Transcript: How to Be Happier (and More Profitable) with Gretchen Rubin

September 24, 2015

AMY PORTERFIELD: Hey there, Amy Porterfield here. Welcome to another episode of The Online Marketing Made Easy Podcast. This is the summer of interviews for me. I’ve been batching my interviews and doing so many of them. 

I’ll get back to doing solo shows as well because I really enjoy doing solo shows. They feel like mini trainings that I get to create. I’ve been doing a lot of interviews because I wanted to talk about topics where I am not necessarily the expert but the topics really peak my interest and I knew they would for you as well. 

I always try to bring you interviews that are related to you growing your  online business. Today we’re not going to be talking about the nuts and bolts of online marketing. It’s not going to be a how-to or step-by-step type of training. However, it’s going to be equally, if not more, important. 

Today we are talking to New York Times Bestselling author, speaker, and blogger, Gretchen Rubin. You likely know Gretchen from the 2009 debut of her smash hit book, The Happiness Project. It is such an amazing book. 

It really hit a nerve with the public because once that book came out tons of book clubs popped up. The book’s not brand new and still today you see book clubs talking about this all over the place. You actually see professors assigning it to their students in college and psychiatrists recommending it to their clients as well. 

It really runs the gamut. So, if you don’t have The Happiness Project book I definitely encourage you to pick it up. 

But today we’re not actually talking about happiness with Gretchen although it always tends to come back to wanting to make sure your life is full of happiness. Today we are actually talking about something a bit different. We are talking about habits and how you actually understand yourself to be and how that relates to the habits and success you have with sticking to those habits. 

This is such an interesting conversation we had. I prepared a bunch of notes for it like I always do and I was ready to dive into each of these questions. But then sometimes the conversation took us in a different way. 

I’m always a little nervous with interviews, to be completely honest. I don’t feel like it’s my natural setting so I try to really, really listen. Even though I have notes in front of me if the person I am interviewing says something that I am really curious about I think you and me (you listening) are a lot alike in that if I have a question about it you might too. 

I did my best to really listen to what she had to share and then if there was a question from that I would jump on that. We got into some really cool conversations and I think this is the first time I felt comfortable going in a few places. It’s funny because in the interview (I always record the intro afterward so I can talk about it to build it up) I suggested a few things and she was like, “Well yeah, but not really. Here’s what it’s really about.” 

I love that because she gave us different ways to look at things. I learned a lot in this interview and I hope you will too. Again, we are going to talk about how to better understand yourself, how to look at your habits. 

We had a conversation about not feeling legitimate in what you are putting out there to the world and what that does to your confidence and she kind of puts a different take on that. I thought that was a really cool conversation we had as well. 

I won’t ruin it for you, I just wanted to let you know this is one of my favorite interviews. It was a really great conversation and I hope you will take a lot of what you are going to learn today, apply it to not only your business but your personal life, and report back. Let me know what you think about this one because I really do think it can make some big shifts in your business and in your life. 

We have a really cool giveaway that I want you to get your hands on because the giveaway for this episode is really related to everything we talk about. But I want you to do a little bit of an assessment with this giveaway. 

The giveaway is called Working Better Than Before which happens to also be the name of her newest book. This is actually a PDF that you will download. It is a guide that will help you understand your own work habits better and gain insight into how you can maximize your creativity and productivity, which is what I am all about. 

I love when we work smarter and we enjoy the work we are doing. Again, I want you to download the PDF and I want you to use it to really understand you and your habits and how to work smarter and get more done. 

You can get it by going to or you can text the phrase 76download to 33444. It’s a really, really good PDF. I want you to use it, apply it, and maybe use it with some of your clients as well. I think you will find it valuable for your clients too so make sure to get that. We don’t talk about it a lot inside of the interview so I wanted to make sure you were very aware of it before we get going. 

Before we dive in I want to thank our sponsor today, 99Designs. I am such a huge fan of this company because they can take care of all of your graphic needs. We are talking logos, social media cover images, website graphics, and so much more. So visit and get a $99 upgrade for free. 

I won’t make you wait any longer, I hope you enjoy this interview as much as I enjoyed hosting it. Here we go, let’s get started. 

Amy: Hey Gretchen, thanks so much for being here with me today. I really appreciate it. 

Gretchen: I am so happy to be talking to you. 

Amy: This is going to be such a great episode because we’re talking about the things that are truly at the front of the minds of those listening that are building a business and they might be struggling with a little confidence or struggling to understand their audience more or, in general, how to bring more happiness into what they are doing in their business and life. 

I am a huge, huge fan of yours. There is one quote that is so simple but that I love so much. You said, “To change our habits we have to first change ourselves.” 

It is a simple saying but it is daunting. To me it feels like there is going to be a lot of soul searching going on. Can you break down for me, just in practical terms, what it means when you say we’ve got to change ourselves? 

Gretchen: What struck me when I started studying habits was that there are a lot of magic one-size-fits-all solutions like “Do it first thing in the morning,” or “Do it for 30 days,” or “Give yourself a cheat day,” for “Start small.” 

It seemed obvious to me that these strategies sometimes work for some people but they don’t work for everybody all the time. The more and more I started looking at habits the more I realized the really important first step is to begin by figuring out what is true for us. What kind of person are we? 

A lot of times people get discouraged without a change because they are trying to set things up in a way that isn’t right for them. A common example, I had a friend who is a night person. He could barely get out of bed in time to go to work in the morning. He was at his most productive and creative late in the day. He looked me in the eye and said, “I’m going to start getting up early and going for a run as my New Year’s resolution.” 

