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

My goal was to keep up a weekly practice without churning out “content”

Last November, I committed to publishing on Medium on a weekly basis for six months. Usually after completing a project, I charge onto the next thing, without pausing or looking back — a stupid, unproductive habit, because it means I rarely learn from my mistakes nor relish what I’ve accomplished. So, in an effort to break from my personal norm, I’ve evaluated what I learned from writing here every week. Well, nearly every week.

It turns out that my brain likes routine…but only up to a point. From November up until today, I managed to keep up a weekly cadence…


How data distracts us from feeling joy

How much? How many? These are the questions our gadgets answer for us all day long: We see how many steps we walked, minutes we spent tossing or turning overnight, hours we started at a screen. But technology can’t measure everything. Other, more nebulous concepts, like happiness, creativity, and pain, are harder to translate into data. And yet, we humans love to try.

The United Nations, for example, puts out the annual Happiness Report using a scale called the Cantril ladder, which asks citizens of each country to “think of a ladder, with the best possible life for them being…


The rejuvenating power of feeling like a visitor

Rejuvenation. That’s what a friend recently told me she needed. She’d written a book that was published in October, right before the election, but she’d felt too exhausted to publicize it. Not that it would have mattered anyway. The world was shouty and stressed.

Now, with vaccines and tulips all around us, she was still dragging herself from masked grocery store visits to the occasional school pickup (when school wasn’t closed because of Covid.) “What can rejuvenate me?” she asked. We listed the obvious options for middle-aged women in Brooklyn: yoga, wine, essential oils, hanging out in someone’s backyard for…


And 11 reasons you should

I get a lot of emails that start like this: “I have an idea for a podcast.” Usually this person wants me to explain the business of podcasting or confirm that their idea is viable. There are great online resources to answer the first question; you can answer the latter by actually recording something and playing it for people. But before you start googling or downloading audio editing software, be sure you know your WHY, as Simon Sinek says. Below I’ve categorized the best and worst motivations I’ve heard.

You shouldn’t start a podcast…

  1. Because you’ve been meaning to interview…


A process to better align your professional ambitions with your personal values. I think it’s possible.

In 2019, my business partner and I were in a tough spot. The year before, we’d quit our jobs in a fit of frustration, joined a cryptocurrency project that was trying to save independent journalism, and turned the whole mishegas into documentary-style podcast series. Really. The show got critical acclaim but, a year later, our funding was about to dry up and we needed a rescue plan for our little business. In some ways, we’d boxed ourselves in. Our show was about not selling out. …


A helpful way to cut down on the noise

When President Biden took office earlier this year, many of us relished the end of four years… of compulsively refreshing our news apps. The headlines lost their lure, cable news saw a post-Trump ratings slump, and, even though Covid times continue, it felt like we got part of our brains back. But, in the past few weeks, that feeling has faded away for me.

I’ve begun stuffing my favorite reading app with long-form articles, yet I can’t get past the first paragraph of any of them. My inbox is drowning in newsletters that I usually rely on to streamline my…


Pandemic Reflections

There are several things I don’t want to let go of

I feel scared about the pandemic ending. That feels wrong to write, in light of all the loss, pain, and misery people have endured over the past year. My family and I are extremely lucky, fortunate, and privileged: Our kids go to school part-time, my parents and in-laws are vaccinated, and the husband and I can easily work from home. I’m in an industry that doesn’t qualify as “essential.”

My last professional outing was exactly a year ago: the Hot Pod Summit, where my fellow podcasters and I nervously giggled as we greeted each other with elbow bumps and then…


Double-screening may be the source of your sugar cravings too

People talk about the pandemic being a time to move slower, but you feel busier than ever. Back-to-back zoom calls, with no commute to break up the meetings and think about the conversation you just had. You go from an online parent-teacher conference to Q3 planning without so much as a potty break. At the end of the day, all you want to do is lie on the floor and eat the Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups you hid in the back of the freezer last October. For those of us who work mostly online, we’ve had a year of inputting…


And why it’s okay to be happy about success and pancakes

The best part of writing a newsletter are the emails I get in return. Recently, Calvin University’s student body president, Claire Murashima, responded to my grumblings about inaccurate usage of the word “humbled.” She shared this extremely comprehensive essay from a few years ago, in which the wonderful writer Carina Chocano explains the word’s origins and theorizes on why successful people use it incorrectly, insisting they are “humbled” by their achievements, rather than remotely pleased with themselves:

It’s pro forma — possibly even mandatory — for politicians, athletes, celebrities and other public figures to be vocally and vigorously humbled by…


And blue blockers probably won’t help

I’ve taken to wearing my new reading glasses during meals. This stupid pandemic has destroyed my eyesight, and blurry food, I’ve discovered, is unappetizing. I’m middle-aged. My vision was bound to deteriorate sooner rather than later. But my sight’s rapid decline has made me fearful for my kids. What is six hours of Zoom a day doing to their young, plump eyeballs?

I recently attended a virtual seminar called Eyes on Screens: Maintaining Your Kids’ Ocular Health in a Digital World, put together by Children and Screens. Much of what I learned applies to adults, too. Let’s start with the…

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