If there’s one thing I’ve learned over the years that holds true no matter what, it’s that there is always room to learn and grow. Just went I thought I’d gotten a handle on issues I’d overlooked at work and online, I had an amazing conversation with three talented and creative business owners who opened my eyes to a major issue I was ignoring (but definitely won’t again): ageism.
To celebrate the launch of the second issue of our new print magazine, Good Company, we traveled across the country to host a series of discussions about fear and failure (and how to better handle them). And because we know not everyone can attend in-person events, we recorded all four discussions to air on our weekly podcast.
Today I’m thrilled to share our conversation in Seattle, WA with author Shauna Ahern (also known as Gluten Free Girl), curator, educator and founder of the OULA company, Erika Dalya Massaquoi, and designer Davora Lindner of Prairie Underground. All three panelists and the audience dove deep into topics like the importance of transparency online (“What’s to the left of the picture that you’re not showing us?”) and why age should never be a deterrent in pursuing your dreams. I literally woke up at 3am after the event and spent three hours writing down ideas for a new project I’d like to pursue inspired by this conversation, so I wanted to kick off our live podcast series with this talk in particular. I hope you’ll enjoy it as much as I did.
A quick note: today’s episode includes some deeply emotional and important questions from the audience as well, so please stay tuned through the end of the episode for those.
Thank you for listening! If you like the show, please consider rating and leaving a review on your podcast platform — it’s the most helpful thing you can do to support the show and help new listeners find us.
“I have amazing women in my support system who have gone through their hard times and they are not afraid of fear, they’re not afraid of failure and we support each other and there is no pretending.” -Shauna Ahern (05:37)
“My support system has been the women in my family. I lost my grandmother last year and I realized that in all of those losses the space would be created in my heart to let more people and more love in.” -Erika Dalya Massaquoi (7:21)
“My mom was one of the most fearless people and role models I had growing up. Seeing her work for other people and then start her own company and raise me on her own…it’s made an imprint on me.” -Davora Lindner (9:51)
“I wouldn’t be able to do all the things that I’m doing if I didn’t create balance in my life. Does it take away from something’s not get done at the end of the day as a result? Absolutely. There’s always like four or five things I didn’t get to, but you know what? If I didn’t take care of myself, I wouldn’t be able to scratch anything off the list.” -Erika Dalya Massaquoi (12:46)
“I love cleaning. That’s sort of like me going to the spa or exercising. People know my level of fear or anxiety when they see me cleaning.” -Davora Lindner (16:09)
“When I do the thing I love to do, I don’t feel stressed out. It’s actually kind of hard to remember that. We all start with something we absolutely love to do and then we build a business around it and then we find ourselves doing the 343,000 things that we’re required to [do to] keep that business going and we never get to do the thing we love to do.” -Shauna Ahern (17:50)
“After [having a mastectomy and post-operative staph infection], I realized the most radical thing I could ever do was to simply lie down and let my body go and say, ‘I still don’t know why my body rejected those sutures, but I’m here.’ And the most radical act of self-care I can do is to not know anything.” -Shauna Ahern (18:50)
“A healthy challenge for me is about asking for assistance and other resources and bringing other people in and then also delegating, because then it’s sort of like, I want to actually move through something and get to a point when I realize there’s things that I can bite off and there’s things that I need help with.” -Davora Lindner (24:05)
“All of it was this marvelous surprise, which is how I like to live. Let it all arrive as a surprise because think about what in your life that is incredible did you actually plan? Has anyone arrived in your life that you love deeply that you were like, ‘In 22 months I will be meeting this person. Here are the 17 steps I need to take to meet this person.’ No. So the more that I can actually live with, let me just keep stumbling along and trust in my gut and what feels good.” -Shauna Ahern ( 26:06)
“During a meeting about our [former] flour company, I had a mini stroke. Two days before, I stood looking out the window and thought, ‘I guess I’m not a writer anymore. All my creativity is going to have to go on this entrepreneurial [path]. It’s creativity I need, right? Not writing. I just need creativity.’ And then I have a stroke and I think, ‘Okay body, I understand.'” -Shauna Ahern (28:00)
“Closing our flour business was best thing that’s ever happened to me because I was such a failure at it. I mean, I was really bad at it. It was such a gift to be spectacularly terrible at something and still be okay. Afterwards I got this book deal for a book of essays called Enough and it is exactly what I’ve wanted to do all of my life is to write this book. And if I hadn’t been on the floor in a fetal position crying over yet another box of flour, I would never have written this book.” -Shauna Ahern (28:50)
“Charting any number of humiliations both personally and professionally is something we can all talk about. People with ambition are going to face this all of the time. It’s the human condition, part of the beauty of it and being able to laugh with other people in your life about it is the reward.” -Davora Lindner (33:54)
“I’m resilient. I can take lemons and turn it into lemonade and it’s almost my pleasure to do it.” -Erika Dalya Massaquoi (42:08)
“Society tells you that there is one very clear definition of success and it’s very narrow. It usually involves money and it always involves status and it also involves exhaustion. I am constantly redefining my own idea of success, to not rely on any outward sign of it. For me, success is to have enough.” -Shauna Ahern (43:09)
“It gets so much better as you get older. You could not pay me to be 22 again. I’m 52 and I feel like I am just starting getting the edges of completely accepting this body, this being. After 40 you’re like, ‘I’ve got no more fucks to give. Thank you very much.’ Ageism is wrong. There are a lot of really shallow parts of this culture. Don’t be shallow. Just keep creating.” -Shauna Ahern (44:54)
“50 is right around the corner, but I still feel 22 inside. In many respects I was a late bloomer and I feel like I finally have come into my own. I’m going to be 50 and I’m never going to be wondering ‘what if?’ I did everything that I wanted to do. There’s no magic pill to it. It was a lot of hard work and it was a lot of sacrifice, particularly in the creative fields.” -Erika Dalya Massaquoi (46:39)
“I did a lot of years of making beautiful photographs on table and, like, dishes and steam coming off of it, but I wish that I’d done the ‘that’s the lefthand side of the table [type of shot].’ On the righthand side of the table is everything I smashed over here, the sippy cup, the unwashed plate, bills unpaid. That side of the table is the stuff that interests me now, because we don’t show that enough and we show this perfect, perfected, lovely image and that’s what we’re comparing ourselves to. So whenever I see an image, I think, what’s the other side of your table look like?” -Shauna Ahern (52:23)
“The most outrageous thing we can do to smash the patriarchy is just tell our truths.” -Shauna Ahern (53:00)