I told him that wasn’t going to work for him because he is a night person. I see why it might make sense on paper but it wasn’t the right thing for him. If we want to figure out how to change our habits we have to figure out what’s going on with ourselves and the change has to come from a true understanding of who we are. 

We can then change the habits to suit our nature, interests, or temperament. Otherwise, a lot of times it just doesn’t work. 

Amy: Okay, so how do you know? I am the go-getter type of personality and if I think about getting up and going running in the morning but that’s not going to work for me because it’s not what I do, I’m not an early bird (let’s pretend I’m not). 

Because of that, right away I’ll think in my head that I am being lazy and I’m not pushing myself hard enough, I’m not really going after it. 

Gretchen:  Well, you could exercise at a different time of day. You can be a go getter and exercise at 3 p.m. 

Amy: That’s what we’ve got to remember because I think we want to push ourselves. I hate the world “hustle” but you hear it all of the time for entrepreneurs, we have to hustle, hustle, hustle. But you are basically saying there are other ways to make it happen and you don’t have to push yourself into a square that will never work for you. 

Gretchen: Right. I think you put your finger right on it. I think a lot of times people, due to pressure, feel like they are failing because what all of the experts say should work doesn’t work for them. They feel they need to change and believe there is something wrong with them. 

I was just talking to Roseanne Cash. She is a really super famous songwriter, writer, and super creative, productive person. She was saying how she had always thought that there was something wrong with her and her process. She would look at these people she knew who would get up in the morning and go and work at 9 a.m. even though they were writing songs or books or whatever. 

They treated it like a job and the whole thing of “you’ve got to get your rear end in the seat.” She kept thinking she was doing it wrong. She felt she should be like those people and that it should work for her. 

The fact that she has had countless top songs and gold records and Grammys didn’t matter, she still felt there was something wrong with her. She felt she should be doing it the other way because it is the way things are supposed to happen. 

In thinking about a different way it happens you should look at what works for you. There is no right way or wrong way, it’s whatever works for you. The secret is to question all the ways you could think about setting it up so that it would work for you. You can find a way that will allow you to succeed and be the most productive and most creative, the healthiest. 

Whenever someone says, “You should do it this way,” I always say maybe you should and maybe you shouldn’t. There are a lot of different things that work for different people. If you look at the people who are the most successful, productive, and creative, and healthy, they are the people who have figured out what works for them and they make their environment work for them. 

Some people like to work in silence and quiet and they make that happen. Other people like bustle and noise and a lot of people and activity. They find a way to work there. Some people like to work steadily with a lot of runway. I call that  the marathoner’s style. That is how I am. I like plenty of time to work toward a deadline. 

Other people don’t like that. They want to work right up against a deadline. They like the adrenaline. They like the crunch and the intensity of the sprint to the end. That works for them and they feel they are the most creative and productive. It’s not that I am right and they are wrong or they are right and I am wrong. It’s that we both have different kinds of habits when it comes to work pace. 

It might be that we are in conflict if we are on a team and we will have to work that out. But it’s not like you “should” do this because you would be more creative and more productive. Maybe you would and maybe you wouldn’t. 

Sprinters say if they start too early they lose interest, they waste time, they lose focus. They don’t do their best work when there is a lot of time to spare. But for me, if I am too crunched against a deadline I cannot do my best work. I hate that. 

I think a lot of it is thinking about what you are like and what are the conditions that work for you and how do you build the habits and circumstances. That’s where you find yourself. 

Amy: Okay, I love this…That’s where you find yourself. That’s super powerful for me because sometimes I struggle with confidence in myself. I compare myself  to everybody else and how they are doing it and what they are doing. No matter if I have a multi-million dollar business or not I still feel they are doing it this way and I should probably do it that way as well. 

I feel the more confidence I have in myself and my business the less I say “I should be doing that.” So I think confidence plays a part here. And it might sound a bit woo woo but just believing in yourself and seeing yourself succeed in these different areas. You can look at how you’ve done it and find a way that works best for you. 

I love the Roseanne Cash example. I think that is so brilliant. She is amazing at what she does so why would she ever need to do it like someone else does it? She has already proven it works for her. 

Gretchen: You just pointed out something that is very helpful for people. If there is something you are struggling with, a very good question to ask if there is a time in the past where you did a better job with this, whatever this habit or behavior is? Was there a time when it came easily to you? What was different? Why was it easy then and it’s not easy now? 

For instance, a friend of mine said she didn’t understand why she couldn’t exercise. When she was in high school she was on the track team and never missed track practice but she can’t seem to run now. Why? 

I spent months and months and months trying to answer that question because she wanted to know if it was because she had kids, because of this, because she’s older. I decided it’s accountability. 

She is the kind of person (and there are a lot of people like this) who needs external accountability. When she had a team and a coach waiting for her she had no trouble doing it but it was her own desire to do it and that wasn’t enough. For a lot of people I think that is a key thing in allowing them to be productive and creative. They need supervision, deadlines, and accountability. 

If it’s just on them to get stuff done it doesn’t happen. I call this being an obliger. I divide all of humanity into four types and she is the obliger type. They worry about self esteem and their priorities. 

I told her not to worry about that. Give yourself external accountability and you will have no problem. That is what you need. That’s the missing piece. 

I have a friend who is very social. She said she realizes she does her best work when she is at a place where she is seeing a lot of people. She was working at home and that was not good for her. 

Now she works at We Work, a big shared workspace, so she has that sense of buzz and people around. In exchange, not that she is working with them, but she feeds off the energy. For other people that could be a bad… 

Amy: That’s death for me. It totally wouldn’t work. 

Gretchen: So, looking at your own past can be a clue for you. These things often kind of ebb and flow in our lives. 

