Shine Theory 101


4/12/19 - Shine Theory is cropping up everywhere from social media to the halls of Congress. But you might have wondered or had a friend ask, what exactly is Shine Theory? We go deep on its origin, what it is and is not, and how Shine Theory can fortify friendships, work alliances, and help diminish the role of jealousy in your life.

Transcript below.

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Producer: Gina Delvac

Hosts: Aminatou Sow & Ann Friedman

Theme song: Call Your Girlfriend by Robyn

Composer: Carolyn Pennypacker Riggs.

Associate Producer: Jordan Bailey

Visual Creative Director: Kenesha Sneed

Merch Director: Caroline Knowles

Editorial Assistant: Laura Bertocci

Design Assistant: Brijae Morris

Ad sales: Midroll




Aminatou: Welcome to Call Your Girlfriend.

Ann: A podcast for long-distance besties everywhere.

Aminatou: I'm Aminatou Sow.

Ann: And I'm Ann Friedman. On this week's agenda we are talking Shine Theory: what it actually is, what it in fact is not, examples of Shine Theory in the wild, how to practice it, and how it's changed as we've gotten older.

[Theme Song]


Aminatou: Hey Ann Friedman.

Ann: How you doing?

Aminatou: Girl I am doing great. I just got back from Mexico so I am happy.

Ann: Yeah we are both just off of some decent vacation time like adult spring break so . . .

Aminatou: It really was adult spring break. I love that.

Ann: Adult spring break is going to bed by like 10 p.m. at latest and enjoying lots of time outside.

Aminatou: [Laughs] So real. What are we talking about today?

Ann: Okay, I am very excited to have this conversation. It is one that we have had in a meta way or in kind of like a side convo way essentially since the founding of this podcast: we're going to talk about Shine Theory.

Aminatou: Who is she?


Ann: Who is she? Great question. The people want to know what is Shine Theory in more complex terms than just I want everyone to be my friend. How do you define it?

Aminatou: It's the operating principle of our friendship, you and me, and it is also a real -- and I believe this is on our website -- like a commitment to looking at the people in your life and thinking would we better as collaborators than competitors? Because that is often the frame that a lot of female friendship is boxed into right? Like it's cute that you like each other but everything is a zero-sum game in life. And I had found that that was not true in my life. I can't think of anyone that was a close friend that I was ever competing with or was competing with me and also I find it really insulting that that is the only way that we have to talk about women as friends.

Ann: Right. And I think that often it's not talked about in the context of friendship. Like often this notion of there is one other -- like often it's someone of your same demographic, like if you're a woman it's another woman in the office that you've singled out and are feeling like if she gets this promotion or gets this attention or gets this recognition then there is less for me. And I think we, at least in terms of how we publicly talk about Shine Theory, it was really borne of a desire to negate that idea right? To sort of way what is really going to help you even in a selfish way. Not just like help this other woman or help the cause of feminism (TM) or help all women kumbaya, whatever, but really the best thing to help yourself is to say let's look for an opportunity for allyship rather than presenting ourselves to each other as competition and like letting the men run around all . . . without being challenged, often the periphery.

Aminatou: Right. Basically the notion is that anybody who is not a white man is always in competition with each other. It's 100% a scam of hetero-patriarchy that tells you that right? It's like while you people are fighting the rest of us are just making stuff happen for ourselves. But the other reason that it also really annoys me is because the subtext, especially amongst women, is always that women are not nice to each other. And if you have been two minutes in the women's bathroom you know that that is just not true. And somehow that line of thinking just persists that women are just mean to each other. Now is it true that some women are not nice to other women? Sure. Is it a biological imperative that we feel? That's nonsense. That is a kind of modeling that I wish had been around when I was younger because I definitely grew up in the mean girl years. That context for me at least is always important for remembering why do I do the things that I do?


We're living in not that different political climates have been easy or whatever. I just think that especially this time that we're living in it is so important to remember what it actually means to be in solidarity with people and to be an ally with people and Shine Theory really cuts to the heart of that.

Ann: Yeah. I mean it's sort of like the golden rule applied to friendship and relationships in a really concerted way, not just in a be kind to strangers way.

Aminatou: Exactly.

Ann: It's been now several years since we've been talking about this publicly and one of the early critiques of Shine Theory -- looking at you Hanna Rosin who wrote a piece for Slate -- essentially saying whoa, whoa, whoa, is this advocating for only befriending people who you think are powerful or who can somehow help your career or improve your life because they've got it all together?

