The Story: After Show Week One
A Discussion of Episodes 1–4
- Their favorite stories and insights from this week’s episodes
- Pieces of these women’s stories that we wanted to cover in the episodes, but didn’t get to
- The importance of historical biographies and keeping the character’s identity hidden until the end
There might even be some teasers toward the end of the after show that hint at who we’re highlighting in next week’s episodes!
(The following has been edited and condensed.)
Chad Grills: Welcome to The Story after show. I’m the host of this show, Chad Grills, and I’m joined by two of my colleagues, Stephanie Postles and Ian Faison. They are the surprise guests in this week’s after show. Ian, welcome to the show.
Ian Faison: What’s going on, everybody? It’s been a fun week here at The Mission. We have four podcast episodes out, have had a ton of great feedback, and it’s fun to be here.
Chad: Those four episodes are part of Season One, 12 Women Who Changed the World. If you’re listening now, maybe you’ve listened to the first four episodes, maybe you haven’t. Just a quick warning — there’s going to be massive spoilers ahead as we dive deep into the episodes and do a behind-the-scenes look. There’s no better guest to do the behind-the-scenes look with than Stephanie Postles.
Stephanie Postles: Hi, everyone. As Ian said, it’s definitely has been a crazy week, but I’m excited to dive into this after show and share some juicy details.
Chad: Absolutely. Steph is the COO of The Mission. She’s the one that keeps the train running on time behind the scenes here. Ian is our CCO, our Chief Content Officer. I’ve known Steph now for… 10 years?
Stephanie: A long time.
Chad: Almost 10 years, now?
Chad: Full disclosure, we’re married and today is our wedding anniversary. You can send flowers… I’m just kidding! Don’t send flowers.
Ian and I met last year and then we started collaborating on some media projects for The Mission. Things have started to blow up since!
Ian: It’s pretty exciting to have been able to work on this project with Salesforce for the last six months and be able to tell the stories of these women trailblazers. What’s really interesting about The Mission that I think people might not know is that half of our employees are women. It was really cool to see them bring their personalities into each of these stories; to be able to write and edit them throughout the production process.
I’ve had a blast just learning about these women! Some of them are household names and some are not. For everyone here at The Mission, we’re just happy to be able to share their stories with millions of people. Steph, what was your favorite story so far of the four we’ve published?
Stephanie: Should we go through the four that we’ve published?
Stephanie: The first one was The Woman Who Everyone Laughed At; the second episode was The Woman Who Saved Her Country; the third was The Woman Who Lost Everything, and then the fourth one was The Woman And The War. Of those four, I think my favorite was the C.J. Walker episode.
Chad: Very cool.
Stephanie: She definitely was super inspiring. She built a huge hair-care business back at the turn of the century.
She overcame so many things early on. She came from a family where everyone before her was a slave. Both of her parents died when she was seven, so she was an orphan at a young age. She moved in with her sister and her brother-in-law only to get abused afterwards by her brother-in-law. She moved out, got married and had a kid, and then her husband died right after.
Chad: That type of life and struggle is something that’s hard to fathom. I can’t imagine going through decades of that type of struggle, and then emerging from it in a way that’s non-bitter. We looked at her biography and a bunch of other things; it didn’t appear that she was frustrated or angry with anyone or any group in the least. She was just focused on making it, and she made it.
Ian: What I find remarkable about her story is that her real name is Sarah Breedlove. She not only transforms her career from doing laundry to becoming an entrepreneur to employing 20,000 women, but she actually fully transformed her personality.
She moved to two different cities and adopted the name Madam C.J. Walker to increase her level of professionalism.
I think that — especially now that we are in an age where people are constantly building their brands online — to see someone build a brand over 100 years ago that didn’t exit until 2016 is pretty remarkable.
Chad: So a couple of decades after her death, the company was still self-perpetuating. It was going strong and attracting new people.
Stephanie: Yeah, Sephora is basically marketing their stuff now.
Chad: That’s wild.