Amy: That’s so true. It reminds me of something. I used to work for Tony Robbins and he used to teach this thing from stage that I loved. It just reminded me of that. When you were talking about working out, which is something most of us struggle with and I definitely do, Tony had someone on stage and asked what the person wanted to do. 

He said he wanted to work out more and wanted it to be a part of his life. He wanted to get out there every morning to do it. Tony asked him what he was doing now. He said it wasn’t working. 

He was running but Tony asked him if running was a two on a scale of 1-10 of how much he enjoyed it and how much happiness it brought him, what would make it a four? The guy said if he was running on the beach. 

He then asked what would make it a six for him. He said if he had music in his ears and if his wife did it with him. Tony’s whole thing was to find out what would make the experience a 10 for him only, no matter what anyone else was doing. 

I started doing that with working out. Now I have a cool at-home gym and it is exactly what I want and I don’t have to go see anyone in my workout clothes. That works for me! But I kept thinking what would make it a 10. I think being really individual about it and making it your own can make a huge difference in anything you are doing. 

Gretchen:  One thing I would say that is a puzzling thing about habits and taking them to a 10… 

Amy: Okay, tell me. 

Gretchen: One of the puzzling things about habits is it is maybe easy to understand why we don’t have a habit of something we don’t want to do but it is often just as hard to make a habit of something we love to do. Just the fact that you enjoy something doesn’t necessarily mean that you are going to find it easy to make it a habit. 

Amy: Okay, you are speaking my language. This is good. 

Gretchen: You’ve made it more pleasant. That is so smart. You have made it super convenient. There are so many things that were smart about the way you set that up. But I think it could be a distraction for some people who make something super enjoyable. They think because it is enjoyable it will be necessary to do it. 

No, a lot of times that doesn’t happen. That was one of the things that really puzzled me when I started talking to people about it. People tell me they love to cook but they never cook. 

Amy: Okay, so then what is the answer?

Gretchen: I love to read but I never read.

Amy: What is the answer? 

Gretchen: In my book what I did was lay out the 21 strategies that people can use to make or break habits. Sometimes people freak out when they hear there are 21 because that sounds like so many. But it is good because it means there are a whole bunch from which to choose. 

Some of these work very well for some people and don’t work at all for other people. Some of them are only available to us at certain times of our lives. So you want to know all of them. 

What I realize is that whether or not you want to do something is kind of irrelevant to whether it will engage in a habit. Sometimes it makes a big difference. If you have a donut on your way to work three times in a row then that thing will lock in as a habit right away. 

You really have to think of the habit strategies of the kind of thing that turns behavior into a habit. Certainly, one of the strategies is a strategy of convenience; and that is to make something as easy as possible. By easy that also incorporates the idea to make it as pleasurable and pleasant as possible. 

You made the gym into exactly the experience it should be. To me that is the strategy of convenience. It is also in your house so it can’t get more convenient than that. But there are a lot of other strategies that a person could use to help lock in the habit of exercise that would also be necessary. 

It’s not just enough to go running on the beach with your wife with an iPod. If that guy lived in Santa Barbara I’m not guaranteeing that he will go running five times a week. There are other things you could add to that. That is great but there are other things that would be necessary to make it lock into as a habit. 

Amy: Give me just one example. 

Gretchen: Scheduling. Scheduling is very powerful. If something is on the schedule at a specific time it is much more likely to get done. Something that can be done at any time is often done at no time. 

It’s Saturday, I’m going to go for a run on the beach with my wife at some point. If you say you are going to go at 9 o’clock in the morning it works better. 

Amy: I like this, there are other factors. 

Gretchen: Another one is monitoring. It’s like magic, even if we aren’t consciously trying to change, if we monitor our behavior we do a better job of it. If we keep a food journal we eat more healthily. If we keep a budget we spend more wisely. 

Every time you go for a run write it down. Then you can ask yourself how many times you have been for a run this week….four times. So you want to monitor that. 

Accountability. For most people, accountability is helpful. For some people accountability is crucial. The presence of the wife, the fact that my wife is saying, “Hey honey, it’s 9 o’clock, aren’t we going to go for our run?” is very powerful. Or run with your dog. A dog never wants to hear excuses. You have to take that dog out. He will hold you accountable. 

Amy: That’s for sure. 

Gretchen: Another one is loophole spotting. Loophole spotting is when you think about all of the reasons you are going to let yourself off the hook, “I was going to go for a run today but it’s raining.” 

Amy: I’m good at these loopholes. 

Gretchen: “I think I hurt my foot,” or “It is going to inconvenience my wife if I decide to go for a run now so out of concern for her I’m not going to go.” You might wonder what difference it will make if you run today or tomorrow, what’s one run. 

Life is too short. I want to live a little, I want to enjoy the day, I don’t want to push myself to go for a run. I want to accept myself just as I am, I don’t need to exercise. That’s the strategy of loophole spotting. There are a million of them. 

These are just some of the strategies that you could go on. A lot of times when you are making an important habit change there are many strategies that you could use simultaneously. That sounds like a lot of work but it actually doesn’t take a lot. It is just a matter of thinking it through systematically. 

Ask yourself how you can do this and really zero in on it. If you are a morning person maybe you want to go for that run at 7 a.m. and if you are a night person maybe you want to go for that run at 5 p.m. You want to take into account what is true for you as you are thinking through all of these habit strategies. 

Amy: I like it. In your book you have 21…what do you call them? 

Gretchen: Strategies. 

