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  • feedwordpress 09:00:40 on 2019/04/11 Permalink
    Tags: , , , , dessert, Emily Luchetti, Erin McHugh, , Interview, , So Who's Counting   

    Emily Luchetti and Erin McHugh: “We Are Big Believers in Doing at Least One Fun Thing a Day, However Small.” 


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    Interview: Emily Luchetti and Erin McHugh

    How I love quotations—I collect them myself in giant troves, I collect books of quotations, and I love sending out my free daily "Moment of Happiness" newsletter with a terrific quotation about happiness or human nature (sign up here if you'd like to get it).

    So of course I was immediately intrigued by the new book from two friends and authors Emily Luchetti and Erin McHugh. So Who's Counting?: The Little Quote Book About Growing Older and Still Kicking Ass is a book of quotations that remind us that with age comes the opportunity to ask, "What's next? What do I really want? What have I learned the hard way?"

    I couldn't wait to talk to Erin and Emily about happiness, habits, aging, and self-knowledge.

    Gretchen: What’s a simple activity or habit that consistently makes you happier, healthier, more productive, or more creative?

    Emily: Exercise. Either a hike or working out at the gym in a TRX/weights class. The former I do on weekends with my husband and a friend. The classes first thing in the morning during the week. I feel more productive, energized, and ready to take on the world once I have gotten my body in gear.

    What’s something you know now about happiness that you didn’t know when you were 18 years old?

    Emily: Don’t worry so much about what other people think. And don’t compare yourself to others. Be your own authentic self. Now that I am older I take many things less personally. I can keep myself and others happy. I don’t have to forfeit what I want over others’ needs.

    Erin: That it isn’t an inalienable right. Happiness is work, and it needs constant attention and upkeep. Feed it and it grows. And that, along with the time to pursue it, happiness is worth more than any commodity on earth.

    You’ve done fascinating research. What has surprised or intrigued you—or your readers—most?

    Emily and Erin: What turned out to be a revelation for us while we were working on So Who’s Counting? was getting to delve in and discover more about the people we quoted, not just the quote that ended up on the page. We conferred on every passage in the book—more than once—and researched where each came from, whether it was a speech, a letter, a passage from a book. But in doing so, we went down the most intriguing and rewarding rabbit holes. We found that Julia Child’s family had a cook growing up, and young Julia could have cared less about food. We were reminded about Muhammad Ali’s conscientious objection to the Vietnam War draft, how it caused him to lose all his titles, left him on the sidelines during his best fighting years, but became the beginning of his journey as a humanitarian. How Maya Angelou’s life was burdened by a past as a sex worker, and a childhood in the Jim Crow South. And though these were people we had never met, we found then began to influence us in profound ways.

    Would you describe yourself as an Upholder, a Questioner, a Rebel, or an Obliger?

    Emily: I took the quiz (I love things like this!) and am an Upholder. “I do what others expect of me—and what I expect from myself.” In my younger days only the first part of this sentence would have been true. I took care of others needs and put myself last. A real plus about getting older!

    Erin: I’m a Questioner. By profession I’m a writer and an interviewer: so it’s no surprise that curiosity drives me even when I’m practicing neither!

    Does anything tend to interfere with your ability to keep your healthy habits or your happiness? (e.g. travel, parties, email)

    Erin: Time—especially as one grows older—seems to whiz by. You’ve got to keep it in your grasp! A good calendar with some structured activity, whether it’s yoga, writing, getting together with friends, and whatever else pleases you, is key. Then the distractions don’t seem as...well, distracting. And Emily and I are both big believers in doing at least one fun thing a day, however small.

    Have you ever been hit by a lightning bolt, where you made a major change very suddenly, as a consequence of reading a book, a conversation with a friend, a milestone birthday, a health scare, etc.?

    Emily: When I turned 60, I became aware of time in a good way. It hit home that we each only have one life and should live it to the best—whatever that means to you. For me, it’s a different answer each day. Some days it will be all work, sometimes all play. Sometimes something totally new, sometimes something I have done a zillion times. That’s what makes life exciting. I never really celebrate my birthdays but at 60 I wanted to make a statement to myself and saw it as an opportunity to do something I always thought would be fun but never did, I had a luncheon (cooked by Chef Jonathan Waxman) for about 70 women in the food world. It was electrifying to be in that room. Since then I have tried to make more time for these friendships and connections. We are always all so busy. You need to make a concerted effort to get together. And it’s worth it.

    Is there a particular motto or saying that you’ve found very helpful? (e.g., I remind myself to “Be Gretchen.”)

    Emily: “Someday is Today.”

    Erin: Singer Lauren Hill says at the end of one of her songs, “Everything is everything.” From the first time I heard it, I have found it such a valuable reminder for me. It means “Every little thing matters,”  “Every moment counts,” and “Even the tiny things sometimes end up being the thing that makes the difference.”

    Has a book ever changed your life—if so, which one and why?

    Erin: I wrote a book a few years ago called One Good Deed: 365 Days of Trying to Be Just a Little Bit Better, in which I tried to do just a small, positive thing each day as I went about my business. Almost immediately it clocked the way I looked at the world, and how I approached life on a daily basis. It trained both my head and my heart to be aware, mindful, kinder. I treasure the experience and take myself back to its pages constantly to remind myself that better doesn’t have to be hard.

    In your field, is there a common misperception or incorrect assumption that you’d like to correct?

    Emily: "Never trust a skinny chef." For sure, I know how hard it is to not succumb to sweets. Especially when there are several ten-pound boxes of chocolate on the shelf. But it is possible to enjoy desserts and maintain a healthy lifestyle. It’s all about moderation. I started a movement around it called dessertworthy. Pastry chefs like to bake but we also like to exercise, eat veggies, and fit into our jeans. People don’t automatically assume a wine maker is an alcoholic or a pharmacist is a drug addict.

    Erin: Writing a book is never a simple task. It’s long, arduous, vexing...but always rewarding.

    SWC COVER

     
  • feedwordpress 09:00:16 on 2019/04/04 Permalink
    Tags: , , , Interview, Laura Gassner Otting, Limitless,   

    “I Think the Best Antidote to a Rut Is Action, So I Try to Remind Myself that Anything Beats Nothing.” 


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    Interview: Laura Gassner Otting

    Laura Gassner Otting founded the Nonprofit Professionals Advisory Group, and has been involved in many nonprofit boards around the country. She writes and speaks frequently about the world of mission-driven work and getting "unstuck" in our lives. As she describes herself: "I help people discover how they align what they do with who they are, to achieve limitless potential."

    As if that's not enough to keep her busy, she has also just published a new book: Limitless: How to Ignore Everybody, Carve your Own Path, and Live Your Best Life.

    I couldn't wait to talk to Laura about happiness, habits, and productivity.

    Gretchen: What’s a simple activity or habit that consistently makes you happier, healthier, more productive, or more creative?

    Laura: I hang out with “framily,” those people who aren’t the family I was born to—they are lovely but geographically distant—but the friends I have made as an adult who have become my close knit kibbutz. These are the people who know my hopes and dreams, who see my stress and anxiety, who cheer me on during my successes and pick me up during my failures. They don’t keep score, they don’t play the comparison gave, they know we are all on our own path. They bathe in emotional abundance, rather than scarcity. I am better for the fact that they are in my life, and I work hard every day to make sure that I uplift them in return.