Aminatou: No.

Ann: Was one fundamental misread I think in part because we talk about it in the sense of if you feel a feeling like envy or competition usually it's because you see yourself as an equal with someone or you see someone as maybe like slightly ahead of you, whatever that means, in some kind of career or life category. And so that's when envy tends to crop up which is why we start talking about Shine Theory. Which is not to say that the only way you should be making friends is if it's someone who seems more powerful or you have something -- a possibility of gaining something from. Like think about our friendship, right? We've been practicing this since day one when let's be real neither of us were that powerful.


Aminatou: Right, when every . . . we would go to happy hour and everybody would look over our heads to see who was more important than us even though we are tall women. Yes, I remember those days.

Ann: [Laughs] Well right.

Aminatou: And to be clear we're still in those rooms so that's also fine.

Ann: But also that idea of we both took each other very, very seriously even at a time when perhaps our professional resumes or whatever did not reflect the great things that we were both capable of. I think about that a lot, right? That is the essence of Shine Theory of we are going to see what's great and amplify that about each other and come up together, not like I'm going to find someone who's already doing great and affix myself to them.

Aminatou: 100%. Shine Theory is looking at your own friends and being like we are going to just make things happen. We talk a lot about Shine Theory with people who are younger than us I will say a lot of times, not to say that it doesn't apply. But I think that something you need to realize when you are a younger person, it's okay that you haven't figured a lot of shit out especially career-wise. I'm like you're brand new here. Time is the only thing that gets you closer to a lot of people that you admire. It's like when you look at other people and you're like oh, this person has something I want or whatever, or how do I get that? I was like hmm, you need like ten more years and then you'll get here. That's usually what it is. If you don't bring things and you work hard enough you will probably get to that level.

But I also think that like part of Shine Theory, it's like being very realistic about your own resources. And I think we've talked a lot about this on the podcast before, this idea that everybody always wants a mentor at work and it's like there are too many people who need mentors and not enough mentors. So what do you do? You look horizontally and you go who are my friends and what can we teach each other? Or who is my cohort and what can we teach each other? It's just very critical to knowing that you don't have to look very far to be inspired. You don't have to look very far to make shit happen for yourself. It's what are you going to do with where you are right now? These are the resources that you have access to.


You know, if you're not part of the dominant successful white man demographic at work it's that you also realize there's two ways to get ahead: you can either try to be a kiss-ass and see how far that gets you, you know, or be the person that always thinks you're the exception to the rule and let's see how far that gets you. Or you realize that actually if you start performing alliances across all sorts of people who are not the white man at work generally you tend to give each other more power because you've found a way to build an alliance with people.

Ann: It's very easy to think about it as only limited to the one context you just mentioned like the workplace context. I really think about it as my whole life kind of thing. It's like the ways in which we are over the long haul of our friendship supporting each other to really be our best. And sometimes that looks like what are you doing to look after your health? Or oh my god, you finally went to therapy. Good job for you. Or other times it is about supporting each other through making big life decisions and taking those as seriously and being in those conversations with the same mentality as we would when we're continuing the same kinds of questions for ourselves. You know, there's a reason why I think we talk about Shine Theory in the context of friendship and the reason why it's not a totally neat fit with something like work wife or something that has more to do with work support and collaboration. Like it is really easy to talk about it in the context of work and money and that's how a lot of it plays out but that is not exclusively where it is useful. Like we are bigger than capitalism. [Laughs]


Aminatou: Wow. What a boldness.

Ann: You don't think our friendship is bigger than capitalism?

Aminatou: Listen. [Laughs] Now that you're asking the question I'm going to think about it. But you know I'm glad actually you're bringing this up because I think that one fundamental misreading of Shine Theory, it means that you have to be friends with every single woman that you meet who asks for your help. Like you're a martyr to the cause of helping everybody. And . . .

Ann: You mean like if I send you a cold email asking for your help with something and you don't respond that means you're not practicing Shine Theory?

Aminatou: Yes. Yes.

Ann: Are you talking about that fallacy?

Aminatou: Yes, I'm talking about that fallacy.

Ann: Uh-huh.