Amy: Oh, just strategies, 21 strategies. That’s easy enough. I want people pick up that book and read those. Here’s the deal, you mentioned something I am dying to talk about. You said you put all humanity into four types. Talk to me about those four types. 

Gretchen: Okay. These are the four tendencies. Most people can kind of diagnose themselves from a brief description, which I will give. But there is a quiz on my site,, for people who want to take a quiz. About 180,000 people have taken it so far. 

This has to do with how you deal with an expectation. An outer expectation like a work deadline or an inner expectation like your own desire to keep a blog in your free time or learn Italian in your free time. 

There are upholders, questioners, obligers, and rebels. Upholders respond readily to outer and inner expectations alike. They keep a work deadline. They keep a New Year’s resolution without much fuss. They really want to meet other’s expectations but their expectations for themselves are just as important or more important. 

Questioners question all expectations. They will do something if they think it makes sense. They hate anything arbitrary, irrational, unfair, or inefficient. They will do something if they believe in it. They make everything into an inner expectation. 

Next you have your obligers. Obligers readily meet outer expectations  but  they struggle to meet inner expectations. That’s my friend on the track team. When she had a team and a coach she had no trouble showing up. But when it was her own desire to go running, that wasn’t enough because that was an inner expectation. 

Finally we have the rebels. Rebels resist all expectations outer and inner alike. They want to do what they want to do in their own way and if you ask or tell them to do something they are very likely to resist. 

Basically, I think just about everybody falls pretty squarely into one of those four tendencies. That has a lot of tendencies for habits because if you are an obliger you absolutely have to have external accountability, even to meet your own inner expectations for yourself. Once obligers know that they can do anything. It’s wonderful. They feel so free because they understand why they could do some things so consistently and other things not. 

Questioners are the person who keeps asking why you are doing something as certain way, why it is being done at all, why they are listening to you. They are a questioner. Just answer their questions and they will get on board. 

With a rebel, you don’t want to tell them what to do or hold them accountable. You don’t want to put it on a schedule. There are a lot of strategies that work for other tendencies that are actually counterproductive for rebels. 

If you are a rebel or if you are working with a rebel or are in a family with a rebel it is really important to recognize that so that you don’t ignite that spirit of resistance, which can be powerful. So these are the four tendencies. 

Amy: That’s good stuff. And there is a quiz on your site so I will make sure I link to it for sure. 

Gretchen: Great. 

Amy: Moving on, I have so much good stuff I have to cover with you and I’ve got to get your insight on it. One of your recent blog posts was really quite short. You pretty much said, “The secret of adulthood is accepting yourself and expecting more from yourself.” 

I really think this is what growing in our business is really all about, being content with ourselves while we are still trying to grow. But a lot of people that are listening are entrepreneurs and are building a business. They are trying to really connect with their target market and their audience and they want to help people  appeal  to  the happiness of their target market. 

Be happy but you also need to grow and to expect more of yourself. So, my question is: How to we communicate this whole concept to our own audience in a practical way? 

Gretchen: I think this is one of the central challenges of life, to accept yourself and expect more from yourself. It’s not always clear what that line is. What is appropriate to expect from yourself? At what point do you sort of have to say, “I am who I am and that part of me is not going to change”? You accept it but “this other thing” is something you are going to work on. 

People say accept, accept, accept and that is frustrating to people who are very progress oriented and want to grow. Then the people who are grow, grow, grow have a feeling of dissatisfaction because they feel they are not okay the way they are. Both are true. 

We want to accept ourselves and expect more of ourselves. That’s one of the things, the opposite of a great truth is also true. You can accept yourself and expect more from yourself. In a way they are in opposition but they are both true. 

Amy: I guess where I get stuck is if I accept myself…You always hear you should accept your husband for who he is…in my head I think that means that if I am accepting my husband for who he is I am not trying to change him. So when I think to myself I need to accept myself then it’s like I have to accept who I am and not work on changing myself. 

I have a really weird connotation with the word accept. You are saying to accept yourself, know who you are, be very aware of that, but also expect yourself to push forward and do more and better. 

Gretchen: There is a wonderful quotation by W. H. Auden, which I unfortunately can’t remember, where he talks about the natural limits of your character that you can’t violate with impunity but then there are also the ways you can stretch yourself. 

I think everybody has to look within themselves. For instance, when I was writing The Happiness Project one of the happiness theories I wanted to test was that novelty and challenge made people happier. 

I thought that wouldn’t be true for me. I thought familiarity and mastery were the things that made me happier because that’s the kind of person I am. But because I was using myself as a guinea pig I had to try it out. I had to do something novel and challenging. 

I have to admit I didn’t do this cleverly. It was kind of by accident but it was very smart. What I tried to do was start a blog. That is what I was doing that was novel and challenging. That was very difficult for me. I was very untechy. I never read blogs. I was never a journalist so I never wrote short. I was used to writing 80,000 words and not 500 words. 

I felt very exposed. So in every way it felt difficult, challenging, way outside my comfort zone. The fact is, that was a good thing for me to try because it was an extension of my nature. It was very uncomfortable but it was the kind of thing that was appropriate for me. 

If I had tried to do something like bungee jump I don’t think it would have worked because I’m not that kind of person. When you accept yourself you know you are only going to go so far in a certain direction. But there may be other things you could ask yourself to do. 

Maybe you feel really uncomfortable speaking in public but that is something I could ask myself to get better at. I can work on that. Maybe I’m not very comfortable with numbers but I can ask myself to get more comfortable with certain kinds of software programs and certain kinds of analysis. 

But there are things that are so not you that it is a waste of your time to work on that because you will never gain that aspect of your personality. For every single person it would be different. 