Ian: That’s proof that if you build a good culture, you can step away as a leader and trust the systems to keep on going. That’s really, really inspiring.
Chad: I think what’s really cool too is, not only did she recruit and train tens of thousands of new stylists, but she did so without any type of technology.
All the comforts that we have right now, she didn’t have. It was just straight up, one-on-one interactions in the real world. Today, people fall into the trap of thinking, “That’s not scalable. I don’t want to do it.” But that’s what Madam C.J. Walker did. She just focused on the one-on-one interactions first. She got those right, and over time, those compound.
Stephanie: I think it’s a good example too, of one person really changing the world. She employed tons of women and pursued many philanthropic efforts — like donating tons of money to the YMCA.
People often wonder, “How did one person actually change the world by building a company?”
Well, look at her story and you’ll see that she definitely changed the lives of a lot of people.
Chad: Definitely. There’s science behind that. There are plenty of stats that show that after-school programs and YMCAs decrease crime and juvenile delinquency in those areas, so that’s super cool.
Ian: People talk about luck and how you have to get lucky to have certain breaks. One of the things I find fascinating about her story, is that as she was washing people’s clothes, she ran into the one person who happened to be in the line of work that she wanted to be in, which was selling hair-care products.
She took that “luck” and turned it into an asset. She learned everything she could about the business from that person and then left to build her own brand.
Another thing that’s really unique about her story — and something that we see in a lot of entrepreneurs’ stories — is that they had no formal training.
She had no background in this. She just had a passion and a personal problem that her hair was falling out when she was 20.
That type of visceral reaction and personal pain allowed her to go from not knowing anything about hair care to essentially becoming a world expert in it in a matter of 10 years
Chad: Yeah. When your hair is falling out, that’s a powerful incentive to figure out why it is and stop or reverse it. Really, really cool. Ian, what was your favorite story and why?
Ian: I think the story that really resonated with me the most was the story of Cory, a.k.a Corazon Aquino. The reason why I was just so blown away by her story was, number one, I can’t remember hearing it in school.
I was born in 1986, which is when all of this was happening, and it is absolutely remarkable that she is not a household name.
The fact that she was the first female president in any Asian country is alone an achievement that I think is going to stand the test of time. But also, it’s the way in which she did it.
She was a self-described housewife and doing all of the things that “politicians don’t do”. Yet, she was able to overcome personal tragedy — her husband being murdered — and lead a revolution.
One of the things that we want to do by sharing these stories is make these women become household names. Everyone should know her story. That was really cool for me.
Stephanie: Yeah, that’s a name I didn’t know, actually.
Chad: Same here. It’s one of those stories where you hear it and wonder, “Why didn’t anybody tell me about this when I was younger?”
What is really exciting is that there are so many young girls and young boys that are listening to podcasts now, and it’s really cool to be able to tell them stories that are not filled violence, not filled murders, and are only filled with achievement.
Moreover, the end results of a lot of these heroes and heroines feel like they’re not accessible, but all of us are at a starting place now that mirrors a lot of the places that they started.
For me personally, I think that’s what’s so exciting about these stories; it’s not like the advertising that’s designed to make you feel bad about yourself. It’s stories designed to make you look at your surroundings, what you have in front of you, and just take advantage of it.
Stephanie: I also think that pulling apart her story from her husband’s is really important. A lot of times when you do stuff with your husband, whether it’s starting a business or leading a revolution, you can kind of get lumped together.
I thought that it was really nice how we pulled out almost everything about her. Her husband was a piece of the story, but here are the things that we really want to highlight about her.
Chad: Definitely. Let’s take a personal dive here.
Chad: That’s one of the reasons why Steph kept her last name, and one of the reasons why I was very supportive of that. I’ve definitely seen firsthand how easy that is. Can you talk a little bit about that?
Stephanie: Well, Chad and I started The Mission together a long time ago. Things can kind of get hazy when we go out because most people will always assume that Chad did it on his own and I was just helping on the sidelines.
