Meredith Fineman is an entrepreneur, writer, and media expert with over a decade of experience training individuals to use public relations as a catalyst for positive career change. Fineman is the founder and CEO of FinePoint, a leadership and professional development company with a focus on visibility and voice. She speaks and trains a number of topics, and is best known for her speaking and training on women and bragging. Fineman is also the author of Brag Better: Master the Art of Fearless Self-Promotion, which came out in June 2020 with Portfolio (Penguin Random House)and is the creator and host of the second-hand and sustainable fashion podcast, It Never Gets Old, and the secondhand and sustainable fashion newsletter, Secondhand Society™. Her dog, Bean, is her copilot.
Find Brag Better and all of Meredith’s offerings: https://www.meredithfineman.com/
Connect with Meredith on Social Media: @meredithfineman
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FC Podcasts: [00:00:00] Pivot with Purpose, a podcast that highlights the unique stories of professionals that pivoted their careers to align with their work lives and personal lives, more purposefully and with more joy.
Pivot with Purpose is hosted by Meghan Houle, a globally accredited career and business coach and creator of the Meghan Houle method.
Meghan Houle: [00:00:32] Welcome back to the Pivot with Purpose podcast. I’m your host, Meghan Houle. And in this episode, we talk to Meredith Fineman, CEO of FinePoint Media, host of It Never Gets Old podcast and best-selling author of Brag Better: Master the Art of Fearless Self Promotion.
FC Podcasts: [00:00:49] Thank you for listening to Pivot with Purpose with host Meghan Houle. You can find out more information about each guest, including full transcripts at pivotwithpurposepodcast.com. And if you’d like to share your own pivot with purpose, click on the share button and add your story to the conversation. Finally be sure to subscribe and share your comments wherever you listen to your favorite podcast, your support amplifies our voice. And now this week’s episode.
Meghan Houle: [00:01:23] Meredith Fineman is an entrepreneur writer and media expert with over a decade of experience training individuals to use public relations as a catalyst for positive career change.
She is the founder and CEO of FinePoint, a leadership and professional development company with a focus on visibility and voice. She speaks and trains on a number of topics and is best known for her speaking and training on women and bragging. Fineman is also the author of Brag Better: Master the Art of Fearless Self Promotion. And is the creator and host of the secondhand and sustainable fashion podcast, It Never Gets Old.
And the second hand and sustainable fashion newsletter, Secondhand Society. Meredith Fineman, thank you for being here with us today on the Pivot with Purpose podcast.
Meredith Fineman: [00:02:09] So, excited to be here. Thanks so much for having me.
Meghan Houle: [00:02:12] Oh, I am just so excited. Fan girling on the other side of this mic, I have to say Brag Better is the number one book I am buying now for all my coaching clients. And I’m just really excited to have you in this hot seat to not only discuss all things Brag Better, but also some of your other impressive projects. And for any of our listeners, I know you are going to get some valuable, direct information on what it means and how to brag better from this conversation.
So, I would find a cozy spot, grab a pen and a notebook and Meredith let’s dive in. As I know we have a lot to cover. Shall we?
Meredith Fineman: [00:02:49] Let’s do it.
Meghan Houle: [00:02:51] I always like to start getting a bit personal to ease into this conversation. So, let’s share some life of Meredith highlights with our listeners. What are some of your passions beyond your work projects right now?
Meredith Fineman: [00:03:01] Yeah, I have a lot of different passions. I mean, one of which is fashion and particularly secondhand fashion, which I’ve, now baked into my work. But other things I’m passionate about, all art, stickers. I have a adult sticker collection. And yes, this marks, a year of being inside, but I do a lot of painting and crafts and that sort of stuff.
I’m not sure that I’m someone who can totally have passions that don’t end up as like work-related things, which is a different, problem. But, I’m extremely passionate about comedy and writing, women’s causes, travel in the before times and chocolate hummus, which is very controversial.
Meghan Houle: [00:03:47] Do you get the one from like Trader Joe’s?
Meredith Fineman: [00:03:49] So, I think the Sabra one is good. So, for anyone that doesn’t know, chocolate hummus sounds disgusting. But really what it is is it’s like a chocolate mousse that’s just made from chickpeas, which still sounds disgusting.
