On last week’s episode (Apple Podcasts | Spotify), Ablr CEO John Samuel opened up about the masks he wore while losing his vision. Today, Dana and Courtney discuss the masks they wear and why it’s so important to keep failing.
Courtney: I don’t really believe in just luck, right. You know, like I believe in opportunity and then your readiness to accept that opportunity. You know what I mean? And together that forms luck, when that opportunity and your ability to accept that opportunity happen at the right moment, it feels very lucky.
Welcome to Hustle and Gather, a podcast about inspiring the everyday entrepreneur to take the leap. I’m Courtney,
Dana: and I’m Dana,
Courtney: and we’re two sisters who love business. On this show, we talk about the ups and downs with the hustle and the reward at the end of the journey
Dana: And we know all the challenges that come with starting a business. Between operating our wedding venue, doing speaking and consulting, and starting our luxury wedding planning company, we wake up and hustle every day.
Courtney: And today we’re talking, just the two of us, about last week’s episode with John Samuel, founder and CEO of Ablr. Ablr is a digital accessibility and inclusion company that was founded on the key principle that all digital content, including websites, videos, applications, are accessible for everyone. No exception. And if you haven’t heard last week’s episode, go give it a listen and come back to here our thoughts.
Dana: All right Court, let’s get started.
Courtney: It’s such a good episode. It’s such an inspiring story.
Dana: I got emotional a couple times there.
Courtney: I know, travel around the world and his like ability to not let a disability hinder his adventure. Yeah, I loved your question in the podcast of what would you tell your 18-year-old self? And he said to keep screwing up and to have faith that things are going to be okay. And what would you tell your 18-year-old self?
Dana: Well, at 18, I think that it was just, to never stop trying. Like I think there’s a, there was always a point in my life and I think especially as a young When I was young in college, I just thought that the decision I made was that this is one I had to make for the rest of my life. Yeah, and I almost, almost resigned myself to it. You know, I stopped trying to find my passion.
I just like, this is just must be what it is like, because I don’t have the answer. It’s what I said. I always want to do. I always wanted to be a teacher, and I think if I could go back and tell myself, it was just to keep trying, just keep trying to figure it out. Don’t settle.
Courtney: Just keep moving forward. Keep making mistakes.
Dana: I guess it’s similar.
Courtney: I mean, I would, I mean, I would write a novella to my 18-year-old self. I mean, there’s like so many things my 18-year-old self had wrong and, that I had to like learn and relearn and unlearn again. I guess like I mean, similarly, like you don’t, you don’t have to have it all figured out. I was a very confident 18-year-old and I had, none of it figured out and I felt like if I change course or decide, I didn’t want to do something or didn’t want to believe something or, you know, just change my opinion on something.
Like, even from like moving from a Republican to a Democrat, like that was somehow like a failure or like a,
Dana: oh, some people would consider it a failure.
Courtney: Oh yeah. I’m just, I’m just saying like, it’s like, not a slay, like a, a sleight of your belief, right or whatever, but it’s okay to restructure and reframe as you’ve experienced and learn new things right? Like that’s actually a normal part of growth. But I, I felt like we kind of grew up in an environment where you did just kind of stay in your lane, like, oh, you’re going to be a mechanic. You’re going to be a mechanic for your whole life. You’re going to be, I don’t know, I’m a computer engineer. You’re going to be a computer engineer your whole life. Like, we didn’t really see it modeled for us, people kind of moving in and out of a path.
Dana: But I think, I, I think a lot of that too is just that there wasn’t, I don’t think it was as normal back then either.
Dana: I don’t know. I mean, I guess I only know the experience that I have, but like, I feel like there’s a lot more conversation now about like, you hear that often now you don’t have to have it all figured out, you can change your mind, where I felt like that just, I don’t know if it’s unique to our childhood or just maybe the times. You know?
Courtney: Yeah, it’s only our experience. Right, but yeah, no, I, I guess just, you don’t have it all figured out and it’s totally okay to change your mind at any given time.
Yeah and that, let life shape you? Like let those experiences, oh yeah, I have your framework.
Dana: I think what was really refreshing about him and even, and that piece of advice to his 18-year-old self is just to keep messing up, is that there’s a lot of times you’d say, well, if I could go back and tell myself, I wouldn’t have made this mistake, or if I go back and change something I would, and there are certainly some things I would like pay a lot of money to go back and change. Cause I don’t, it did not make me a better person and it was not fun to go through.
The majority of the mistakes in my life I’ve come out relatively unscathed. And it’s who I am. Like, I wouldn’t be the same person.
