Anna Akbari, PhD is a sociologist, entrepreneur, and writer. She is the founder of Sociology of Style, an image and life coaching company, and a partner in HVCK, a Silicon Valley innovation consultancy. Her book, Startup Your Life: Hustle and Hack Your Way To Happiness, teaches people to be happier and more successful by embracing an entrepreneurial mindset and living their lives like a Silicon Valley startup. A former instructor at New York University and Parsons School of Design, she is a frequent speaker and media personality and has written for and been featured by Forbes, CNN, The Atlantic, The Economist, Financial Times, TED, Bulletproof Executive, TIME, and dozens more.
What do I do best?
I’m able to distill and effectively articulate the big picture and deeper significance of an individual event, feeling, altercation, data point, etc. This applies to my research, the coaching I do with individuals and corporations, speaking engagements, as well as my personal life — putting things in perspective is a useful survival mechanism.
What makes me the best version of myself?
My sense of humor. Even when I’ve been battling serious illness or economic strife, I never lose my sense of humor. It transforms the situation and makes it more manageable, more human, without diminishing the gravity of what’s happening. I can’t speak for other people, but in my life at least, there is humor to be found in everything, and life becomes a lot better when you learn to look for it and know how to express it.
What are my aspirations?
Connection: of ideas, people, places. Of disparate and unlikely matches. I aspire to find meaningful points of connection with my clients that opens up a pathway for me to help them in the most effective way possible. I also aspire to form deep, meaningful connections in my personal life — be that a romantic partner, lifelong friendship, or just brief interludes with memorable people. Connection is why I wake up in the morning and it’s what motivates me when things get difficult. It’s the thing that makes life most worth living.
My Biggest Success?
Being self-made. I grew up in a poor, single parent household in an industrial midwestern town. Getting out was my main objective from the time I was quite small. Hustle and hard work became the way I made it happen — not money or connections. This sets the tone for everything I do; the rest is gravy.
My Most Challenging Moment?
There was a time a few years ago when I changed jobs, moved, ended a long term relationship, and battled a serious illness all within a matter of a few months. When it rains it pours. But that series of events sent me on a new path of self-discovery and adventure that forever changed the course of my life. I can genuinely say I’m grateful for all of it.
F*ck convention. Write your own rules.
My Favorite People/Role Models?
My favorite people are often the ones I don’t see everyday, but whose role in my life has been invaluable. Former teachers that inspired me to explore a specific course of study and intellectual inquiry. The doctors and healers that have kept me whole over the years. The creative artists who have inspired my imagination and opened my mind. Also, huge shout-out to the unsung heroes of my everyday life: the garbage collectors, exterminators, plumbers, handymen (and women) — you solve the everyday challenges of living, which allows me to focus my energy elsewhere. I’m a huge fan of your work.
My Favorite Places/Destinations?
Beaches and nature. I’ve lived in cities for several decades, so I try to be close to the ocean and in or near nature whenever possible to counter-balance. I breathe differently near the ocean. I’m a better person there. Playing outside feeds me on every level. My health and work suffers when I spend too much time away from these places.
My Favorite Products/Objects?
I like anything that makes mundane tasks either disappear or become more efficient, so a lot of tech startups and apps that address everything from grocery shopping to finding a place to stay to communicating with my team rank very high on my list.
I also believe less is more when it comes to things (that’s how I’ve been able to live primarily out of two suitcases for the last two years). So when I purchase something, I take the time to find something I love / that serves my needs as highly as possible, and that is good quality. Everyone loves a bargain, but longevity, usefulness, and quality are most important (and end up being most cost effective in the long run).
My Current Passions?
Karaoke (I’ve hosted several recurring parties over the years), rollerskating (miss my NYC Central Park roller skating fam!), swimming in the ocean, cooking — especially hosting dinners and parties, writing new books and pieces that connect with people, great conversations in new and exciting places (note: exciting is subjective; I’m into any place that sparks my sociological imagination), beautiful vistas experienced either alone or with someone I love, dance parties — anywhere, anytime.