Hustle Hard Interview Project: Gretchen Rubin

I’m pretty much the most underdeveloped person I know. This makes for a lot of sticky situations and awkward moments that are probably only funny to people who don’t have to live with me or put up with me on a regular basis. To celebrate my 32nd birthday, I’ll be spending the next year on the Hustle Hard Interview Project. Each month, I’ll be interviewing one Hustler who embodies a quality or skill I admire. I hope to uncover some gems that bring me one step closer to being a fully-formed adult.

#1: PURSUIT OF HAPPINESS

There was never any question that New York Times bestselling author, Gretchen Rubin, had to be Interview #1 for my Hustle Hard Interview Project. If I’m being honest, I know that so much of the goodness that has come my way since my 30th birthday, September 1, 2010, is because of Gretchen. Her book, The Happiness Project, and her popular blog by the same name, are what inspired me to start Flourish in Progress.

EJL: I can’t help but think that all of the people you’ve inspired to be brave and pursue their own happiness are your Happiness Posse. You are, and I say this as the ultimate compliment, an amazing gang leader. What would be your street name?

GR: I have no idea! What do you suggest?

EJL: (rubs hands silently, giddy with the thought of giving this classy woman a street name)

EJL: While riding a New York city bus, you had the realization that although there were many elements in your life to be happy about, you were so busy with the Daily Hustle, it was hard to make time to appreciate and celebrate these elements. When this propelled you to start The Happiness Project, I’m sure your life became even busier. How do you make time for the things you consider important?
GR: I tell myself, “I have plenty of times for the things that are important to me. I can cram my life with the things I love.” That means that other things have to fall away–so I have to be aware of my real priorities. Now my life feels simpler, but also more rich.

EJL: I especially loved the chapter about Parenthood in your new book, Happier at Home, and the idea of giving warm greetings and farewells. Do you have another suggestion families could implement to increase happiness in life’s most sacred space, our home?

GR: Acknowledge the reality of other people’s feelings. This sounds obvious, but it’s very tempting to say things like, “Of course you’ll have fun,” “You’re not scared,” “You can’t be hungry,” etc. Under-react to a problem. Give gold stars. Make a joke of it. Celebrate holiday breakfasts. Make each of your children helpless with laughter each day. Take photos.

EJL: If someone came up to you right now and said, “I’m very unhappy and feel very lost. I just want one small doable step, something I can do RIGHT NOW,” what would you tell them?

GR: This sounds so basic that it’s almost laughable, but I’d say: Make sure you’re getting enough sleep. So many people who feel exhausted, paralyzed, apathetic are chronically sleep-deprived, and would feel a lot better with a regular habit of getting a good night’s sleep. Also, do something simple to connect with someone you love. The key to happiness is to have strong bonds with other people, so any time you spend your time, energy, or money in a way that deepens relationships, you’re likely to make yourself happier.

(EJL Note: This is forrealz a gem. I made a commitment to getting eight hours of sleep for the past three nights, and I didn’t push nobody in the face today. Dope.)

EJL: What do you think your life would have been life today if you hadn’t embarked on The Happiness Project?

GR: I was pretty happy when I started, but I’m a lot happier now. My life reflects my values more. I’m more patient, more tender, more thoughtful, more creative. Not all the time, but more often.

Happier at Home GIVEAWAY!

I am beyond thrilled to be giving away three copies of Gretchen’s new book, Happier at Home.  To enter, just leave a comment below sharing the ways you’ve pursued a deeper sense of happiness in your life. And, I JUST CAN’T RESIST: If you can think of a dope street name for Gretchen, who is truly the best Happiness Hustler I know, please share! ONLY comments left on  THIS blog post will count. No Twitter. No Facebook, yo.

P.S. Over the weekend, I signed up for an Instagram account. My username is flourishinprogress. If you don’t have a smartphone, you can still scope the pictures from the web by clicking on the link and “follow”ing along. I’ll be posting personal pictures that aren’t on the Flourish in Progress Facebook page.

first image via goodhousekeeping.com

second image via happiness-project.com

Monday Dare: Bitches and Brains

Every week, I challenge myself to a Monday Dare. Click on the link if you’d like to see the complete list of Monday Dares or learn more about its origin.

This week: Stop comparing

I’m pretty sure my life would be a lot easier if I were smarter. I can’t be totally certain of this because to have that kind of unwavering confidence about something, I feel like you need to experience it firsthand. But I live with some smart people and I know a bunch. When they rattle off their drink order at Starbucks, they don’t even need to look at the menu board seven or eight times like I do. They can look at it once and be done with it. Sometimes, I think they do it just to show off, but I let them have their moment.

I cheated a lot in high school. I feel comfortable admitting this to you because even if the school takes my diploma away, I’ve been setting aside a Just In Case I Need To Pay For A GED fund. There’s almost three dollars in there, so fuck those bitches, I’m going to be legitimate either way.

There were always one or two kids in each class who aced everything without even cracking open a book. A handful of others did well because they were responsible and had good habits. One of my best friends graduated as valedictorian. I asked her once what I had to do to get better grades, and she told me the key was to study every day. I tried her method for a few weeks, but it really cut into my sleep.