    What’s something you know now about happiness that you didn’t know when you were 18 years old?

    Ever the gold star chaser, I was entirely certain that if I just collected all the right degrees and titles, I’d be happy. But it wasn’t until I was much older, fueled by my own journey and also twenty years of studying, recruiting, and stewarding leaders through massive career shifts, that I realized that success as externally (and often myopically) defined, didn’t equal happiness. It wasn’t until I realized that we need to create our own definition of success, and lean into that specifically, that the success we achieve will truly bring us the happiness we seek.

    In your new book, Limitless: How to Ignore Everybody, Carve Your Own Path, and Life Your Best Life, you have a different take on success, and its role in bringing happiness. What has surprised or intrigued you—or your readers—most?

    Over the course of my research, what I’ve learned is that success doesn’t bring happiness when it’s merely us following someone else’s path to someone else’s definition of success. It’s why Lean In didn’t ring true for so many; some were angry about the privilege that Sheryl Sandberg used to achieve her success. I didn’t blame her for that; frankly it would've been folly not to use it. My issue wasn’t how she achieved success, but how she defined it, as this one unflinching, myopic view of the fastest and most expedient path to the corner office.

    What I now know is that happiness through work comes from consonance, from when the “what you do” matches the “who you are.” Each of our true definitions of success will be a personalized rubric of calling, connection, contribution, and control.

    • Calling is a gravitational pull towards a goal larger than yourself—a business you want to build, a leader who inspires you, a societal ill you wish to remedy, a cause you wish to serve.
    • Connection gives you sightlines into how your everyday work serves that calling by solving the problem at hand, growing the company’s bottom line, or reaching that goal.
    • Contribution is an understanding of how this job, this brand, this paycheck contributes to the community you want to belong, the person you want to be, or the lifestyle you’d like to live.
    • Control reflects how you are able to influence your connection to that calling in order to have some say in the assignment of projects, deadlines, colleagues, and clients; offer input into shared goals; and do work that contributes to your career trajectory and earnings.

    We will all want and need these in different amounts at different ages and stages throughout our lives. I’ve set up a quiz that people can take to understand how much of each of these elements they want in their lives, and how much of each they’d like to have. And, of course, it gives some immediately actionable tips on changes to make right here, right now to get unstuck and become limitless. That quiz is at www.LimitlessAssessment.com.

    Have you ever managed to gain a challenging healthy habit—or to break an unhealthy habit? If so, how did you do it?

    When I turned 39 years old, I walked into my kids’ elementary school and saw the principal, whom I hadn’t seen in a few months. “Ellen,” I said, “You look amazing. Either you’ve been really sick, or there’s a new man in your life, and you look too good to have been really sick!” And she replied, “There is a new man in my life, and his name is Mike. Coach Mike.”

    And she dragged me to a boot camp where I spent six weeks trying to run the first mile of my life. (Seriously, I’d had 634,598 excuses to get out of P.E. throughout my childhood and the only reason I was picked last for every team was because there wasn’t a position after last.) But then I did it. I ran my first mile without stopping.

    Fast forward nine years, and I’ve run three marathons and row on a competitive team. Whenever the coach calls out, “OK, athletes, next we’re going to…” I get giddy. Still can’t believe anyone would think of me as an athlete, and loving the multitudes within myself that I am discovering as a result of letting myself be (very) uncomfortable in the middle of my otherwise comfortable life.

    Would you describe yourself as an Upholder, a Questioner, a Rebel, or an Obliger?

    I am an Upholder. The last thing I do before I go to bed is check my schedule for the next day, and mentally walk through and schedule in time to complete my tasks, be present for others, and take steps towards my personal and professional goals. My husband likes to joke that “If it’s not on the calendar, it doesn’t exist.” To wit, I schedule in shower time after a workout, picking up my kids, and answering email, all things which (eek, the kids!) would either be forgotten or expand across the day (gah, email!) if unchecked.

    And, really, there’s nothing like clear expectations and a full set of data when it comes to making plans and dreaming big dreams, right?

    Oh, and yeah, I’m that person who puts the thing on my to-do list that I have done, even if it wasn’t on there before. Nothing is more beautiful than an organized day and a clean slate morning.

    Does anything tend to interfere with your ability to keep your healthy habits or your happiness? (e.g. travel, parties, email)

    I am the human embodiment of Newton’s First Law of Physics: a body in motion stays in motion. So when I’m in a groove, I’m golden. But when travel, bad eating, sickness, injury waylay me, I’m at risk of falling off the path. That said, I think the best antidote to rut is action, so I try to remind myself that anything beats nothing, and then I call a friend and ask them to join me the next day in The Thing I Need to Do. Accountability always gets me back on track, even when everything in my core is clinging to malaise.

    Is there a particular motto or saying that you’ve found very helpful? (e.g., I remind myself to “Be Gretchen.”)

    Show up. Shut up. Do the work. (Pretty Upholder of me, huh?)

    For me, it’s about being fully present, getting better by listening and learning, and doing the hard yards in the dark that nobody sees (or cares about) so that I can show up in a way for my message, my family, my community, and my causes.

    Has a book ever changed your life—if so, which one and why?

    At the risk of being so cheesy and fangirly: The Happiness Project. [Awwww thanks!]

    When The Happiness Project first came out, I scoffed and thought, “What does this women of privilege know about being happy? Her life must be really happy already.” But then I thought, “Well, I’m pretty privileged and I’m not happy.” So I bought the book.

    And then, on pretty much the first page, you called yourself out about the privilege, and from that moment on, you had my heart.

    I made my husband read it the second I finished it, and even though this would normally not be his thing, he dutifully read it for me—perhaps because he’d not seen me so animated about a book in quite some time—and we began to immediately implement the changes you outlined. This book changed our lives because it changed the way we looked at our lives, and what they could be, and how we use our privilege and the choices we made every day to be happy.

    So, I’ve been waiting a long time to say this, but: thank you.

    In your field, is there a common misperception or incorrect assumption that you’d like to correct?

    I’m on a crusade to get us to stop listening to the messengers riding in on the Four Horsemen of the Success Apocalypse: balance, purpose, happiness, and passion.

    Purpose! This idea that the only careers that matter are ones that fix the world, the one that demand the shirt off our backs, the ones where service is only service if it also means sacrifice.

    Balance! This fleeting, ephemeral, impossible to reach idea that work and life must be perfectly separate and always equal to one another, as if work and life should have nothing to do with one another.

    Happiness! That terrible phrase that kills our dreams before they even leave our mouths, “I’ll be happy when…” I’ll be happy when I go on vacation. I’ll be happy when I pay off my debt. I’ll be happy when I get married. I’ll be happy when I find a new job. Why can’t we be happy now?

    Passion! We’ve all seen her. That beautiful, perfectly beach waved flaxen haired beauty, staring off into the sunset over the dunes or, um, Coachella. “Follow Your Dreams!” It’s the spoken word illegitimate sister of the Live Love Laugh tattoo!

    The four horsemen set up a false choice. A binary choice between whether or not we have purpose or are pushing paper, whether or not we have perfect balance or the edges of our lives bleed together, whether we are happy by these false standards, or whether we have passion or are miserable sell-outs. I’m calling bull on all of it. The four horsemen build a create a false foundation on which we build a life, and then we realize that that life was meant for someone else. It’s no wonder we can’t live boldly into that life.