Amy: This might seem obvious but I have got to hear what you have to say about this… If we are working on ourselves and understanding ourselves more and really understanding what habits we are going to stick to and how we are going to do that, how do you see that playing into us building stronger businesses, making more money, connecting more with our audience, all that stuff? 

Gretchen: I think it’s crucial. Research suggests that about 40% of everyday life is shaped by our habits. If we have habits that work for us we are far more likely to happier, healthier, and more productive. 

There are two aspects to that. One is yourself as a force in the world. If you never get enough sleep, if you never get any exercise, if you eat all the wrong food and let yourself get too hungry and then binge eat, if you are drinking too much so that your inhibitions are lowered, if you are in a messy environment where you can’t find anything and you feel overwhelmed by junk it is going to be hard for you to be doing your best. 

That’s the strategy of foundation. There are certain elements of life that go directly to our ability to have energy and focus and self mastery. When you are very ambitious and have a lot of things you want to get done you need a lot of self mastery. You are asking a lot of yourself. 

Part of it is working on yourself as a force in the world. Your physical experience is always going to influence your emotional and intellectual experience and capabilities. Then the other thing is getting stuff done. Of all the habits people say they want to work on, procrastination is certainly one of the things that come up most often. 

On a more positive side, making consistent progress come up. Suppose you want to be better on social media. That is a long game. That isn’t something you can sit down and bang out in a weekend. It is something you have to commit to doing drip, drip, drip, everyday for a long time. 

That is where habits really come in handy with something like that where you want to just put a behavior on automatic pilot and so you don’t have to use decision making, you don’t have to use self control to get yourself to do something, you just do it without thinking. 

For someone who is very ambitious for themselves and have a lot of stuff they want to get done, the more they pay attention to the habits that are going to allow them to be highly functioning, the better off they are going to be. 

The more they think about the things they want to get done unthinkingly, the things people want to just have happen like clockwork (I don’t decide to brush my teeth, I don’t decide to wear a seatbelt, I don’t have to decide to do a blog post), it’s just a bang. It is just like, “How am I going to get this done today?” 

I think habits have a very important role to play. They are very free and energizing because they take the friction out of a lot of behavior because they automate it. 

Amy: I like the whole automated part of it, definitely. That speaks to me for sure. So you just reminded me of the question that I thought I would have to ask. But forgive me because I had to take notes on it because I want to get it right. This one is a biggie for those listening, and I know it will resonate. 

You list eight splendid truths of happiness, #2 is: One of the best ways to make yourself happy is to make other people happy. One of the best ways to make other people happy is to be happy yourself. 

We are speaking to a lot of entrepreneurs, especially those just beginning in their business. There can be a tendency, when you are an entrepreneur, to feeling like you have to have all of the answers. Your life has to be a perfect example of what you are teaching and what you are selling. If you are a fitness coach you had better have a perfectly disciplined regimen for your workouts and look amazing. That translates to all of the other niches as well. 

Most of us can’t wait to work perfect in our business in order to start launching what we want to get out into the world. So here’s my question: How can people communicate to an audience in a way that manifests real success in their particular niche? I have a system that works for me in my part of my life and I want to share that with you but without having to pretend I am perfect in all that I am doing. Does that make sense? 

Gretchen: I think that is transparency and honesty. Everybody knows that nobody’s got it all together. Maybe that is just saying, “I’m a work in progress. I want to teach what works for me. I am still working, I am still learning.” 

Amy: And you don’t feel like that dilutes your message at all? Where do you really have to shine while still saying you are still a work in process? I know this is a weird question but… 

Gretchen: I do feel there is an aspect in which questioners are going to ask why you are the authority they should be listening to if they don’t feel like you know what you 

are talking about, if you aren’t applying whatever you are saying in your own life. They want to know if what you are teaching it’s not possible and whether you are asking them to do things that aren’t realistic, is it because it’s wrong and you are telling them to do things that aren’t actually working? 

I think it is natural that people will look to you to see if you stick to the regime or plan, and what they can expect to happen. They want to know what it would look like on the other side. I think that is natural. 

It is often the case that people teach what they need to learn. Research is MEsearch so the people who are drawn to certain kinds of areas are often struggling in those areas. You might just be very candid about that. You can tell people this is something you have struggled with your whole life and that you are still figuring it out but you want to share what you have learned. 

I think for many people that’s a very powerful message too, the honesty of imperfection. 

Amy: I agree, definitely. Darren Rowse was on the show not long ago and he talked about when he first started he knew a little bit about one thing so he talked about it a lot but then he would explore other things with his audience. I think they really resonated with that. 

Gretchen: Yes. So you are not holding yourself out as the expert but sort of like the lead investigator, maybe you have been thinking you really need to get into meditation so you have been trying to learn about it and you are still no good at it but you are learning and this is why… 

I think that is very wise. It is funny because people often ask if I feel a lot of pressure to be happy. I don’t feel any pressure to be happy, actually. But I can see if you are a fitness coach you would feel a lot of pressure to be fit or to be an example for the people. 

Amy: I agree. I feel a lot of pressure. I teach how to build your email list and how to create social media sales funnels and I feel if I am not constantly growing my list and if I am not making good money with my sales funnels then who am I to be teaching it. Do you think that’s valid? 

Gretchen: It’s like the leadership experts, why are they a leadership expert? They have never led anything. But other people are very interested in what they have to say. 

This is definitely true with artists. Sometimes the people who are the most articulate about the artistic process are not the ones who are the great geniuses but people who are involved as critics, or minor artists, or teachers. They are the people who are able to talk about it. Maybe you are interested in talking about the theory of something but not so interested in the practice of it. 