So, you have to try it to sort of understand, but it’s very good on like fruit or apples or stuff like that. In quarantine, I’m not someone who cooks. I baked dog treats now. I mean, I should, should say I’m extremely passionate about my dog and memes and anything funny and animal related and, or like people falling down, which sounds rude, but I cannot have Tiktok because, I am a huge like meme person and I post them constantly on my Instagram, but I can’t have Tiktok cause it’s too good. It’s like everything I like, which is like jokes, comedy, people falling down, animals, some of the most creative, like, short form comedy I’m seeing right now, which like you can’t argue with, but I think otherwise I would be very passionate about it.
Meghan Houle: [00:04:50] I love you first and foremost. Second of all, I hear you on the chocolate hummus. I think I don’t buy it because I will be one of those people that will sit and just eat the whole dang thing at once. And then be like, “Oh, I just ate this whole thing.”. I think I would really enjoy it, enjoying chocolate.
So, maybe you’ve inspired me.
Meredith Fineman: [00:05:06] I mean, it’s made of like chickpeas. I mean, you can eat the whole thing, but it’s like extremely fibrous. So, I wouldn’t, I mean, I wouldn’t recommend it, but
Meghan Houle: [00:05:15] I would not recommend it, tip number one.
Meredith Fineman: [00:05:19] Who are you seeing? So, like who cares? I was with one of my best friends and so he’s in my, like pod or bubble of people or whatever you want to call it. And we were walking because another friend of his has this very interesting breakfast taco pop-up and he got one and I was just sitting there and like, without thinking I pulled like a Fage yogurt and a full, like from home spoon out of my tote bag and just started eating it. I have no idea how to be around like people. I hope they like just really like a kooky lady because it’s too late now.
Meghan Houle: [00:05:58] Yeah. No turning back. Well we embrace all of you and your talents and your suggestions so far.
So, we already have some good tips, but beyond all of those wonderful passions and thank you so much for sharing. I truly believe you are an incredible writer and your books and also all the amazing articles you have out there that I feel like resonate with so many people with also a really impressive career journey.
What got you falling in love with writing?
Meredith Fineman: [00:06:26] Yeah. So, at my core, I define myself as an artist, as a writer. I mean, it sounds a little lofty to call it as an artist, but I pick the best words and put them in the best order. And that’s, what I do.
Because I think some of it is honestly genetic. And then obviously it’s something you very much have to practice and refine and define and work on. And that’s not to say you have to be born with it by any means. I believe that writing, I don’t know about humor and writing but good writing is a practice.
Meghan Houle: [00:07:23] Absolutely. Well, tell us a little bit about some of those important career highlights that you’ve had and some things that you’re really proud of career to date, as you’ve built a lot and worked with a lot of great companies, so, tell us a little bit about your career.
Meredith Fineman: [00:07:37] Yeah, so people ask me how I built my company, which at this point, my work is divided among writing. I wrote Brag Better. I co-wrote a book that came out in 2018, a data book and I do a lot of like Bookworld and writing counseling with people. So, that can be book proposals, that can be chats about the industry, that can be about releasing books. And then I have my consulting with FinePoint, which tows the line between leadership and professional development and media relations and PR and personal brand.
And then I have my speaking and training, particularly around Brag Better. And still I freelance write. I do a lot of different things. And people ask me how I built that. And I did not have a plan for it. I could probably benefit from some more planned thinking around certain things, but that’s not how this happened for me.
I am someone who was always entrepreneurial, but did not understand because they do not come from many entrepreneurs or just a very entrepreneurial like community, frankly. That was really an option for me and I always sort of had this authority problem, but I was very, very studious and liked a lot of order sometimes, but I couldn’t figure out why internships or my first job just didn’t work for me, which like was, a whole other thing.
But I started freelance writing when I was 18. And, so that started really young. I always like had a tutoring hustle and sold little crafts I made. So that was always sort of like on the side. My first, job. I graduated at the height of the recession in 2009.
And I did like hundreds of informational first round interviews, bazillion second round, ended up with like one job offer. It’s funny, which now for a firm of someone who’s now a peer who I pulled aside, and like, I’m sure you do not remember this, but you offered me a job like when I was 22 and now we’re here at this conference, we have a lot of people in common and it was like just this odd, full circle moment. But, I decided instead of to take that job in New York, to move to Argentina. So, I worked for Young and Rubicam, which is a global ad agency.