Courtney: Right? Like more tenacity, yeah.
Dana: Or more like just wisdom, and I think more confidence and like I, I remember one time I called my mom cause Ada had a fever and I was like, what do I do?
And she was telling me, and I was like I said, when did you know, like, when did you start getting, like, when did you stop calling your mom? She’s like, I still call my mom.
Courtney: There ya go, so never.
Dana: Yeah, but I don’t know. It’s like one of those things, like where, if a friend calls and that says like, oh my gosh, my kid has a fever and be like, hey, this is what you do.
Like, and I wouldn’t, it’s like you become the person you’re supposed to be through all of these experiences and all of the things that you do right, all the things that you do wrong. And if you’ve never had, especially the wrong bad things, you wouldn’t even know what to do.
Courtney: Yeah, I know. You wouldn’t know how to like respond or like move on, right, from bad things.
Dana: I love this part and I mentioned this when he was talking about it, like he was telling a story about how he kept his failure from school like, he wasn’t honest with people about that. And he didn’t tell people about he was losing his vision. When he was saying it in the interview I was just thinking like that have been so lonely. And how hard would it be to have to consistently think through everything and and talking to him like, so for example, like when he’s talking about his favorite drink is a vodka soda with olives.
And he said because, I don’t think vodka is actually is, might not even be his favorite drink
Courtney: He may hate vodka.
Dana: Right. But it’s clear. So when he bumps into somebody it’s not going to stain anything, and he has access to food that he can’t, cause he doesn’t know there’s food being served right? But like I think about it and like, what do I don’t ever think that like thoroughly about, you know.
Courtney: Getting nourishment from your garnish?
Dana: No, no, no. I mean like I’m just saying that he, to maintain an image, to maintain a normal, what he, what he thought was normalcy right. Being normal and not drawing any attention to himself, like everything he did had to have been so thought out. And how exhausting is it to wear a mask every day?
Courtney: Well, I mean, have you ever told a lie?
Dana: Yes. I’ve told many lies in my life.
Courtney: Like have you told a lie and like, you had to keep the lie? And you had to like, think, oh, what did I say to that person? Right. Or like, if I say that it’s going to negate the lie that It’s kind of like that, when you’re little and you’ve told a lie and you’re like trying to like keep up this appearance. And it’s like, you’re trying to keep all the pieces straight in your head, right, so you can maintain this lie.
Dana: Yes, I got in trouble one time as a kid because I couldn’t maintain a lie. And to my credit, I actually didn’t intend to lie to my mom about it. Like I got in trouble cause I snuck off campus with my friend to go to lunch. I was a junior and you can only be a senior.
And I got caught coming back into school. And I told them, I told the schools, I wouldn’t get in trouble that I had just gone to get my physics book out of my car, right. But they didn’t believe me, so I got afterschool detention and whatever, blah, blah, blah. So, and I had said this lie multiple times today day. So like I was convinced, this is what it was. So then they call the house and they call my mom and my mom actually did not give a shit that I did this. Like she would not have cared.
I had no intention of lying to her, but I had told the story so many times that she said, hey, why do you have after school detention? And I told her the lie, right? So then I was babysitting. She had called me where I was babysitting. So then I get home that day and I was like, mom, you’re not going to guess what happened to me today.
Cause I totally forgot that I had told her the story and I told her that like I got, I went off campus for lunch. I got in trouble, got back in and I have after-school detention and she’s was just like, oh yeah, that’s fine. But then like 10 minutes later, she’s like, wait a minute, you told me a different story earlier.
And I was like, I did? But like, so I got in trouble for lying. Like I was like, but I technically told you the truth. I’m not like malicious.
Courtney: See, you got to keep the story straight.
Dana: But yes, all that to say is I just thought that it had to have been so, so, so exhausting and when he said that he finally, when he went to his master’s program, He like confided in a professor and they kind of almost, the professor gave him the freedom to say like be you, like be who you are, like own this, you know, and let other people into it, into your life.
Because at that point you would have to imagine it wasn’t, couldn’t have been too many people super, super close to him. He’s consistently trying to like maintain an image.
Courtney: I know. Like how much more amazing is it? Like everything you’ve accomplished is made even more amazing because of the fact that you’ve done it with this disability.
