347: Consider: It’s Not a Bug, It’s a Feature. Help Someone Ease into a New Job. How to Deal with Big Change?


For the Happier Podcast Book Club, we’ll talk to Kate Bowler about her terrific new memoir, No Cure for Being Human (AmazonBookshop), in upcoming episode 349. Send us your questions and comments to podcast@gretchenrubin.com, or leave a comment here.

I have many exciting announcements coming up, and Super-Fans will be the first to know. From time to time, I give Super-Fans bonus material and behind-the-scenes content, or ask for advice or help. If you’d like to volunteer, you can sign up here. Super-Fans, I so appreciate your enthusiasm and support. 

We’re going to do a Very Special Episode on apps. We want to know what apps you use to become happier, healthier, more productive, and more creative. Let us know about your favorite apps for our upcoming round-up. What APP makes you hAPPy? 

Journals are here! These have been selling fast—if you’ve been waiting to buy or are thinking about these for the holidays, go ahead and order now.

Try This at Home

Keep in mind that sometimes, “It’s not a bug, it’s a feature.”

A listener realized that her lack of experience meant that she was able to be the “rubber duck” that helped her co-workers solve problems.

I mention a story from Susan Cain’s terrific book Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking (AmazonBookshop).

We talk about my “Four Tendencies” personality framework. To learn whether you’re an Upholder, Questioner, Obliger, or Rebel, take the free, quick quiz here. (More than 3.5 million people have taken it.)

Happiness Hack

To encourage people to ask questions, tell them, “Good question!” Because people often feel self-conscious about asking questions.

Speaking of helping people to feel happier in the workplace…

Now more than ever, organizations like schools and workplaces are looking for ways to boost people’s happiness. At school, at work, what works? Fun rituals that are observed, resources offered (like free yoga classes), additions like a ping-pong table or bean-bag chairs…what works? What happiness-boosters spontaneously emerge, like cartoons that people stick on the fridge?

I mention my book The Happiness Project (AmazonBookshop), where I write about the value of warm hellos and good-byes.

Interview: Maya Shankar

Maya Shankar is a cognitive scientist who served as a Senior Advisor in the Obama White House, where she founded and served as Chair of the White House Behavioral Science Team. She also served as the first Behavioral Science Advisor to the United Nations. Maya has a postdoctoral fellowship in cognitive neuroscience at Stanford, and was a Rhodes Scholar. She’s a former private violin student of Itzhak Perlman and graduate of The Juilliard School’s pre-college program. She’s currently a Senior Director of Behavioral Economics at Google.

Screenshot of Gretchen and Liz interviewing Maya Shankar

If all that isn’t enough, she’s the host of the terrific podcast A Slight Change of Plans which features “intimate conversations that give an unvarnished look into how people navigate changes and ultimately grow.”

I had a great time talking to Maya on her podcast and realized we should have her come onto Happier to talk about change, happiness, and human nature.

We talked about…

  • the big change of plans that Maya experienced, after a hand injury that ended her violin career
  • as she’s interviewed people for her podcast, what themes or insights have surprised her?
  • the idea of “identity foreclosure”
  • the mistake she made during her own big change of plans, and what she learned
  • what we can do to help ourselves and other people navigate change?

Insights from Maya:

  • “I like to think that my story makes violin an extreme sport.”
  • “I spiraled into this mindset where I was asking all these existential questions of myself, like ‘Who am I?’ and ‘What matters to me?’”
  • “I had to figure out who I could be without this instrument.”
  • “We can become very fixed in our sense of self. It can prevent us from engaging in exploratory paths, trying to figure out just how malleable our identities can really be.”
  •  “The mistake I made was attaching myself too closely to things, to pursuits. What I’ve learned is that I should actually tie myself to the traits and features of those pursuits that bring me joy.”
  • “It’s very powerful to see the human experience transcend any of the specifics around a person’s life events.”

Maya’s Tendency: QUESTIONER/Upholder.

Maya’s Try This at Home: Make a great cup of tea every morning.

Gretchen’s Demerit: I’ve been making a classic mistake: doing what’s urgent and easy, instead of what’s important and deeply challenging, in my valuable early-morning time. (I’m a real lark.)

Notebook with Working is one of the most dangerous forms of procrastination

Elizabeth’s Gold Star: Elizabeth gives a gold star to her beloved friend Mike Feldman. He died fourteen years ago, and today would’ve been his 50th birthday.


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