And I was there for a year and a half and it was amazing. I strongly endorse, if you’re able to spend significant time in a foreign country, particularly working is incredibly difficult, but I came back to Washington, DC, where I’m from, thought I’d go back to New York, ended up staying sort of seeing kind of the transformation of the city.
But also I sit at this intersection of old guard Washington, of the sort of media and politics bubble and new guard young entrepreneurs, diversification of industry. It’s not as much of a one industry town as it used to be. People have a lot of misconceptions about DC, which sometimes I like, because I’m like, well it’s our secret, but DC is really on the map culturally, business-wise. And that was not ever the case. So, I got a job at a digital agency and I hated it. And simultaneously I had gone viral for something that, now I was speaking to, I mean, I speak constantly, but it was in the before times I traveled to a friend, I was doing a talk and she was a professor at a university and I said, I’m happy to speak to your class.
And it was like writing related and anyway, I had this viral blog called Fifty First (J)Dates. And it was before Betches, it was before anyone was really writing about online dating in this way. It was just intended for my friends and then it was like true virality. And I ran that for a couple of years, but more than anything that like really taught me about consistent writing.
And I was at this firm and I was sort of getting some deals with the blog that then people were interested in a book, people were interested in television. I ended up ultimately, obviously not going that route for a lot of different reasons, but it taught me how to write in public.
And how to write with eyeballs and what people liked and consistent content and what that meant. But I quit this firm and I had no backup. In retrospect, it’s only something that like, a dumb and pretty privileged 23 year old could do. I had savings is, is a very, very strong word for it, but I just thought I would get another job.
In the meantime, I was like, I gotta figure out how to pay my rent. I’m going to cobble it together with writing. I threw parties. I was a club promoter in college. I started to get like some clients. And I was like, “Oh!”. At first I was pedaling social media, which was not my strong suit, it then ended up being a building FinePoint as a PR firm. And then going in the specific direction with bragging and individuals. But it, was a path that was not conventional and not planned. The big highlight for me is writing Brag Better and getting that published after seven years of begging someone to pay attention to it. And so I would say like that’s my number one highlight, but also just like. Still being here. Still being able to do my own thing. I’m extremely grateful.
Meghan Houle: [00:12:35] Thank you for sharing all of that and I know we will get back to speaking engagements and all getting back together and doing all of the trainings that I’m sure you’ve been used to, and maybe miss. But curious to know for someone who has facilitated and led trainings and really participated in some, powerful speaking engagements. What message seems to resonate the most for those showing up to connect with you through these platforms? And what can someone expect listening to one of your talks?
Meredith Fineman: [00:13:03] Yeah, I would say my top line takeaways. So, my thing, my bread and butter, what I speak on, what I train on, what I have individual clients for is why bragging and self-promotion are essential and how to harness the skillset of a public relations professional for your career.
Bragging is simply stating facts. And I define bragging as stating facts about your work strategically and cohesively to advance your career. That is irrespective of level of seniority, that could be going for an internship, or that could be going for a corporate board seat.
My audience is called the Qualified Quiet. People that have done the work, but don’t know how to talk about it. That is irrespective of gender. And that is also irrespective of level of seniority. I noticed when I was running FinePoint as a PR shop, I started to become the go-to for individual public relations because I had been writing since I was 18. I had been speaking, throwing parties. I was always putting myself out there in this particular way. And people wanted kind of some of the personal brand. But what I was noticing, the entire trajectory of which is why I do what I do, is that nobody knows how to talk about themselves. But that was not improving with success.
And what we have is the system where we reward the wrong voices. You know, 99.9% of people that I work with, or I speak to say, I’d rather put my head down and do the work, then talk about it. I want my work to speak for itself. And if you aren’t the person out there touting it, it’s going to be extremely difficult for someone else to.
And they also just, aren’t going to take the time and energy to know and to seek it out. I counsel senior executives from big companies or even just one-on-one, people can buy an hour of my time and it’s the same consistent issues. You’re so not alone in feeling anxious, ashamed, disgusted, fearful about talking about yourself that it’s what I do for a living. It is my core message. And I also want to say that this is a, skill. You’re not supposed to know how to do these things. Nobody teaches you them. If you are a woman, if you are anyone but a white man, it does not come naturally. And it is very complicated, but it is something you can learn and it’s something you refined throughout your entire career.