Aminatou: Or, you know, that you're supposed to just open yourself up to be available to everyone. I was like no, this is another way that white dudes get ahead is they're not helping everyone so relax. That tension for me is always really interesting right? Of where do you draw that line? And so that's why I'm happy that you're saying it's a 360 proof view of your life as opposed to just bucketed into work or bucketed into friendship or whatever. Like where are you basically deploying this in your life?

I would like to believe that I'm the kind of person that is a cheerleader to most people in my life who need cheerleading. Like that's true. But I also know that I'm only one person. There are only 24 Beyonce hours in a day.

Ann: There are 48 Beyonce hours in a day but yes.

Aminatou: [Laughs] 72 Beyonce hours in a day and that -- you know, that you can't do everything.

Ann: The reason that we wanted to talk about this this week in particular is two-fold. One is that we recently revamped our Shine Theory website.



Ann: Indeed. And then also it has been in the news because all of these fantastic women in politics, most of whom are freshmen congressmen in this Congress, have been bandying this term about a lot. So it is in the news even more than it has been in the past few years.

Aminatou: I'm interested in talking about this because like you I think that it's very cool -- I can't believe I'm using the word cool, who says that? It's very cool. Also very heartening to see that a thing that we talk about all the time, like it actually has legs, you know? [Laughs] I know that that's going to sound wild to so many people because they've adopted it. It's also been very heartening to see how investment over the long term into helping people be their best selves actually is -- it actually works.

Ann: Yeah. And I think that recently Ilhan Omar who is a representative, a Somali-American representative from Minnesota who has been representing her district in Congress since January, she appeared in conversation with the director Ava Duvernay in Interview Magazine and she talked a bit about being part of this cohort of women in Congress and also about how she runs her own office. And she said "We understand what being in solidarity looks like. We understand what Shine Theory really looks like so we uplift one another. We understand that my sadness is the sadness of my sisters here in Congress and their success is my success. We're not fighting for the limelight. We're not fighting for acknowledgment. What we are fighting for is our people." That's the note on which she ends this conversation, so . . .

Which is awesome and powerful but also it's just a couple of lines which I think is how Shine Theory is often discussed, sort of shorthand for being in solidarity. And you and I have more robust thoughts and feelings about what it means to practice Shine Theory, why it's important, how it can be difficult, and why it's more than just having an office BFF.


Aminatou: Right. And I love that that quote honestly is by a congressperson and that it is in the context of actually doing politics. Part of Shine Theory is that it is strategic, you know? And so when Ilhan Omar talks about being part of a cohort in Congress those ladies know what they're doing. You know, there are more women who've been elected in this Congress than any other time. They know that the more they band together and the more they push up against the idea that only one of them is supposed to hog the limelight or only one of them is the only one who can pass legislation this year or whatever they know they can be more effective that way because they are part of a cohort.

You and I are part of a cohort as well, like we are engaged in the same kind of process. People who cold email us you already have a cohort. You just either need to decide to call yourselves that or you need to join one that is accessible to you.

Ann: Yeah. I think what you're talking about is mutuality. The whole thing about Shine Theory is I don't want to say it looks exactly 50/50 equal at every moment in time because it doesn't. There's going to be some moments when one person is relying on the cohort or another friend more than others and then hopefully over time it does kind of balance out. But the point is all parties have made kind of an emotional and time investment in each other. And to me that's really the big difference between Shine Theory and networking, right? Actually practicing it and being in that mode of mutual investment requires everyone involved to kind of be putting into the pot, right? To be anteing up. [Laughs] That's something that gets lost in a lot of feel good, almost like marketing branding speak about Shine Theory.


Like it's one thing to just say oh, we're going to all get together and it's going to be Shine Theory. And it's like that's not actually true if it's a room full of strangers. I think there's potential for Shine Theory there but that's very different than saying like how are we really going to long-term invest in each other and help everyone get where they want to go?

Aminatou: Right. Making a mutual investment in people also means that there needs to be a base level of trust generally.

Ann: What? [Laughs]

Aminatou: I know, mind-blowing! And you know . . .

Ann: So deep already, I love it.

Aminatou: I'm telling you that you need to trust each other or you're working towards developing that trust. I think that's also just very important. All of this to say that it's really hard to be accountable to strangers. You have to actually make room to get to know people. And I do think that a lot of times that's where the friendship component comes in, right? Basically if you're practicing Shine Theory with enough strangers and you guys are mutually invested of course you're going to become friends. But it is also true that if you are also friends you have a baseline of trust and you have a baseline of accountability that you can build on as you try to dismantle white hetero-patriarchy.