When we got married, we didn’t want people to assume that I was any bit less successful, or that I was just helping him with things; not actually running the business, just being a helper.
I think that definitely hits close to home where, as a woman, you always have to prove that you’re an equal part of a project and not just the helping housewife.
Chad: Definitely, because that’s one of the stereotypes that I feel is still really prevalent.
Cool. So that’s two of our favorite stories from this week.
Ian: What about you, Chad? Which was your favorite?
Chad: As a writer and somebody that’s really passionate about reading and books, the Suzanne Collins episode, The Woman And The War, is one that’s really powerful and really, really cool.
If you haven’t listened to it, go back and check it out! Suzanne Collins is generally just a really under-rated writer. She got her start late, and her first real job was writing for children’s TV shows. But she was able to take what she learned writing for Nickelodeon and begin writing really serious books for teens.
I think it’s super interesting that she started out doing something like that — just something where she was learning her craft. It’s not like writing for Clarissa Explains It All is going to lead to a strong philosophical statement.
A lot of people will look at that job and be like, “Yeah, where are you going with that?”
Stephanie: That show was on point.
Ian: Shout outs to Clarissa.
Chad: Yeah, big shout outs to Clarissa Explains It All .
Stephanie: And what was the other one she wrote?
Ian: Shelby Woo.
Chad: The Mystery Files of Shelby Woo.
Ian: And Clifford.
That’s just one of those situations where it’s so easy to look back now and say, “Well, that was the path,” but I guarantee you that there were people in her life that were like, “You’re never going to be a successful writer. You’re never going to create something that is going to move mountains.”
At least we are able to see direct feedback from our readers and approve accordingly, but for her — seeing as she was writing for a TV show in the 90s — there was no direct consumer feedback.
Chad: Yeah, she was in a writers’ room with a dozen other writers, and it gets pretty cutthroat, right?
Ian: Yeah, absolutely. And I think that often kid’s television or Young Adult books are seen as not meaningful. Content for those genres can come off as a bit reductive or have pieces that don’t necessarily resonate long-term.
What’s so cool about Suzanne Collins is that she tackled a ridiculously complex topic in a way that most people don’t do.
People really don’t understand how difficult it is to be able to tell a story that has entertainment value and carries a huge message to kids that are 12.
Chad: And the most important message from that, if we had to simplify it one thing, is that: war doesn’t end well.
Horrible spoiler alert coming… but it doesn’t end well for any of the participants.
Ian and I are both veterans and it’s a message that’s very refreshing to hear. It’s much more realistic than the movies and TV series that young children are typically exposed to where war is somehow glorified or treated like a great adventure.
Nothing could be further from the truth. That’s one of the things that was just really exciting for me about that story. What do you think of It, Steph?
Stephanie: I thought it was great. You think that you know someone’s backstory just based on what the media’s told you, or what you’ve read online, but once you start actually digging into the biography behind some of these women you’re like, “Well, there’s a lot that I didn’t know.”
I love Hunger Games and watched all the movies — I didn’t read it like Ian did; he’s our all-star — but you just kind of see a different perspective on everything after diving deeper.
Ian: Shout out to Sara Blakely, we love your story as well. It’s hard to pick a favorite of the first four. They’re all amazing, but I wanted to touch on a few things from the Sara Blakely story that are particularly interesting.
My girlfriend used to work at Disneyland, so I’m familiar with that struggle. And, as someone who used to work outdoor at a water park, I fully understand.
Chad: Sounds glamorous.
Ian: Yeah. Minimum wage, giving away tubes…
The part of her story that really resonated with me was her humble job beginnings. She was a Disneyland greeter and then she began selling fax machines. There was no way to know back then that she was going to be able to build something so fast and so amazing.
Her friends and the people around her were second-guessing her every move, and for a lot of the women we discuss, that’s just how it was.
Ian: And what’s cool is that they went on to do a ton of other things. Sara does stuff all day, every day in a bunch of different worlds.
Chad: The foundation, investing, new companies, all kinds of stuff.