    You can’t be insatiably hungry for other people’s goals, for other people’s definitions of success. So, what does success look like for me? What would make me truly happy? If we could all, collectively, say, “Screw the Joneses!” and fail at living into everyone else’s expectations, so that we can make room for our own.

    Besides, why are we taking advice from girls in flower crowns, anyway?!?

    limitless book

     
  • feedwordpress 09:00:26 on 2019/03/28 Permalink
    Tags: , , , , , Interview, , , The Home Edit   

    Clea Shearer and Joanna Teplin: “An Efficient and Beautiful Space Gives Us Peace of Mind and Streamlines Our Routines.” 


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    Interview: Clea Shearer and Joanna Teplin.

    Clea Shearer and Joanna Teplin are friends and business partners. They started "The Home Edit" to reinvent traditional organizing and merge it with design and interior styling.

    The Home Edit service will organize every space in the home, from bedrooms and kitchens, to closets and pantries. Every project receives meticulous attention to detail, carefully considered systems, and a signature aesthetic. They can come to you—even if you're in a different state—or work online.

    This team serves as the organizers to the stars, including huge celebrities like Gwyneth Paltrow and Reese Witherspoon.

    Their new book just hit the shelves: The Home Edit: A Guide to Organizing and Realizing Your House Goals.

    As you can imagine, I couldn't wait to hear them discuss their views on clutter, organization, habits, and happiness. More outer order for all!

    Gretchen: What’s a simple activity or habit that consistently makes you happier, healthier, more productive, or more creative?

    Clea and Joanna: Can we say organizing or is that too obvious? But, seriously—an efficient and beautiful space gives us peace of mind and streamlines our routines. When you know what you have and where it is, it’s the simplest thing and yet so gratifying.

    What’s something you know now about happiness that you didn’t know when you were 18 years old?

    As two people who’ve now made a living off of their type-A (or let’s be honest, neurotic) personalities, we’ve come to learn that following your intuition and passion is worth the risk—even if it scares the hell out of you at first. In fact, we didn’t know much about each other when we decided to start a business together. We had lunch—a four-hour lunch—and discussed worldwide organizing domination. The only thing we could really discern is that we felt like we had a similar work ethic and that we didn’t do anything halfway. We got that gut feeling that we’re just the kind of people who go all in—and thankfully, we did.

    Have you ever managed to gain a challenging healthy habit—or to break an unhealthy habit? If so, how did you do it?

    As organizers, we’re the first to say that routine is everything. And when it comes to making or breaking a habit, we believe that it comes down to being honest with yourself and creating systems that simplify and ease you into the process. For instance, I hate working out and I’m constantly making excuses for why I need to skip. So I started packing a gym bag and putting it in my trunk. The fact that I didn’t have to do the extra step of choosing what clothes to wear or having to go home to change was what I needed to jumpstart the habit, without me even realizing I was doing it.

    Does anything tend to interfere with your ability to keep your healthy habits or your happiness? (e.g. travel, parties, email)

    We travel a lot—especially now that we’re on our book tour. We’ve both woken up on multiple occasions and completely forgotten what city we’re in. We literally have to remind each other. In order to stay sane and not lose our routine, we’ve become better about prioritizing our time and commitments—and not feeling guilty for it.

    Is there a particular motto or saying that you’ve found very helpful? (e.g., I remind myself to “Be Gretchen.”)

    We have two particular mottos that we live by that have actually become parallel to our brand—Surviving Not Thriving and Low Bar Lifestyle. It’s all about setting the bar just low enough that you can accomplish all kinds of bite-size victories because life is too short to feel residual guilt about not wearing real pants or making it to the gym every day. We feel the same way about organizing. There’s nothing wrong with starting with a smaller project, then taking the confidence and knowledge you gain from that and applying it to something larger.

    In your field, is there a common misperception or incorrect assumption that you’d like to correct?

    We find that people tend to view organizing as extremely overwhelming or near impossible. The truth is that if we can do it, you can do it. It’s why we decided to write our book in the first place—to give people the tools and a step-by-step guide to creating efficient and beautiful spaces in their own homes. The other common misperception is that an organized space will take a ton of effort to maintain. The truth is that when you create systems that work seamlessly with your space and lifestyle, maintenance is as simple as putting things where they belong and setting aside time each month for a mini edit. Labeling and color-coding with ROYGBIV are methods we use that act as instructions (or a guilt mechanism) to put things back in their designated home.

     
  • feedwordpress 09:00:26 on 2019/03/28 Permalink
    Tags: , , , , , Interview, ,   

    Clea Shearer and Joanna Teplin: “An Efficient and Beautiful Space Gives Us Peace of Mind and Streamlines Our Routines.” 


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    Interview: Clea Shearer and Joanna Teplin.

    Clea Shearer and Joanna Teplin are friends and business partners. They started "The Home Edit" to reinvent traditional organizing and merge it with design and interior styling.

    The Home Edit service will organize every space in the home, from bedrooms and kitchens, to closets and pantries. Every project receives meticulous attention to detail, carefully considered systems, and a signature aesthetic. They can come to you—even if you're in a different state—or work online.

    This team serves as the organizers to the stars, including huge celebrities like Gwyneth Paltrow and Reese Witherspoon.

    Their new book just hit the shelves: The Home Edit: A Guide to Organizing and Realizing Your House Goals.

    As you can imagine, I couldn't wait to hear them discuss their views on clutter, organization, habits, and happiness. More outer order for all!

    Gretchen: What’s a simple activity or habit that consistently makes you happier, healthier, more productive, or more creative?

    Clea and Joanna: Can we say organizing or is that too obvious? But, seriously—an efficient and beautiful space gives us peace of mind and streamlines our routines. When you know what you have and where it is, it’s the simplest thing and yet so gratifying.

    What’s something you know now about happiness that you didn’t know when you were 18 years old?

    As two people who’ve now made a living off of their type-A (or let’s be honest, neurotic) personalities, we’ve come to learn that following your intuition and passion is worth the risk—even if it scares the hell out of you at first. In fact, we didn’t know much about each other when we decided to start a business together. We had lunch—a four-hour lunch—and discussed worldwide organizing domination. The only thing we could really discern is that we felt like we had a similar work ethic and that we didn’t do anything halfway. We got that gut feeling that we’re just the kind of people who go all in—and thankfully, we did.

    Have you ever managed to gain a challenging healthy habit—or to break an unhealthy habit? If so, how did you do it?

    As organizers, we’re the first to say that routine is everything. And when it comes to making or breaking a habit, we believe that it comes down to being honest with yourself and creating systems that simplify and ease you into the process. For instance, I hate working out and I’m constantly making excuses for why I need to skip. So I started packing a gym bag and putting it in my trunk. The fact that I didn’t have to do the extra step of choosing what clothes to wear or having to go home to change was what I needed to jumpstart the habit, without me even realizing I was doing it.

    Does anything tend to interfere with your ability to keep your healthy habits or your happiness? (e.g. travel, parties, email)

    We travel a lot—especially now that we’re on our book tour. We’ve both woken up on multiple occasions and completely forgotten what city we’re in. We literally have to remind each other. In order to stay sane and not lose our routine, we’ve become better about prioritizing our time and commitments—and not feeling guilty for it.

