Welcome to the first episode in Numerologist’s Book Club series! This month, we read “How To Be Fine: What We Learned From Living By The Rules Of 50 Self Help Books” by Kristen Meinzer and Jolenta Greenberg.

In this episode, Rose speaks with these two incredible authors to discuss how they came to write this funny and insightful commentary on the world of self-help.

If you’ve not yet read the book, you can grab it here. The audiobook is only 5 hours long so you can listen to it before you listen to the podcast if you like.

Note: next month, we’re reading Dear Universe, by Sarah Prout. Click here to get October’s read now. 

   


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Announcer:

Welcome to the Numerologist Podcast where we bring you a very special guest every single week to help guide you on your spiritual journey, live with abundance and inspire your soul.

Rose:

Hey, Numerologist community. Rose here. Welcome to another episode of the Numerologist Podcast. Welcome to the first episode in our book club series. Now, if you don’t yet know about the Numerologist book club, let me just give you a little bit of a rundown. Each week, we’re picking a book from the world of self-improvement, self-love, self-help, spirituality, that kind of thing, inviting you our Numerologist community to read it and then I’ll be interviewing the book’s author and asking them your questions.

If you’re not following [inaudible 00:00:44] already on Instagram, you can head over there for more information, book announcements and the opportunity to pose your questions. Or if you subscribe to the Numerologist newsletter, you will get updates and opportunities over there, too. Now, I’ll put the link to sign up and our Instagram link in the show notes for this episode so you can go check them out there.

In our first episode, I am so excited to talk to Kristen Meinzer and Jolenta Greenberg, the two incredible authors of How to Be Fine: What We Learned from Living by the Rules of 50 Self-Help Books. These two friends and colleagues were successful in their own rights before they came together to collaborate on their hugely popular podcast By the Book, which is now in its seventh season.

Comedian and self-proclaimed reality TV historian, Jolenta is a Moth StorySLAM winner and has held a comedic residency at Pete’s Candy Store in Brooklyn. Plus, she’s been featured in NPR and BBC. Kristen is a long-time audio producer and host and head of nonfiction programming at Panopoly. She served as a culture producer for WNYC, launch producer of The Sporkful, a development producer for CBS News Productions as well as many other accolades. In her spare time, and I don’t know how she’s got any, Kristen gives guest lectures on pop culture, public history and audio production at the Brooklyn Historical Society and local universities.

But in spite of their successes in their career, it’s perhaps the vulnerability they show each week in their podcast By the Book for which they have gained the most notoriety and global recognition, and it’s this podcast which really gave the framework to their now popular, insightful and incredibly funny book How to Be Fine. Without further ado, please join me in welcoming Kristen and Jolenta. Hey, Kristen, Jolenta. How are you?

Kristen Meinzer:

Hey.

Jolenta Greenberg:

Hi.

Kristen Meinzer:

Thank you so much for having us.

Jolenta Greenberg:

Yeah, we’re well.

Rose:

Thank you for being here. Excellent, excellent. Now, I just want to jump straight into it. This is our first book club podcast. I’m hoping that most people who are actually listening to this will have already read the book but like I said, it is one of our first ventures into a book club. For those people who haven’t necessarily read the book, could you just give me a short introduction to the book, the How to Be Fine elevator pitch, if you will?

Kristen Meinzer:

Well, Jolenta and I have hosted a show for seven seasons now, a podcast called By the Book. In each episode of the show, we choose a different self-help book. We follow every single rule in the book down to the letter. We record ourselves at work, at home, in the world… Well, not at work anymore since we’re all trapped at home… and in our marriages so that the listeners can hear how each book enhances or destroys our lives.

Our listeners have asked us for years now, “Please write a book that is all about what actually works, what doesn’t. If you can compile everything that you’ve learned, if you can tell us stuff that you haven’t told us yet… Are there things that are not in the final episodes of the show that actually happened? Are there things that happened in your earlier years that inform how you react to the books now?” We were asked over and over and over again and eventually, Jolenta and I said, “You know what? Let’s do this. We’ve lived by enough books. We’ve lived by 50 books,” at the time we wrote the book it was 50 books, “and let’s just get it all in one place for people,” and so that’s what we did.

