As a clerk to Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, Gretchen Rubin asked the pioneer what she thought was the secret to happiness.
“And she answered me right away. She knew exactly what her answer was. And she said, it was work worth doing.”
Rubin, who is a four-time New York Times bestseller and the host of a weekly podcast, “Happier with Rubin,” says O’Connor’s comment stuck with her.
“I got to the point where I thought, well you know what I would really like to try is to write a book. I would like to actually see if I could become a book writer. At a certain point, I decided that I would rather fail as a writer than succeed as a lawyer,” she says on an episode of ABC Radio’s “No Limits with Rebecca Jarvis.”
As a graduate from Yale Law School, it was a twist from her well-prepared career track but one she was compelled to try.
“Many people who are circus performers feel a tremendous compulsion to go and do these kinds of professions,” Rubin says. “And I felt that way.”
In a nod to "Star Wars," Rubin added, “For me, this call to writing -– once I had a subject, and had this idea that I wanted to turn into a book, it was the Death Star that had me in its gravitational field.
“And it was just pulling me towards it.”
Rubin found herself up for the challenge, and left law to pursue her passion. It led to the books “Profane Waste,” “Power Money Fame Sex” and “Forty Ways to Look at JFK,” among others. And then came “The Happiness Project.” Her breakout novel spent over two years on the New York Times bestseller list, sold over 1.5 million copies, and was published in over 30 languages.
As Rubin made the switch from law to the literary world, she recalls the ardent support of her family members as one of the driving forces that made her decision possible.
“I’m very impressed by my family and now that I’m a parent myself, I really do respect even more how willingly they supported me.”
Rubin adds, “They want you to do something that feels safer, because they want to protect you. But the problem is, there is no safe place.”
In her most recent book, “The Four Tendencies,” Rubin goes deeper into territory she herself has had to explore: how individuals respond to inner and outer expectations.
Today, Rubin believes that one of the secrets to happiness came from challenging herself. She says that one of the greatest tensions standing in the way of happiness is “on the one hand we want to accept ourselves, and on the other hand we want to expect more from ourselves.”
“Novelty and challenge do bring happiness, but you have to find the novelty and challenge that’s appropriate for you.”