How to enjoy a layover (and the secret to loving where you are, wherever you are)

I have a question for you: Is it possible to enjoy a layover?

I arrived in Taiwan just before dawn. It was misty and dark and the airport was more cozy than chaotic. After slipping into one of the extremely clean, free showers to spray my face with the shower nozzle and brush my teeth (with a toothbrush provided by my Taiwanese airline; how civilized is Asia?), I sat sipping my warm oolong tea, reading a great novel, with 3.5 hours all to myself. Submerged in foreignness, with comforting pockets of familiarity. Content as a clam.

My mind started to wander as I took note of how thoroughly I was enjoying this layover. What does it mean to feel foreign? How does that differ from being foreign? Is it just a state of mind or something more concrete? Is it fixed or constantly fluid?

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I felt foreign growing up in Iowa, despite the fact that I was born there. That was a foreignness that neither put me at ease nor excited me. But while traveling electively in certain places, the feelings of “foreignness” are often so clarifying. Challenging my existing paradigms. Delighting in unexpected ways. And in the vibrant observations, finding humor, always.

On the flight from LA to Taipei I was in the aisle seat of a three-seat row. An Asian woman (whose nationality I never learned) sat near the window. She didn’t speak a word of English (not a single one) and I don’t speak any Asian dialects. And yet, even before take-off I was interpreting what she needed and wanted to the flight attendant. She smiled at me warmly and offered me some of her white, puffy, styrofoam looking snacks. And both imagining the comfort of stretching out into the empty middle seat, opted to allow our unacquainted legs to intermingle (and occasionally spoon) over the course of the 14 hour flight, without ever verbally negotiating anything.

It’s when I step into foreignness that I feel most alive. That I have the most poignant “a-ha” moments. That I delight in the everyday. That I make the most meaningful connections. That I am most myself.

And yet we cannot all hop the next flight to Foreignville at a whim. And even if we do travel frequently, it takes conscious effort to retain that feeling of clear-eyed excitement and not slip into feeling like the sad Clooney character in Up In the Air. Sometimes it’s a fine line between thrilling and depressing.

So how do we capture the wonders of wanderlust within the everyday twin constraints of Adulthood and Responsibility? What can we yield in service to this desire? What’s to be gained in momentarily being “the other”? How does this prepare us to be so much more when we do return to wherever and whomever we call Home?

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We radically undervalue our connection to place and the role it plays in shaping not only the logistics of our lives but our psyches. We are a direct reflection of the diverse, often extreme locales in which we live and visit. We’re the dive bars AND the ancient temples. The cramped urban apartment AND the cabin in the woods. That’s not to say you need to move and be entirely one or the other. Nor do you need to take more exotic vacations (though if Fiji is calling you, then by all means go). But regardless of where you live and how embedded you are there, you, too, can immerse yourself in the geographic centers that tap into your internal happy place. Even with a family and a mortgage, you can capture the expansive freedom of loving the places you inhabit and feel at once foreign and familiar.

Have you ever thought about which tangible, geographic elements have a visceral effect on you? What pisses you off and what mellows you out? What inspires and what disheartens? I have. A lot. After years of not loving where I lived, I finally came to understand that my sense of place is grounded in specific principles, from the ocean to creativity to minimal driving to an avoidance of offices at all costs, to name a few.

These principles guide me as I move through the days that form my years. I know that if any one of them is lacking for too long, I become imbalanced and unhappy — and as a result, less productive and less emotionally available for those I love. Knowing how the elements of a place will affect you is an underrated exercise in self-care.

We often use the expression that we are “searching for our place,” and yet too often we ignore the literal meaning of that phrase. What is the environment you need to make your best contribution? To be the best version of yourself? And if your entire list of principles isn’t accessible 24/7, then which pieces can you accentuate and increase? And how can you create specific opportunities to top up on those things that are not immediately present, but through which you flourish?

If it’s too cold, where do you seek warmth? If it’s too urban, where do you reconnect with the earth? If it’s too noisy, where do you find peace? For some, this may mean a literal move. For others, it may involve a deliberate reworking of time and space to fulfill your place-specific needs. It’s a type of practical wanderlust you develop not as an exotic getaway, but as a satisfying, sustainable life plan.

