Suleika Jaouad on Invaluable Road Trips, the Importance of a To-Feel List, and Finding Artistic Homes (#516)

Artist's rendering of Suleika Jaouad
Illustration via 99designs

“When the ceiling caves in on you, you no longer assume structural stability. You have to learn to live along fault lines.”

— Suleika Jaouad

Suleika Jaouad (@suleikajaouad) is the author of the instant New York Times bestselling memoir Between Two Kingdoms. She wrote the Emmy Award-winning New York Times column + video series “Life, Interrupted,” and her reporting and essays have been featured in The New York Times Magazine, The Atlantic, Vogue, and NPR, among others. A highly sought-after speaker, her mainstage TED talk was one of the ten most popular of 2019 and has nearly four million views.

She is also the creator of The Isolation Journals, a community creativity project founded during the COVID-19 pandemic to help others convert isolation into artistic solitude. Over 100,000 people from around the world have joined. You can find one of my favorite prompts, which I shared on my blog last spring, at tim.blog/dialogue.

Please enjoy!

Listen to the episode on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Overcast, Stitcher, Castbox, Google Podcasts, or on your favorite podcast platform.

Brought to you by Dry Farm Wines natural wines designed for fewer hangovers; Allform premium, modular furniture; and LMNT electrolyte supplement. More on all three below.

You can find the transcript of this episode here. Transcripts of all episodes can be found here.

#516: Suleika Jaouad on Invaluable Road Trips, the Importance of a To-Feel List, and Finding Artistic Homes
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What was your favorite quote or lesson from this episode? Please let me know in the comments.

SCROLL BELOW FOR LINKS AND SHOW NOTES…

Want to hear an episode with another author who went the distance to find her story? Listen to my conversation with Cheryl Strayed, in which we discuss books as religion, writing prompts and processes, hiking the Pacific Crest Trail, and much more.

#231: How to Be Creative Like a Motherf*cker — Cheryl Strayed
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SELECTED LINKS FROM THE EPISODE

  • Connect with Suleika Jaouad:

Website | Twitter | Facebook | Instagram

SHOW NOTES

  • Why Suleika found spending two weeks in a maximum-security prison’s hospice to write a piece for The New York Times Magazine so inspiring. [06:43]
  • How did Suleika Jaouad come by her name, and where did she grow up? [11:51]
  • What influenced Suleika’s decision to become a writer, and how did she rise to the challenge of writing about war from the relative safety of Princeton? What about this experience “electrified” Suleika? [14:43]
  • After an earlier failure to get into a writing class during her freshman year at Princeton, what gave her the confidence to try again? [21:00]
  • Something you never want to ask in a Morrocan restaurant if your Arabic was learned in Tunisia. [22:53]
  • How did Suleika go from rebellious teenager to Princeton academic, and what prompted her to take writing more seriously? [26:32]
  • What mortality-facing event served as the grist for Suleika’s award-winning column and series Life, Interrupted? [36:32]
  • While Suleika didn’t make it through Tolstoy’s War and Peace during this time (and admittedly still hasn’t), what books — including what she considered her “sick girl Bible” — helped her get through it? [41:37]
  • What life was like for Suleika post-cancer, and how it differed from what she expected it would be like after four years of treatment. [47:56]
  • What post-treatment work helped Suleika come to terms with the ordeal she had survived and the trauma she still endured during her long recovery? What did receiving a possible PTSD diagnosis do to change her approach, and how did this lead to the adventure she would chronicle in Between Two Kingdoms? [54:47]
  • Where did the title of this book originate, and what factors went into its selection? [1:01:43]
  • How did Suleika land her New York Times column as a 23-year-old in the hospital who only had a 35 percent chance of survival? [1:03:34]
  • How did Suleika’s column connect her to the people she would later meet on her road trip, and what did these glimpses into the lives of others provide for her during this time of intense isolation? [1:10:26]
  • What got Suleika added to a Montana survivalist family’s “list,” and to what is she entitled for being included? [1:15:56]
  • How did the reality of Suleika’s road trip compare with what she’d been expecting from it? How did it help her break the rut in which she’d been in since her — as she calls it — “incanceration?” [1:18:48]
  • What advice would Suleika give to a group of people trying to cope with being stuck in a similar period of darkness? [1:30:15]
  • What does Suleika’s journaling practice look like? What writing prompt has she found particularly effective over the past few months? [1:34:31]
  • Writing what you know vs. writing what you want to understand. [1:43:02]
  • What would Suleika’s billboard say? [1:47:11]
  • What are The Isolation Journals? [1:48:41]
  • Parting thoughts. [1:51:32]

