related to?’”
  • “At 13, I read that ‘Saving money is making money,’ and I kept repeating that to my mother.”
  • “I wanted the book to be about human beings, in key moments of their lives, in the public eye, and what their actual life was like.”
  • “In each generation, there are so many interesting characters I knew nothing about.”
  • “It’s fascinating that some of the things that we, as a society, believe—amassing huge wealth, having fame—to see what that actually looks like, in the lives of these people.”
  • “I’ve had a list of things I need to do for 45 of my 54 years. There are things on that list from 30 years ago.”
  • “Don’t try to be productive in every moment of your day.”
  • “I’ve worked a lot this last year on calming my brain, and not feeling like I have to be productive at all times.”
  • “If you think you need to be productive at all times, try not being productive.”
  • “I watch things repeatedly on TV over and over; I find it comforting.”

Anderson’s Try This at Home: 
Don’t try to be productive in every moment of your day. 

Gold Stars & Demerits

Elizabeth’s Demerit: As she and Sarah Fain talked about in Happier in Hollywood, they set their clean-slate intentions when they returned from Puerto Rico. Elizabeth intended to stop eating after 10 p.m.– but she hasn’t even made the attempt. To hear more about their clean-slate intentions, listen to episode 228 of Happier in Hollywood

Gretchen’s Gold Star: I’ve been napping! Gold star to the listeners who encouraged me.


• Follow along with my newest project on Instagram @hereisthehappinessproject or join in using the hashtag #HappierSeptember to share a small thing that’s giving you a boost of happiness this month! For me: the incense set I got from my father for Christmas two years ago. For Elizabeth: the perfect mug from a wonderful day.

Gretchen's collection of incense

Liz's Shaver Lake mug

What we’re reading

Elizabeth: Crossing to Safety by Wallace Stegner (AmazonBookshop)
Gretchen: The Yellow House by Sarah M. Broom (Amazon, Bookshop)




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