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.


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

second image via

Shit. Another yearlong project? Kill me now. (Giveaway!)

Fuck. It’s the first time in 105 weeks that I’ve missed posting on Monday. I want to punch myself in the face. But as you know……

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 year: Attempt another yearlong project

I thought about writing this post three days ago in a celebratory “Errbody raise your pimp cup and let’s get crunk in honor of this blog’s two-year anniversary. We done did it!” It seemed like a nice idea, but if I’m being honest, it was only a very brief half-thought. The anniversary coincided with my birthday AND the wedding of my best homegirl. Also, I was drunk for most of the day. I see the way your eyes just narrowed a little bit. Gosh, Elizabeth may have a drinking problem. No, ma’am. I was drinking wine and champagne. That doesn’t make me an alcoholic. It makes me a goddamn socialite. Please refrain from passing judgment unless you are well-versed in these nuances.

Learn from me: Never start anything on your birthday. Well, if you’re like most people and quit projects around Day 13, then sure, go ahead and attempt any damn thing you want. I started Flourish in Progress on my 30th birthday to stay accountable during my yearlong shopping ban. By having a blog, my friends and family could keep track of every mistake. Then, at the next potluck, they could shame me and beat me into submission with the green willowy branches of a young sapling.

I wasn’t too worried, even though I bruise easily and have a deep fear of Tree Branch Death. With my strengths (nothing) and weaknesses (everything), it was pretty clear that I would start The Project, write a few weepy self-pity posts about privileged people problems, and then wake up on Day 13 with a “Fuck it, ain’t nobody got time for this bullshit revelation and immediately run to Target to spend a grazillion dollars. End of Project. End of blog. Body saved from Bark Devastation.

Then, some weird shit starting happening. A small sense of satisfaction took root in my heart. I started to feel happy. And proud. My confidence puffed up a little bit. I made friends. I talked to good people. Writing regularly about my life forced me to be honest. And not just with you. For the first time, I was really being honest about myself to myself. That shit’s not so pretty sometimes.

I used to think: I’d rather keep deceiving myself because it’s easier. But I wasn’t happy then.

I am happier now. Maybe your set-point for happiness is naturally high, so that sentence didn’t hold the weight it would to a person who has a naturally low set-point for happiness. Like me.

I am happier because I gave up something that was profoundly impacting the quality of my life and ended up getting more, way more, than what I gave away.


Once a month for the next year, I’m going to interview someone who embodies a quality or virtue I admire. Without giving away the entire list, a few I’m currently working on are: Hustle, Persistence, and the Pursuit of Happiness.

I’ve reached out to rappers, comedians, actors, authors, athletes, activists, and fashion designers. And I’ve already locked down a few.

Y’all are the reason I’m able to sit down at my desk and turn on my computer sometimes. It takes me 5-10 hours to write these stupidly short Monday Dares because I had never written anything longer than an email before I started blogging. You give me my best ideas and more love and support than any motherfucker really deserves. Thank you.

So think about who you’d like to see as part of the 12-part series and what quality or virtue they might encompass for you.

Thank you for loving me when I didn’t love myself.

P.S. When Cal asked what I wanted for my birthday, I told her a pimp cane was #1 on my list. She said that since I only gave her $8 a week, I needed to keep it real. Fair enough. But, my friend Mike, DID get me a pimp cane. And I posted the picture on the Flourish in Progress Facebook page. “Like” the page to see more original content not featured on the blog.


When Sara of BlueQ reached out several weeks ago with the kindest words of support and love, I was immediately smitten with this homette. I didn’t get to meet her during BlogHer, but she saw my Voices of the Year reading and totally didn’t think I was crazy. I don’t know if this means I have low standards, but anyone who doesn’t think I’m crazy is automatically part of the Best Friend category in my book.

I LOVE BlueQ products. About 80% of the time, I carry this pack of gum around in my purse:

You know, in case I need to give it to someone. I like to be prepared for these kinds of situations.

Sara and I chatted a little and I told her I felt a little fucked in the head about turning 32. A few days later, I received a ridiculously large box from BlueQ. A SMALL portion of the goodies is pictured below.

I SWEAR TO GOD I DID NOT ROB THE BLUEQ WAREHOUSE. The card that Sara included with the box is one of the best birthday cards I’ve ever received. Inside, she wrote simply:

I hope you make it to see 33. I really, really mean that. Love, Sara.
I can’t keep all grazillion dollars of this pimptastic stuff for myself. I’m picking two winners to share in this bounty.
TO ENTER: Just leave a comment below with your suggestion(s) on who you’d like to see as part of the interview series. They must not be dead or currently incarcerated. ONLY comments left on THIS blog post will count. No Facebook. No Twitter.
image via pinterest