We like to think it’s a great book for people who are already fans of the show, but a huge number of people have discovered the show because of the book. People have read the book because they thought it looked interesting and didn’t even need to be fans of our show to enjoy it. We hope that everybody picks up the book. Whether or not you’ve heard of us or not, it really does have a lot of fun, a lot of embarrassment, a lot of disclosure about the good and the bad of ourselves and these books we live by.

Rose:

Absolutely and I’ve got to say, I actually listened to the audiobook. I’m an audiobook girl.

Jolenta Greenberg:

Yay.

Rose:

I haven’t listened to the podcast before and I definitely got so much out of the book. It was hilarious. It was great. It’s definitely one of those things where I’m like, “Well, I’ll check out the podcast,” because it almost felt like a conversational sort of podcast itself within the book. Was that conscious? Was that intentional?

Jolenta Greenberg:

Yeah. Yeah, it was. I’ll backtrack it a bit. The book, we broke up into three sections where it’s advice that we’ve come across that’s really worked and helped, advice that’s just we find to be detrimental, like maybe put in there to help keep selling self-help stuff and not necessarily help people, and then also a sectio of things we wish more books would include, wellness practices, things we do in our lives to help keep them going smoothly or maybe get a little happier that books tend to overlook.

And so then, we each took a subject or a piece of advice that we vibed with and just sort of broke it up from there. And then once we’d all written our chapters and pieces, we sort of had to go back through in order and make sure the first mention of this book is here, so when Kristen brings it up there, she should do a nod to “As Jolenta said a few chapters ago or in this section, blah, blah, blah.” We try to sort of draw that thread through where we know what the other has talked about in the previous stories and chapters.

Rose:

Yeah, that makes total sense. One question I’ve got is, was there anything you disagreed on? Did you ever come together and think, “Well, I’ve chosen this”?

Jolenta Greenberg:

Oh, yeah. Oh, we disagree on so many things. That’s partially why some of the things we took are the ones we took. I love decluttering and swear by it, and Kristen hates it. I mention it in the book where it’s like, “These things… Again, nothing is universal as stuff like, what, breathing, eating.” But you know what I mean. Advice isn’t universal and it’s like I share my experience with how I feel like it really helped me, and I share how it really stressed Kristen out, too.

Kristen Meinzer:

Yeah, and one thing we really try to make clear in the book is we’re not trying to tell everybody else how to live their lives.

Jolenta Greenberg:

Right.

Kristen Meinzer:

We’re just trying to tell people how each of these… Essentially, they’re recipe books for how to live. How did it work in the test kitchen for somebody like Jolenta? Somebody like me?

Jolenta Greenberg:

Of our lives.

Kristen Meinzer:

Jolenta and I, despite being good friends and working in the same field and living in the same neighborhood, we are different people who bring different things to the table and different interests and different beliefs. That means a book-

Jolenta Greenberg:

From ages, races, [inaudible 00:07:42].

Kristen Meinzer:

Yeah, yeah. All of that. Something that is going to make Jolenta go, “Yes. This is the thing,” might very well make me angry or vice versa.

Jolenta Greenberg:

Like might cause a big rift between Kristen and her husband.

Kristen Meinzer:

Yes. Yes, this was [crosstalk 00:07:57]-

Jolenta Greenberg:

Something I’d be like, “This was so fun and innocuous,” and then Kristen’s like, “We’ve had the biggest fight ever.”

Rose:

Oh, no.

Kristen Meinzer:

Yes, yes. Don’t make us declutter together. My husband and I, we’re not fighters-

Jolenta Greenberg:

It don’t work for them.

Kristen Meinzer:

… except when we’re decluttering.

Rose:

It’s such a peaceful activity.

Jolenta Greenberg:

I don’t know if maybe… I don’t know if it’s a New Zealand… Or I feel like a commonwealth politeness thing but when Dean fights, he gets just quieter and quieter, which I really enjoyed. I feel like I could see my British friends doing that as well where it’s like they don’t yell, but it’s like, “Why would I put the rice cooker away when I’m using it?” It’s just the cutest.

Rose:

I could definitely resonate with that. I’m English and my husband’s Australian and we just have massive passive aggressive fights where neither of us really talk about things.