Ian: And Spanx is an absolutely thriving business. Even her book is not yet written and I think that that’s the most interesting place to look from one snapshot in time and say, “Look at how all this happened.”
When she was 15 years old, she visualized that she wanted to be on Oprah, and then she actually was able to do that. I don’t think many people really understand what that kind of visualization means.
Chad: To hold that vision for years, even decades, is pretty powerful. There’s a great quote that says, “If you’re right, or you’re correct in something, you’re a majority of one.”
You don’t accomplish something like she did if you are wishy-washy the whole time. Of course there’s going to be moments and dark nights of the soul where you doubt things but, generally, you have to be inclined to believe that it can happen for an extended period of time.
Stephanie: I think it’s also good that she kept the idea to herself for so long. She didn’t tell anyone while she was developing it.
You’re going to have a lot of people hate on your idea, and sometimes that negative reaction prevents people from ever starting.
Chad: Exactly. They test things too early; way too early with all the wrong people.
Stephanie: I like it that she kept it to herself. That can be hard when you’re starting a company, or actually starting anything. You want to go out and tell everyone.
Chad: It’s seriously hard.
Ian: Do you think that part of her apprehension was that it was, number one, an unmentionable, and number two, a women’s product?
Or, do you think it was just like selling anything new?
Stephanie: I think it’s like anything new, but it may have been hard pitching male investors and trying to get support from them.
I think that’s one big hurdle that she had to face; trying to convince men why something that they don’t understand is important.
A lot of times, wives won’t talk about the kind of stuff that they’re doing behind the scenes, and then you have someone coming in and pitching about those very products that you are unfamiliar with.
I think building any new idea is hard in general though, regardless of if you’re a woman, man, anything.
Chad: Yeah. I’m sure it was hard for the reasons you mention, Ian, but at the same time, I think that anything that’s new — that is a genuinely better idea than what has previously existed — or any idea that is outside the realm of what somebody else might be able to imagine is going to be threatening.
It’s just a rule of life. The biggest advice to take from that is: It’s okay to keep things private and just build them to the point where others aren’t going to deny them, or shoot them down. Basically, get them to the point where others are going to realize the value.
Ian: I cannot imagine the WTF moment when her competitors and customers saw that red box and thought to themselves, “Wait, this looks nothing like anything else out there.” And she’s like, “Yeah, I know. That’s why it’s flying off the shelves.”
Stephanie: Mic drop.
Chad: That’s why it stood out. 100%. Really, really cool.
Stephanie: All right. Next up, we thought it would be fun to do a quick Q&A with the CEO of The Mission, Chad. It’s going to be super, super rapid fire, and we get to ask you whatever we want.
Ian: You’re on the hot seat.
Chad: Sounds good.
Stephanie: My first question is, “Why were these women chosen?”
Chad: These women span all walks of life and all professions. They’re a pretty good representation of different careers — some non-traditional careers and some very traditional ones.
We felt, after we ran it by many women and men, that these 12 women stood out for a number of reasons.
Number one was, they were not handed anything. All of them started from a place that is accessible to almost everyone listening.
Of course, there’s always going to be some genetic advantages or something like that, but generally all these women started from the bottom and now they’re here.
Stephanie: I knew you were going to say that. That’s great. Are there any little hints that you want to give about next week’s women who are coming?
Ian: I was going to ask you about teasers.
Stephanie: Yes, but nothing that gives away their identity.
Chad: Hmm, what can we say? We’ll do a little bit more STEM next week. Some STEM pioneers, some inventors, and then one more author that I really like and that I think our listeners are going to love.
Stephanie: Yes, that’s a good teaser.
Ian: Okay. So, why mini biographies?
Chad: Biographies are powerful, but they’re only really, really powerful if you explore what happens after you consume a lot of them.
In school, we learn that reading is something that we’re assigned, and we generally start to dislike it.
It’s really challenging to sit down and make yourself read biographies. They’re often hard to get into, and sometimes, they’re too long.
At the end of the day, though, if you look at the lives of successful people — Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, or Elon Musk — they all cite biographies as being crucial to their success.