    Is there a particular motto or saying that you’ve found very helpful? (e.g., I remind myself to “Be Gretchen.”)

    We have two particular mottos that we live by that have actually become parallel to our brand—Surviving Not Thriving and Low Bar Lifestyle. It’s all about setting the bar just low enough that you can accomplish all kinds of bite-size victories because life is too short to feel residual guilt about not wearing real pants or making it to the gym every day. We feel the same way about organizing. There’s nothing wrong with starting with a smaller project, then taking the confidence and knowledge you gain from that and applying it to something larger.

    In your field, is there a common misperception or incorrect assumption that you’d like to correct?

    We find that people tend to view organizing as extremely overwhelming or near impossible. The truth is that if we can do it, you can do it. It’s why we decided to write our book in the first place—to give people the tools and a step-by-step guide to creating efficient and beautiful spaces in their own homes. The other common misperception is that an organized space will take a ton of effort to maintain. The truth is that when you create systems that work seamlessly with your space and lifestyle, maintenance is as simple as putting things where they belong and setting aside time each month for a mini edit. Labeling and color-coding with ROYGBIV are methods we use that act as instructions (or a guilt mechanism) to put things back in their designated home.

     
  • feedwordpress 11:00:48 on 2019/03/21 Permalink
    Tags: , , , Catherine Burns, Interview, Occasional Magic, storytelling, The Moth   

    “If We Do Nothing But Try to Manage Well What We Do Have Control Over, We’ll Find We Have More Control Than We Think.” 


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    Interview: Catherine Burns.

    I met Catherine Burns when we had an hour-long conversation at a rooftop deck party thrown by a publishing house. Not long after that, we did an event together about podcasts. Every time I see her, I love getting the chance to talk about storytelling, speaking, audience engagement, and every other topic we wander into.

    She's the long-time Artistic Director of The Moth, which is a non-profit group in New York City dedicated to the art of storytelling. They're best known for their storytelling events, where a group of people each tell a carefully crafted story—a true story—around a theme.

    The Moth is a live event, a podcast and a radio show. And now there's a new book: The Moth Presents Occasional Magic: True Stories About Defying the Impossible. "From storytelling phenomenon and hit podcast The Moth—and featuring contributions from Meg Wolitzer, Adam Gopnik, Krista Tippett, Andrew Solomon, Rosanne Cash, Ophira Eisenberg, Wang Ping, and more—a new collection of unforgettable true stories about finding the strength to face the impossible, drawn from the very best ever told on its stages."

    I couldn't wait to talk to Catherine about happiness, habits, and productivity.

    Gretchen: What’s a simple activity or habit that consistently makes you happier, healthier, more productive, or more creative?

    Catherine: Hands down: exercise. It really is medicine for me. If I can get either 10,000 steps in or a vigorous 2- or 3-mile walk in, I feel like a different person. It reduces my anxiety and seems to make my brain cylinders fire faster. I used to think I didn’t have time to exercise, but I’m so much more efficient on days when I work out that I now feel that I don’t have time not to exercise! I’ve been trying to add a longer walk on weekends—there’s a six-mile loop that goes from from my house in Brooklyn over the Manhattan Bridge, through Chinatown, then back over the Brooklyn Bridge to home. Doing that walk makes me so happy!

    What’s something you know now about happiness that you didn’t know when you were 18 years old?

    That nobody is coming to save me, and that happiness is a choice. I used to have this fantasy (Well, I see it as a fantasy now. At the time, I thought it was a fact.) that if I did X, Y, or Z the world would just fall into place. When people did things that made my life more difficult, I took it very personally—it would hurt my feelings and I’d feel like a victim, which was exhausting for me and also for the people around me. Now I know that my happiness comes from how I choose to react to the circumstances of my life, not from the circumstance itself. Most of us are lucky in that we have more agency in our lives than we may realize. If we do nothing but try to manage well what we do have control over, we’ll find that we have more control than we think. This realization makes it easier to deal with the things we actually can’t control.

    You’ve done fascinating research. What has surprised or intrigued you—or your readers—most?

    My work at The Moth involves people telling stories from their own lives in front of live audiences around the world. The best stories end up on our radio show and podcast and in our books. There’s a narrative being shared in the media right now that we are a country divided, and that the damage of that division is beyond repair. But I find again and again that what connects us to one another is almost always bigger than what separates us. I’ve seen people from very different backgrounds, with differing belief systems, bond deeply after hearing each other’s stories. On our first national tour, our storytellers included a retired NYPD detective and a former pickpocket who had spent years in Attica. Back in the day, their turf was Greenwich Village and they definitely would have been at odds with each other. But through telling their stories night after night they became close friends. We see this again and again. More recently, there’s David Montgomery, who has a story in our new book, Occasional Magic, about quitting his job to follow the Spice Girls around on their last world tour. The story is really about him becoming comfortable in his own skin as a gay man and how he and his mother were able to repair their strained relationship. After the story aired, he received several emails from parents of gay children who heard his story and then reached out to their own estranged children. We were all blown away by this!

    Have you ever managed to gain a challenging healthy habit—or to break an unhealthy habit? If so, how did you do it?

    I have pretty much cut out sugar and I no longer drink soda. I was able to do it by focusing on how much better and more energetic I feel without it!

    Would you describe yourself as an Upholder, a Questioner, a Rebel, or an Obliger?

    I am definitely an Obliger, though I wanted to resist that when I first heard about the Tendencies. What gave me pause is that I’m very often Obliger-like, but I also have a pretty strong streak of Rebel in me at times. One day I heard you talking on your podcast about Obliger Rebellion and a big lightbulb went off. I realized I’d been obliging for so long that in some ways (as I later joked with my friends) my life had become one big Obliger Rebellion. Embracing this has helped me bring about some meaningful change in my life. For instance, I’m working on eating healthier and exercising, and as an Obliger I benefit from outward accountability. But it doesn’t entirely work without a few Rebel rules thrown in (like telling myself that I’m the kind of person who runs in the park every morning, or that I’m the kind of person who sets a healthy example for my nine-year-old son).  

    Does anything tend to interfere with your ability to keep your healthy habits or your happiness? (e.g., travel, parties, email)

    The disease of busyness is always a threat to my habits. When I’m away from work and completely in control of my own time, I tend to do well. I wake up early, read, meditate, walk daily, cook, and eat healthfully. I hear about people indulging too much on vacations, but for me it’s usually just the opposite. But when things get busy it’s very easy for my healthy habits to fall by the wayside. It helps me to remember how much happier I am when I stick with my habits, and actually doing things every day keeps me from the dreaded “decision fatigue.”

    This is a little embarrassing to admit, but I have quotes and poems that inspire me set to pop up regularly on my electronic “to-do” list so that I re-read them daily/weekly/monthly and then check them off as “done.” The quotes change depending on what I’m working on right then, and they help keep me in touch with my deepest values instead of getting dragged down by the details of daily life. One of them is actually a quote from you, Gretchen, that speaks to this: “Habits are freeing and energizing because they get us out of the draining, difficult business of making decisions and using our self-control. When something’s important to us, and we want it to happen frequently, making it into a habit means that it does happen, and without a lot of fuss.” Amen!

    Have you ever been hit by a lightning bolt, where you made a major change very suddenly, as a consequence of reading a book, a conversation with a friend, a milestone birthday, a health scare, etc.?