Ann: Ugh. Let's take a little break then we can talk a little bit more about what Shine Theory actually looks like, some of our favorite examples, and also some maybe pitfalls or threats to it or what it isn't. Because I think in some ways that's the easiest way to understand something is to be like that isn't it.



Aminatou: So one of our fav examples of Shine Theory is the marathon runner Shalane Flanagan who she won the New York City Marathon in 2017. She's like an iconic runner and is great. Basically after her marathon win in 2017 New York City local paper The New York Times reported . . .

Ann: [Laughs]

Aminatou: A small paper you might've heard of reported that basically part of her training strategy is she trains and encourages pretty much all the other women distance runners and she built a group of training partners. And to be clear because this is a sports example these are actually women that are in competition with each other, you know? And it's really good to put in context with like your beef with the lady at the copy machine because nobody's winning Olympic medals here.

Ann: Oh my god I love that you still think there's copy machines. [Laughs]

Aminatou: There's still copy machines, Ann. I was in an office recently.

Ann: Is that a metaphorical copy machine?

Aminatou: There's still copy machines. And so the thing that I loved about the reporting, and this was the quote, it was like every single one of her training partners -- eleven women in total -- had made it to the Olympics while training with her. So she actually found a group of women who would help her run better and obviously they are in competition with each other but they become better runners for it. Everybody is winning, everybody is going to the Olympics, and everybody has -- you know, like they've leveled up their running career. And this is an example that I really, really like because, you know, it touches on a lot of things that I like.

Ann: I also love, okay, you know I'm not a sports-oriented person. That is not my world orientation.

Aminatou: [Laughs]

Ann: But one thing I love about sports examples that have to do with Shine Theory is they are so concrete. This is so perfect, they showed up every day -- or I have to imagine it was nearly every day -- to train together as partners, you know, training partner. And therefore all got closer to the goals that they had. And so when we talk about mutual investment and actually putting in the time together as equals it's like literally they showed up at practice. I mean this is not how it looks with all things in life but thank you sports for being so obvious in how -- yeah.


Aminatou: And your personal record is down. You actually see improvement on your goals. You know what I mean? Like the goals are also really concrete. And so that's a really nice -- this is a really nice illustration.

Ann: Yes, it's really good. Another example that we talk about a lot and really love comes from the Obama White House. Do you remember that, when Obama was president?

Aminatou: What? In this lifetime? [Laughs]

Ann: Oh, anyway, there was a group of women who worked in the Obama White House who were very much outnumbered at senior staff meetings. Not like any one of them was the one in the room but they were outnumbered enough that they clearly could feel that. They adopted the strategy that they called amplification, so talking again about concrete practices of Shine Theory. And what they did, they told the Washington Post essentially when one woman in the room made a point or said something the other women in the room would say "Oh, I love Amina's idea," like echo that and underscore the fact that A) that idea had been put forth and b) that it had come from a woman in the room because who has not had that experience of being one of very few women in a room and tried to make a point or say something only to have a man who's sitting nearby make the same point five minutes later and have everyone respond quite differently? And this is . . .

Aminatou: To piggyback on what Ann said. [Laughs]

Ann: Exactly. Oh my god. I know they called it amplification because piggybacking is too horrible office jargon.

Aminatou: Ugh!

Ann: What I love about this is it takes this really concrete problem where you could have a scenario in which women are fighting to kind of exclusively own credit of an idea. I mean I don't think that anyone's White House environment is anything less than cutthroat. I can't even imagine the office politics in like the Oval Office.

Aminatou: You haven't watched The West Wing? What?


Ann: I mean I can't -- listen, I'm not giving Aaron Sorkin credit.

Aminatou: Ann I'm trolling you. I am 100% trolling you and you fell for it. [Laughs]

Ann: You do not want to hear my rant about Donna again so I'm just going to set it aside. But what I love about this is like concrete problem: women are not getting credit for their ideas. Concrete solution that came from a cohort of women, and you know, this expectation that it is not just like oh, that one time I said "Did everyone hear Amina just piggybacking?" but literally as a practice, as an ongoing way of addressing a kind of way that injustice plays out in an ongoing way as well. Like brilliant, brilliant, brilliant use of the solidarity born of Shine Theory.