Meghan Houle: [00:15:10] And what led you on the path to write Brag Better? Was this book in your soul or something that really manifested over time from your years of teaching, and as you mentioned, particularly supporting women to help them better advocate for themselves?
Meredith Fineman: [00:15:24] Yes. So, I ran FinePoint for, I mean I’ve had this company for about 10 years now.
I would say I ran it for about the first three as a PR firm. I got very bored, but I also noticed that to me, the least interesting part of public relations, which like another podcast is conversations around the kind of reputation and maybe the sexism that exists with publicists and what people think of them as it’s primarily women’s work and how we value that.
The least interesting part of what I was doing was getting that press hit was getting the actual placement of something somewhere. It was the packaging and pitching and understanding what the right messaging was and being unafraid to consistently ask for attention for it that I knew was incredibly valuable to people.
And we were sort of throwing the baby out with the bath water in, this sense that people were only seeing this one thing and only valuing this one thing. And I realized it was a tremendous skillset and I didn’t know what to do with that. And I also didn’t know what to do with the fact that I couldn’t stand that the same young women who were coming in to intern for me and the household name women I was talking to at conferences, could not introduce themselves to me, could not tell me the work that they’d done.
PR requires a certain amount of doggedness, a certain amount of resourcefulness and a certain amount of persistence. But, that’s not, it, that’s not all of it, but I didn’t care that someone didn’t have a PR background. I cared more about like who they were and being proud of their work and what they’d done.
And it was particularly visible for women. I am very clear that the message of Brag Better and the Qualified Quiet is not only for women, or people who identify as women, but it is for everyone who sees that there’s someone they know in their classroom, in their work pod, in their network, on a panel, who has done less work than they do, but is getting the attention.
And I also saw that from my deep understanding of media and attention and how we pay attention and what we pay attention to and what we pay attention to is loud. As much as I’d like to be optimistic and say, we can get the loud people to be quiet. It’s a matter of getting that Qualified Quiet to turn up the volume strategically, to ultimately propel your career.
It’s a strategic communication skillset that is going to help you get what you want.
Meghan Houle: [00:17:37] And so valuable and I cannot wait to dive more into Brag Better. And poke you with some more questions, but in the spirit of our podcast I will ask you a yes or no answer. And then we’ll go to a quick break.
Yes or no. Do you remember the exact moment you decided to write Brag Better?
Meredith Fineman: [00:17:54] Yes.
Meghan Houle: [00:17:55] And with that, we will be going to a break and we will pick this up when we get back.
So, Meredith, before the break, you said, yes. Tell us about the moment that led you to put this book out into the universe.
Meredith Fineman: [00:18:19] Yeah, it is extremely specific. So, I had all these clients I was representing, which I still do and I was representing this incredible woman and she is goals in every sense of the word from just the way she acts to the type of business she does to what she’s built on her own, to her choices in her personal life, like who she chose to marry. Like just deep admiration and respect. And I booked her on TV, which is notoriously fickle.
And difficult because you have this giant funnel where like everyone wants to be on TV and they only have so much time. And they’re very reluctant to ever book anyone new because, you know, it’s live or it’s TV. Like they need to know you’re going to be okay for an audience. And she said to me you know, I don’t know if I’m the best person to do this, there might be someone who knows more than I do. And sure in the grand scheme of, there might be someone richer earth thinner, or better looking or so on and so forth. Like, I guess you could always apply that, but this person had been in a presidential administration on the topic and to be on TV, you get to make maybe two to three key points. We see lots of blowhard men doing it. And this is really what, what kills me too, is like I care overall in the grand scale, men and women that we get more qualified, thoughtful, truthful people as expert sources. And so that’s a lot of what I strive toward on the grand media scale and she didn’t do it.
She decided not to do it and I hung up the phone. And my phone died and I was actually in Las Vegas at the Wynn hotel pool. I was there for a friend’s conference I mean, it was just divine inspiration’s, a little dramatic.
Meghan Houle: [00:19:56] Yeah. You’re like, “We’re doing this!”.