Oprah, Sara Blakely, all these people were listening to biographies of people who achieved something of note. These people had lives that other people are willing to pay just to read about, hence the biographies written about them.
When you’re learning the backstory, the story behind the story, things get really interesting. You start to discover that you might have more in common with famous people, great inventors and achievers than you might have thought.
Stephanie: Yeah, and if someone has already had pitfalls or breakthroughs or things like that, why not learn from their life and say, “Yeah, I’m going down a similar path.”
Chad: Definitely. You could soak up all that life experience.
Stephanie: And remember it better, I think. From every biography I’ve read, I remember tons of lessons that I can recall in day-to-day life.
Ian: I would say one of the pieces that most people overlook is those micro moments when stuff went really bad for someone.
Even your heroes went through days, weeks, months, years of their lives when stuff was really bad.
Whether that was a family member’s passing, or a divorce, or feeling isolated, those moments happen to everyone.
Chad: Those moments always get conveniently left out when reporting the end result.
Stephanie: The media definitely paints a picture of “overnight success” stories. Every single person you’ve ever heard about is super smart and naturally achieved success.
Chad: The culture of instant gratification doesn’t take kindly to stories of how success actually happens. That’s for sure.
Ian: Even if you look at Suzanne Collins, in The Story, we skim over a decade of her life.
Chad: Completely, yeah. She had the same routine every day: Go into the writers’ room, and have ten or 12 other people tell you that your ideas are horrible, and then come up with better and better ones. That’s the type of stuff that nobody wants to do, but that’s what it takes.
That amount of critique on your ideas is what’s going to force you to come up with ideas that nobody in the writers’ room can ignore. At the end of the day, they all have a job to do, and that is to make your show successful.
It’s only when you keep at it that you can build a track record where you start to look back and say, “I was right about that a month ago, two months ago, three months ago….”
And it’s that type of buildup that is so cool to see.
Ian: Next question. Why do we hide the identity?
Chad: This is really interesting. You don’t want to know the person’s identity because the instant you do, if you know their story, you associate the portrayal that mainstream media has kind of given you of this person; the story that they want you to believe.
That’s disempowering; when you are constantly inundated with these messages of idols and “be more like this person,” you forget how they got to where they are today.
When you strip away the person’s identity, you can project yourself into their situation. It’s really valuable for anybody who wants to see what greatness looks like in the early stages.
Stephanie: I think that Sara Blakely is a good example of this because she’s one that so many people have covered, and you feel like you already know her story.
I even fell into the trap of thinking, “She has a crazy-big business now. Maybe her story is not as interesting as one that I don’t know about.”
But then, I started reading the outline that you and the rest of the team at The Mission put together. It made me realize that it’s actually good to conceal the identity because you get way deeper into the story and want to know more.
Then, when you find out who the person is, you’re like, “Wow, I could actually travel that same path and get where they are today. It’s not as unachievable as I thought.”
Chad: By withholding that identity, the lead-up of all the stories is similar, and listeners are going to be able to tease out patterns. That’s where it gets really, really valuable because, in the case of Sara Blakely and other great CEOs, you see the common factor: they all had sales jobs.
Not only did they have sales jobs, but they had bad sales jobs. They had to sell something door-to-door that 90% of the people who answered the door did not want.
Again, this gets left out of the mainstream media coverage of technology CEOs and very successful people. They all had sales jobs. They survived a decade of soul-crushing work.
Ian: Other than Chris Harrison, who are you modeling yourself after?
Stephanie: Are we talking about Chris Harrison from The Bachelor?
Ian: Yeah, the host of The Bachelor.
Stephanie: This is how Chad gets me excited about show notes.
Chad: Oh man, Ian caught me out, so I have to admit it: the After Show is modeled after The Bachelor After Show with Chris Harrison.
Stephanie: Chad really enjoys it when I watch The Bachelor. He thinks it’s very good for my mind. He’s supportive.