Jolenta Greenberg:

Yes. Beautiful. That’s so different from me. I’m fascinated with this. Sorry to digress into fighting habits.

Rose:

No, absolutely. I think that what you just mentioned about there’s not a one size fits all kind of method when it comes to self-help, I think that’s so powerful and you can definitely see that as a theme throughout the book. Do you feel like more sort of self-help authors should be more open with the fact that this might not necessarily help everybody?

Kristen Meinzer:

Oh, gosh yes. Absolutely.

Jolenta Greenberg:

Kristen, yeah.

Kristen Meinzer:

Oh my gosh. I mean obviously, they don’t want to because they want their audience to be everybody, everybody who has ever-

Jolenta Greenberg:

Yeah, they want that advice to be universal.

Kristen Meinzer:

… walked up and down a self-help aisle. Yes. They want to be able to speak universal truths, but that’s ignoring the fact that we’re all different. Gosh, I wish they would just hone in a little bit tighter and I also wish that frankly, it wasn’t all men telling women what to do. Two-thirds of self-help books are written by men. Two-thirds of readers are women. This is a problem. We don’t need all the men telling all the women what to do.

Rose:

Have you had any feedback from authors? From the authors that you’ve put in the book specifically?

Jolenta Greenberg:

Yes. Yes, yes we have. My favorite feedback we got was… God, was this a first or second season book?

Kristen Meinzer:

Season one with Steve and Annette Economides?

Jolenta Greenberg:

Yeah, the Economides. It was America’s Cheapest Family Gets You Right on the Money. Is that the title of the book?

Kristen Meinzer:

Yes. Yup.

Rose:

Best names ever for authors, by the way.

Jolenta Greenberg:

I mean, Economides. That is their real last name. Could not write that in a film better. They got in touch and said Kristen, who also loved their book, had done a few things wrong, and then were totally so nice and so game and did an interview with us where we’re like, “So, where did Kristen mess up?” They explained how they thought what she did differed from their advice. It was just the most fun conversation.

Kristen Meinzer:

They were a delight.

Rose:

Oh, that’s good.

Kristen Meinzer:

They were great.

Rose:

Well, that’s probably a positive side of feedback that you could’ve got because some of the books, you didn’t really like at all, did you?

Kristen Meinzer:

Oh, so many.

Jolenta Greenberg:

Oh, no.

Kristen Meinzer:

So many of them. I mean, but even the ones that we don’t like, we frequently get a little nugget of something useful out of. For example, The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck, The 4-Hour Workweek, these are all-

Jolenta Greenberg:

Totally.

Kristen Meinzer:

… books written by kind of very privileged white men who-

Jolenta Greenberg:

I would say your typical self-help bro like the ones where it’s like, “I know you came from the pickup artist community, but did you also? Because you all have the same vibe.”

Kristen Meinzer:

Yeah, and these are guys who are essentially born on third base and saying, “If I can hit a home run, so can you,” but the rest of us are still sitting in the dugout. We don’t even have access to bats or gloves or anything. There are a lot of self-help authors like that who are telling us what to do, “If I can do it, you can do it too,” but not keeping in mind all of the advantages they have that would go into that success story that maybe not everybody has.

Rose:

Yeah, absolutely. I like that mindset that you just kind of put out there. Even the ones that you didn’t necessarily like, you still gleamed something from them.

Kristen Meinzer:

Totally.

Rose:

I always kind of talk about how mindset really sort of helps people, especially in the self-help world. Do you think that you went into this with a mindset that “This is going to work,” or… How did you go into it?

Jolenta Greenberg:

Well, I guess the gimmick is we went into it like polar opposites. This show was my idea, By the Book. Kristen and I met a hundred years ago. No, we didn’t meet a hundred years ago but a while ago now. We were working at a news radio show and Kristen was the culture producer. She was the only person who could talk to me about what was on TV or what was in the movie theaters as opposed to just what was happening in politics.

I was just the assistant and I was in charge of getting mail. We would get sent just so many books. So many publishers and authors send news organizations their books. They want to get it covered on the radio. I would end up taking all the self-help books because no one wanted them in the news. I would have hoards of them and I decided I was sort of a mess. I’m a comedian, I was teaching theater, I was working this assistant job. I felt like I was a mess. I wanted to get my shit together and I was like, “All of these books are going to help.”

