What is Shine Theory?

Shine Theory is an investment, over the long term, in helping someone be their best self—and relying on their help in return. It is a conscious decision to bring your full self to your friendships, and to not let insecurity or envy ravage them. Shine Theory is a commitment to asking, “Would we be better as collaborators than as competitors?” The answer is almost always yes.

People know you by the company you keep. Shine Theory is recognizing that true confidence is infectious, and if someone is tearing you down or targeting you as competition, it’s often because they are lacking in confidence or support themselves. It’s a practice of cultivating a spirit of genuine happiness and excitement when your friends are doing well, and being there for them when they aren’t.

Don’t mistake this for networking. Shine Theory is not about trying to help everyone you meet along the way in your career, because if you’re doing it right, it’s simply not possible to invest deeply in that many people. There are only so many hours and so many email replies in any given day.

Shine Theory is intentional. It is accountable. It is personal.


“Shine Theory” is a term coined by Aminatou Sow and Ann Friedman. We’ve been practicing it privately since at least 2010 and speaking about it publicly since 2013.