337: Anna Akbari: How to Hustle and Hack Your Way to Happiness

Anna Akbari, PhD, is a sociologist, writer, and entrepreneur. She holds a PhD in sociology and has taught at NYU and Parsons. She is the founder of Sociology of Style, an image and life coaching company, and a partner in HVCK, a Silicon Valley innovation consultancy.

She is a frequent public speaker and media personality, and has written for and been featured by Forbes, CNN, The Atlantic, The Economist, TIME, The Financial Times, TED, Bulletproof Executive, New York Observer, DailyWorth, The Huffington Post, and dozens more.

Favorite Success Quote

“Happiness is not a goal, it is a byproduct” ~Eleanor Roosevelt

Key Points

1. True Happiness is Never the Goal

All too often in our modern Western culture, people chase happiness.

Happiness is something that they try to attain, it is a goal that they pursue, and in the end, it is this pursuit of happiness that ultimately leads to its demise.

True happiness doesn’t come from simply meditating, chanting a mantra, or looking at yourself in the mirror and saying “I am happy, I am happy, I am happy”.

True happiness is a multifaceted feeling that is derived from creating a multifaceted and fulfilling life.

I want you to imagine two men on their personal growth journey.

Man #1 spends his mornings meditating, screaming incantations about happiness, and journaling about how he wants to feel happy.

He is constantly chasing happiness, but finds that every time he experiences unhappiness, he spirals into a downward plunge thinking to himself “Why am I not happy? What am I doing wrong? Life sucks!”

Man #2 on the other hand, is not concerned with feeling happiness, but rather with creating an optimal life where happiness is the byproduct.

He meditates in the morning, says his affirmations in the mirror, and writes in his journal, sure.

But he is focused on something bigger.

He is building a business, growing a family, taking care of his body, and putting himself into flow every day.

And as a result of these actions, he experiences true and recurring happiness.

Stop chasing happiness and let it come to you.

2. Develop Your Personal Rulebook 

There is an old saying that “Life doesn’t come with an owners manual”.

Life is unpredictable and we are often left confused and clueless about what we should do.

However, the only way that we can truly experience any level of consistency in this crazy thing called life is to hold ourselves (the only thing that we are truly in control of) accountable to our own set or rules and values.

In other words, to create our own personal rule book for what we will allow in our lives and what we won’t, how we will act and how we will not, what we will and will not tolerate, and most importantly, who we will show up as every single day of the week.

Life may not come with an owners manual, but whenver you create rules for your life, you don’t need one.

You don’t have to look outside of yourself for the answer to problems that you face.

Instead, you approach each and every hour, minute, and second of your life through a set of lenses that you have created and determined.

If you have created a rule for yourself that you will prioritize family over finances, then you don’t have to worry about whether you should take the higher paying job or continue working at a lower pay grade so that you can continue spending time with your children.

If you have a personal rule that you do not drink, smoke, or snort cocaine, then you aren’t going to have to wonder whether you should try it “just this once” when you are out with your friends, because you have a set of rules that you abide by.

The thing is, outside of the basic moral fibers that constitute and uphold our society, there are no “wrong” rules.

For some of you, finances might be the biggest priority in your life, for others it might be your health or your spirituality.

Some of you are totally ok having an occasional cigarette and drinking a glass of wine each night and some of you have highly addictive personalities and can’t touch the stuff.

Know yourself, know your worth, and create your rules accordingly.

3. Prioritize Your Social Life to Optimize the Rest of Your Life 

Many men put off creating and maintaining a healthy social life in favor of relentlessly pursuing their financial and career goals.

This is a mistake.

What most men do not realize is that a healthy social life is actually one of the biggest keys to having a healthy life, period.

Social connection, love, and friendship are so important that if you are not cultivating strong relationships in your life, you are doing the same damage to your body as if you were smoking a pack of cigarettes a day!

It is hardwired into our genes and our psyche to seek out companionship and relationships and to build communities of our own.

And in our “hyper-connected” world, we seem to forget the importance of real human interaction.

If you want to instantly boost your happiness, health, and success, then seek out new friendships with positive people, and cultivate those relationships on a daily basis.

Whether you simply have coffee with a friend before work, go to the gym every day with your significant other, or host weekly dinner parties, it is important that you get off of your devices and into real interaction.

4.It is NEVER too Early or Late to Pivot Your Life

Whenever you ask someone why they are unwilling to make a drastic change in their life, they will often tell you that they feel they are too young or too old.

Let me tell you right now, you are never too young or too old to pivot and achieve the life that you want.

It doesn’t matter whether you are 15 or 95, you can make the conscious decision today to make a pivot, to make a change, and to start living a life on your terms.

5. Remember that Life is Created in Our Moments of Play and Introspection

Two of the key components of true happiness that are often entirely ignored by the modern man are play and introspection.

Life is a journey, and it’s supposed to be a fun one.

You weren’t put on this planet to constantly be serious and miserable, you were put here to make an impact and have fun while you do it.

If you want to be happier, then stop taking yourself so damn seriously!

Relax, enjoy the simpler things in life, and just play around. Be goofy, be spontaneous, be funny, be ridiculous, just play.

The funny thing that you will find is that your moments of play often bring about the greatest ideas and epiphanies to shape the rest of your life.

However, as you work hard and play harder, never forget to take time to pause and reflect.

Take time away from the noise for introspection. Think, reflect, and ponder your own existence, your own purpose, and your own character.

Your moments of introspection will equip you with the power and the self-knowledge that you need to truly show up in every area of your life.

Influential Books

1. When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi

2. An Intimate History of Humanity by Theodore Zeldin

3. Bobos in Paradise by David Brooks


Connect with Anna Akbari


Startup Your Life: Hustle and Hack Your Way to Happiness

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