If you’ve ever perused the self-help section of your local bookstore (or Amazon) à la Charlotte York, you know that the only thing harder than finding the perfect book to address your particular needs is actually managing to follow all of its advice to the letter if you do.
But that’s exactly what comedian Jolenta Greenberg and producer Kristen Meinzer have challenged one another to do for their new podcast By the Book. The two are living by the rules of a different personal development guide for two weeks at a time, candidly sharing the results on air for each episode.
First up: Rhonda Byrne’s The Secret.
The two are living by the rules of a different personal development guide for two weeks at a time, candidly sharing the results on air for each episode.
While it’s true that the, er, secret’s been out on this particular self-help book since 2006, both Greenberg and Meinzer agreed that if they were going to conduct this social experiment correctly, it needed to start with the Oprah-approved best-seller.
“What other book would we start with?” exclaims Meinzer. “It’s always in the zeitgeist, and there are aspects of it that are a little bit controversial, which makes it more interesting.”
Some of the book’s claims—like the fact that positive thinking and visualization can bring you whatever you want in life (i.e. writing yourself a fat check and keeping it on display, as the book advises you to do, will attract more abundance into your life and help you manifest money), while negative thoughts will call in not-so-nice experiences—are eyebrow-raising to be sure. But Greenberg and Meinzer completed each and every task laid out in its pages, comfort zones be damned. Let’s just say their experience might convince you to not to bypass any chapters in your own pursuit of self-improvement.
The two reflect on their Secret sojourn in the Q&A below.
Okay, I have to ask: Why self-help?
Jolenta Greenberg: A few years ago we were working at a radio show where we’d get tons of self-help books sent to us and no one would touch them. So I just started taking them, thinking, “What if I tried all of them?” Then, I told Kristen we should make it a podcast. [She] was definitely skeptical, but I have a secret hope, deep inside, that one day I’ll find the right book that’ll fix all of me.
Did any of its more out-there lessons turn out to be effective?
JG: I really liked smiling every day for 60 seconds. When I read it, I thought it was the stupidest thing—and it is stupid. But it totally helps remind you how much your body is tied into your emotions and [that] you can do things to shift them. They don’t have a complete mind of their own.
Has anything crazy come out of the experiment?
JG: The most surprising thing, for me, was that I made $600 in residuals on a commercial I did that got renewed. That’s never happened before; it hasn’t happened again—it only happened when I was doing The Secret.
Kristen Meinzer: I won a cruise, which was totally bizarre, and I got a big, unexpected check from some past work. But I don’t think The Secret made these things happen.
And what did you think was total BS?
JG: I could’ve done without writing myself the check, for sure. Money did come in, and maybe it was because of that, but just seeing a check on display felt kind of gross. I was like, “I don’t want people to see this when they come over.”
KM: I thought the check was stupid. Also, the book seems to suggest that if you just visualize something enough, it will happen. Like, “I’m going to picture myself waking up, opening up the mailbox, and finding a check for a million dollars.” Those exercises didn’t seem very valid to me. And I hated the victim-blaming so much—saying that if something bad happens to you, you brought it on yourself, whether it’s cancer or the Holocaust. I can’t stomach that.
JG: I totally agree. If that’s what they’re using as a motivator, it’s pretty dark.
What would you say’s the biggest takeaway from episode one?
JG: I experience things through a pretty negative lens, but I realized you can actively do exercises to get more comfortable with seeing things in positive ways. Part of [happiness] is a choice. It’s not just about natural disposition.
Any ideas on which self-help books you’d like to tackle next?
JG: I really want to do How to be Famous—that’s the one Spencer Pratt and Heidi Montag from The Hills wrote.