It is also people’s subject. You can be very knowledgeable about how to create an email list but the kind of people that would want an email list from J. Crew is very different from the kind of people that would want their own personal email list. So part of it is that you are telling how to do something. But that doesn’t necessarily mean your natural audience would be as gigantic as if you were a huge international fashion company. 

Amy: That’s so true. I think we all bring a different take on things to the table. If you find your unique take on how you want to explain something and what you want to teach in which way doesn’t mean you have to be that expert. We throw that word around so much anyway. 

I like where you are going with that. You have said before if that you want to be excellent in some things you have to allow yourself to be mediocre in other things, I am so curious about this one and I have two questions about it. How do we know where it’s okay to be mediocre versus where we need to be excellent? And then I am dying to hear kind of how that has worked in your own business. 

Gretchen: Again, it is really back to the idea of who are you and who do you want to be? That is such an easy obvious question to pose but it is the great challenge of our entire lives to figure it out. It is funny, I realize at some point in the back of my mind somewhere there was a feeling that I had to master everything, I had to basically understand how everything worked and to figure it out. 

I am also not very good at delegating. That is something I am constantly working at, delegating. That is a true, true skill. I once worked for someone who delegated his entire job to me. I was like, “hats off to you.” 

Amy: I wish. 

Gretchen: He quit and I took his job. I was really worried about how I would do more than I was already doing but I realized I was doing the guy’s job already. 

Amy: Smart man. 

Gretchen: Well played, well played. I can’t say that my respect for him shot up but whatever. It is sort of like where do you need to be doing something and then what are the things that others can do better or that you don’t need to do? 

Part of it also is, if it doesn’t matter to you if it is done one way or another, don’t pipe in about it. Stay out of every trivial decision that you can and be willing to let other people do work in their own way unless it really matters. 

There are some things that it is important that it be done your way, or the right way, whatever you think is the right way. There are some things that have a lot of different ways the thing could be done correctly. 

I am a person where I hate to have things hanging. If there is something I am supposed to do I want to do it right away and get it done and out the door. I just hate that feeling of things queuing up to be done. In my marriage my husband doesn’t have that feeling. He feels as long as we get it in on time it doesn’t matter if it is now or two weeks from now. 

Part of what I realize is if I want him to do something I have to be willing to let him do it on his time schedule. As long as he gets it in on time it’s fine. If it is a school note or form we have to send in I want it done because I want it done. But I also don’t want to do it. If you want it done your way, do it yourself. If you want somebody else to do it, let them do it their way. 

You can’t be the boss of the world and you exhaust yourself and distract yourself from other more important matters if you are just constantly trying to get everybody to do things your way. 

Amy: Being really clear about where you might be mediocre or what things you just don’t want to do comes back to outsourcing, that’s what we call it in our world, but it comes back to that. 

Gretchen: Absolutely, outsource them. You don’t need to figure out how to do XZY. Sometimes it is helpful to have a basic idea of how something works so you understand. MailChimp, or whatever your email provider is, if you have a basic sense of how it works then you know of know what the potential is. If it is a complete mystery to you then you might know you can do some cool thing because you don’t even know what the capacity is. 

I remember when I found out with my email list that even though I didn’t ask people where they lived I could see a target, which is sort, more or less. That was amazing and I never knew that. It is good to know these things. 

Sometimes you need to know a level of information but other things you don’t need to know at all. What are you going to let go, what are you going to hand off, what are you going to sort of monitor from afar? What is really the essential thing for you that you can do that no one else can do that is really the core thing you want to be doing? 

Amy: Definitely. I still think it comes back to what we talked about in the very beginning about really knowing yourself and knowing what will let you up and what you want to work on and where you want to focus your time. All of that other stuff is the stuff we are going to delegate and you are likely mediocre at it anyway. 

Gretchen: Right, usually somebody else can do it better if only because they are more focused on it or they do it all of the time so they are more knowledgeable about it. They will be more efficient. 

Amy: Yes. And I love what you say, this is something I have learned with my team and with my family every single day, when I give it away to somebody they are never going to do it exactly how I want them to do it. That is really hard for me but I am also not the boss of the world, as you said. 

Gretchen: I have learned about shared work. I have written a lot about shared work because it is a big problem Here is the big thing  about  shared  work,  people constantly say they want a person to help but they aren’t helping. You may have been doing something for a month and they don’t even take their turn. 

The thing is, if you don’t want to do something, don’t do it. You cannot do something consistently and then complain that nobody else is helping. If you make coffee in the office every single day and no one else ever makes coffee. Why are you the one making the coffee? Why are you the one picking up the phone messages in the morning? Don’t do it. 

No one is going to do something while you are doing it. No one is going to feel guilty because you have been doing something. The more you do something the more people think you want to do something or will feel it is your job. It won’t even occur to them, it will be just an “oh yeah” somebody else is taking care of that. 

We are constantly looking for reasons not to take care of something. But you can’t do something and think that other people are sitting around feeling bad about the fact that they are shirking. 

Amy: Not doing it! 

Gretchen: Yeah. It probably isn’t even occurring to them. If you don’t want to do something, don’t do it. Then others can step in. Or you can work it out or there has to be a discussion about it or something. It is funny, there are so many things where people consistently do something and they get more and more angry about it. 

Sometimes people do things for years. It hasn’t even crossed anybody’s mind to do that. So, if you don’t want to do something and you don’t think you should have to do something don’t do it and see what happens. If somebody else is supposed to do it then it will become clear that somebody needs to get that thing done. 

Or maybe it doesn’t need to get done at all. 

Amy: That’s a good one…You are all wasting your time. 