Identify your place principles, then mindfully create a world where you can live a wanderlust-inspired existence without trading in your job/house/family. There is a happy-medium between a soul-sucking environment and a perpetual swim-up bar. But you have to know what you’re looking for before you can find it on the map.

Yours,
Anna

p.s. Know someone who is fed by wandering or who struggles to connect with their everyday sense of place? Share this with them — it may give them their own personal place-specific “a-ha” moment.

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A Much Needed Reprieve (My Mental Gift for You)

Whether it's the latest natural disaster, Hollywood scandal, or "he said what?!" moment, sometimes we need to hit pause and reconnect with the minutiae of our everday lives — the cultural nuances that comprise and affect the majority of our days. At first, it might seem (at best) naively simplistic, or (at worst) offensively shallow, to invest mental energy and personal resources into the visual and material stuff of our lives.

Or is it?

The primary way we know and understand each other is visually — fleshy comrades in arms, charged equally with the task of making it through another day, and (if we get it right) managing to connect and flourish along the way.

It's the minutiae that bridges the seemingly insurmountable gaps. So often, the physical unites where the mental divides.

So this week I thought I'd catch you up on what we've been thinking and talking about over on the SoS Instagram (see below), where we ponder the larger significance of current issues related to fashion, the body, and culture. From the rise of "real" bodies to visual expressions of power, there's no shortage of cultural fodder — it just might not make it to the top of your mental priority list.

Today, I invite you to take 5 minutes and give yourself a mental break from your CNN news alerts to fill your head with topics and questions that, while both philisophical and visual in nature, are anything but mere superficiality. (If you feel so inclined, please add your voice to the conversation in the comments.) And if there's something cultural that you think we should be thinking and talking about, that perhaps isn't dominating the 24-hour news cycle, please send it my way.

Yours,

Anna

FASHION

Gone are the days of working out in old t-shirts (unless they're artfully cut and layered). High-end "athleisure" apparel dominates not only fitness studios, but streets, cafes, and pretty much everything else (especially if you live in a place like California). So what are we really paying for with the high-priced spandex? What message are we sending? (Read more)

Gone are the days of working out in old t-shirts (unless they're artfully cut and layered). High-end "athleisure" apparel dominates not only fitness studios, but streets, cafes, and pretty much everything else (especially if you live in a place like California). So what are we really paying for with the high-priced spandex? What message are we sending? (Read more)

BODY

“Real bodies” are in, and Aerie is the latest brand to catch on that people like buying things from brands that reflect who they are. It’s not only body positive, it’s cash flow positive. What other brands are accurately reflecting your body and lifestyle? Tell us in the comments.

“Real bodies” are in, and Aerie is the latest brand to catch on that people like buying things from brands that reflect who they are. It’s not only body positive, it’s cash flow positive. What other brands are accurately reflecting your body and lifestyle? Tell us in the comments.

CULTURE

The way our leaders dress shapes not only culture, but diplomacy. But how much power do they really have? Misha Pinkhasov interviews Anna Akbari for Vogue Arabia to explore the depths and evolution of the power of fashion. (Read the article)


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What the Balinese Teach Us About Being Happier, Better People

I want to share a few tales from the field with you today. I have lived and traveled extensively around the world, and what sticks with me the most after I leave a place is The Human Factor: Who are the people, what can I learn from them, and what kind of person do I become in their presence?

At the moment, I'm in Bali. And while many people travel to Bali for the beaches and island lifestyle, the local people play a huge part in defining that experience — and teaching some valuable lessons.

But you don't have to fire up your passport to reap the benefits. Here are 3 things the Balinese can teach us about being happier, better people:

  1. Everywhere Beauty

Even in this extremely poor country, beauty abounds and is prioritized. Sure, it's naturally very beautiful, with lush rice paddies and sunsets for days, but everything from food to architecture is crafted and presented in a way that says, "I care."

The Balinese are a deeply spiritual people and construct religious offerings from palm leaves, flowers, incense, and food, which are then placed throughout homes and public spaces. They labor over these, making new ones from scratch daily. Incense and flower offerings even make their way into public bathrooms and airport security. And even without knowing the symbolic significance of each offering, its beauty brightens my day.

Even the poorest of communities has elaborately beautiful temples, and no detail is spared on the top of roofs. Ornate expressions of devotion abound.