Because I’m an exhibitionist and a performer at heart, obviously I’m going to record myself doing it. To make sure I don’t end up joining a cult or something, I should bring along a friend who’s a responsible adult and that is Kristen. Kristen is my friend where it’s like she’s recommended my real estate lawyer because what even is that? I don’t know, but Kristen will tell you where to get a good one. She’s the one telling me what to do with my finances, or just she knows that you should go to the dentist twice a year. That kind of adult friend. She is very skeptical and, I believe, came in from a very different perspective, especially at the beginning.

Kristen Meinzer:

Oh, yeah. Absolutely, absolutely. I mean, when Jolenta and I met, part of my job is being the culture producer for that radio show we worked for was I was also the film and TV critic. My job for years has been to look for the problems in things, to poke holes in things, to see what’s not working. I was going in with that mindset and Jolenta was going in with a lot of catastrophes on her recent life horizon like an apartment that burned down. I mean, she’d had a lot of bad stuff happen and looking for things that might help her to get through that tough time is a very different perspective than mine, which is based on what is wrong with this.

Jolenta Greenberg:

Yeah, let’s take this apart.

Kristen Meinzer:

Yes, exactly.

Rose:

Kristen, from that critical point of view, do you feel like you gleamed as much from it as Jolenta or do you feel like that made you sort of more… Well, obviously more skeptical, but how did it affect what you got from it?

Rose:

I think that’s a really great message, and I hope anybody listening to this who is reading a self-help book or going down that path understands that… A lot of people sort of going down this path already are looking for something to help them. They don’t want to end up thinking that they’re a failure because they couldn’t get through the book, right?

Jolenta Greenberg:

Exactly.

Kristen Meinzer:

No, you’re not a failure. Sometimes, the book’s a failure.

Jolenta Greenberg:

Right, and some books kind of do that. That’s because they want to sell you more of their shit. It’s a total plan and lots of people who have big sort of self-help empires thrive off of the end of their books sort of leaving you being like… and needing a bit more. It’s on purpose. You’re not dumb for not having gotten it the first time, or you didn’t do the book wrong or get the advice wrong. It’s to sell more books.

Rose:

Yeah, absolutely. Do you consider yourself self-help authors?

Jolenta Greenberg:

No.

Kristen Meinzer:

No.

Rose:

No?

Kristen Meinzer:

I don’t think-

Jolenta Greenberg:

I feel like we write about our experiences with self-help.

Kristen Meinzer:

Yes. Exactly. Jolenta, bingo. That’s exactly how I would describe us, too.

Rose:

Perfect. All right, I’m going to go on to some of the questions that we got from our community.

Jolenta Greenberg:

Nice.

Rose:

Because we put this out to our audience who have read the book and they wanted to ask you some questions. The first question is, how did you choose the books in the first place?

Kristen Meinzer:

Oh, it varies.

Jolenta Greenberg:

It’s a mix.

Kristen Meinzer:

First season, we really wanted to… Our debut episode, our pilot episode was The Secret because we kind of saw that as the mother of all self-help books. We chose a lot of books in the first season that we knew had brand name recognition like The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up-

Jolenta Greenberg:

The heavy hitters.

Kristen Meinzer:

… the heavy hitters and also ones that I guess some people would call them stunt books, books that really require something extreme out of us, throwing out half of everything we own for The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up or the finale-

Jolenta Greenberg:

Fasting for French Women Don’t Get Fat.

Kristen Meinzer:

Yep, and the finale episode for season one which was How to Write An Ebook in Less Than 7-14 Days That Will Make You Money Forever. We each had to write a novel in less than two weeks as the finale episode of season one. Season one was really about those big stunts, those heavy hitters and so on. And then subsequent seasons, a lot of the books are nominated by the listeners or we’ll choose themes for different seasons. Right now, season seven, all the books are about hearth and home. That’s everything from cooking and raising plants to feeling a sense of home wherever we live at a time where we can’t leave our homes right now.

Jolenta Greenberg:

Or discussing race in the home.

Kristen Meinzer:

Yes, exactly.