Dana: I totally agree, but I thought that was, made me think about, was there anything in my life, is there a time when I’ve had to wear a mask to keep up an image
Courtney: I don’t know. I mean, I think probably like when I was having a hard time in my marriage, I mean, I there’s people who are close to me that knew that that was going on, but there wasn’t really anybody outside of my inner circle that knew that like I was really struggling and I felt like I had to like go into work and put on a happy face and, you know, kind of persevere and get through it.
and I think being closed off and not being open about it made that, the healing process and that journey so much longer because there wasn’t anyone to like process. I wasn’t allowing any outside opinions and, right? You know what I mean? It was very limited view, but I would say probably during that time, that was probably very much a “everything’s fine.” and you’re like, it is not fine, not fine here. Do you have a time like that? Besides like today at this podcast,
Dana: Right? Yeah, I mean, I don’t, I don’t know if it’s like me purposely trying to keep up an image necessarily. I, I probably though the most accurate is with family to be truthful.
Courtney: Like when you’re around family?
Dana: When I’m around family, like when I’m around, like my parents, I definitely act a certain way. I maintain a certain image that I feel like I should have in front of them. With like Sam’s family. I’m definitely like, I’m a totally different person.
Courtney: Just a different image.
Dana: Oh yeah. It’s, it’s a different image. It’s just very much like quiet, like I don’t have an opinion about anything. Just sit there.
Courtney: It’s very odd.
Dana: Yeah, but it’s, there’s no room for me in that space. So I just don’t, I was talking to Sam about it the other day, and I was saying, how our job, like our job is to be a social chameleon. Like we have got to fit in into all these other different groups of people, because we are, we interact people so much. So like I literally can carry on a conversation with a brick wall. I can find the most, the person that I could possibly have the least in common with find something in common with them and strike up a conversation.
Yeah, because that’s the job. And I can turn myself into who I need to be at that moment. Like if I have a family that needs me to be more prim and proper, I can be prim and proper. If the family that needs me to be more like relaxed and chill and say the F word, like I can do that too. You know? And so I think that that translates over into my personal life, a lot where I saw like, this is who they want me to be, or my perception of who they want me to be.
I’m just going to behave this way and be this person. And they’ve never actually got to know me, right, so I never, I never was me.
Courtney: Right because you just portrayed an image that you thought would be acceptable to them.
Dana: Yeah. And then not, not the whole time. Like they’ve known me since I was 17 years old. They married for 20 years. So obviously I was who I was then. I think when, when I realized that their relationship was starting to get contentious, like wouldn’t right around the time I have kids is when I was like, okay, I’m just going to figure out how to deal with it and how, how I deal with it is just not be myself and just be the get along person and it’ll be fine.
And yeah, you know, and then 11 years later, almost 12 years later, It’s not fine, not fine. It’s kind of tiring.
Courtney: Well, I know, but that says something, right. Like I think that authenticity, which he talked about kind of led to going down this path and accepting where he was at and allowed him to meet his wife and to, you know, so like there’s something to be said for just being your like authentic and true self, and it’s going to attract your tribe.
Right and you’ll be able to excel and be, and it’s not like you’re putting forth mental power towards preserving an image that’s not true.
Dana: I think that’s so true. I think it’s a great piece of advice. Or even like, uh you think about that moment in his life, if that professor had not like, kind of put him under their wing, like he would have missed out on so many things, not, not being, not given that push to just, just be yourself. Yeah, be who you’re supposed to be.
Courtney: Yeah. I, I really went through a lot of that recognition the summer when I did that yoga retreat, like one of the things that kept coming up was like, you’re not too much, like this thought of being too much, like if I were to just like unleash the kraken it would be too much, right.
And I’m always kind of trying to make myself smaller to make other people more comfortable or to make my thoughts less woo woo, to fit in with the more conservative view or whatever it is, whatever it happens to be, you know, that that’s not the way to be. My too muchness or my not too much ness or my whatever is going to impact the right people, right, and if I’m holding it in, I’m only, not only doing myself a disservice, but I’m doing other people who, encounter me a disservice, you know?
I totally teared up when he was talking about how he saw his kids and his wife for the first time. I can’t even imagine.
Dana: I can’t imagine it. I know it does videos of like kids, people being able to hear for the first time.
Courtney: I know with like the kids, especially.
Dana: Yes. And they’re like, and it’s like, they hear their mom and you’re like, I can’t, I can’t watch it. It’s going to make me start crying, thinking about it. But no, I just, I just can’t imagine not being able to see my kids’ faces. Like, and you know, Sam’s eyes or yeah. How like, ah, and how amazing is it that the, like the science behind all that 20 years later?
Courtney: Yeah, thinking it’s never going to get any better. That’s not even like something you were waiting for hoping for, but it just kind of like happens, you know? Yeah. That’s so amazing.
Dana: It is so amazing, I love that.