And in hip locations like Canggu, where I've been staying, every item is served in beautiful dishes with small little touches, like a frangipani flower. No occasion or moment is too mundane to make special.

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2. Finding Calm in Chaos

As in many countries in Southeast Asia, most people in Bali don't drive cars to get around and instead hop on motorized scooters. And since I don't trust myself to drive one, I hail a scooter to zip to and fro. The scooters comingle with the cars and trucks, sometimes three to a lane. This style of weaving through dusty roads is definitely not up to U.S. safety standards, but there is a serene calm amidst the noise and dirt. To the uninitiated, it might look like a maddening scene. But you don't see road rage or angry exchanges – everyone falls into a continuous flow, a way of creating some semblance of peaceful order amidst chaos.

This type of orderly chaos does not rely on law enforcement, but rather awareness, cooperation, and trust of those with whom they share the streets. "We're all in this together," they seem to be silently communicating as they drive around following local, unwritten codes of conduct. If that code is disrespected, everyone loses.

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3. The Art of Patience

The Balinese are notoriously friendly, and their resting face is often a smile. Even if you're distraught or irritated, they are highly unflappable. Regardless of your mood or disposition, they look at you with grace and ease, and greet you with kind, gentle patience. As far as I can tell, no Balinese person has ever been in a bad mood. I am in awe.

I recently went on the Creative Warriors podcast, and as a final question, the host asked me to name the "warrior" I most needed to channel. I called on the Warrior of Patience, and I'm pretty sure that warrior is Balinese.

So assuming you aren't ready to up and move to Bali (which, for the record, would not be a bad idea), how do you similarly cultivate everyday beauty, find calm in chaos, and emanate patience? Which small pockets of your day could use a little aesthetic upgrade? Where do you feel out of control and long for inner serenity to take over? When does anxiety and impatience get the best of you? Please tell us in the comments, and let these questions linger in your mind this holiday weekend.

Yours,
Anna

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You're So Fancy

Conspicuous consumption rides a wave of public popularity and continually reinvents itself — but it never goes away. One year it may be driven by visible logos and labels, another it may focus on elite objects whose value only the socially initiated will recognize. But any way you slice it, it’s still about status.

Two of the latest entries in the conspicuous consumption game are real doozies:

How much is a paperclip worth? What’s its value? What makes it desirable? It’s not inherent in the object, but subjectively applied by the culture. And it goes beyond supply and demand or even beauty. This paper clip money clip is Prada branded, which elevates it beyond function and makes it a status symbol.

Maybe paperclips aren't your thing. Want to always look like you just shopped at Balenciaga? Drop a cool $1,100 on their leather shopping bag and give off that fresh-from-Fifth-Avenue vibe no matter where you are.

No one is exempt from the status game — we're always exchanging visual signs and symbols. The goal isn't to opt out (that's impossible). But to choose wisely.

What’s the most absurd status symbol you’ve seen? Tell me in the comments and be sure to follow us on Instagram for more realtime cultural analysis.

Yours,

Anna

Want more style and life upgrade advice? Take the Sociology of Style quiz, or check out the Success With Style series for men and women.

Body Image in the Age of Instagram

If it looks too good to be true, it probably is. Thanks to digital editing and airbrushed images, even supermodels can't live up to their perfectly polished 2D selves.

But the airbrushing isn't limited to the professional models. The rise of Instagram ushers in a time when everyone has an opportunity to pose and be praised. Senior pictures, your wedding day, maybe a family holiday card — these were once the occasions on which adults took formal photographs. But not anymore. We pose, post, and rate ourselves and others on a daily basis.

We're only beginning to understand the full effect this has on both our psyches and our culture, but its significance cannot be overstated.

What do we hope to gain via subtle tweaks like this?

And more importantly, what do we lose in this process?

That gap between fantasy and reality is rather humorously pronounced with formal gowns.

These photos remind us that fairy tales are best left in animated pixel form.

When it comes to poking fun at the airbrushed perfection and unrealistic scenarios featured on Instagram, no one does it as well as Celeste Barber. She is my Instagram hero.

So focus on what's physically, tangibly in front of you (and inside of you) and appreciate images as mere artistic expression (and occasionally a much-needed comic relief), not factual reality.