Jolenta Greenberg:

All sorts of homey home home stuff.

Rose:

The next question is, what kept you going? We’ve talked about what kept you going through the individual books, but let’s talk about what kept you going to the next book and the next season of the podcast.

Jolenta Greenberg:

I think for me, once I sort of stopped thinking of it as purely my own experience, which sounds so selfish, but once I sort of got a bit of a head on my shoulders and this started feeling like a job rather than an experiment on myself, the idea that Kristen sort of came up with about us being the test kitchen is really what kept me going because there are such big communities devoted to these people and specific authors. They take on sort of like a guru vibe and we want to see if we apply this to our everyday lives, does it actually work or are some people sort of conning us?

Kristen Meinzer:

And I got to say also, I think what keeps Jolenta and I going is we have such an amazing, robust community of listeners.

Jolenta Greenberg:

Right.

Kristen Meinzer:

They’re constantly in communication with us, with each other. Our Facebook community has about 15,000 people, some of who log on many, many times a day to talk to each other to ask each other for advice, to share resources, who email us… They email us constantly… who respond to our tweets, who follow us on Instagram. These listeners are, I just got to say, so unusual because my understanding is most Facebook communities, by the time they’re our size, tend to get pretty toxic and implode, but our people are pretty fantastic. I got to give it to them.

Jolenta Greenberg:

It’s the nicest Facebook group I’ve ever been in and it’s wild. No, and I was saying just sort of the-

Rose:

[crosstalk 00:24:46] I’m about to join it.

Jolenta Greenberg:

The discussion that keeps going and sort of watching these listeners have their own discoveries and stuff makes us want to be like, “Wait, we want to keep doing that.”

Rose:

Yeah, absolutely, and I think that’s actually brings me back to the question about do you consider yourself self-help authors because perhaps you’re not self-help authors per se, but the community that you’ve built around this book and the podcast is a sort of self self-help type community, which is pretty cool.

Kristen Meinzer:

Yeah, but it’s a little bit different in that self-help tends to be so lonely and navel-gazing. In some ways, it’s really an individual journey. It’s just you and the book. I like to think that what we’ve done, based on what I observe on the Facebook community, is it’s not so individual. It becomes more collective. It becomes about people helping people. It becomes less people having cyclical anxiety thoughts about… Staying up at night, “Did I do something wrong? Did I do something wrong? Did I do something wrong? I’m going to read this book that talks about everything that I do wrong and then [crosstalk 00:25:50].”

Jolenta Greenberg:

And more discussions on the moral implications on either side of a certain self-help book.

Kristen Meinzer:

Yes, yes. And so moving it beyond just the damaging self-centered anxiety of an individual and moving it beyond that, it’s something that we really are grateful for that that’s happened with our listeners, and it’s something that on our show we try to make sure we’re doing that, too. We don’t want it just to be our own insecurities every single episode all the time. Absolutely.

Jolenta Greenberg:

Hopefully not. I’m sorry, I can’t always deliver that.

Kristen Meinzer:

That’s [crosstalk 00:26:20]-

Jolenta Greenberg:

And it goes the other way, too. There are some times where I live by a book I’ve heard about forever and I feel like such a failure because I’m like, “This is going horribly,” and then the listeners are like, “Oh, this book. We all think it sucks.” I’m like, “Oh. I thought the general consensus is that this book was life-changing. Oh my God.” It goes both ways, too.

Rose:

Do you announce the book whilst you’re doing it so your community can follow along too?

Jolenta Greenberg:

We announce-

Kristen Meinzer:

Yeah, so… The week before. The way our show works is every two weeks, we release a full episode of the show where we are fully living by the book. That episode is usually around 50 minutes, between 45 and 50 minutes. And then in between those weeks, we release a minisode where we follow up and say what we’ve been up to, we answer listener mail because we get so much listener mail and we announce the next-

Jolenta Greenberg:

Read opinions about what we messed up.

Kristen Meinzer:

Lots of those. And then during that mini episode, we announce what the next week’s book is. A number of listeners have written to us and say, “We’re so glad you tell us the week before what the book is,” because then the minute they hear the book, they start reading it at home, too, so that they can-

Jolenta Greenberg:

Some read it along, some just research a bit. Some know, “Oh, I hate that book so much, I don’t even know if I’ll listen.” Some get really excited and post on the Facebook group, “I hope you don’t hate my favorite book of all time. Please, oh my gosh, don’t hate it.” [inaudible 00:27:51].

