Journalist, mom, Swiss-Persian New Yorker. Host of @NPR’s @TEDRadioHour + @ZigZagPod. Author of Bored+Brilliant. Media Entrepreneur-ish. ManoushZ.com/newsletter

Pro-tips for how to reach out for professional guidance

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Right before Christmas, I got an email asking for advice. This person was negotiating a new contract to host a podcast. They wanted to know if I thought their current fee was too high or low. I’m sure I’ve low-balled myself countless times over the years, so I’m usually happy to help people figure out their personal price point. But this email really rubbed me the wrong way. I’d like to briefly explain how basic courtesies can make or break your hunt for professional feedback, mentorship, or counseling.

First off, this person did not introduce themself. They assumed I’d know who they are. Out of curiosity, I searched for their name in my inbox and we’d intersected on a group message a year prior. Unless you were on a Zoom together last week or shared Thanksgiving in 2019, assume that the person you are emailing does not know who you are or remember you. Use phrases like, “We met in 2019 at an event in Midtown,” or, “We both know James.” Establishing or reminding your potential advisor of a point of connection will keep them reading on to your request. …


This Is Us

Or, a meditation on accelerated aging

Do you feel like you’ve aged exponentially this year? Or, better question: Do you look like you’ve aged exponentially this year? I do. And not just because of the pandemic, the recession, or the numerous existential crises facing our country.

I’ll start by rewinding to March.

The last thing I did in pre-Covid times was get my usual monthly root touch-up. Five days later, New York City went into lockdown and we decided to rent a house in NJ to be closer to my parents. Hospitals started filling up with sick patients. My lovely hairdresser texted all her clients, offering to leave doses of dye on her salon steps so we could cover our roots at home. I couldn’t be bothered. …


How those two holes in the middle of your face share smelling duties

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I’m trying to think about simple things right now: things that I might have overlooked when I cared whether my Metrocard was full; things to distract me from the feeling of despair that hangs in the air; things that are right in front of me, or even, on me, that I may have taken for granted 11 months ago. Like my nose.

When we’re not hyperventilating about the state of our country, we take around 22,000 breaths a day. And, unless you’re a mouth breather, we also inhale smells. But did you know that our nostrils are engaging in a pas de deux all day long, taking in different but complementary odors and air flows? …


This Is Us

Why some of us can’t bear to use the beautiful things we own

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I just learned the word “anhedonia.” It means the inability to experience pleasure. Writers have been using the term a lot recently (15,700 results came up when I searched for it in Google News) to describe one of Covid’s long term effects on mental health. Over the weekend, I came across anhedonia in a New York Times article, which linked it to another good vocab word: anosmia, or the loss of smell.

Smell is intimately tied to both taste and appetite, and anosmia often robs people of the pleasure of eating. But the sudden absence also may have a profound impact on mood and quality of life. Studies have linked anosmia to social isolation and anhedonia, an inability to feel pleasure, as well as a strange sense of detachment and isolation. …


And how they helped me stay connected to family members

It’s been a year of trying to stay connected with faraway friends and family… and not strangling the loved ones you see all. day. long. Over the past year, taking hours-long walks (usually between 10–20k steps, 5–6 days a week) has regulated my mood, given me time to listen to all the things I need to for my day job, and kept my children’s bodies from morphing into wet noodles. But I’ve noticed that I’ve picked up some unusual habits while doing all this walking. I hope they continue well after we come out of hibernation.

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Texting roadkill with my brother

My brother and I regularly text each other photos of roadkill that we come across while on long jaunts. Petrified frog pancakes, deer rib cages picked semi-clean, rats that look like half-flattened toothpaste tubes. They’re all fodder for showing my brother that I love him and I’m thinking of him. And that I know he shares my sense that if we don’t laugh at this horror-filled world and/or turn it into ironic art, we’re doomed. Although, I just couldn’t bring myself to photograph the dead possum — and her parcel of eight dead babies attached to her back — at the top of the hill where I like to take walks. That would have been taking our macabre yet affectionate practice one text too far. …


And what they say about 2021

A sign post silhouetted against the twilight sky with orange-pink clouds.
A sign post silhouetted against the twilight sky with orange-pink clouds.

Maybe you’ve had enough of annual Top Ten lists. Not me. I not only love reading them, I love making them. There’s no personal algorithm that helps me figure out what makes it on the list. But reflecting on why an article stuck with me is a clarifying exercise. First, it makes clear what my scattered mind is truly curious about (as you’ll see: business, tech, women, habits, meaning, work). Second, lining up the links in ascending order feels like I’m tidying the basement of my brain. …


And she wants to be adopted by ‘The Office’

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As school wraps up for the holidays, my 10-year-old daughter has been happily collaborating with her classmates online. When we take our daily walk, she cheerfully fills me in on how the project — which involves building fantasy worlds — is progressing. But I was slightly unnerved when she referred to herself as the Leslie Knope of her group. My concern grew when she went on to say that her contribution to the assignment was inspired by The Good Place. …


Your inbox may be the last place to find focus on the internet.

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2020 has been a year of many things: disease, political awakenings, financial destruction. But, on a smaller note, I think it’s also the year of the newsletter.

I’ve been a newsletter junkie for about a decade now. A couple years ago, a friend confided that he loved his job but really, “All I want to do is stay home and read newsletters.” I nodded vigorously. Who doesn’t love an email full of personal confessions, carefully curated links, and good-mood gifs without interruption? This year it seems newsletter fever has spread and my friend’s dreams have come true: Everyone is staying home… and reading newsletters. Or writing them. Why?


Why I’m becoming a procrastinator after a lifetime of getting things done as efficiently as possible.

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In 2014, I felt relief when a scientific paper confirmed that precrastination is, indeed, a thing. The meta irony that I’d already coined the term myself did not escape me.

Sorry, I’m getting ahead of myself (as usual): Procrastinators put off cleaning the toilet, working out, and responding to email. They wait until the last minute. But there’s a segment of the population who, like me, will clean the toilet as soon as necessary, prefer to workout early in the day, and reply to an email even before having the information they need to write a thorough response. We precrastinators have a “tendency to rush to get things done as quickly as possible, even at the expense of extra effort,” writes the man who officially coined the term, David A. Rosenbaum. …


And antitrust legal expert Sally Hubbard’s advice for what to do about it

A few weeks ago, my friend Sally had a rather obvious nightmare. In her dream, she was wearing an orange jumpsuit — cut to be fashionable, but clearly prison attire — and stocking shelves in an Amazon warehouse. To some, this might indicate the guilt of one-click shopping reaching its apex. But Sally is Sally Hubbard, one of the country’s foremost experts on anti-trust law. She’s testified to Congress about why Amazon and other big American companies are, as she puts it, “exploiting their middleman positions to pick themselves as the winners of our economy.” So yeah, her dream was a little on the nose. …

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