Personal Branding Interview: Gretchen Rubin

Today, I spoke to Gretchen Rubin, who is the author of the popular blog, The Happiness Project and the forthcoming author of the book by the same title.  I’ve spoken to Gretchen before, but this time I wanted to focus more on her book and some new ideas she has for how to be happier.  In this interview, she tells us how she got her book deal and how she got the original idea for it, different ways to find true happiness, how to find your passion and more.

How did you get the idea for your book? What do you think sealed the publishing deal?

The idea for the happiness project hit me out of the blue, as I was riding a city bus on a rainy day. “What do I want from life, anyway?” I thought. “Well, I want to be happy.” But I realized I didn’t spend any time thinking about what happiness was, and whether I could be happier, or even whether I was happy. At that moment, I decided to spend a year doing a happiness project.

I didn’t get a book contract until I’d finished my year-long experiment. I’m not sure what sealed the deal. I think the idea of spending a year trying to do all the things you know you SHOULD do, to be happier, really appeals to people. It’s a subject with a wide audience.

From your experience just getting on national TV, how do you recommend people get those types of opportunities and capitalize on them?

Writing a blog is a great way to get yourself out there and associated with a topic. If no one knows you’re an expert, then no one will call you.  Also, try to expand your networks of people. The more people you know, the more people who can say, “Wait, I know someone who has written a lot on that subject.”

This fall, what three things can people do to be more happy?

  1. Get more sleep! It’s easy to adjust to being chronically sleep-deprived, but sleep is extremely important to health and happiness. It’s hard to turn out the light, because for many of us, the nighttime is our leisure time, but sleep is very, very important.
  2. Join or start a group. This is a way to see friends, make friends, spend time on an activity or a subject that interests you. You can meet to talk about fly-fishing, to watch Gossip Girls, to discuss literature, to experiment with desserts….it doesn’t really matter. But I’ve been astonished by the happiness I’ve gained from joining or starting groups.
  3. Act the way you want to feel. If you feel annoyed, act thoughtful. If you feel shy, act friendly. It really works.

80% of people aren’t passionate about their work. What causes this?

Being passionate about your work requires mindful decision-making. You have to know what would make you happy and go after it. Often, with work, people make safe choices, or choices that please other people, or choices that allow them to avoid facing difficult truths or risking failure.

Take the time and energy to examine what you really want to do, then take the steps to try to pursue it. This can be a very difficult, uncomfortable process, but it pays off in the end.

You write for Huffington Post and Slate in addition to your blog. Why is it important to build your brand elsewhere?

Someone told me, “Ubiquity is the new exclusivity,” and I absolutely believe that. You never know where people are going to go on the internet, so you want people to be able to find you in lots of places.

Gretchen Rubin is the forthcoming author of The Happiness Project (Harper, December 29) a writer working on The Happiness Project—an account of the year she spent test-driving every conceivable principle about how to be happy, from the wisdom of the ages to current scientific studies, from Aristotle to Ben Franklin to Martin Seligman. On her Happiness Project blog, she reports her daily adventures on her way to becoming happier. Rubin is a graduate of Yale Law School and was editor-in-chief of the Yale Law Journal. She was clerking for Justice Sandra Day O’Connor when she had the epiphany that she really wanted to be a writer. Her bestselling Forty Ways to Look at Winston Churchill and Forty Ways to Look at JFK are succinct, provocative biographies.