Kristen Meinzer:

We get a lot of that.

Rose:

Does that give you added pressure?

Jolenta Greenberg:

Yeah, yes. It’s hard. It’s hard to sort of experiment with things that people hold dear. But it’s also fun and I think necessary.

Rose:

Well, it brings us back to that whole point about there’s no one size fits all, right?

Jolenta Greenberg:

Right.

Rose:

It might’ve been your life-changing book but for you guys, it might’ve been…

Jolenta Greenberg:

For some people, it’s meditating. For other people, throwing out half their belongings or hopefully donating them somewhere.

Kristen Meinzer:

Yeah, you never know. Very recently, we lived by Jamie Oliver’s 5 Ingredients and somebody essentially wrote in saying, “The fact that you would even say anything bad about this book made me turn off your show.” You never know. People feel very strong relationships with their self-help authors.

Jolenta Greenberg:

With authors, with methods of self soothing.

Kristen Meinzer:

Yeah, all of that.

Jolenta Greenberg:

It’s a very personal experience so it’s interesting and sort of scary to dissect sometimes.

Rose:

I bet. All right. The next question is, are there things in the things that work section that you’ve implemented into your lives moving forward? And also, I suppose the things that you wished were recommended by more books, are they implemented in your life too?

Kristen Meinzer:

Oh, yeah. Both of those.

Jolenta Greenberg:

Totally.

Kristen Meinzer:

I mean, one thing that Jolenta and I talk about that… One thing we wish more self-help books would talk about… Very few talk about… are seeking out mental health professionals, whether those are therapists, psychiatrists, what have you. Jolenta and I have both sought out mental health professionals at various points in our lives for all sorts of-

Jolenta Greenberg:

I literally had therapy right before this call in this chair right here.

Kristen Meinzer:

Sometimes, your therapist is not a good fit and you can find another therapist who is a good fit. Just like a self-help book, it’s not one size fits all.

Rose:

Absolutely. All right, so the next question is, what did you think about the spirituality-based books you read? Were they more or less helpful than the others?

Jolenta Greenberg:

I feel like I love them, and I think it’s just truly how I was raised. I was raised in Portland, Oregon in the ’80s and ’90s so I went to lots of crystal shops. My mom’s always been into tarot so I feel just a connection to that kind of stuff. For me, it’s almost like a way to distract you into actually doing some self-reflection, like the tarot cards say what you need to work on that’s clearly on your mind and it’s sort of a… Or they give you a nice daily affirmation without you getting it from a list in a self-help book. That’s my feeling about it. I do not know how Kristen feels.

Kristen Meinzer:

Oh you know, Jolenta. You know really well.

Jolenta Greenberg:

I know how she feels. I just will not speak for her. How’s that?

Kristen Meinzer:

I just feel a lot of times, these spiritual books are… For me, I feel like they’re decontextualizing and appropriating somebody else’s culture and then repackaging it and trying to sell it back to, frankly, white women who are looking for some version of identity or uniqueness, something that can put them in a certain category, whether it’s astrology or some other spiritual type. I understand a lot of people feel more comfortable in the world with things being neat and categorized. They feel more in touch with their own feelings or with other people if they can use those categories, if they can have certain rules, much like any other religion gives them, but they don’t like other kinds of organized religion.

But I think a lot of the spiritual books are just… They’re problematic for all of those reasons because they are trying to turn something that’s very messy, which is love and feelings and humanity and humans, and try to overly simplify it and then oftentimes in the process, appropriating other people’s culture at the same time. I tend to feel very icky when we live by those books. I feel itchy. I feel like we shouldn’t for comedy pretend to be-

Jolenta Greenberg:

She gets the same sort of feeling every time.