    I am stumped by this question, but I will say that thousands upon thousands of Moth stories are about a lightning bolt moment—something that happened that forever changed the storyteller.

    Is there a particular motto or saying that you’ve found very helpful? (e.g., I remind myself to “Be Gretchen.”)

    “The price of glory is high.” My high school marching band director used to say that, and it’s true. When I’m feeling overwhelmed by my to-do list, I try to remember how lucky I am to have a job that I love, doing work that’s meaningful to me. So it’s worth the occasional sacrifice.

    Has a book ever changed your life—if so, which one and why?

    Yes: Here If You Need Me by Kate Braestrup. I always say that if I could force everyone I love to read just one book it would be that one. Kate is the chaplain for the Maine game wardens, so she’s the person sitting with you if your child is lost in the woods. She also takes care of the game wardens themselves when things go wrong. The book is about how to hold space for your community during difficult times, and I read it during a particularly challenging period in my life, when I was trying to show up for our staff after a tumultuous event. Kate’s work has helped me find the courage to lead and show up as my best self even when I’m not feeling particularly strong or capable in the moment. She writes about a lot of serious things, but she’s also one of the funniest people I know, so the book is a joy to read. Kate has gone on to tell a number of riveting stories at The Moth.

    In your field, is there a common misperception or incorrect assumption that you’d like to correct?

    People think that by practicing telling a story it won’t feel spontaneous and you’ll make the story worse. But the opposite is true. The more you know the beats of your story, the more you can have fun with it and play with it on stage. You need to have the scaffolding in place and really know where the story is going if you want to be able to improv and play on stage. Moth stories aren’t memorized, but a great deal of time goes into crafting them so they can be told well in ten minutes. Ironically, it takes a lot of practice to appear spontaneous on stage!

     
  • feedwordpress 09:00:11 on 2019/03/19 Permalink
    Tags: , , , , Interview, Julie Zhou, , , The Making of a Manager,   

    “It’s Okay for a Manager to Say, ‘I Don’t Know, But Let’s Figure It Out Together.’” 


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    Interview: Julie Zhuo

    Julie Zhuo is one of Silicon Valley’s top product design executives. She leads the teams behind some of the world's most popular mobile and web services used by billions of people every day. She writes about technology, design, and leadership on her popular blog The Year of the Looking Glass and in publications like the New York Times and Fast Company. She graduated with a computer science degree from Stanford University and lives with her husband and two children in California.

    Now she's written a terrific book about her insights, experiences, mistakes, and conclusions called The Making of a Manager: What to Do When Everyone Looks to You. It's a fascinating look at how to manage—especially when your team keeps getting bigger and bigger.

    I couldn't wait to talk to Julie about happiness, habits, and productivity.

    Gretchen: What’s a simple activity or habit that consistently makes you happier, healthier, more productive, or more creative?

    Julie: I take 10 to 20 minutes every night before I go to bed to do something that’s just for me. Seventy percent of the time, it’s me lighting a candle and reading a few pages of my “book of the moment,” (I’m currently reading The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas), but I also sometimes do crossword puzzles, watch a video, or catch up with friends over text. I started to do this during a period of my life when I was extremely stressed after coming back to work from parental leave, which I talk about in my book, The Making of a Manager. I was having trouble falling asleep at night because I was furiously working until my head hit the pillow. I realized I needed a “transition” period into sleep—some time that was solely for me where I could do anything I wanted without feeling guilty about it. So that’s where this habit started. I’ve slept a lot better since.

    Gretchen: What’s something you know now about happiness that you didn’t know when you were 18 years old?

    Julie: That as time passes, happiness feels less like pure joy and more like deep satisfaction or contentment. It’s like the flavor has changed from fireworks to a lovely scenic view.

    Gretchen: Have you ever managed to gain a challenging healthy habit—or to break an unhealthy habit? If so, how did you do it?

    Julie: Fitness is my Achilles heel. I love the idea of being strong and healthy and having a daily regime. I hate the actual feeling of exercising. All of those people who rave about getting that “runner’s high” where you’re in this blissful state where it feels like you can just keep on going forever? Nope, that is the opposite of my experience. Every time I am exercising (and I have tried many, many times to get on that bandwagon), the only thing that is in my mind is, “Wow, this sucks. When can I stop?” I’d start classes or set New Year’s resolutions or train for a 5K over the course of weeks, sometimes even months, but inevitably I’d slip back into my old habit, and I’d lapse into months of no exercise again. This was the pattern until about four years ago, when I stumbled upon an insight of building "tiny habits." I started to set a goal of exercising for 10-15 minutes a day every morning. It felt like so little time that there really was no excuse. I could always manage to squeeze it in right before a shower. And it was short enough that the pain would be relatively contained. I found I was able to keep this habit going indefinitely.

    Gretchen: Would you describe yourself as an Upholder, a Questioner, a Rebel, or an Obliger?

    Julie: Upholder. I take my obligations to others and to myself seriously. If you come over for dinner, I will stuff you silly with great food but also stuff myself silly.

    Gretchen: Does anything tend to interfere with your ability to keep your healthy habits or your happiness? (e.g. travel, parties, email)

    Julie: I’m pretty good at staying present, but I am been known to succumb to the power of an overactive phone lighting up with pings and e-mails. I’ve found the best solution is to quarantine the phone for specific hours of the day, especially weekends, so I can focus on spending time with my family.

    Gretchen: Have you ever been hit by a "lightning bolt," where you made a major change very suddenly, as a consequence of reading a book, a conversation with a friend, a milestone birthday, a health scare, etc.?

    Julie: I love January and the feeling of the the promise of a New Year, so my husband and I have a tradition called “Cleanuary,” where we try to create a recurring lightning bolt. For the month of January, we set ambitious health and cleaning goals and stick to them for 31 days as a cleanse from the excesses of the holidays. On the health side, we’ve done things like Whole30, a month of yoga, a Paleo diet, running every day, etc. On the cleaning side, we go through and Marie Kondo our entire house. Since it’s only a month, we ask our friends for suggestions on the latest health and lifestyle trends and incorporate them into our Cleanuary experiment. It’s much less daunting than the “stick- to-a-resolution-for-a-whole-year,” and sometimes little habits will emerge that change our lives beyond the month. For example, we eat much less sugar now than we used to, we learned to love black coffee, and we live with less stuff.

    Gretchen: Is there a particular motto or saying that you’ve found very helpful? (e.g., I remind myself to “Be Gretchen.”)

    Julie: I don’t have a particular favorite saying or motto, but in starting my blog, one of the quotes I happened upon was from Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass: "I know who I WAS when I got up this morning, but I think I must have been changed several times since then.” I liked it because it carried the whimsy of Wonderland, and also because it suggested growth—that every day we can learn and change and become better. I ended up calling my blog “The Looking Glass” because I wanted it to be a reflection of my personal growth.

    Gretchen: Has a book ever changed your life—if so, which one and why?

    Julie: This one is easy. Mindset by Carol Dweck. I grew up as a perfectionist with the notion that there was a “correct” or “best” way to do everything. I believed life was a series of tests where you tried your best to achieve that “best” way. When I read Mindset, I was stunned to discover that this mentality had a name—fixed mindset—and was an incredibly limiting way to think about the world. The alternative mindset was growth mindset, which meant adopting the stance that there is no such thing as perfect. Everything can be improved with will and effort. This was so powerful to read and completely changed my perspective on how I approach failure, how I give or receive feedback, how willing I am to take on new challenges. Every day, I see examples of tension or lack of confidence in the workplace, and so much of it boils down to people’s mindsets. Recognizing and addressing this is something I talk a lot about in The Making of a Manager.

