A while back, someone was interviewing me and asked me if I’ve tried yoga.

Right now a zillion people are thinking I’m writing about them. Because so many people, in the middle of an interview, decide they need to recommend to me that I do yoga.

The person tells me that yoga changed their life and they think it would help my life.

So I say that I have been practicing Ashtanga yoga for fifteen years.

This shuts the person up. Because I am, invariably, much more studly about yoga than the person telling me that I should do yoga because they do it.

So they say, invariably, “Oh. I don’t read about it on your blog. Why don’t you write about it?”

First of all, I do write about it, occasionally, like now, to tell everyone that I am better than they are.

But in general, yoga is a topic you should never write about. Because telling someone how your life is great because you are so disciplined to put your leg behind your head every morning is just not interesting. People don’t want to hear about how great you are and how you’re the most healthy person around. Anyway, truly healthy people do not feel compelled to tell the world about how healthy they are.

Not every morning. I mean, I don’t do it every morning. Although every morning that I don’t do it I hate myself for not doing it.

Self-hatred is an interesting topic. Which is why I write about it a lot. The mornings where I wake up and roll into downward dog: not interesting.

It’s the same reason that good sex is not interesting. Everyone has good sex the same way. You have sex with a long-term partner who loves you, you do it so many times that you can each have a nice orgasm every time. No big surprises. No disappointments. Probably a little more fat each year but that’s the only change.

Bad sex. That’s interesting. Sex with someone who doesn’t give a shit about you: scintillating. Because the dichotomy between pretending to be close and not actually being close is emotionally scratchy to the reader.

Why do people insist on writing about how great they are? This is not interesting. You know this from going to cocktail parties. If you only talk about why you’re great no one will want to talk to you.

Do you know what people really like to read? Cynical analysis about news items. Here’s one:  The Forte Foundation reports that among people younger than 25, more women than men take the GMAT.  This means that it’s official that an MBA is useless. Because anything in the workplace that has more women than men is low-paying and totally uncool. This also makes sense, because as women are finally getting their certification for business smarts, it is more fashionable to do a startup where the world rewards you for trying to do business with no qualifications beyond a good idea and a 100-hour workweek.

See. If you want to be interesting, talk about stuff like that.

You also need to be useful, though. The majority of blog posts that I throw out are garbage because they are fun but not useful. If people want only fun, they go to Disney World. People read a blog to have fun AND learn something.

Something I can teach you is that people who have new experiences are happier people. They are called neophiles. Humans are an inherently neophilic species, but it’s a spectrum. Isolated communities have more DNA for neophilism, like descendants from populations that crossed the Bering Strait.

Young people are great at having new experiences. But as we age, we lose our drive to try new things. And this is bad. The magic formula for trying something new is doing something difficult, according to science writer Winifred Gallagher, author of the book, New: Understanding Our Need for Novelty and Change. Gallagher is not writing about trying new food at an expensive restaurant. The need for novelty means taking tons of cooking classes and learning to cook the new food yourself. That’s much more difficult. The wellbeing you get from doing something new comes not from the newness but from the difficulty.

Similarly, you should not visit a farm you should move to one. Hence the pig photos in this post.

Melissa visited and took a million pig pictures and I love the little pigs so much that I am sneaking in a post full of photos. But they fit here because the farm is difficult for me. And so is figuring out how to put photos in every post. Melissa jokes with me that every time I can’t figure out how to do a photo in a post, I add a pig.

This is why you should not take advice from people who write about doing yoga. You should take advice from people who write about NOT doing yoga. Because not doing yoga means the person is struggling to do yoga, which means waking up every day and trying to do something new and difficult. Someone who tells you about how great they are and how they have already figured everything out—those are people with a low sense of wellbeing because they are too invested in looking like their life is in order. They can’t do anything difficult because they don’t want to fail in front of you.

But failing in front of you is a sign that the person is living the kind of life you’d like to live – one where every day you wake up and struggle to do something difficult. That you have not done before.

It’s hard to know who to take advice from. But my instinct tells me that the best advice comes from the people with the most difficulties. Not in the past. But right now. Because that’s where you want to be: doing something difficult right this moment.

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  1. Anne-Sophie
    Anne-Sophie says:

    I agree, nobody wants to read how awesome people are but they want to know that even though you seem you have everything together, you still struggle and you are still insecure and you still mess up A LOT. That’s what keeps people reading and that’s what makes for great blog posts.

  2. Dannielle
    Dannielle says:


    Your posts generate a lot of comments. To me that means you are doing something right as a writer. Can it be boiled down to a formula? That could be a great book.

    Separately, as a person who has followed your blog for some time and seen you struggle like we all do, I wish you much luck in your journey, as always.

    Dannielle Blumenthal

  3. Mads Singers
    Mads Singers says:

    That’s some great advise indeed :D

    Often what people fail to understand is that just cause things worked for them doesnt mean it makes the same difference to others.

    Thanks for another good post Penelope!

  4. Trisha
    Trisha says:

    I LOVE the piglets. SMART move putting cute animal pics on site.
    Please don’t eat the cuties.

  5. Ouida Gabriel
    Ouida Gabriel says:

    My goodness. Reading comments here are like standing in the middle of a dozen children who have ADHD. Incredibly confusing and somewhat entertaining at the same time.

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