Kristen Meinzer:

I always feel like I’m taking someone else’s religion that was repackaged in a bad way and sold at Urban Outfitters, and now I’m living by it for comedy and it feels weird. I don’t really like it. A lot of our listeners love those episodes the most, though. When we lived by our astrology book, I don’t know if we’ve ever gotten so much feedback in our lives about “Oh, but I’m this sign and Kristen, the reason you don’t like the book is because you’re that sign,” and then “Jolenta, obviously you’re-”

Jolenta Greenberg:

I mean, it’s true.

Kristen Meinzer:

“…[inaudible 00:34:35] with me because we’re the same sign.” We got so much feedback from people who genuinely felt that astrology made their lives better and it didn’t matter that science wasn’t on their side, didn’t matter that a lot of the book that we lived by, the particular astrology book we lived by had a lot of problems. People-

Jolenta Greenberg:

It was a bit general.

Kristen Meinzer:

… still defended it. I don’t want to bemoan anybody else getting something out of those spiritual books we live by, but they generally don’t sit very well with me.

Rose:

Now, this question, we kind of answered in the previous section but it’s, do you think self-help books should come with a disclaimer?

Jolenta Greenberg:

Yes. Here’s my theory. I came up with a compromise in my mind, which is when we read… What’s Dan’s Harris’ book? Shoot.

Kristen Meinzer:

Oh, Meditation for Fidgety Skeptics?

Jolenta Greenberg:

Yes. When we read Meditation for Fidgety Skeptics, what I loved is it did not… Kristen and I both do not like meditating very much, but what I loved about the book is Dan Harris just in black in white writes about how he knows he is privileged to the time to even experiment with this. He writes in the book he was born on third base. That sort of three paragraphs of self-awareness made me so much more open to the advice, and I think made the advice seem much more about “It’s about what I want to do with it. Here’s what a guy in his position did with it,” without sort of spelling it out like, “This advice isn’t for everyone.” If you can contextualize it with enough self-awareness to be like, “Not everyone comes from my walk of life or is aiming for my station in life who picks up this book.” I feel like that awareness is missing a lot. Just popping in that would be a hug difference for me as a reader.

Rose:

This is the next question. Since you wrote the book, is there anything you feel you’d change or any learnings from other books you’d like to add?

Kristen Meinzer:

Yeah. We wrote the book when we were only in the very early stages of living by what we call our history season. We lived by historical self-help books starting from the 1930s to the 2000s and we chose self-help bestseller from each of those decades and we had a historian come on and contextualize the books for us. Because we were only in the early stages of production on that season, we didn’t really go into those books very much in How to Be Fine. If he had timed things differently, I would have loved to have talked about some of that history and I would have loved to have talked about-

Jolenta Greenberg:

Yeah, I love that kind of history stuff.

Kristen Meinzer:

Yes, yes. Absolutely. Some of the things that were even being written about in the 1930s that you see over and over again in books from 2020.

Jolenta Greenberg:

The amount of times you see the stuff in How to Make Friends and Influence People-

Kristen Meinzer:

Influence people.

Jolenta Greenberg:

… those repetitive-

Kristen Meinzer:

How to Win Friends and Influence… Yeah, all of that.

Jolenta Greenberg:

You guys, The Secret did not come up with think it and it will come.

Rose:

With that in mind, would that have changed what you had in the sections or do you think that it still would’ve been the same but just with a bit more context about the historical type of things?

Kristen Meinzer:

I think I would’ve-

Jolenta Greenberg:

I would say about the same.

Kristen Meinzer:

I think a lot of it would be the same, but I think I would maybe tweak some of it a little bit. I sometimes think I would’ve had a chapter in the book called Be Like a Dog because in How to Win Friends and Influence People, that’s one of the things-

Jolenta Greenberg:

Oh my gosh, yes.

Kristen Meinzer:

… that Dale Carnegie says all the time is, “Be like a dog. Dogs are always excited to see you. Dogs are forgiving. Dogs don’t hold grudges.”

Jolenta Greenberg:

They aren’t tainted by all their memories.

Kristen Meinzer:

Yeah, and treat the people you love the way a dog would treat you. I think about that all the time. I should be thrilled when somebody I love walks in the door, not mad and like, “You’re two minutes late.” I can talk about this-

Jolenta Greenberg:

On why we didn’t get that job.