Gretchen: Yes, I think the worst waste is to do something that doesn’t even need to be done at all. We should always be on the lookout for that, always. 

Amy: Always. We used to ask if the customer really even cares. If you ever say “No” then please stop doing it. 

Gretchen: I know. Sometimes it is just not worth it. One of the things of habit that I still struggle with sometimes, I have to admit, I get a lot of emails from people and I read and answer them, I decided I wasn’t going to do salutations anymore. It’s hard even to type in: Hi Lisa. How do they spell their name? Oh did I get that wrong? 

There is kind of a casualness now to email. It may feel nicer to say, “Hi Lisa,” but it is fine not to and it is taking time. If this is a valuable thing I need to lighten the load 

and that actually makes it quite a bit faster for me. Somebody emailed me and said they thought I would be friendlier and chatter. 

Amy: That would break my heart. 

Gretchen: I told them I write back to everybody and if I write a long, chatty email back to everybody I am not going to answer anyone. 

Amy: You owned it! 

Gretchen: I did. 

Amy: I like that. 

Gretchen: Yeah, again, I don’t think it matters that much but will matter to the reader. I am answering her email that is the interesting thing. But it actually matters a lot to me. I don’t think it is going to significantly change the perception of the client, although it did significantly change this woman’s perception. That is part of knowing what is valuable to you and what your priorities are. 

Even when people criticize your priorities you have to remember you thought that through and had to make a choice that required trade offs and this was the trade off I had accepted. When you think that through and really make your own decision you don’t feel like you are constantly being buffeted around by other people’s expectations and values. 

Amy: I like that, especially in the online world, you are always going to get the negative feedback. 

Gretchen: Yep, 100%. 

Amy: Always. You have got to get the thick skin and I think part of having that thick skin is owning it and knowing what will work for you and realizing you can’t make everyone happy. 

Gretchen: A thing that I remind myself all the time is a strong voice repels as well as attracts. You can never be so wholly acceptable and maintain any kind of idiosyncrasy because somebody is going to respond negatively to anything. 

Think of everybody who is a beloved character, you can think of a million examples of them being parodied or made fun of or criticized. If you put yourself out there it is not going to be everybody’s cup of tea and they can tell you that on the internet and it’s just like, “whatever.” 

Amy: I agree. And if people aren’t saying anything then you probably have a problem. If you are not ever getting any negative feedback you have to push yourself to stand on your own in what you believe and what you think. 

Gretchen: Promotion is something where a lot of people feel uncomfortable. 

Amy: Yes! 

Gretchen: I was at South By Southwest and talking to a friend who said told me if you aren’t getting some complaints about self promotion you are just not self promoting enough. 

Amy: I totally agree! 

Gretchen: Those people aren’t paying that close attention, you have to hit them over the head with that message. And if a few people feel it is too much that is probably a sign that you are almost where you ought to be. I find that very comforting. 

For me, every once in a while someone tells me everybody knows about my book and I don’t need to keep reminding them. It is great for me to hear they are a regular reader of my blog and that they feel I am repeating myself. But a lot of people are coming to my blog for the first time. 

As a writer it is really part of my obligation to my profession and my ongoing ability to be in that profession to promote myself in this world where there are fewer bookstores and book reviews. Writers feel a lot of pressure to do it themselves. Every time people tell me, “it’s cool,” because they hadn’t thought about it. 

Not everybody agrees with your blog every single day so sometimes the people who are your biggest fans are the ones who complain because they are the ones that see it all the time. 

Amy: I never thought of that. 

Gretchen: Sometimes I try to say for people to feel free to skip something if they have heard it before in order to signal that I know it might be a lot. On the other hand, I have to be sensible and take advantage of the opportunities to spread the word. 

Amy: I do that at the end of my emails when I am in a heavy promotion time for my signature program that I promote twice a year. At the end of every promo email (there are ten of them over a month period) I always say, “Hey, if you don’t want hear anymore about the Profit Lab, just click here. I won’t take you off of my list but you will never hear about the Profit Lab again.” 

Not that many people click on it but let’s say a few 100 out of a 200,000. At least I know I have it covered. 

Gretchen: And they feel like you have acknowledged the fact that that’s enough for them. They know you get it but that they don’t really care. 

Amy: Exactly. That’s so true. I know we have gone a little bit longer than I told you we would but I have one favorite story that you tell that I would just love for you to share as we wrap things up. It relates to the one coin. Will you tell your story? 

Gretchen:  Yes. This is a story that has multiple meanings. It is one of my favorite stories. This is an ancient teaching story called The Parable of the Growing Heap. The question is: Does one coin make a man rich? 

You would say, “No, one coin does not make a man rich.” But then you give a man another coin and you give a man another coin and then you give a man another coin. At some point you would have to say, “Yes, a man is rich,” because one coin made him so. 

What’s interesting about this story is on the one hand you have the one coin and on the other hand you have the growing heap. We often flip back and forth in our understanding about whether we are focusing on the one coin or focusing on the growing heap. It is very helpful to have this model in mind. 

Sometimes it can help us stick to our better habits. For instance, one loophole that people often use to get themselves out of a good habit is to say something like, “why should I go to the gym today? What is one trip to the gym?” Or they may decide to break their diet but what is one cupcake? They feel it won’t make any difference. 

People may know they should be doing their expense accounts but what is one afternoon in the office? The fact is, it’s true, any one instance of this behavior it is inconsequential. It doesn’t make any difference. But, on the other hand, the only way you have a good habit and make progress is one coin plus one coin plus one coin. You want to think about that coin. 