PEOPLE MENTIONED

The Tim Ferriss Show is one of the most popular podcasts in the world with more than 600 million downloads. It has been selected for "Best of Apple Podcasts" three times, it is often the #1 interview podcast across all of Apple Podcasts, and it's been ranked #1 out of 400,000+ podcasts on many occasions. To listen to any of the past episodes for free, check out this page.

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13 Replies to “Suleika Jaouad on Invaluable Road Trips, the Importance of a To-Feel List, and Finding Artistic Homes (#516)”

  1. Tim and Readers,

    I just finished reading a piece from your 5 Bullet Friday, “Amazon, Walmart…..Chinese potting soil…..and the 34th Amendment….” by Deep Throat.

    In many ways, you have been a north star in our society, and I appreciate you shedding light on pertinent problems and solutions.

    This piece expanded my understanding of the growing massive threat to our middle class. Do you have any guidance or recommend any organizations to proactively combat this threat?

    Cheers, Zack

  2. I wasn’t really interested interested in this episode but I am glad I listened. She is very relatable, open and honest. I love her courage.

  3. “If you want to write a good book, write what you don’t want others to know about you. If you want to write a great book, write what you don’t want to know about yourself”

    That quote alone made this podcast gold. I never comment anywhere on anything, and I’m not even a frequent listener, but this podcast re-oriented how I view the world in a strong way. It presents mortality and impermanence in a scary, but sobering and ultimately liberating way. I had to close my work laptop and ask myself “Do the things I do still make sense?”.

    Going to take a long walk around the neighborhood and see if the answer is yes or no.

  4. I really found her writing prompts very clever. Sometimes you have to put your head into what it is that you want to be able to sense what the reality of it might be like. Great interview!

  5. I have never been so touched by a podcast before. I mean that, this has inspired me to start writing again and really work on getting unstuck. I’m getting there, but I have some progress to make.

    I’m so glad you did this interview. A million thanks for all the work you do, these podcasts and the guests you interview really do change the world.

  6. I have loved many of your podcasts but few will likely change my life as much as your interview with Suleika Jaouad. I am 7 years post third cancer diagnosis and her description of the “after treatment” experience just wiped away so many questions I have been struggling to articulate.

    Also, in the interview you both kept mentioning the term “in between moments” anad I wondered why you didn’t use the term “liminal moments”? I first heard this term 20 years ago in Sherry Turkle’s The Second Self: Computers and the Human Spirit”; thoughI believe the term was coined by anthropologist Victor Turner.

  7. Hello. I love your book “the four hour work week”, thank you for writing it 🙂

    In step III “automation”, the book sends me to http://www.fourhourblog.com
    “for real-world case studies on both sides, ranging from Teddy Ruxpin to Tae-Bo, and full agreements with actual dollar amounts, visit http://www.fourhourblog.com. From how to sell inventions without prototypes or patents to how to secure rights to products as a no-name beginner, it’s all there.”

    Where do I find that?

    Thanks in advance.
    Maria

  8. In the early stages of reading 4HWW and looking for the “dream line” and TMI/TDI calculator resources. The book says they can be found on this site yet I cannot seem to find them. Can anyone point me in the right direction? Much appreciated.

  9. Something that I am learning to feel: gratitude for having the ability control the next breath, for sometimes it’s the only thing I have control over as I navigate `the moving cracks`.
    Thank you for such beautiful imagery in your words.

  10. So much beauty and badassery in this interview. I’m in awe of Suleika’s life being so fully, honestly, openly lived. Thank you for sharing it all with us!