Happier Made Simple author, Randye Kaye, Q and A
- Tell us about yourself.
I wear a lot of hats other than the personal ones of mom, grandma, wife, sister, friend…I earn my keep as an actress, radio personality, singer, author, speaker, voice talent, audiobook narrator, improviser, teacher. Seems scattered, right? But there’s a thread running through all those professions, even though it took hindsight for me to see it.
The common thread is communication: via body and voice, and more specifically, the words we choose: words we write, words we speak, words we choose to tell our stories to ourselves and each other.
I’ve been lucky enough to share words through my work – from framing life’s little surprises on a radio show, to mining them for laughs and lessons on stage or as a teacher, to a big share in my first book Ben Behind His Voices.
- Give a brief description of your book, Happier Made Simple.
Happier Made Simple helps people who feel held back by anxiety and doubt become happier and more confident every day by making simple word changes – with a dash of humor – so that they can enjoy more love, purpose and success in their lives.
In three easy-to-digest sections, it presents “shortcuts to more serenity in a complicated world” by harnessing the power of the words we use in everyday life – in the way we speak to ourselves, and with others.
- Section I busts old myths about “happiness” and sets realistic expectations
- Section II lays out Seven Core Phrases, in Concepts that spell BREATHE. Readers can try out these phrases right away to reduce anxiety, reframe situations and increase serenity. Explanations follow the actions.
- Section III goes beyond self-talk to touch on a few more concepts to explore and try, including the words we use when we speak to others, and actions that can make a difference right away.
I’ll let one of my early readers (Donna Cameron, author of A Year of Living Kindly) describe it:
“Filled with humor, insight, and a vitalizing honesty, Happier Made Simple reminds us that we always have a choice in how we respond to what life throws our way. Randye Kaye’s welcome voice offers an empowering message and practical strategies for living a life of joy, presence, and connection.”
- Why did you write Happier Made Simple?
Like you, I’ve been through stuff. As my grandmother used to say, “everybody’s got something.” But we do tend to differ in the way we react to life’s challenges and joys. As I shared my own experiences with audiences and workshop participants, so many asked me how I “stay so positive” that they inspired me to share my answers in this book.
My first goal was to write a book readers might actually want to finish, with ideas to use right away. So many of us (myself included) have self-development books sitting on our shelves (or donated to garage sales), with only a chapter or two completed. Friends told me, “I bought this book about happiness and just couldn’t finish it. It got too wordy and complicated. I wanted to shout, just tell me what to do!”
I include stories of my own challenges so far –marriage to an alcoholic, desertion of the aforementioned spouse, single parenting, supporting my family as an actor, losing my parents, serious mental illness in my son, a big DNA surprise, learning to love and trust again, the journey back from being hit by a car.
Still, my “default mode” (as my computer geek husband calls it) is to choose happier.
How? I realized that the words I chose to tell myself led me to happier places, at least eventually (strong emotions must be processed). Words are shortcuts. They bridge to other thoughts, feelings and actions – and if we are not aware of where they lead us, we might go there blindfolded.
There are lots of fantastic resources out there – I recommend them in my book for further enlightenment – but I couldn’t find one that provided a simple explanation, told with everyday language and humor, framed as actions and word changes to try first, understand later. So I wrote one.
Also, in attending “happiness” workshops online and in-person, some of the most revered “happiness gurus” I experienced never even cracked a smile. Many of these classes scored low on fun and humor, high on complicated concepts.
I had presented some of this book’s material as a workshop in corporate and self-development settings, and the response was so encouraging (plus we all had fun) that the basis of the seven Core Phrases and Concepts that spell “BREATHE” formed the first seven chapters.
- What was the most challenging part of writing this book?
Well, since it took a full decade to get this one from my head into print, I’d say there were quite a few challenges. Mostly? Procrastination. Yes, the evil “I’ll get to it later” monster.
One reason for procrastination is a lack of time. Okay, true, but this can also just become an excuse.
Two things gave me more time:
- my adult son moved out (we had revolved a fair amount of our schedule around his medication needs, long story), and
- my audiobook narration schedule, normally totally booked, got quiet for a whole month. After a little detour into the actor’s lament (oh no will I ever work again?) I followed my own advice, reframed the situation, and realized the Universe was giving me time to finish the darn book already.