Meredith Fineman: [00:19:58] Well, this was October of 2013 and I didn’t have a pen and I was reading a book and I asked one of the cocktail waitresses for a pen. And I wrote in the margin of my book braggart. And I put parentheses around the word art. So, it was originally the Art of Bragging. I don’t know how that became Brag Better. It just did. I don’t know why it’s not braggart, a braggart is someone who brags and the outline, the very, very, very, very early outlines in 2013 are nowhere near what I was able to accomplish with the finished Brag Better product, which came out in 2020 and the subsequent workbook, which is coming and other, factors of it. But, it became an exercise in faith and pitching and my own doggedness, which, almost broke me a couple times, but it was a highly, highly, highly specific moment. And there were many people who told me not to use the word. There are many people who told me we didn’t need this book. I shopped it once in 2015, it was not ready yet. It was pre me too. It was pre-Trump. It was not ready, people didn’t get it yet my curse actually is being too early. Which I think everything’s timing. I’m always too early, which is very annoying. And I ended up shopping it again in 2018 and it went really fast. I thought it was dead in the water. It was just too early. It was just not the right timing.
But yes, that was a highly, highly specific moment.
Meghan Houle: [00:21:17] I love it. It’s all about timing for our listeners. I mean, for so many things, right? What is that Netflix show, Queens Gambit. That was like 30 years in the making, right? I mean, you just have to find your moment and test what you can and it’s been incredible to see. I’ve been using Brag Better.
I know there’s a lot of people out there that really, truly enjoyed this book. And it is such a hot topic for our listeners and knowing many of us struggle with talking about ourselves, which you have already highlighted so beautifully, but also that bragging and what I’ve taken away from your conversations and reading is not being cocky or over confident, but like you’ve said more about stating facts.
So, why do you think people have such a hard time talking about themselves?
Meredith Fineman: [00:21:59] Many reasons, but as I said, you’re not supposed to know how to do these things. There’s a lot about, I have constant conversations about what we value when it comes to skills and soft skills versus hard skills. Soft skills, being communications, or writing. Hard skills, being like data analysis, science, math and what we assigned to that.
As I alluded to before, I believe that some of that is quite gendered or sexist. But people have this idea that when it comes to softer skills, that they should know how to do them. You are not taught how to talk about yourself. So, at my core, I’m a writer. Our vocabulary is so limited in what we have to talk about ourselves in a way that is thoughtful and engaging and exists, that I had to use the word brag.
I mean many people still told me not to use the word brag. I was talking to someone about a speaking. She’s like, I don’t know if my audience would really like, like the word brag. I’m like, well, I don’t know why I’m on the phone with you, but like that makes no sense to me. But yes, I know, like I know that people like, let me tell you that’s actually really what they need.
What I highlight is we do not have a vocabulary to talk positively about professional accomplishment and that’s what I’ve written. And our words are extremely limited. I chose that instead of finding a cutesy phrase like talk yourself up or you know, I wanted one word.
And so it was about redefining that word. And I, wasn’t going to pick a new word because that’s almost impossible to do, unless you’re literally like an Uber. When you own language, you own the conversation and you get to define it. And so it will always be an uphill battle with the word brag, but the definition of brag, not as I define it, but the classical definition is to talk about oneself with excessive pride. Technically first it’s to talk about oneself boastfully, which does nothing. Boastful means to talk about oneself with excessive pride. And what it hinges on is pride, which is deeply subjective.
That’s what also makes people anxious is there are no rules around this stuff, which I have created sort of, I guess, bumper lanes around how you think about doing these things. It is an act of vulnerability, so that’s extremely scary. And then we have a lot of judgments about how other people do it and how we do it. For women, particularly, you’re judged on metrics that men are not. You are evaluated from your height and weight, to the sound of your voice, to the color of your hair, to your age. Historically for women, positive attributes were associated with passive behaviors. So, she was shy, she was demure, she was coy.
All of those things were deeply alluring, but also literally meant that a woman was silent. So, silence equaled attraction. And then it’s, as I said, this is an act of vulnerability to stand proudly in your work, but as a woman or as anyone who is not a white man is an inherently radical act.
And that’s not always pretty, you know, I’ve been met with a lot of crap. Yeah. It’s very easy to take a shot at someone who’s decided to put herself out there. But I argue, and then there’s real danger for women, which is a different conversation, but I argue and prove that it is a net positive because people don’t know what you’ve done until you tell them.
Those are the reasons, also how you’re brought up. Maybe you saw gender roles performed in a certain way, and you had a very passive, quiet mom, which she could have also been a fantastic mother, but didn’t display voice in this particular way.