Yours,

Anna

p.s. Who's your Instagram hero? Which accounts make you laugh or put things in perspective? Tell us in the comments!

p.p.s. Get more image analysis by following us on Instagram. And share this with your friends who would appreciate some real-talk on Instagram vs. reality!

Want more style and life upgrade advice? Take the Sociology of Style quiz, or check out the Success With Style series for men and women.

Insta-Analysis: Transparent Pants, Muddy Jeans, Digitally Distracted Dining

I have a very torrid relationship with social media. So much potential value, with so many difficult-to-avoid pitfalls. This is especially true of Instagram. And while I finally caved and created a personal Instagram account, I’ve been reluctant to put Sociology of Style on the Instagram bandwagon. I didn’t want to create another social account just for the sake of self-promotion — I wanted it to actually serve a purpose.

So this week we are launching the Sociology of Style Instagram account with this goal: To identify happenings and trends in culture and use that as a springboard for analysis and conversation. We’ll touch on everything from fashion to technology to cultural scenes, and pose some commentary and a question — all in the hopes that it may encourage you to think a bit more deeply about what you wear, see, and do. 


Here’s what the Sociology of Style account is NOT: It’s not advertising cute clothes or giving you inspirational looks to envy and emulate (I think we can all agree there’s already enough of that). Rather, this is a visually-driven, thought-provoking space for critique and conversation about visual culture.

Every few weeks, we’ll send out an email with some "Insta-Analysis" of recent posts, and we encourage you to follow us to participate in real-time and chime in with your thoughts.

Have an image / trend / scene you think is worthy of analysis and want us to weigh in? Just mention @SocofStyle in your post (or in the comments of an interesting post you spot) and we’ll give you our input and possibly feature it.

To kick it off this week, we’re looking at two unfortunate and peculiar fashion trends, as well as a technology-obsessed social epidemic. Check them out and let us know your thoughts:

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Transparent Pants - Why? 

Distracted Dining: The Case for Unplugging

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The Mud Jean: A Distressing Message? 

Want more style and life upgrade advice? Take the Sociology of Style quiz, or check out the Success With Style series for men and women.

Why You Don't Need to Be "Hot" to Be Effective

By now many of us have had the misfortune of reading the New York Post article, "Why I Don't Date Hot Women Anymore" (and perhaps also the Jezebel rebuttal). For those of you who escaped it, a quick recap: Average looking 30-something NYC finance guy Dan used to date bikini models, but found them vapid and too uninteresting, so has now settled for a "merely beautiful" woman (see photo below). Yes, you read all of that correctly.

There are so many directions one could go from there....but let us use this as an opportunity to talk about appearance: why it matters and how to use it to your advantage.

I didn't create Sociology of Style to make people "hotter" or attract someone like Dan.

I created it to empower people to maximize the power of their image as a social (and psychological) tool. How we're perceived — and as a result, treated — is determined through a compilation of what we say, what we do, and how we appear. As a society, we have no problem focusing on the first two parts of that equation — we deem them worthy of our time and investment. But the third piece, appearance, is often written off (particularly by educated individuals) as mere frivolity. Superficial nonsense. Insignificant. And we often judge those who do invest in their appearance as vain or insecure.

But denying the importance of appearance doesn't make it go away. Nor does embracing it relegate you to the unsavory realm of Dan and his modelizing cohorts.

We are visual creatures. Understanding and perception are largely filtered through a visual lens. Knowing is a multi-sensory experience. It's not either/or. It's both/and.

One objection some critics have to an emphasis on appearance is that it is not "substantive." But I reject that categorization. The nuances of our appearance are bursting with significance. From the intentional visual statement (a clever combination of artifacts from different cultures and eras, tattoos, power clashing, a full beard) to the circumstancially and historically revealing (scars, tanned skin in winter, over-developed biceps from manual labor, a run in hosiery due to a morning mishap). It's not that any single one of these visual attributes singularly defines us — but to call them frivolous or insignificant is to deny part of our identity.

We are invited to witness each other and ourselves daily. That witnessing is powerful. And persuasive. Sometimes what we witness attracts us. Other times it confuses, or compels, or – all the things that occur when we come to know and experience another human being in a multi-dimensional way.

The goal of attending to your appearance is not to attract Dan. But it also isn't to repel him. It's to be effective.