Another friend of procrastination (and enemy of accomplishment) is a lack of structure. I needed a plan. (As I share in the book, Structure isn’t the prison. Chaos is the prison.) For me, I plan best when accountable to someone, or something else. You gotta know you own foibles.
So I used the same trick that I’d employed in getting my first book written: involving another human being so I’d have accountability.
I signed up for two courses designed to help you get that book done. The first one got me as far as the outline, which was a huge step but that’s where it – or, rather, I – stopped. A few years later, I did the “finish the book in 30 days” route. That one got me to the finish line.
Also – honorable (or not-so-honorable) mention to another procrastination ally: imposter syndrome. I had to get past my own doubts – did the world need my message? Would anyone resonate with it? Are there already too many books on this topic?
Two things helped with that: my treasured early readers who loved the book and its uniqueness, and my own stubbornness. Once I got the first draft done, there was no way I wasn’t going to take the risk and finish the journey.
Momentum is a wonderful thing – and so are the community of other writers, specialists who can help with the details that are too complicated to do alone, and friends and family that keep you going.
- What other books have inspired you?
So, so many. I was more of a math/science nerd in high school (ok, music and theatre too), but I’ve often wished I could go back to English class again. Oh, what a privilege it was to be in a group of other humans who all (supposedly) read the same book, and to discuss it together! Of course, I didn’t see it that way in high school. True, too, about gym class.
Nowadays we have book clubs, online communities, Amazon and Goodreads reviews, and friends/ family recommendations. As an audiobook narrator, I’ve also had the opportunity to read (out loud) many works that I might never have been introduced to otherwise. How lucky is that?
In Happier Made Simple, I share some additional inspirations with the readers and the end of each chapter. These are books whose concepts guide me to this day.
Here are some of those, and a few more:
When Bad Things Happen to Good People, by Harold S. Kushner
Improv Wisdom, by Patricia Ryan Madson
Man’s Search for Meaning, by Victor Frankl
My Stroke of Insight, by Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor
Emotional Intelligence, by Daniel Goleman
The Gifts of Imperfection, by Brene Brown
A Year of Living Kindly, by Donna Cameron
Bowling Alone, by Robert Putnam
The Art of Racing in the Rain, by Garth Stein
Tuesdays With Morrie, by Mitch Albom
Why Is My Child In Charge?, by Claire Lerner (and we all also have that inner child…)
The Stand, by Stephen King (what would we as people do if we had to start over?
And… the body of work of Stephen Sondheim. Not a book, but pure philosophical poetry with tremendous insight and honest questions about life.
- How did you come up with the title?
This one wasn’t as difficult as my first book, where there were three working titles (To Hell and Halfway Back; No Casseroles for Schizophrenia, and finally Ben Behind His Voices) before we settled on the last one.
This book started with the deliberate use of Happier rather than Happiness. That was on purpose – as promising constant happiness seems unattainable, and I wanted to keep it real. Simple came in reaction to the many books I picked up, and then put down, that had tiny fonts and tons of theory. This one had to look, and be, readable.
- What is your favorite passage in the book and why?
I framed the BREATHE Seven Core Concepts/Phrases so that they might become the most memorable (and easily remembered) content. Many workshop participants told me they carry the Seven Phrases in their wallet. There are others, though, that also seem to resonate with readers so far:
Life is what you highlight.
Never underestimate the beauty of small encounters.
Your state of mind can be all about how you tell your story – to others and, especially, to yourself.
Unsnap that judgment. Curiosity or fascination replacing judgment is key to seeing life through a happier lens.
Humility, including admitting when you are wrong, is a more widely opened door into the human race. Come on in, the water’s fine.
We’re not supposed to be happy all the time. We’ve got a beautiful range of emotional states that co-exist so we can tell the difference between them.
Family is what you embrace.
We are not as self-sufficient as we think we are. Not really. Yes, we have the illusion of self-sufficiency now. It can be easy to forget that we need each other.
You don’t go to the hardware store for butter. No one – no one – can give you everything you need.
Humor has always gotten me through, always given perspective to life’s little surprises, wrong turns, fears, and doubts. And humor begins with curiosity. Isn’t That… Interesting?
Humor must be joined with kindness. Laugh at yourself, but never at someone else. Laugh with others.
All will be well – just maybe not in the way you expect.
Acceptance is not the same thing as approval.