    Gretchen: In your field, is there a common misperception or incorrect assumption that you’d like to correct?

    Julie: The Making of a Manager is about management, so here’s one of the biggest misconceptions: that managers know all the answers. This is a huge fallacy, and makes many early career managers feel secretly inadequate or come to the table with a case of savior’s complex. A manager’s job is to help a group of people get to an answer, not to know everything herself. It’s okay to say, “I don’t know, but let’s figure it out together.” It’s okay to express vulnerability. In my experience, doing so wins you more credibility and nets you a stronger team effort than pretending like you’ve got that perfect master plan.

     
  • feedwordpress 10:00:09 on 2019/02/21 Permalink
    Tags: Ashley Whillans, , , Harvard Business Review, Interview, , , Time for Happiness,   

    “If Time is Money, Money Can Also Buy Happier Time.” 


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    Interview: Ashley Whillans

    Ashley Whillans is a Harvard Business School professor and behavioral scientist whose research explores the connection between how we spend time to how we experience happiness. Her recent Harvard Business Review series "Time Poor and Unhappy" looks at why we feel so starved for time today when, in fact, we have more discretionary hours than ever before.

    I couldn't wait to talk to Ashley about happiness, habits, and productivity.

    Gretchen: What’s a simple activity or habit that consistently makes you happier, healthier, more productive, or more creative?

    Ashley: My colleagues and I have conducted survey and experimental research with nearly 100,000 working adults from around the world. Across studies, we find that the happiest people prioritize time over money. People who are willing to give up money to gain more free time—such as by working fewer hours or paying to outsource disliked tasks—experience more fulfilling social relationships, more satisfying careers, and more joy. Overall, people who prioritize time over money live happier lives. Importantly, the benefits of choosing time over money emerge for the wealthy and less wealthy alike. Even spending as little as $40 to save time can significantly boost happiness and reduce stress. Our research suggests that even small actions—like savoring our meals, engaging in 30 minutes of exercise, or having a 5-minute conversation with a colleague (vs. focusing on work) can significantly shape happiness, more than most of us predict.

    Gretchen: You’ve done fascinating research. What has surprised or intrigued you—or your readers—most?

    Ashley: Over and over, I find that prioritizing time over money increases happiness. Despite this, most people continue striving to make more money. For example, in one survey, only 48 percent of respondents reported that they would rather have more time than more money. Even the majority of people who were most pressed for time—parents with full-time jobs and young children at home—shared this preference for money over time. In another study, the very wealthy (i.e., individuals with over 3 million dollars of liquid wealth sitting in the bank) did not always prioritize time over money either. These data suggest that a key challenge to reducing feelings of time stress and increasing happiness for a broad range of the population is psychological: most people erroneously believe that wealth will make our lives better. Research shows that once people make more than enough to meet their basic needs, additional money does not reliably promote greater happiness. Yet over and over, our choices do not reflect this reality.

    Gretchen: Have you ever been hit by a lightning bolt, where you made a major change very suddenly, as a consequence of reading a book, a conversation with a friend, a milestone birthday, a health scare, etc.?

    Ashley: As a happiness researcher, I should know better than to choose money over time. Yet, admittedly, like most people, I make these trade-offs suboptimally. I worked for an hour during my wedding reception and I can often be found typing on my laptop or taking work meetings in spa locker rooms. However, a recent experience solidified for me the importance of focusing on time over money. Two weeks ago, one of my closest friends from graduate school shared some devastating news: Her 32-year-old, fit, healthy partner was dying. Out of nowhere, her partner was diagnosed with terminal metastatic cancer. He was given three months to live. In her fundraising page my friend wrote, “We thought we had all the time in the world.” Today, my friend and her boyfriend ‘immediately-turned-husband’ are trying to savor every second of their time together before the inevitable. As a 30-year old myself, who has focused most of the last 10 years on my career (often at the expense of my sleep, my health, and my personal relationships), this experience was a wake-up call. None of us know how much time we have left, and we cannot take money with us. I have studied the importance of prioritizing time for years. And now, I have started truly trying to live this priority.

    Gretchen: Is there a particular motto or saying that you’ve found very helpful? (e.g., I remind myself to “Be Gretchen.”)

    Ashley: Benjamin Franklin wrote “Time is Money.” My personal mantra is a play on this familiar quote: “If Time is Money, Money Can Also Buy Happier Time."

    Gretchen: Has a book ever changed your life—if so, which one and why?

    Ashley: The book that changed my life is Dan Gilbert’s Stumbling on Happiness. This book introduced me to the scientific study of well-being. Dan Gilbert argues that we often mispredict what will make us happy. His persuasive arguments and energetic, insightful and witty writing inspired me to become a social scientist. Specifically, this book solidified my interest in conducting research to learn how to successfully nudge all of us to spend our time and money in ways that are most likely to promote happiness.

     
  • feedwordpress 10:00:27 on 2019/02/14 Permalink
    Tags: , , , , , Cozy: The Art of Arranging Yourself in the World, , Interview, Isabel Gillies, ,   

    “Making One’s Bed In My Mind Is the Most Direct Road to a Happier Life.” 


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    Interview: Isabel Gillies

    Now, how do I know Isabel Gillies? The answer is lost in the sands of time. We have several mutual friends, perhaps that's how.

    She has had a very interesting, varied career. She is an actor who appeared, among other places, on the TV show Law & Order: Special Victims Unit and in the movie Metropolitan.

    She's also a highly successful writer. Her bestselling memoir Happens Every Day: An All-Too-True Story recounts the story of how her first marriage broke up, while A Year and Six Seconds: A Love Story is about the challenge of getting on with her life after the divorce; her young-adult novel Starry Night is about the passion of first love.

    Now in her latest book, she's tackled a different kind of subject: Cozy: The Art of Arranging Yourself in the World.

    I couldn't wait to talk to Isabel about happiness, habits, and productivity.

    Gretchen: What’s a simple activity or habit that consistently makes you happier, healthier, more productive, or more creative?

    Isabel: Making one's bed in my mind is the most direct road to a happier life. It's manageable, satisfying and cozy.

    What’s something you know now about happiness that you didn’t know when you were 18 years old?

    As I edge closer to 50, I find that happiness comes from trying the best you can to stay right in the very moment you are in. Don't worry about the past or future, just be in the moment. Noticing the light, or a smell, or the sound of the dog breathing will help you just be right where you are.

    You’ve done fascinating research. What has surprised or intrigued you—or your readers—most?

    I did a lot of research for Cozy, and what tickled me the most was that when I asked people what makes them cozy, everyone smiled.

    Have you ever managed to gain a challenging healthy habit—or to break an unhealthy habit? If so, how did you do it?

    YES! I quit smoking. I used a nicotine patch. Right before I turned 25 I thought, "It's kind of sexy to see a young woman smoking, it's really not sexy to see an older woman smoking." I marched to the drug store, got the patch and never smoked again. It was about making up my mind, and committing.