You must appear — that part is not optional. But the message you send both to yourself and others is largely within your control. What is the persona you want to project? And how will it be received by your audience? Establishing image efficacy is a combination of What I Want/How I Feel + What My Audience Wants/Understands. Over-rely on either one of those and your situational efficacy wanes significantly. Find a balance and wear it proudly.

Take back the power from Dan not by minimizing appearance, but by consciously upping your image game to foster connection and spotlight your substance.

Remember: To appear is powerful. Make the most of it.

Yours,

Anna

p.s. Tell me how you use your image to connect and communicate. What's your image formula for social success?

Taking a beat (How to make the most of downtime)

Hey there,

Something wonderful happened this past weekend, and I want to share it with you.

I took a breath.

Well, yes, I take lots of breaths, but not often of this variety. Months of nonstop promotion and marketing and projects and travel and output finally s-l-o-w-e-d to the point that I could physically and mentally breathe. Phew.

At first I felt a tinge of anxiety, but I embraced it. I didn't make any advance plans, and still I wrote (for pleasure), rode bikes on the beach, checked out some art, went to yoga, attended a film screening, meditated, took a walk, cooked, read a book, slept — a "full" schedule that felt anything but busy. I even just sat and stared for a while. It was heavenly.

A festival of kites on my bike ride.

I've talked about our culture of busyness in the past, but making the most of downtime when it happens is equally important. It's easy to get anxious when things slow down. What if nothing else comes up? Why isn't anyone reaching out?

Whether it's a slowdown in your work or social life, taking a periodic beat is beneficial. It's the kind of head-clearing, soul-searching, heart-filling, blood-pumping, all-around replenishing gift of inaction that we must embrace when it's presented to us. Cause let's face it: it doesn't happen all that often. So dig in while you can.

This week, go to your calendar and look for an opening — even if it's just a day — somewhere in the next month. Circle it. Plan nothing (even if offers arise, and they likely will). Luxuriate in its openness. Bask in its stillness. Breathe.

Yours,

Anna

p.s. Let me know in the comments how you spent that time and how you felt!

7 Steps to Developing Good Habits

by Matt Abner

Developing a good habit is not something that happens overnight. You have to work really hard to change yourself and your attitude towards life in general. Over time, you will develop the right habits and be a better person.

The first step is to discover what your problems are. Self-awareness helps you realize what is wrong with your habits so you can eradicate them. It also helps you in creating plans to change yourself for the better.

Once you have identified these problems, start changing your ways but don’t put too much pressure on yourself. These changes have to be gradual. Organic changes are better than drastic changes. They are ineffective as you might go back to your old ways.

After achieving a milestone, reward yourself. Go to a fancy restaurant for a nice meal or visit a place you have always wanted to visit. This motivates you to do better in improving yourself. Just don’t treat yourself to something you have been working hard to avoid like drinking alcohol or smoking.

Soon, you will realize that you have already changed as a person. The bad habits that you used to have are totally gone. You are now a better person with a more optimistic view in life.

The infographic below discusses more tips on how to develop good habits. Make use of this information to help you change your bad ways. Again, there should be no pressure to change right away. Just take it slow. This is how good habits are formed.

7 Steps to Developing Good Habits (SBO)

Infographic by Matt Abner

Survival of the Kindest

With the holidays now over, we may think it’s time to tuck away our gift-giving efforts for a while. But instead, let’s take the spirit of the holidays — altruism, generosity, empathy, gratitude — and find small, consistent ways to introduce it into our everyday lives.

In the first of our ANNA-LYZE THIS video chat series, I talk with my Sociology of Style cohort, Anna Lownes, about rethinking our competitive natures and promoting the “survival of the kindest.” Check out our conversation, chime in with your own stories of random acts of kindness in the comments, and let us know what you’d like us to discuss in the future.


Every day can be a holiday with the right attitude. And that’s a gift that keeps on giving to you and everyone you touch.

How to Graciously Accept Praise and Positively Self-Promote

Hi there,

I know I’ve been MIA. You haven’t heard from me in a couple of weeks because I’ve been on my book tour for Startup Your Life. As you can imagine, it’s been both exciting and exhausting. But it’s also been challenging in a way I didn’t anticipate and that perhaps you can relate to:

I’ve had to accept praise. But I’m not comfortable with praise. And I’m not the only one. 