I do a lot of different Brag Better talks and events online now. And I did a great one on bragging better in Asian culture, particularly with Asian women. I had four amazing Asian-American women talking about their experiences. So, your family, your upbringing, cultural factors, a lack of words, a lack of role models, because we have these people screaming and then we have everyone else who has no idea what to do.
All of that means that I would have no idea how anyone would really feel good about doing this.
Meghan Houle: [00:25:51] Well, and for some of the key points that you make in your book, for people that are struggling to create that bio or elevator pitch, and then getting stuck using what they have put together to present directly through a conversation, or while writing an email introduction, where do you feel like the best place our listeners can start to get them feeling more comfortable, putting their achievements together and then articulating them?
Meredith Fineman: [00:26:16] Yeah. So, this is a skill to learn skills and you refine throughout your entire career. It’s about recognizing that there are opportunities all around you to promote yourself and share your work and state those facts strategically and cohesively to advance your career. You can start anywhere. I have coached people to raise their hand in a meeting.
It could be calling a friend or it could just be like saying to yourself at the end of the workweek, like, wow, I really killed that presentation, or I’m really proud of that thing that I did. Like, that’s a place to start. I mean, on the micro it’s, maybe your email signature is it easy to see who you are?
What’s derivative of public relations is you need to get an attractive message to someone as quickly as possible and get them to say yes. And so in this case, nobody’s going to seek that out. So, evaluating your social media, yes. I have a free chapter on the Brag Better website, which is brag-better.com. That I wrote last April on how to brag better from home and online and I’m planning on expanding that because we now live in this world, which will from now on hopefully with the vaccine, we’ll see what the future of work looks like. But the future of work is certainly going to be blended between the virtual and, the in-person. And so what does that mean to do that from behind a screen?
But, what message are you sending out with your headshot? Do you have one? Is it a casual photo?, It’s starting to recognize all of those places as opportunities and not burdens and it’s going to be outside of your comfort zone, but you can inch out like in this case I’m not trying to put anyone on a stage necessarily.
Some of my clients want that, but maybe it is just making sure that you buy the domain of your name and think about putting together a personal website.
Meghan Houle: [00:27:58] Yeah. Sometimes I will tell my clients like put a PowerPoint together of your achievements or a little marketing deck of what you’re really proud of, if you’re having trouble and something you can use consistently and as you said, it’s a skill. It’s something that you build, but you have to start somewhere. And I know in Brag Better, there are so, so many good nuggets. But what main points can readers really take away from diving into Brag better? Start to finish. We won’t give too many spoilers, but I know you talk about being loud, proud, strategic but what are some of those main points, someone buying this book, will get out of.
Meredith Fineman: [00:28:34] Your accomplishments are worth talking about. You’re so not alone in these feelings. It’s what I do for a living. If it were easy to brag about yourself, talk about yourself, self promote, figure out how to market yourself. I wouldn’t have a job and this book wouldn’t exist and be popular. You can start anywhere.
It is a consistent roadmap, but I will also say, so I did over 20 interviews for this book, which was incredibly important to me as a privileged white lady, it not just be about my experiences in my voice. So, there are incredible, mostly women, I allowed one man in there. One very, very successful man in there. Which ranges race, gender, expression, industry, and their experiences of being known and what that means and why that’s uniquely hard and how to navigate it.
So, whether it’s Dream Hampton talking about putting surviving R Kelly out there, or Claire Saffat, who is a viral, she was with Bon Appetit. Now she’s queen of the internet who never intended to be in public. To the one man, David Rubinstein, who built one of the largest, most successful financially businesses that probably exists and how to be effective and how to think about your voice. So, I would say that’s deeply important to me. I’ve spent 10 years refining these tactics, but what I’ll say is. What I really wanted for this book is nothing bothers me more when people try to empower people, particularly women, but not only women by saying, be more confident.
That drives me crazy because I believe that what is empowering and what makes people feel confident is highly specific tactics and practices. So, this is an action oriented book and it is one that is highly, highly specific. So, I’m not going to tell you how to feel, I’m going to tell you what to do, because I don’t think the former works.
Right. And so that’s really what differentiates it from a lot of these. It does toe the line between self-help and a business book. But both are required for the other here and that you examine the stories you’ve been told and the feelings you have, but also like here’s what to do about them.