Aminatou: Another example that we love comes from Congress where Katie Hill who is a rep from California, really she knew that it was Ayanna Pressley who is the first black woman rep from Massachusetts I believe. She really knew it was Ayanna Pressley's dream, dream, dream to get the same Capital Hill office that Shirley Chisholm had. And the way that you get an office in Congress is it's some sort of lottery system for the freshmen. Katie Hill had a higher number in the lottery which meant that she would get called first. This is just like the NBA draft but for offices, can you believe it?

Ann: Would watch it live. I would watch this live on CSPAN.

Aminatou: Oh my god, Ann, don't give CSPAN monetization ideas. I mean or maybe do give it to them. They need them. Katie Hill gave up her spot so that Ayanna Pressley would get the office that she wanted, Shirley Chisholm. So obviously it has huge historical importance for Ayanna Pressley and it also has a personal significance. And I love that Katie Hill gave up her spot for her. Like that was actually sacrifice. I'm sure that offices in Congress are not that lit or exciting. But the note that she tweeted at her was very cute. She was like "No doubt you're going to do amazing things from that office. I'm excited to serve with you."


And I think that, you know, part of Shine Theory, it does involve giving up your spot for other people sometimes or, you know, sacrificing things for the larger good or for the -- you know, for the greater story of the cohort. And I just . . . I really, really, really like this example.

Ann: I think what I love about that too is it is not -- yes it is a work context but really that's not what it's about, you know what I mean? Like what office you sit in, that's a personal significance issue. And so she's not just looking out for wanting to help Ayanna Pressley do her job better. She's like oh, I know that this is personally meaningful to you and I want to help you get something that's personally meaningful to you. And that's another reason I love that example. It looks on its face like work but really it's more about personal support and solidarity.

Aminatou: Ugh, personal support and solidarity. What can't you do without it?

Ann: Okay, here is another great example. I think that another manifestation of Shine Theory is what we always call skin in the game, like the idea of extending yourself or using the privilege and power that you have to benefit other people in your cohort or people that you're practicing Shine Theory with.

So first example is another sports one, the Williams sisters who we love, who are obviously at the tippy, tippy top of their game. Who are like winning all of that prize money and therefore, you know, directly invested in women's prize money being equal to men's at all of these major competitions. That they are slaying, right?


But I think what's noteworthy about them is they are also advocating for across the board increases in the way women are compensated in their sport. And they are being transparent about the fact that they're not just grateful, hey, I love that I won or like hey, I wish I got paid more for this but even in areas where they are not winning or like, you know, at times when they are not directly in competition they are advocates for a fair dollar amount which extends to people who are their literal competition as well right? Like they understand that their success is not just like their success, they're going to take the prize money and run. They're like we want to leave a better legacy and we want things to be better for people who are in this world with us across the board.

Aminatou: I love that. Love the Williams sisters forever and ever and ever. So what are things that Shine Theory is not, Ann?

Ann: It is not networking. You don't just meet someone in a sad hotel lobby with like, you know, a plastic glass of pinot grigio in your hand and go like "Oh yeah, Shine Theory, cool," and go your separate ways, put their business card in your pocket or take their email address and never speak to them again. Like that is really -- or like cold email them five years later and ask for something. That is not Shine Theory just trying to kind of add to a Rolodex of people who you think might be generally feminist or something. Like not Shine Theory. That's a big one.

Aminatou: Wait, and thank you for making that point because this is seriously why fempowerment is just like weaponized.

Ann: What is fempowerment? Yeah.

Aminatou: Basically there's a reason that we're not running Shine Theory conferences that you can come to, you know?

Ann: [Laughs]

Aminatou: Or that we're not on the speaker -- true. And it's not to say we haven't had those opportunities. We're not on the speaker circuit going to every big, bad corporation saying "Here's how Shine Theory can help you recruit more women in your business and here's how it can . . ." There are clear reasons why this doesn't work. Shine Theory is antithetical to bullshit fempowerment.

Ann: Mm-hmm.


Aminatou: It goes back to the mutual investment and to the trust and to building a cohort. And you can't do that if you are doing it in service of like bullshit 9-to-5 job capitalism. It's just not going to happen. It is about leaving a legacy. It is about pushing against bigger systems of oppression and it really is about being in solidarity with people. And so it just does not work. So Shine Theory is not . . . it's not a conference where you learn how to do Shine Theory.