Courtney: So I, we talked a little bit too about getting back to his, just keep screwing up, how you were talking about how I have to let the team fail sometimes.
Dana: I believe it very strongly.
Courtney: Can you think of a time that we like let our team fail and it didn’t, I can think of times that we let people fail and I absolutely failed, like 100%. Not that we died from it, but it just felt like it wasn’t like, oh, that didn’t hurt too badly. Like, oh no, actually It did hurt.
Dana: Yeah, well, what time are you? What are you talking about?
Courtney: Thinking like when we hired the wrong person and,
Dana: but that wasn’t, we didn’t let them fail.
Courtney: Unintentionally. I think we let them fail.
Dana: I think you’re missing the point here. The point is when did we intentionally let, like, when did you see something and you’re like, that’s not going to end well, but I’m going to let you do it so that you can learn that that’s not going to end well, like letting them fail on that level.
Like to me, it’s I can remember when, I don’t know what set of people it was, and they started doing breakfast. Yeah. And I remember their, how they wanted to do breakfast with certain, which is fine. And I remember thinking like, this is just not a good, it’s just not a good idea. Like, you need to get some like, quiche from like the Harris Teeter.
Like don’t try to like, make something in the mornings, but they had to figure it out and they failed it, a couple of breakfast is like, yeah. It wasn’t anything catastrophic, but it was a failure of like the breakfast went fine, but I think it was a failure of their time management and them realizing this was too much for me to do.
Whatever. So, I mean like, things like that, where you’re like, I’m not going to step in and tell you that this is a bad idea because it’s not going to impact greatly, but you need to get to because you need to have your own buy-in to it. You know?
Courtney: I don’t know. I feel like for me, the clearest thing is sometimes you with events. Like, this is why Dana cannot do events. Yeah, cause she does so much. I’m not saying it’s like a failure on the event level. It’s a failure on the like
Courtney: personal, like stress slash kind of over the edge level. I’m like, don’t do it again. Don’t tell them that you can have XYZ for this.
Dana: I mean, I have learned from my mistakes, I haven’t offered in two years.
Courtney: How many times, but how many times have you been down that path where you were just like, this is a lot to execute and you just wanted so badly for that person to have whatever it is that they wanted and you were going to make it happen.
Dana: It’s true.
Courtney: So I, cause I know I sit in the opposite. I’d be like, don’t offer it. Like don’t. Yeah, you’re like, that’s going to be fine. I’m just going to, I’m just going to, I’m just going to okay, right. But I think you’ve learned; I thought the other day she was going to take on a wedding. She was talking to somebody and I can’t remember what the deal was. I was like some event management. Someone, she knew that knew her or whatever. Yeah, it sounded like I was like, are you about to take on her wedding? She was like, I almost did it.
Dana: I did, like reeled it in, like
Courtney: don’t do it, Dana don’t do it.
Dana: And I realized one, I didn’t want to drive all the way out to where it was. And two, I didn’t really want to do it.
Courtney: Yeah. But yeah, that’s how I think about, I can think about that. I think probably more on like the event side where, just in general, like, oh, what would you price this at? And I’d be like, oh, I would price it at X. That seems like a lot of work. And I’m like, well, if I’m going to get X, I’m going to price it at this. And then in the middle, they’re like, this is a lot of work for them. Like I told you, that was going to be a lot of work, right. You know, we did not appraise it accordingly.
Dana: It’s hard to let the planners fail. Yeah, like if I see something glaring, I’m not going to be like, oh, they need to learn. I’m like, Hm,
Courtney: I’m going to fix this before it’s a problem right on the internet, right?
Dana: Yes. But no, I, I definitely think that like, as, you know, a manager, boss listening, or a listener, like I think things that are low risk, but they need to have buy-in to doing, you know? Yeah you know, it’s just things like, even when we talk about like organization, right?
How like the inventory closet should be organized. I have very strong feelings about how it should be organized, but at the end of the day, like, they need to like, not be able to find things and have it fail to realize it needs to be organized every single day. They need to recognize it, know that like, oh, this is the point that I need to reorder toilet paper.
No, I’ve said like, when it gets here, reorder your toilet paper. And then it gets to the point where they’re like, oh my God, toilet paper was not here in time, like yeah.
Courtney: Kind of scrambling and they’re going and purchasing it.
Dana: And then they never do it again because they’re like, okay, like, yes, maybe at this point we should be, yeah. Like we said before, but that’s fine. It’s cool. You know, but I mean its little things. Yeah. It’s small little things that I think are, are perfectly fine to do.