Meghan Houle: [00:30:32] I love it. It is such a powerful book and, to pivot a little bit to other things that you’re doing and we can finish off with Brag Better, everyone, don’t worry. We’ll get her for some more advice before we close up, but, you also have this incredible sustainable fashion podcast and, sustainable fashion newsletter.
So, your podcast is It Never Gets Old. And then you have Second Hand Society. So, talk to us a little bit about creating both of those and getting them into the universe and why the topic of sustainable fashion is so important to you right now.?
Meredith Fineman: [00:31:03] Yeah. So, I am an expert in sustainable fashion by way of secondhand resale, vintage, consignment, thrift, pre-loved, whatever you want to call it.
The industry is kind of dealing with how they want to market it and what they want to call it. Each of them means different things, but sometimes they’re interchangeable. I have been furiously buying and selling secondhand clothing since I was 11. I’m now 34 and for a very long time, it was just my number one hobby.
It’s how I learn a city. I’ve made over six figures in the 20 plus years I’ve done this. I consistently make money on my wardrobe. I wanted people to know that you can, but also that it opens up this whole world. I’m very passionate about secondhand culture when it comes to the small little shops, some of which is being wiped out by like the big tech companies that I am very pro like Poshmark and the Real Real.
But it was places I felt comfortable when I was young. It was a way for me to feel like I was getting a deal. I was finding treasures. Everything I do is sort of under the umbrella, I guess, of storytelling. So, thinking about where a garment had been and who wore it and you don’t know often, most of the time, 99% of the time.
And then it just became such a part of my life that constantly being asked to look for things, constantly being asked to flip things for people. Being asked about how to wade into this world that I started, It Never Gets Old in the fall of 2018, I don’t know, time is a flat circle. Like time is a flat circle.
I don’t know what time is after the pandemic. And that’s currently on hold because I’m developing a Brag Better podcast and nobody needs like a white lady with two podcasts. So, I’m just going to have one which will be Brag Better for now we’ll see. But I also want to really play to my, strongest form, which is writing.
So, Secondhand Society is a sub stack newsletter. There’s a paid and unpaid that is news on the industry. It is everything I know, like my knowledge I’ve put in way, way more than the 10,000 hours necessary for the knowledge on this stuff. So, I’m imparting it, whether it’s like a deep discussion on fakes and I’m obsessed with the world of replicas and fakes. Or it’s about the history of Chanel and how to find it for less, or it’s about how to even think about beginning to sell your wardrobe. And then the paid one, I’m building a hyper, hyper small, like if you’re a paid member, you can sell stuff to each other, but also finds that I find that I have sourced from all over the country and world over the past two decades. And my links to stuff I’m finding that week. And that’s just been really fun. The sustainable part was not as much of the conversation as it has been. The uptick is insane over the past three years let’s say. But it is, the most sustainable option. It already exists. The amount of water waste we create in creating clothing, the dangers of fast fashion, it’s an alternative. And it’s a really great one for the planet. It’s better labor practices and the people making the garments. And it also tells brands and other companies, how much consumers really value a more sustainable experience.
And certainly with Gen Z. We sort of lock them all in together, but sustainability and fashion and making those choices is more important to the consumer than ever before. So, the industry has a lot to contend with. But for me, it’s a blood sport.
Meghan Houle: [00:34:14] Well, I feel like you’re a one stop shop for all things, talking about yourself, going out there, feeling fabulous, and then you can also look fabulous too and get some Chanel. Amen. Meredith.
Meredith Fineman: [00:34:25] I’ve never, I probably should, but I’ve never built that into my Finepoint practice because I always wanted to be really careful that I didn’t tell people too much about their appearance.
I mean, I want people to just feel good in whatever they’re wearing and sometimes you have to be wearing certain things. But yeah, I don’t know. I have a lot of different interests and just trying to monetize all of them.
Meghan Houle: [00:34:48] They’re all so incredible. So, you alluded a little bit with the sustainable fashion, but what is next for Meredith Fineman?
What are you looking to do? Hosting maybe more trainings, new books on the horizon, I know you just mentioned Brag Better podcast, maybe some workbooks. Any potential future speaking engagements as we all get back together, what next? What can we look forward to?
Meredith Fineman: [00:35:09] So, let’s start with, I’m working on the Brag Better workbook.