Kristen Meinzer:

Yeah, exactly. All of those things. I feel that that’s what we do already so much of the time. There’s a book that we lived by called What to Say When You Talk to Your Self by Dr. Shad Helmstetter. He has some stat in there like, “We say 10,000 bad things to ourselves every day.” It’s some sort of insanely high number of things. I do think that we would benefit if maybe we spend a little bit less time talking about how bad we have it and how horrible we are and how useless we are. If maybe we spent a little more time being thankful for the things that actually are fine, the things that… I mean, I’m so grateful that I get to talk with you today. What a gift is this that we have technology where you’re on the other side of the planet and that you chose to wake up a five in the morning-

Jolenta Greenberg:

Thank you.

Kristen Meinzer:

… your time to talk to us. This is such a gift. If I wanted to, I could have a different mindset like, “Oh god, I can’t believe-”

Jolenta Greenberg:

“I got to do another thing today. What if my internet doesn’t work? It didn’t work last time. [inaudible 00:43:47] worry about that.”

Kristen Meinzer:

Yeah, exactly. Exactly. I’m not saying to deny the things that are tough in life, but I think that the world frequently wants us to focus more on the bad stuff than is helpful or than is productive. There’s so much we all have to be grateful for. When we focus more on what to be grateful for, I also think we are able to focus more on preserving those things and cherishing and taking care of those things. Whether it’s the beautiful flowers outside my apartment, it’s like, “Of course I want to take care of the world. I don’t want that to go away.” Or beautiful friendship that I have. I want to cherish that. Jolenta, I want to tell you I love you and I’m grateful for you.

Jolenta Greenberg:

I love you.

Kristen Meinzer:

I don’t want that to just evaporate. Yeah, so I do think that’s probably helped my mindset. If other people did that more, maybe it would help their mindset. Again, don’t want to be totally prescriptive, though. Everyone do what they need to, but you’re beautiful and you’re lovable. You don’t need to beat yourself up.

Rose:

I think it’s even number… The third one in the things that worked is practice gratitude so it’s definitely a big part of this whole book in any way.

Kristen Meinzer:

Yeah, I mean it helps me. I have been told by some people that focusing on gratitude makes them feel lousy. Jolenta, when we lived by the gratitude book, at certain points-

Jolenta Greenberg:

I teetered back and forth. But there’s also no denying that sometimes being grateful, it literally enhances my mood even when I don’t want it to.

Rose:

Now, we’re running out of time so just to wrap up, I’m going to ask you one more question. This is, how would someone go and choose a self-help book? Would they have to read 50 books to discover what works for them?

Jolenta Greenberg:

Ooh, that’s so hard. Part of me wants to say especially when it comes to self-help book, judge it by its cover. Marketers know what they’re doing. If you’re like, “Ooh, I’m really drawn to this,” try it. Thumb through it. Also, maybe if you’re drawn to something, I would read author bios and see who you like because sort of picking a self-help book is like saying “Who do I want to look up to?” because self-help authors are just saying, “Here’s this one part of life that I obsessed over and theorized over and think I’ve hacked to make us happier.” It’s like, “Who do you want to go on that journey with?”

Kristen Meinzer:

I really like that advice. Whatever book you’re picking up, feel free as you’re paging through books in the bookstore to put it down after five pages if you want to then go to the next book that jumps out at you. You don’t have to throw your whole self into every book, even if other people you know love it, even if other people-

Jolenta Greenberg:

Even if Oprah’s telling you to read it.

Kristen Meinzer:

Yeah, even if Oprah tells you to read. You don’t have to read every bestseller. You don’t have to read every book or like every book. What jumps out at you, what speaks to you, who actually might seem like a charlatan, keep your ears perked up for that, too. There are definitely lots of charlatans out there. You don’t have to listen to the charlatans.

Rose:

Excellent. Thank you so much, ladies, for joining me today.

Jolenta Greenberg:

Thank you.

Rose:

It’s been a great podcast.

Kristen Meinzer:

Thank you so much, Rose. This has been so much fun.

Jolenta Greenberg:

Rose, this has been lovely. Thank you.

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About The Numerologist Team

Numerology nerds passionate about personal growth and spirituality! We’re a small team of numerologists, teachers, writers, and tech wizards who have come together to bring you the most accurate, powerful, and profound wisdom available in the world.

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