Ann: [Laughs] I also think that it's important to say Shine Theory is not this kind of feelings purity, and I'll explain what I mean. It's like if you subscribe to Shine Theory, like you and I we practice Shine Theory with each other all the time. That doesn't mean I never feel any level of jealousy or envy or -- like I never feel bad about my own work or about my own life. Like feelings are feelings and you're going to have them and just because you are feeling some kind of way about yourself or about someone who is a friend or someone in your cohort that doesn't run counter to Shine Theory I think. Feelings are going to happen.

What does run counter to Shine Theory is if you let those feelings become a driving force for your actions. So it's like the difference between I feel jealous and I'm going to have an honest conversation about what that means for what I want for my career or I feel jealous and I'm going to take a bet and consider where that's really coming from versus I feel jealous and I'm going to try to undermine or maybe isolate myself from this person I feel jealous of. Right? Like it's this kind of gap between -- this is why we talk about practicing Shine Theory. You can feel all kinds of ways about the world, the world is terrible and hard and difficult, feel your feelings. But how you act on those feelings, Shine Theory is a way to kind of think about reacting to those things in a way that is productive and frankly healthier if you are trying to build relationships especially with other women.

Aminatou: Mm-hmm.

Ann: All right, what else is it not?


Aminatou: Shine Theory is definitely not if you're somebody who works at a corporation, specifically at a tech company asking other women to work for free in the service of doing something for women, i.e., you know, like Galentine's Day or Women's History Month or whatever. That is not Shine Theory.

Ann: Whoa. You mean when I ask you to do my diversity work for me that's not Shine Theory? [Laughs]

Aminatou: Yeah, when you ask people to do your diversity work for you or if you work at a company that you know has a lot of money and you just ask people to do things for free you should really ask yourself why it's okay that you're printing money in the basement but when it comes to things like diversity and inclusion your company is not willing to pay for them. And how you are complicit in that.

Ann: Yeah, and I think that that -- answering a question like that you can really lean on the is this mutual, right? Like for me it's like if I have done a lot of professional favors for someone or we are actually close and we understand the dynamics of each other's careers I don't feel bad about asking them to look over something I've written or connect me to someone else because I've already made an investment in them, and vice-versa, you know what I mean?

Aminatou: Yeah.

Ann: I think those asks mean something different if you are really in a mutual relationship. And where you have to be careful is calling it Shine Theory if it's not truly mutual investment. What about disagreements? Particularly between women. Does that mean you're not practicing Shine Theory if you disagree?

Aminatou: No. Disagreeing is very good and healthy. You know I love disagreement.

Ann: I know. [Laughs] I mean that was a soft ball. That was a soft ball.

Aminatou: I know. It's a troll, Ann. You're trolling me.

Ann: Listen, you give me the West Wing. I give you the "Is it okay to disagree?" lob.

Aminatou: It's totally okay to disagree. I think it really depends also what the disagreement is about, right? It's like somebody not giving you what you want, I'd say most of the time that's not a disagreement. [Laughs]

Ann: That's dissatisfaction.


Aminatou: Right. It's also good I think to remember just because we're ladies doesn't mean we have to be fragile and that actually one of the ways that we sharpen each other and we teach each other things is by -- it's not in those moments that we have similarities; it's like where the differences come in. The differences are what make you sharper. And so I think it's always really important to listen to that. And it's also good not to be like a snowflake.

Ann: Wow.

Aminatou: Having a strong backbone is the only thing that is going to get you through life unscathed so get into it. It's good for you. It's a good kind of vitamin. I support this.

Ann: Yeah, and I think that goes hand-in-hand with honesty right? So you brought up trust earlier. You really cannot practice Shine Theory with someone who you don't have trust with and if you're not being honest with each other how do you trust each other? And honestly if you never disagree about anything you're not being honest with each other. [Laughs] So I really -- I feel like we can just trace the line back out and say . . .

Aminatou: Right.

Ann: Like it is okay. And I think again some of that is just what you do with it, right? Like if you can acknowledge that you're having a disagreement or that you're having some less than posi feelings about your relationship or about how a certain interaction happened then you can talk about it and reaffirm your commitment to actually practicing Shine Theory or things like trusting each other. Whereas if you sort of ignore that it's happening and so a slow Homer fade into the bushes there's no opportunity for that.

Aminatou: Yep.

Ann: [Laughs] No disagreement about that.

Aminatou: No disagreement.