On the other hand, another way to think about the story is in terms of understanding the value of that single coin. In the end all we have is the one coin. The growing heap is in the future. It is accumulating but our experience right now is with the one coin. It is easy to get caught up in the chasing and believing you have to pile up your coins so that you will get to the big heap. 

But think about being grateful for what you have already got, what about the one coin that you are experiencing today. What are you experiencing now? Can you enjoy the process? Can you think about all of the value that is in the one coin and not always be so consumed with trying to get to the growing heap. 

Amy: That is so good. This is such a perfect way to end because it is such a powerful story either way you look at it. Gretchen, thanks for being here. What an honor. I just really appreciate you taking the time. 

Gretchen: Oh great! Thanks so much. 

Amy: Real quick, where can people find out more about you? 

Gretchen: On my site,, I have a ton of resources. I post everyday about happiness and good habits. I have a new podcast with my sister called Happier with Gretchen Rubin. We just hit a milestone of two million downloads. 

Amy: What? 

Gretchen: Yeah, a few months ago. We are really excited. 

Amy: It is really, really good. I am a huge fan. I love the conversations between you and your sister. You guys are a crackup and it is such a good conversation. So if you guys haven’t listened to Gretchen’s podcast I will make sure I link to it. She does it with her sister and they have these awesome conversations and I think her sister is so different from Gretchen. 

Gretchen: She is great. 

Amy: She is so great and I love the conversations. I am glad you brought that up. Congratulations on that milestone. Holy Cow! 

Gretchen: Thank you. That is really exciting. I am also on social media everywhere. I am on Twitter and I have a Facebook page and Instagram and Pintrest and YouTube. I am out there and love to hear from readers and listeners so thank you so much for having me on your show. I feel we could have talked all day. 

Amy: I know, definitely. That is always a good sign. Thanks again. Everyone you all have a wonderful day. Bye for now. 

There you have it. I hope you enjoyed this interview as much as I enjoyed it. I thought it was just a fantastic conversation, not because of my interview skills, but because Gretchen had so much amazing content to share. I really thank you Gretchen for taking the time to do that. I thought it was an excellent conversation. 

One thing I will tell you all, I am recording this closing a few days after I actually did that interview. Things go a little busy that day and I didn’t get to do the closing so I am coming back to it. 

I have put a lot of thought into the things that Gretchen had talked about, especially the idea of the habits and understanding yourself and from there building your habits instead of doing everything everyone else tells you to do. 

The thing I find really valuable is not going by someone else’s rules. Being an entrepreneur and taking in so much advice, especially self help and productivity advice and all that, you can get a lot of suggestions that just flood your mind in terms of being told you should do this and that. 

I have never really stood back and asked what do I think is best for me, even if it breaks all of the rules of productivity or time management or whatever. What do I think is best for me? One thing I have discovered is that I like to get my workout done in the morning but I don’t like to work out at 5 a.m. Who does? 

I also like to get some other things done in the morning before I start my work. But what happens is I roll out of bed, check my email, I am constantly talking to my team before 8 a.m. and working on things. Then my workout gets pushed aside and never happens. Then some other things like spending a little time with my husband when he gets home from work, he gets home at 8:30 in the morning, so I want to see him a little bit and have a cup of coffee with him. 

I have decided that I am going to try to not actually start my workday until 10 a.m. I have the luxury to do that. I know that doesn’t work for everybody but it is just something we are trying. If you give me my morning to visit with my family and get my workout in and run a few errands that I just want to get done before the day gets going, maybe even doing a little journaling or reading a book or whatever it might be. 

I like to have my morning and I am best in the morning so I want to enjoy that. Then, come 10 a.m. I am ready to go. I have the things out of the way that I wanted to do and I am focused on work. 

This feels very weird to me but I am going to try it because I really took inventory. I downloaded the PDF I told you guys about. I thought this is my personality. This is going to make me happier and more productive. 

It is too early to tell you if it’s going to work or not but I will report back. I will let you know. But one of the things that helped me was this Working Better Than Before PDF and I want you to get it as well. I mentioned this in the intro, but if you haven’t gotten your hands on it yet all you need to do is go to 76download or you can text the phrase 76download to 33444. 

This PDF will help you really understand you and your habits and will then help you move forward. I also got the book, Working Better Than Before, because Gretchen mentioned those 21 strategies in the interview. I thought they would have some snappy name and asked what the 21 things are called. She said, “strategies.” 

I was like, “oh yeah.” I love the concept of the 21 strategies to help you form better habits related to how you operate. I got the book and I am going to dive into those as well. I will keep you all updated. This is something really near and dear to my heart because I am so hard on myself when I don’t stick to habits. I say things to myself that I would never say to my worst enemy. 

I want to be kinder to myself and one way to do that is to understand how I operate and form habits around that so that I can win versus always struggling not to get to the groove of the habits that I create. 

That’s just my take on that. I wanted to share that with you and just thank you so much for being here. It truly does mean a lot to me. I am so glad that you got to hear this interview because I think it could really make a difference in our personal life and in your business if you take these strategies and actually do something with them. 

It’s all about taking action. It’s good to hear but it is great to actually do! 

Finally, I want to thank our sponsor, 99Designs. You know when you market online it is really difficult to stand out from all of that online noise clutter. How do you do it? I think you do it through impeccable branding. That includes your logo, your social media cover images, your website, and everything in between. At 99Designs you can get anything designed in just a week for a startup-friendly price. 

To give you a little something extra, when you go to you will get a $99 upgrade for free. That upgrade makes your design contest stand out from all of the others and bumps you to the top of the list so more designers can see your contest. 

Thank you so very much, have a wonderful week and I can’t wait to connect with you again next week. Take care. 

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