It has not been formally sold to a publisher yet, so stay tuned. But that’s been the number one request and I hesitated with the second you put, I mean, there’s a lot, I could talk about the book industry, but the second you put space in your book, like lines to write something, it actually changes the category of the book and then it becomes a paper product or a journal, and it’s like a totally different thing.
What’s been unbelievable is just the number of people who listened to the book and then buy the physical copies so they can write in it and they can see the exercises. So, a workbook is something I’ve always wanted to do. There’s that, I do a ton of corporate speaking. I speak to a ton of universities and, you can find that on all of my stuff. I’m represented by APB. So if you want me to come to your school or your company, I can do that. But then it’s finally time for me to do some of that more consumer-facing, which is to say that, building a Brag Better e-learning product or series of courses and some masterminds where you can really have access to me.
You can always hire me through Finepoint or an hour of my time, but that’s really important to me because at this point it’s all been pretty much private. So, I would say that and then building out Secondhand Society and if you want to learn more about, that world, that’s a fun place to be too.
Meghan Houle: [00:36:25] And we’ll link everything, especially Secondhand, we’ll put it in our summary on the website and we can talk a little bit more about how to find you, but in parting before we share all your info with listeners, any Brag Better words of advice that you have for us?
Meredith Fineman: [00:36:41] Yeah. I would say that it’s been a really hard year for everyone.
I feel so incredibly lucky on so many levels that like you can’t try to do too many things at once. This stuff is hard. Everything every one has been through is hard and continues to go through is hard. So, cutting yourself some slack there, which is the most extreme pot and kettle sentiment as someone who holds herself to an impossible standard. But start thinking about these things because they are necessary for your career. You have to advocate for yourself in this way, or at least pretend to, at least fake some of it get and pitching yourself and your work so that people can give you more money, so that people can promote you, so that people can assign you to big projects get that internship, get that recognition from a professor, depending on like where you are in your life and career listening to this, is what I would say, and it’s hard for everyone. In the thousands and thousands of people I’ve spoken to in the past 10 years on these topics, there have only been like two women maybe just one who’ve said they don’t need this.
And, it’s very universal. Sometimes the scariest feelings are the most isolating. But everyone has trouble with this. So, that’s not abnormal in the slightest. That’s literally why I do this.
Meghan Houle: [00:38:02] Well, thank you for that. And for, anyone looking to pivot careers, industries for all the things, I mean, it’s so important to feel really good talking about yourself, about your accomplishments, as you said so beautifully earlier, no one is going to know what you do unless you tell them. So with that, how can our listeners find you? What are the best ways people can connect with you?
Meredith Fineman: [00:38:24] Yeah. So, I’m @meredithfineman everywhere. I would say I’m definitely most active on Instagram because that’s where like the memes and the nail art.
Oh yeah. I’m very passionate about nail art and the Brag Better information is you can find Brag Better wherever you get books. If you want to order from the guy in the sky, the Amazon, you can. Be super grateful if you left an Amazon review really helps the algorithm, even if you didn’t buy it there.
Books are expensive. You can also get it from your local library. I was tickled the other day again, releasing this book in a pandemic means, I mean, the parties will just be delayed. The tour will be delayed. I’m coming to you like don’t you worry. But someone told me that there was a long queue at her library to rent the book, which I’m very happy, but also we need to get more of them, but you can hear me talk it at you, brag-better.com. Okay. Secondhand Society is, I mean, you just kind of Google it, but it’s on Sub Stack and I’m very, find-able on the internet.
Meghan Houle: [00:39:15] Well thank you for sharing all that. And I cannot also thank you enough for being on this podcast and being on this journey with me and putting this amazing book out into the universe.
I know it truly has helped me and some of my coaching clients that I work with and we really look forward to keeping an eye on all your sustainable fashion, Secondhand Society, the podcast coming up, and I truly praise you for all you’re creating to serve those in our industry and women really feel more confident telling their stories and articulating their value.
So, for all of our listeners, I hope you’ve enjoyed this conversation. Meredith, thanks again for being here, stay tuned for all things coming, Brag Better and for more incredible stories on Pivot with Purpose.
FC Podcasts: [00:39:58] Pivot with Purpose with host, Meghan Houle is a Fashion Consort production, and part of the FC podcast network. It is produced and directed by Phil AKA Corinne. And a special thank you to Spencer Powell for our theme music. Learn more at pivotwithpurposepodcast.com and be sure to follow us on Instagram @pivotwithpurpose_podcast.