I envied the smart kids immensely. I compared myself to them constantly and thought about how much easier their lives were going to be because they could diagram sentences like it was a motherfucking breeze and knew how to program fun games into their graphing calculators.

The popular kids made me feel all kinds of jealousy too. They were always debating the merits of one party invitation over another. They had a choice. Yes, I had choices for my Friday evening too, but watching the TGIF block of programming on ABC or asking random strangers Age/Sex/Loc in AOL chatrooms seemed less glamorous.

Even now, as an adult, I’m not one of those bitches with a shitload of friends. Every time I’m around a group of new people, I trip over my words and say extremely inappropriate things. Also, I start to sweat a lot, and it’s always a conversation killer when I have to excuse myself to get a paper towel to stick under my arm.

I’m never going to be one of those people who debates going out vs. staying in because she just knows she’s going to run into a dozen people as soon as steps into the streets who all want to say “hello” and make small talk because she’s just so much fun to be around. And I’m making peace with the fact that I can no longer answer any of Cal’s questions when she’s doing her homework.

I’ll just be me. Sweaty me.

Do not spoil what you have by desiring what you have not; 
but remember that what you now have was once among the things only hoped for.
-Epicurus
(I don’t know who this motherfucker is, but based on his name,
I’m guessing he was from ancient times.)

Do you ever compare yourself to others? Get jealous about anything in particular?
P.S. A big shout-out to all the fabulous bitches I met during Bloggy Boot Camp Dallas over the weekend. Thank you for not booing me off while I was speaking. Let’s connect on the Flourish in Progress Facebook page or Twitter and stay in touch. Unless I offended you. Then, I’m sorry and it’s totally okay to ignore me forever.
image via friendsoftype.com

Monday Dare: Embracing (t)hug life: Part hood. Part good.

Every week, I challenge myself to a Monday Dare. Click on the link if you’d like to see the complete list of Monday Dares or learn more about its origin.

This week: Less hood. More good.

It’s a little disconcerting to me that I still haven’t gotten a handle on this whole parenting business. I’m not even talking about the really hard dilemmas like “teaching your kid that violence isn’t the answer” or “getting them to school on time every goddamn day.” I’ve got those covered. Mostly. Well, maybe “mostly” is overshooting, so I’m just going to downgrade it to “sometimes.”

Only “sometimes,” because if I’m being honest, violence feels awfully rich and satisfying when used at the right moments. I don’t know about you, but the High Road is a lonely barren place filled with potholes and those sticky burrs that cling to your socks and won’t come the fuck off. The Low Road is lush and green and heavily populated by lots of interesting characters. I like people watching. Sue me.

I’ve gotten pretty good about making sure Cal gets to school on time. I still don’t understand why children have to go to school five days a week though. What is there to learn? Once you get all the important lessons out of the way like “Don’t smoke crack,” “Always have an extra $20 in your sock in case shit goes down and your backpack gets stolen,” and “Don’t put mentos in a 2-liter bottle of Diet Coke,” the rest seems a little superfluous. Nice to know, but not essential for day-to-day living.

Also, I tell Cal to read a lot of thick books because when someone asks me a question I don’t understand, and I can’t be bothered to say “Come again?” I just quote a famous dead person. Then, the other person is confused, and I’m off the hook from answering. You can use this tip too if you want. I try not to be selfish with the valuable gems I’ve uncovered.

I think Cal has harbored suspicions for a while that her mother may not be, uh, what’s the nicest way to say this… sane  responsible  normal perfect. I can’t be sure, but it may have something to do with those times I made her eat oatmeal for breakfast while I ate a generous handful of Funyuns. Or that one time I interrupted Harv in the middle of a conference call to ask, “Do you think Tupac and Dre had real beef, or is it just cuz Dre didn’t go to Snoop’s trial?” (By the way, Harv didn’t know the answer, so I’ve pretty much dismissed him as useless, and he won’t be privy to my hip-hop questions anymore.)

Perhaps it happened over the weekend, when I tried to convince Cal that (t)hug life was an excellent choice for my 7th tattoo. She said, “Stop.” Now that I’m replaying it in my head, I don’t even think “stop” is a valid answer choice.

I wrote it out for her in case she didn’t get the significance of the parentheses. “I’m not all thug, Cal. I’m part hood, part good.”

But she still said it wasn’t a good idea, something I would regret when I’m older and wiser. I don’t want to accuse my own kid or anything, but maybe she just steered me away so she could use my idea herself. I ended up getting a different phrase tattooed on my arm (posted on the Flourish in Progress Facebook page).

I’m going to be less hood and more good this week, more of a traditional, normal mom. Whatever the fuck that means.

Are you an out-of-the-box parent? Did you have traditional or non-traditional parents?

P.S. Big ups to y’all for the wonderful interview suggestions as I embark on yet another yearlong project. Everyone who commented was entered into the giveaway for the mass of goodies BlueQ sent my way. Janette Romero and Leanne Koh, please email me your mailing address at flourishinprogress at gmail dot com.

P.P.S. If you’d like to feel smarter than at least one person every single day, then let’s get connected on the Flourish in Progress Facebook page. I can make that happen for you.

image via blueq.com