Women, in particular, are notoriously bad at accepting compliments (as depicted in this classic [uncensored] Amy Schumer video). And studies show that when the compliment comes from another woman, we almost always reject it. Simply saying ‘thank you’ and enjoying the moment doesn’t come easily to most of us. We feel we must explain away our success or accomplishments rather than feeling proud, and so we attempt to counterbalance the praise by negging ourselves. It’s as sad to witness as it is to experience — and we need to do better by ourselves.

And as if it’s not hard enough to accept praise, it’s even harder to self-promote. Broadcasting your accomplishments — whether they’re professional or personal — can feel narcissistic and self-indulgent. “Hey, look at meeeee! Aren’t I GREAT?!” is what I feel like I’m shouting every time I share anything related to me and my achievements on social media or discuss them in an interview. 

But no matter how big or small the praise-worthy accomplishment, denying its existence or being overly self-deprecating it is not the answer. 

Why?

Because hard work deserves to be recognized. It doesn’t make us better than someone else, but it does distinguish us. So think of it less as a celebration of the thing in itself and more of a badge of honor for everything you endured and learned on the road to that moment. 

Accepting a compliment with grace and self-promoting in a way that communicates genuine gratitude is a skill. It’s also the courteous thing to do: By dismissing the praise or downplaying the depiction of an event or milestone, you deny others their role in the social exchange. 

Think of a time when you’ve complimented or championed someone else. Chances are you were sincere, right? Now imagine how you’d feel if someone dismissed your praise of them out of their own discomfort. Not the greatest feeling, right?

So next time you find yourself in a position where you’re being celebrated or have something celebration-worthy to share, remember: to accept accolades is to honor both the people who helped you get there, as well as the individuals who took the time and energy to recognize you and your work. 

Sometimes a little self-love is the most effective way to show love to others. Give back to your community by allowing them to embrace you. 

That’s not to say narcissism doesn’t exist or isn’t a danger. Nor does it mean that exclusively tooting your own horn without also lifting up those around you will earn you many fans. So how do you find a balance?

Here’s the 3-step guide I created for accepting praise and confidently self-promoting: 

  1. Challenge yourself to accept a compliment as you would want your praise to be received: with genuine gratitude. 
  2. Share your good news as it comes — there will inevitably be plenty of not-so-great news to even it out over time (I promise). 
  3. In the moments in between life’s peaks and valleys, take the time to revere and support those in your network or whom you admire. Our roles evolve and are fluid, and it’s hard to connect with someone who can’t play both giver and receiver. 

Do you struggle with praise and self-promotion? How do you negotiate its place in your life? Please tell me in the comments section!

Yours,

Anna

p.s. Since we’re on the topic of praise, I have a favor to ask you: If you have purchased Startup Your Life — first of all, THANK YOU. I am incredibly grateful for your investment and attention. And if you enjoyed it or it made you think or operate differently, I’d love for you to share your thoughts as a review on Amazon and Goodreads. Real reviews from people like you matter. Thank you in advance for taking a moment to do that (and please consider letting me know that you’ve posted one so I can thank you personally!)

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Your Formula for Resolutions You'll Actually Keep

It’s likely you are happily bidding “good riddance” to 2016. But merely kicking something — be it a tough year or a bad relationship — to the curb, will not yield the results you’re seeking. 

However low the bar may seem for making 2017 better than the last (and I know, it’s low), it takes more than changing a habit or thinking positively to feel the kind of transformational results most of us seek. 

So what is it you want this year? And what’s your plan for achieving it?

For many of us, it’s hard to offer specifics. We know certain behaviors help or hinder us, but we struggle to identify how that fits into the larger perspective of what matters to us, what we want to achieve, and what makes us happy. 

That’s why I created a framework for upgrading your life in a sustainable, incremental way in the New Year and everyday. Because change doesn’t happen overnight — it takes consistent work. But here’s the upside to that consistent effort: happiness also doesn’t happen at only major milestones and monumental achievements — it’s in the small “in between” stuff that the most sustainable, satisfying seeds of happiness blossom and flourish. 