Ann: Do you feel like the way you practice Shine Theory has changed for you now that you're deeper in your career? Does it look and feel different than it did when you were first starting out?


Aminatou: You know in some ways it's the same, like the mechanisms are the same where I . . . and I really love early on that, you know, there were just some things I knew I always had to do. Like one of them was always if I turn a job down always recommending somebody else that I knew for it that would be good at it. You know, and things like that.

I think the thing that has changed is 1) I just feel more confident generally. I'm just like okay, I know what I'm doing. [Laughs] In the beginning it was a lot of "We're going to take over the world! What are we doing?" [Laughs] And I think in the beginning it was a lot of like psyching each other up and then with a lot of wins and time honestly just comes more confidence. A thing that has changed is I definitely feel -- I don't feel as helpless as I used to and that's also just true. I have acquired a minimally small amount of power since then so that's fair.

But I think that I just have bigger goals now too so that's the new challenge. And I think about scale a lot more than I used to. So I think the answer is yes and no. It just depends. What about you?

Ann: I think it's changed for me a lot which is one reason I asked you that. And I think I really relate to what you were saying about sort of as you gain power and confidence the ways that you practice Shine Theory and lean on people in your life have evolved. I definitely felt a lot more I would say totally unproductive jealousy very early on in my career when the gap between what I felt I was capable of and what I had been actually given the opportunity to do was much, much wider than it is now. Not that I was ever staying up well into the night grinding my teeth with jealous but, you know, I definitely do not experience that feeling anymore. I've aged into the kind of everyone's in their own lane doing their own thing and if I'm jealous -- I feel a feeling of jealousy -- it usually means I just need to shift my lane or a part of what I'm doing closer to what that person is doing. Like I don't see it as like they got a thing that I can't have now. I have a healthier view of that.

Aminatou: Mm-hmm.


Ann: But I also think that the kind of dilemmas I have related to it have to do with . . . I don't want to say that the network of people I practice Shine Theory with is fixed, like no ins, no outs. But as time has gone on there are only so many Beyonce or normal hours in a day and only so much time and space I have for people. And a lot of -- like I've been working now long enough that I like a beautiful snowball rolling down the hill have picked up lots of people that I practice Shine Theory with.

Aminatou: [Laughs]

Ann: And so, you know, if you're really thinking about the mutuality question of like how am I being like a true Shine Theory partner with those people it's like there's less space to meet someone new and add them to that group in a way that feels meaningful. And so I think that that is a little bit of a struggle. It's sort of an inverse relationship with power. Like when I had very little power I had a lot of feelings related to that and now that I have more power, you know, professionally and in my life and other ways, like thinking about how I use it and in service of what is a different kind of challenge.

I will say the feeling -- and I don't know if you've experienced this too -- as I get more kind of secure and stable I guess in my life and in myself and in my career, feeling like I can really make a meaningful, positive difference in the lives of people I practice Shine Theory with. Like oh, you have a book out? I can -- you can come on the podcast and talk about it or we can strategize together like what you want to write to support it. Things like that, like using the skill set and the platforms that I have now feels really, really good. Like I love that, and I love being able to ask people who now have super deep expertise in all these different things to help me out when I need it because that's just great. Like the long-term rewards of Shine Theory and kind of coming up together, I can't wait to see what that feels like in another 30 years because it feels very good now.


Aminatou: Agreed. [Laughs]

Ann: You don't feel good boo-boo? You don't feel good?

Aminatou: [Laughs] No, listen, I really agree with that and I kind of think that's what the beauty of the cohort is right? It's that you start off somewhere and a thing that I have really enjoyed is just watching the people that are in -- you know, that are in my own cohort, watch them become more confident. Watch them become deep experts in a thing. Watch them become really good at something because I remember when the fear was that they would never get there, right? And it's like oh, it actually didn't even take that long to get here. There's still endless road to explore and you've already hit such high milestones. That is a really, really good feeling.

Ann: I agree. And again this is why we say mutual long-term investment. It's like we are not cashing in or cashing out the investments yet; we are just watching them rise. I love that.

Aminatou: Right. And I think the other thing too that's really good about that is listening to you say you're happy that you have a platform where you can host your -- you know, your friends that are experts or whatever. The inverse of that is also true. I was like damn, I'm working on things that I'm so happy that my pals have figured it out now, you know? They also have platforms to offer me and they will sit down with me and help me figure out what is the best way to make something that I'm doing, make it even better? And that's the part of the give-and-take that is really, really cool. Wow, I've now said cool twice today. Who am I?