Courtney: Yeah. I think it’s important to fail, it is. Landing on this kind of wrapping up. I loved when he said that luck can’t find you unless you keep moving. Isn’t that the truth? Isn’t that like, literally it’s like, to me, it’s like so many, like life mantras that kind of lead back to the same thing.
You have to keep moving. You got to keep going with the flow. Like eventually something’s going to stick because I don’t think, I don’t really believe in just luck, right. You know, like I believe in opportunity and then your readiness to accept that opportunity. You know what I mean? And together that forms luck, when that opportunity and your ability to accept that opportunity happen at the right moment.
It feels very lucky, but it’s not because you didn’t do work. It’s not because you didn’t keep building yourself and learning and failing and succeeding and all those things. It just happened to align at that time.
Dana: Well, I mean, I, that, I love that in general because I that’s, my, that is my mentality in life.
Like, I don’t believe in just letting you sit there and have things happen to you, make things come to you or like you got to, you got to create your own luck.
Courtney: And a lot of ways you got to manifest it.
Dana: Ha, whatever.
Courtney: I’m going to make you a believer, Dana.
Dana: I don’t believe the manifestation, but that’s fine. That’s fine. but yeah, I did really, I did really love that a lot. I thought that it’s a good thing to write out, stick on your desk. Like, you know, like just, just keep going, keep moving.
Courtney: Cause didn’t you ever get to those like overwhelmed feelings like that, and it’s like paralyzing, like you just don’t want to move. Like the next step just seems so daunting. I mean, and that’s going to happen to me when I have too much laundry. Right. It can like, it, doesn’t, there’s little things that will like paralyze me. Right. And it’s just like, just keep moving at some point, you know, maybe like someone’s going to walk in the door and like help you fold it. I don’t know, but it’s manifesting it.
Dana: Yeah, no, I agree. I, and I think too, like I think the, what I really, really loved about, about him in general, just his passion to help other people. And it wasn’t even about finding or like developing Ablr, right? It was, that is definitely a passion of his to, to help make the world more accessible for those.
And I loved his statement of like, it’s made, it’s intended for one, but it’s made for everybody. Yeah, I got really, really loved that. And I love just that mentality in general, but like just his passionate desire to further like anyone’s life, like just talking about his employees, like just making their life better and more well-rounded and like more purposeful and meaningful. I mean, so powerful like that.
Courtney: I like, without hesitation, when we ask that question, like, what’s the most rewarding thing about like, he just did a Ted talk. Yeah. He didn’t mention the Ted talk. He didn’t mentioned who he spoken to or like the people he’s met. He literally talked about how he helped this person grow in a career that would be able to provide for them just as an employee.
And I love how sometimes we think so big and it has to be this big grandiose thing, you know? And you talk about, like you said, like profits and building a business and seven figures and eight figures and whatever, but his most success, what he deemed the most successful is this person who you wrongly took out of that career originally and then came back and got her right when he was starting his own company. And that’s his most rewarding moment.
Dana: I know it just speaks to his character; it speaks volumes to who he is as a person. Yeah, and you think about that, and like and this is one thing it’s like a love of the podcast as you meet all these people.
And you’re just like, I am so lucky I got to have a conversation with that person. Make me a better boss. Yeah, and we’ll just, and just a better person. I mean, I just, I absolutely love that. And I, I feel like to me too, it’s, that’s what the world needs to be made out of. Like that’s how every CEO, how every, you know, employer should be is that, that that’s their goal.
Like yeah. You know, ultimately what they want is, yeah, I thought it was really, really beautiful.
Courtney: I thought so too. Yeah, beautiful person. Yes, very much.
Thanks everyone for gathering us today to talk about the hustle. For our episode with John, we’re drinking a vodka soda with olives, John’s go to drink. We hope we get the chance to make it this week and cheers to keep screwing up. To learn more about John and his business, visit ablr360.com, follow them on Instagram at ablr360 or follow his personal account at johngsamuel. You can also find and connect with John on LinkedIn.
Dana: to learn more about our hustles visit canddevents.com anthemhouse.com. thebradfordnc.com and hustleandgather.com or follow us on Instagram @ canddevents, at anthem.house at thebradfordnc, or at hustleandgather. And if you liked the show, be sure to subscribe and leave us a rating and review. This
Courtney: This podcast is a production of Earfluence. I’m Courtney
Dana: and I’m Dana
Courtney: and we’ll see you next time on Hustle and Gather
Hustle and Gather is hosted by Courtney Hopper and Dana Kadwell, and is produced by Earfluence. Courtney and Dana’s hustles include C&D Events, Hustle and Gather, and The Bradford Wedding Venue.