This year, go beyond the traditional short-lived diet and fitness resolutions and vow to make 2017 the year of ongoing change. How? Take a page from the Silicon Valley playbook and start living your life like a startup. Here’s the secret sauce you need to cash in on this year in small ways, everyday.

5 key ways to enhance happiness and success through resolutions that will stick:

  • Experiment: Approaching your life like a science experiment allows you to test and learn as you go, minimizing large-scale regrettable mistakes and keeping you nimble. Experiment with everything from the way your food makes you feel, to the way you react in confrontations, to the clothes you wear on a date. You’ll get realtime feedback from your audience or your body, which you can then integrate into your behaviors and choices — or use the knowledge to fuel another optimization experiment. Constant learning, constant improvement. 
  • Disrupt your assumptions: Sometimes unlearning is the most important kind of learning. Bucking conventional wisdom helps you identify what you’re taking for granted and avoid groupthink. If you are caught up in “But I’ve always…” or “That’s impossible!” paradigms, you’ll limit your opportunities and never know what might have been. 
  • Embrace failure: Giving yourself permission to fall down can be a win. It cultivates patience, teaches hard lessons, and — if you commit to analyzing what went wrong — makes you exponentially stronger the next time around. Plus, once you make peace with the fact that failure IS coming, it makes it far less disruptive when it finally arrives. We live in transition, so accept the inevitability of failure and enjoy the fluidity that follows.
  • Understand your audience: We are largely at the mercy of our audience, so it’s time to start paying attention. Finding your own personal “product-market fit” allows you to find the sweet spot between what matters to you and what resonates with your audience. At the center of this is rethinking “authenticity” as your most effective (not just most comfortable) form of self-expression in any given context. We are social beings, and it’s how we self-present in both the words we use and the images we give off that fosters the connection we crave. 
  • Hustle: Hustling — not exclusive pedigree — is often the X factor that gives you an edge. Complacency is what we must rail against. Instead of focusing on what we lack, we can be the little startup that could and hustle to maximize what we do have. Because I promise: you’re richer than you think you are. 

I want to hear not just what you’re giving up, but what you’re dreaming up for 2017. Tell me in the comments section and let’s celebrate what’s in the works, in all its terrific imperfection. 

Here’s to a New Year and a NEW YOU —

Anna

p.s. If you’ve already dug into Startup Your Life and want to go deeper, check out the video series I created to work together to maximize the recommendations and start putting them into action today (or get the book and read it while you work through the videos). And if you have a friend who is ready to take the leap and upgrade their life, they’ll thank you for passing it along :)

p.p.s If you've already received your copy, please share your thoughts on Amazon and Goodreads — let us know how the book is helping you to transform how you live, work, and connect. 

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Want more style and life upgrade advice? Take the Sociology of Style men’s and women’s quizzes, or check out the Success With Style series for men and women. 

Quick vacation interruption: Today’s the day!!

I know you’re still mentally checked out for the holidays, so while you’re physically or mentally wandering, I want to steer you toward Startup Your Life, which is on shelves TODAY. I can’t help but nudge you toward it (in part because I’m so excited to finally share it with you and more importantly because I can’t wait for it to start helping people to transform their lives). 

SO If you do grab a copy and dive in this week — first, THANK YOU, and second, please send me your thoughts! I’d love to start a conversation about what resonates with you. 

Ok, now back to your unscheduled programming! :)

Anna

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How to Beat the Holiday Blues ( + Read the Startup Your Life intro for FREE)

Not everyone’s holiday experience is classic Norman Rockwell perfection (which is why I find the above image from him such a welcome, realistic depiction). The holidays can be a difficult time for all of us, for a variety of reasons: perhaps we’re single and feeling a bit empty, or we find being with relatives challenging; hectic holiday travel is enough to frazzle even the most zen amongst us, and financial pressures around gift-giving put a damper on an otherwise uplifting act. Plus, expectations and tensions run unrealistically high this time of year — it’s hard to live up to the picture perfect ideal we’ve created for ourselves, which too often leaves us with a feeling of “not good enough.”  

Fortunately, you can transform your relationship with the holidays and your state of mind with a few savvy, strategic choices. Much of the advice I offer in my new book (which is out next week and available for preorder now) is particularly effective during the holidays.