Ann: Who are you? This is post-vacation you. Just like using the word cool.

Aminatou: I know. I just sound like an old dad. I'm like "Oh, isn't it so cool? Your little friends." [Laughs]

Ann: Isn't Shine Theory cool?

Aminatou: That's how I feel. Ugh, stop it. It's also just a reminder to me that being young is a foolish game because these are the parts of getting older and watching time pass that are . . . it's just very, very rewarding. Where you're like okay, cool. I remember -- cool, I said it again. I remember a time, Ann, where we used to sit around and we were plotting what we wanted to do. Or, you know, had these goals that seemed so big then and now we've like lapped them ten times over. And that feels amazing to me that we watched each other do that.

Ann: I feel very emotional when you say it like that. Like I can picture the exact dirty couch where we had these conversations.

Aminatou: Exactly! Like dirty couch, no bra, dropping hummus on everything. You know, not being invited to a thing or just like living our boring lives. Not to say my life is exciting now. [Laughs] But just that feeling of you really want something. You just really want it and you don't know if you're ever going to get there and it sounds so foolish to think that when you're 25. And it's like well, welcome. Now you're there and now you have different problems and also on a happy note you have bigger challenges to get to and so it just feels less impossible. It also feels less impossible when you do it with people by your side.

Ann: 100%. Also different problems, a memoir I would read about just all the problems in different stages of life. [Laughs]

Aminatou: Oh my gosh, don't you think this? I think about this all the time. Like I remember a time where I wanted kind of the life that I have now and truly it felt like . . . like you could've told me I would meet a Martian first and I'd believe that more. And then now that I'm here I'm very aware that there are just times that I'm not grateful enough and I don't have enough compassion for myself and I'm not . . . you know, you just forget. You grind so hard and then you get to a level then you're like ugh, there's the next thing that I want. And you don't take a moment to pause and be like damn, I did that! [Laughs] Like I actually did that. And because I did that it means I will probably do the other thing too. And it just . . . I don't know. That's my problem, I never take enough time to be thankful and to really reflect and to have a little bit of compassion for baby Amina so I'm trying to do that more.


Ann: But what's also funny in hearing you say that is yeah, I knew you in the era when you thought that this wasn't possible. And not that I wasn't, you know, compassionate towards your feelings about how far away it seemed but I was like oh yeah, obviously we'll get there. Like this is my 100% not surprised face where I was more shocked in, you know, ten years ago when it was like people were looking past you at parties or whatever. Just being like who are these total dumb-dumbs? Why are they not . . .

Aminatou: Losers Ann! Total losers.

Ann: I know! I guess what I'm trying to say is I have always been Team Amina's Best Life (TM) since day one.

Aminatou: [Laughs]

Ann: And so therefore I am very happy to hear you say that but also I'm like mm-hmm, yep, yeah, knew this was going to happen. Uh-huh. You know, I don't really feel the same level of shock at it. And that is I think something that, I don't know, beautiful Shine Theory moment of I always knew you would get here.

Aminatou: Listen, but this is why I think it's so important to do this journey with people because those people are your witnesses. When you don't remember those are the people who will remind you so thank you for reminding me.

Ann: Always here to remind you forever and ever.

Aminatou: We made it! [Laughs] We made it to a middling podcast, yay!

Ann: I thought you were going to start singing "Looks like we made it."

Aminatou: Listen, you know that's in my heart.


Ann: I know it's in your heart. I'm like the country ballad for this moment is what's in your heart.

Aminatou: The yeehaw has not jumped out today.

Ann: It didn't jump out but I know it's in there. That's all I'm saying. [Laughs] Ugh.

Aminatou: [Laughs] Go to if you need any more information and I'll see you on the Internet boo-boo.

Ann: See you on the Internet.

Aminatou: You can find us many places on the Internet, on our website, you can download the show anywhere you listen to your favs, or on Apple Podcasts where we would love it if you left us a review. You can email us at We're on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook at @callyrgf. You can even leave us a short and sweet voicemail at 714-681-2943. That's 714-681-CYGF. Our theme song is by Robyn, original music is composed by Carolyn Pennypacker Riggs, our logos are by Kenesha Sneed, our associate producer is Destry Maria Sibley. This podcast is produced by Gina Delvac.