Chad: Yeah. Maybe this will turn into an after show like that. Hopefully not, but we’ll see.
Stephanie: I have a good question. Was there anything that happened in the studio that you thought was funny? Bloopers or quotes?
Chad: We’ll share more of those later, especially as we start to do more video. Unfortunately, we’ve got to clean up this studio a little bit. We’re moving in that direction.
We’ll show you a behind-the-scenes soon.
Chad: Ian is sitting across from me with a smirk on his face. Ian, what’s up?
Stephanie: He’s probably thinking a lot.
Ian: No, I got nothing.
Chad: I don’t believe it.
Ian: I’ll give a shout out to Max, our producer. The other day, he had a run-in with Yelp. Shout out to Yelp.
Chad: This is good. This is a solid quotable for everyone down there in the trenches.
Ian: Max was downloading and re-downloading the app when we were on our team off-site, and I said, “Why did you delete the app?” and he said, “It takes up too much mental clutter on my phone.”
Stephanie: And he called it ugly.
Ian: It was pretty great. Sorry Yelp — too much mental clutter.
Chad: I love it. Sometimes, you’ve got to clear the space.
Ian: Next question. What is the inspiration behind this story-telling method?
Chad: The format is familiar to a lot of people. It’s the same format that was used for 40 years on one of the most successful radio shows of all time: The Rest of the Story with Paul Harvey. It’s a classic show.
This is how grandparents told stories. I can remember my grandfather telling stories like this. I can remember my grandmother telling stories like this.
If you tell everybody all the details upfront, you don’t have room for nuance. You don’t have room for struggle, and you don’t develop the patience that comes from waiting until the end of the story for the moral.
Stephanie: As long as we don’t follow the method of my grandfather, who says, “Don’t let the details get in the way of a good story.” Let’s just not do that.
Chad: Yes. Obviously, we can’t get all the details perfectly right, especially because, in a lot of these cases, there was no third-party, impartial observer monitoring everything. We do our best to get our facts right, but this podcast is historical fiction.
Ian: Another pretty cool shout out to Mike Rowe and The Way I Heard It.
Chad: Oh, absolutely.
Ian: He does a phenomenal job of telling these stories in a shorter, intricate way that only Mike Rowe can. We draw a lot of inspiration from his show, too.
The other method we use is The Hero’s Journey, obviously, for the formatting of these stories. Talk about that.
Chad: The Hero’s Journey is very cool because Joseph Campbell, a writer, philosopher and thinker, noticed that as he studied thousands of myths across the world and across time, this one, recurring structure kept appearing again and again and again. He coined The Hero’s Journey to talk about that structure. What’s exciting about The Hero’s Journey is that it maps to the real world.
It’s the idea of starting in the regular world, where things are a bit ordinary, and then getting a call to adventure. Something exciting happens, or a challenge looms.
Then, you might meet a mentor or get some type of special advice, or something wild happens that you didn’t expect, and you crush it, crossing a threshold into a new world. The story progresses, but you get the idea.
If you look back at your own life and pull up The Hero’s Journey (just Google “Hero’s Journey”), you might notice a similar path of events that preceded anything of note in your life.
Personally, I look back and see this pattern play out again and again. That’s why we use the format for stories.
Stephanie: And I think it’s fun to highlight how many movies and books follow this exact format.
Chad: The majority of books are 17 chapters long. Sometimes, they have some extra ones thrown in, but they map perfectly to each stage of The Hero’s Journey. Pull up Harry Potter and The 4-Hour Workweek and just hold them side by side. You’ll be blown away.
Ian: I think that, at this point, we can officially say that our quick hits Q&A is no longer quick.
Stephanie: That’s a good way to wrap it up. This was the After Show, and hope everyone enjoyed it. We’ll see you next week after we launch our next four episodes of pretty awesome women.
Chad: Thanks so much for listening. Stay tuned Monday through Thursday for new stories. We’re going to try to make the After Show an every Friday occurrence, so if you like this, let us know. Leave a rating and review, and we’ll see you next week.