Here’s how to beat the holiday blues and start the New Year stronger — and happier:

  • Be with people: Granted, sometimes it’s people that stress us out the most during the holidays, but isolation is not the answer. Companionship is the single biggest indicator of long-term health and happiness, and we need it more than ever during the holidays. Seek out people who bring you joy, who spark your imagination, and who are great listeners. We often have some downtime during the holidays, so be sure you’re spending it in good company.
  • Give back: Money alone doesn’t make us happy, but strategic spending does. “Giving is receiving” sounds cliche, but it’s an effective mood-booster. And remember time is money, even when it comes to philanthropy — and spending time with people in need can puts things in perspective and make you feel needed, all while improving the lives of others. Simply being present (and distraction-free) with people in your life is one of the greatest gifts you can give this holiday season.
  • Retreat into nature: A little fresh air goes a long way toward clearing the head and lifting the spirits. Whether you’re deep in winter or more of a snowbird at the beach, make time for playing outside and take note of how you feel before and after — the difference will likely be striking. 
  • Reflect on the year: The holidays are a culminating point — the end of one year and the beginning of the next. We are always living in transition, but these annual milestones are important. They offer an opportunity for reflection and for mindfully moving forward. You can pivot your life toward happiness by actively reflecting on the challenges and opportunities of the last year. It’s important to usher in the future through strategic experimentation and by staying nimble to possibilities. The excitement of those possibilities alone will lift your spirits. 

And while you’re shopping for loved ones, give yourself a gift of a life upgrade — one that will actually empower you, beginning today, not someday.  

Want a little taste? Read the first chapter of Startup Your Life completely free(get it here) and see if the approach that’s worked for Silicon Valley startups also resonates with you.

Wherever you are, whatever stage in life you’re at or unique challenges you’re facing, this can be a satisfying holiday season, IF you take back control and mindfully apply the right strategies. Holidays are intense punctuation points in our year, and it’s when we are most challenged that we experience the most profound growth. So seize the moment. 

May you give yourself the gift of reaching beyond your comfort zone, an invitation to play (and fail), and the space to make sense of it all this holiday season.

Happy holidays!

Anna

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Want more style and life upgrade advice? Take the Sociology of Style men’s and women’s quizzes, or check out the Success With Style series for men and women. 

3 ways to hack your image (without spending a penny)

We are fed enough style tips and trend updates, but what often lacks from a conversation about image is attention to the bigger picture. Part of our mission at Sociology of Style is to move the needle on that conversation toward a substantive “why it matters” discussion and push you to think about how your image reflects — and creates — your identity. 

In my new book, I dedicate an entire chapter called “Work It: The Runway of Your Life” to this topic. Here are 3 key takeaways that distill how you can start strategically hacking your image for greater social efficacy and to boost confidence starting today — without spending any money.

1. Redefine Authenticity. Authenticity is a complex word, and one with which we’re generally obsessed. And our closest don’t make it any easier. Let’s get one thing straight: authenticity is a dynamic process — not permanent or static. And the way we’re expected to appear in any given context does not always reflect the self with which we most identify. So we must reconcile these social and professional pressures with what we feel is our “true self.” 

Authenticity is also not dictated exclusively by your biographical realities. Your identity is multi-faceted and can express itself differently in different contexts, and it also evolves over time. 

Bottom line: Projecting authenticity requires both experimentation and reinvention.

2. Play Dress-Up. Mindfully playing with your appearance pushes you out of your comfort zone and highlights what you’re taking for granted, both with regard to your own aesthetic hangups and with how you’re perceived. Our hangups and dependencies are often wrapped up in our appearance, so understanding what they are is empowering. 

Play around with visual variables to test everything from how you’re treated to how it affects the way you carry yourself. You’ll likely find it both surprising and liberating. 

3. Adopt a uniform. Developing a uniform or go-to look for yourself isn’t about looking the same every single day. It’s a sleek, low-maintenance approach to minimalist living and visual precision. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t play dress-up and experiment. But once you find a formula that works for you, don’t be afraid to replicate it. 

Routinizing your manner of dress also minimizes choice and saves your mental power for other more important thoughts and actions. And projecting a recognizable visual brand is an effective way to convey a coherent, memorable message to your audience. 

Get more instant image and life hacks here

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Want more style and life upgrade advice? Take the Sociology of Style men’s and women’s quizzes, or check out the Success With Style series for men and women.