    Would you describe yourself as an Upholder, a Questioner, a Rebel, or an Obliger?

    Upholder (just took the quiz).

    Does anything tend to interfere with your ability to keep your healthy habits or your happiness? (e.g. travel, parties, email)

    TEENAGERS! No, it's not them per se, it's my inability to stay in the moment, and put everything in its right place. Someone once told me that teenagers are on a roller coaster and as a parent your job is NOT to get on the roller coaster with them—just stand on the side. Sometimes I get on.

    Have you ever been hit by a lightning bolt, where you made a major change very suddenly, as a consequence of reading a book, a conversation with a friend, a milestone birthday, a health scare, etc.?

    Even though I'm healthy (knock on wood), recently my doctor told me I had gained 12 pounds in 2 years. I have always eaten anything I wanted, whenever I wanted—but I guess when I hit menopause that all got turned on its ear. I walked out of his office and decided I would think more about calories in, calories out, and act on it daily—I got an app! I'm having radical acceptance about it. We change—what is there to do but deal with it?

    Is there a particular motto or saying that you’ve found very helpful? (e.g., I remind myself to “Be Gretchen.”) Or a quotation that has struck you as particularly insightful?

    "Radical Acceptance."

    Has a book ever changed your life—if so, which one and why?

    Stephen King's On Writing. When I decided to become a writer, I read his book and followed his lead. I'm dyslexic and was an actress. I never had any expectation of becoming a writer so I never took a class or workshop. King was my teacher.

    In the area you’re writing about, is there a common misperception or incorrect assumption that you’d like to correct?

    I'm writing about being cozy. I think people believe coziness is about fires, hot chocolate and cashmere sweaters. I'm making the case that coziness comes from the truth of who you are. You can be cozy on the subway; I always am. If you know what you like, your beat, your point of view, you can carry that anywhere you find yourself and call upon it to find coziness, even challenging circumstances like a hospital.

     
  • feedwordpress 10:00:19 on 2019/02/07 Permalink
    Tags: , , , Brave Not Perfect, Girls Who Code, Interview, Reshma Saujani   

    “Sometimes I Have to Remind Myself that Being the Best Me Doesn’t Mean Saying ‘Yes’ to Every Meeting.” 


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    Interview: Reshma Saujani

    Reshma Saujani founded a tech organization called Girls Who Code, and she served as the Deputy Public Advocate in the Office of the Public Advocate here in New York City.

    In addition to that, she's just written a new book: Brave, Not Perfect: Fear Less, Fail More, and Live Bolder.

    So many of my favorite Secrets of Adulthood are observations along these lines. Don't get it perfect, get it started. Don't let the perfect be the enemy of the good. If I'm not failing, I'm not trying hard enough. Enjoy the fun of failure. The best time to start is now. Wherever I am, and whenever it is, I'm in the right place to begin. Etc.

    I couldn't wait to talk to Reshma about happiness, habits, and productivity.

    Gretchen: What’s a simple activity or habit that consistently makes you happier, healthier, more productive, or more creative?

    Reshma: Getting in my morning workout! I know that I feel my best and I do my best when I’ve spent an hour sweating it out and showering before sitting down at my desk in the morning. And my favorite part? I schedule it to be inconvenient to others! Sure, my dog Stan needs to go for a walk and my son Shaan wants to play Rescue Bots with me, but I take that hour for me—and I’m a better mom, a better thinker, and a better boss for it.

    Gretchen: What’s something you know now about happiness that you didn’t know when you were 18 years old?

    Reshma: When I was 18, I thought I had it all figured out—I was going to change the world, and that meant hitting every checkpoint along the way perfectly. I had to be the perfect immigrant daughter—I was going to go to Yale Law School like so many other politicians and I was going to get 100% in every class and do everything just right. And even though it took a few tries, I did that. I got into Yale and graduated with a law degree, but I still wasn’t happy. It wasn’t until I did something that totally terrified me—quitting my cushy job and running for office—that I realized that bravery (and sometimes failing!) really was the secret to living my best life.

    Gretchen: You’ve done fascinating research. What has surprised or intrigued you—or your readers—most?

    Reshma: I did a ton of research when writing Brave, Not Perfect, and one story that I can’t get out of my head right now is how deeply ingrained that impulse to please really is. One study from ABC News, with the help of psychologist Campbell Leaper from the University of California, is especially powerful—and the video is even better! The researchers gave groups of boys and girls a glass of lemonade that was objectively awful (they added salt instead of sugar) and asked how they liked it. The boys immediately said, “Eeech . . . this tastes disgusting!” All the girls, however, politely drank it, even choked it down. Only when the researchers pushed and asked the girls why they hadn’t told them the lemonade was terrible did the girls admit that they hadn’t wanted to make the researchers feel bad.

    Gretchen: Would you describe yourself as an Upholder, a Questioner, a Rebel, or an Obliger?

    Reshma: I think I’m an Obliger! [Gretchen: Yes, that certainly seems correct.] I’ve always struggled with perfectionism, and trying to do everything that was expected of me, but a lot of the times, I’ll give up on listening to myself. I’ve definitely been working on that, and I’m a lot better at doing things for me than I used to be.

    Gretchen: Does anything tend to interfere with your ability to keep your healthy habits or your happiness? (e.g. travel, parties, email)

    Reshma: If anything, I’m usually the one standing in the way of my own happiness! I’m a notorious vacation email-checker, and sometimes I have to remind myself that being the best me doesn’t mean saying yes to every meeting. There are definitely times where I’ve taken a look at my calendar and had to put on my brave face and email people to change my RSVP to no! It’s always a balance—and I’m still working on getting that right.

    Gretchen: Have you ever been hit by a lightning bolt, where you made a major change very suddenly, as a consequence of reading a book, a conversation with a friend, a milestone birthday, a health scare, etc.?

    Reshma: My lightning bulb moment came in 2008. I was in a job that I hated, miles away from the life I thought I would be living and definitely not changing the world. I’d done everything “right”—gone to the “right” schools, met the “right” people, and taken the “right” jobs. But I was crying myself to sleep every night and dreading work every morning. When I heard Hillary Clinton giving her concession speech after the losing the primary, something she said struck me: that just because she failed doesn’t mean that the rest of us should give up on our goals and dreams. And I realized that there was no reason not to do exactly what I had always wanted to do: run for office! I called my dad, and I was so afraid to disappoint him, since there’s such a big pressure as a child of immigrant parents to have this perfect life. And what did he say when I said I was quitting my job? “It’s about time!” We’re our own harshest critics and so much of our perfectionism is actually self-imposed. The people in our lives, we think we are doing it all for them—but really they just want us to be happy.

    Gretchen: Is there a particular motto or saying that you’ve found very helpful? (e.g., I remind myself to “Be Gretchen.”)

    Reshma: One small thing that has totally been a game-changer for me is the word “yet.” Sometimes I get stuck in a rut of negativity, thinking “I’m not good at building my son’s toys,” “I can’t fix the broken setting on my computer,” or even “I’m just not good at saying no.” Tack on the word yet—and it’s a whole new mindset. Psychologist and motivational pioneer Carol Dweck referred to this as embracing the “power of yet” as opposed to “the tyranny of now.” It’s one of my favorite strategies for getting a little braver in my everyday life—I might not be there yet, but I will be one day.

    Gretchen: In your field, is there a common misperception or incorrect assumption that you’d like to correct?

    Reshma: First: I think we mistake perfection for excellence—and they are two different things. Excellence is a way of being, not a target you hit or miss. It allows you to take pride in the effort, regardless of the outcome. The irony is that perfectionism can actually impede excellence because the anxiety about screwing up that comes with perfectionism can actually be crippling.

    Second: there’s also a difference between striving for success and striving for perfection. So many women today are ambitious. But being a go-getter doesn’t make you gutsy. Perfectionism leads us to following the “expected path” without questioning if it’s genuinely right for us.

    brave not perfect

     
  • Crystal Ellefsen 21:15:39 on 2019/01/31 Permalink
    Tags: , , , , Interview, Mollie West Duffy, No Hard Feelings,   

    “Caring Too Much About a Job Is Unhelpful and Unhealthy.” 


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    What is the role of emotions in the workplace? How do you stay happy when other people are grouchy or stressed out? How do you unplug from work concerns to enjoy true leisure?

    I think about questions like these all the time, so I was very interested to hear about a new book, No Hard Feelings: The Secret Power of Embracing Emotions at Work.

    Liz Fosslien is a strategy and design consultant who has worked with companies including Salesforce, Ernst & Young, and the Stanford d.School.

    Mollie West Duffy is an organizational designer at IDEO New York. She has helped companies and start-ups such as Casper develop good workplace culture.

    If you love a great self-assessment quiz, you can take their quiz about "Emotions and You" to help you understand yourself, your team, and your organization better. Also, if you preorder their book, they have a special bonus for you here.

    I couldn't wait to talk to Liz and Mollie about happiness, habits, and productivity.

    Gretchen: What’s a simple activity or habit that consistently makes you happier, healthier, more productive, or more creative?

    Liz: I take photos of any design that I find interesting. I recently photographed: lotion packaging at Trader Joe’s, a tiny neon snail graffiti, some vibrant bricks, a sparkly Peet’s coffee cup, tangled white and gray wires, and a patch of floor dust. When I feel stuck in a creative rut, I scroll through my weird photos for inspiration.

    Mollie: Exercising first thing in the morning. It can be a run, barre class, or even reading my email and the news on my ipad while walking on the treadmill. Even if I only do it for 20 minutes, it gives me energy for the day, and no matter what else happens the rest of the day, at least I’ve accomplished that.

    Gretchen: What’s something you know now about happiness that you didn’t know when you were 18 years old?

    Liz: I wish I knew that happiness doesn’t mean always being happy. I used to fall into I’m-going-feel-like-this-forever spirals, which only made my bad feelings feel worse (e.g. I would get anxious about feeling anxious). Now when I have a blue moment, I realize it’s ok, and that I’ll feel better again soon.

    Mollie: That we have control over our own thoughts and thought patterns. I love the quote by Deepak Chopra: “There are only two things we can put our imagination to: one is anxiety, which is a form of imagination, and one is creativity. And we have to choose creativity in order to transform the world.”

    Gretchen: You’ve done fascinating research. What has surprised or intrigued you—or your readers—most?

    Liz: I knew that interviews aren’t the best way of assessing job applicants, but I was still surprised by this study: Yale Professor Jason Dana and his colleagues asked two groups of students to predict their classmates’ GPAs. One group only had access to past grades and current course enrollment, while the other was also allowed to conduct interviews. The students who interviewed their classmates were significantly worse at predicting future GPA. Even scarier, most didn’t notice that some interviewees had been instructed to give random and sometimes nonsensical responses.

    Mollie: Our readers are surprised to learn that emotions can also go viral. Researchers at Baylor University found a nasty coworker not only makes you and your family grumpy but may have a ripple effect that extends as far as your partner’s workplace. It happens like this: I come home irritated because of my crabby colleague and snap at my husband. He catches my bad mood and goes to work the next day equally irritable. My colleague’s sour attitude might then spread to my husband’s coworkers.

    Gretchen: Have you ever managed to gain a challenging healthy habit—or to break an unhealthy habit? If so, how did you do it?

    Mollie: I’m constantly working at being a better sleeper. I often have a hard time falling asleep, even though I go to bed early. I have created an elaborate bedtime ritual that usually helps. I watch 10-15 minutes of a slow British TV show (I highly recommend Escape to the Country on Netflix) in bed to unwind, and then listen to a boring audiobook on a 30-minute sleep timer. I also sleep with an eye mask, earplugs, and a white noise machine. My husband is a comedian, and he has worked this ritual into a joke he tells on stage.

    Gretchen: Would you describe yourself as an Upholder, a Questioner, a Rebel, or an Obliger?

    Liz: I am a Questioner—I find it hard to work on something when there isn't a clear goal. The upside is that I can use specific and sometimes overly ambitious goals to motivate myself. When I wanted to learn HTML, I sketched out a complicated website design, and with that vision in mind, was able to slog through a bunch of tutorials and documentation and actually build it.

    Mollie: I am definitely an Upholder. My mom has been telling me to “do less” since I was a small child. I am such a creature of habit, so the Upholder “discipline is my freedom” motto really resonates with me. Liz and I worked well together with this tendency combination. With the help of many Google Drive folders and documents, I made sure that we met all our deadlines (our editors were shocked when we handed our manuscript in ahead of schedule!), and Liz saw that our finished product was pithy and punchy by questioning until each section was necessary and helpful.

    Gretchen: Does anything tend to interfere with your ability to keep your healthy habits or your happiness? (e.g. travel, parties, email)

    Mollie: As an Upholder and an introvert, I can take on too much. There are daily habits like exercise, reading, and meditation, that I need to do for myself. But I also like to meet work, social, and book obligations. When I get overscheduled, I get overwhelmed.

    Gretchen: Is there a particular motto or saying that you’ve found very helpful? (e.g., I remind myself to “Be Gretchen.”) Or a quotation that has struck you as particularly insightful?

    Liz: I’ve always loved this line by Toni Morrison: “You wanna fly, you got to give up the sh*t that weighs you down.” It’s a good reminder to say no sometimes and to stop listening to the “you can’t do this” monster that lives in your brain.

    Gretchen: Has a book ever changed your life—if so, which one and why?

    Liz: I started drawing comics because of Calvin & Hobbes. There is a storyline where Calvin finds an injured raccoon and tries to nurse it back to health, but the raccoon doesn’t make it. Calvin and Hobbes mourn the raccoon and confront what it means to die. The entire story is told in black-and-white drawings, but it made me cry. To me, Calvin & Hobbes is such a shining example that you don’t need anything fancy to create a thing that will stick in someone’s heart forever.

    Gretchen: In your field, is there a common misperception or incorrect assumption that you’d like to correct?

    Liz and Mollie: We’re so often told to “pursue our passion.” It’s easy to assume that means we have to love every aspect of our job, and that work should consume us. But caring too much about a job is unhelpful and unhealthy. It makes small problems seem exceptional and throwaway remarks feel appalling. One of our new rules of emotion at work is to be less passionate about your job. This doesn’t mean don’t care, it just means keep a little more emotional distance between your identity and your work. This offers a solution to a lot of anguish! You won’t hyperventilate before a big presentation. You won’t be frustrated to tears by incompetent teammates. You will actually put your phone away on date night and you won’t be haunted by work FOMO as you backpack through Machu Picchu.

     
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