Recently I was honored to speak with Dr. Anna Akbari, founder of the Sociology of Style. Anna’s crisp and practical approach to defining your personal style and creating a wardrobe that authentically reflects you and is versatile enough to carry you through your day really resonates with me. I hope you find Anna’s words inspirational!
1) how were you inspired to find your calling and how it has evolved? What is on the horizon for you?
My current life path has not been a direct one, but I value the circuitous nature of it. I think too often we expect both success and wisdom to come as a direct result of having a vision, setting a goal, and then directly achieving it — when in reality, most of our greatest successes and valuable lessons are learned through unexpected circumstances. It’s really what you do with those unanticipated results that leads to both excellence and fulfillment.
I have settled into a path of working independently, moving between developing and growing my companies, writing, lecturing, and consulting. Some might see that as being pulled in many directions, but I see them as many off-shoots from the same core center, most of which are not always happening simultaneously, but operate with a natural ebb and flow.
2) How do you re-connect to that original calling on a daily basis?
More so than having one specific career or personal goal, I have identified the ways of living and operating that make me happiest and through which I thrive. They include working autonomously and with a few business partners (as opposed to being a formal employee of a company), always having outlets for writing and speaking, being creative in some way on a daily basis (entrepreneurship and innovative thinking is necessarily creative — one need not be creating “art” to be creative), living a physically active life with access to the outdoors and the ocean (hence, living in California), making time for community and the “non-productive” elements of life. These are the principles and values that underlie the decisions I make both professionally and personally.
3) Where do you look for new inspiration?
They say you are only as good as the 3-5 people you spend the most time with, so I think the company we keep is extremely important, and I’m constantly stimulated and inspired by the people around me. Curating and investing time in various cultural outlets is also key — podcasts, local cultural events, even TV programs can spark something that lead to new ideas and perspectives. If we think inspiration only happens via high-brow culture, we are largely ignoring the abundance of fodder that surrounds us daily. The main challenge is not to find the inspirational (it’s pervasive), but rather to be receptive to the inspirational nature of everything around us.
The main challenge is not to find the inspirational (it’s pervasive), but rather to be receptive to the inspirational nature of everything around us.
4) How can your work positively impact a woman’s inner bliss and outer radiance?
Through Sociology of Style, I often work with women who are ready for change in their lives. That change may be physical (weight loss, post-pregnancy, etc.) or professional (a promotion, retirement, change in career) or simply a new state of mind (looking for a personal refresh). When someone is in the mindset of change, they are thinking critically and questioning all elements of their lives, and one of the main needs is to align that mentality with their physical presence. I start with the inner bliss — and the goals we set toward achieving it — and then we work together toward creating outer radiance, and allowing that inner flourishing to be reflected physically.
5) What does the phrase ‘inner bliss and outer radiance’ mean to you?
It is about a harmonious alignment, a reflection of the whole person. Too often we think of the physical as somehow compromising one’s inner reality or “authentic self,” when in actuality, if there is mindful attunement, the inner reality is enhanced and supported by the exterior. With the right guidance and strategy, they can be symbiotic, not at odds.
Anna Akbari Ph.D. is a sociologist, writer, tech entrepreneur, and innovation consultant. She is former professor in the department of Media, Culture, and Communication at New York University and at Parsons The New School for Design. Niche areas of research and expertise include the sociology of technology and human/tech relationships, virtual identity, Millennials, workplace culture, happiness, visual culture and the semiotics of self-presentation. She has over 15 years of experience conducting sociological research and consulting for corporations and startups alike. Past clients include DIRECTV, Cisco, Toyota, Wells Fargo, Samsung, Converse, Coca-Cola, Lenovo, Tata Communications, CableLabs, SABMiller, Pepsi, Avon, Vitamin Water. She is the founder of Sociology of Style, which takes an intelligent look at image and culture-related issues and offers holistic image consulting and life coaching services, and the creator of the Sociology of TV, which offers videos and white papers on the social significance of television media in public spaces.
A prominent thought leader, Anna is active on the lecture circuit and regularly contributes to media outlets including TED, CNN, The Atlantic, The Huffington Post, Bulletproof Executive, Forbes, DailyWorth, and the Financial Times. Find out more about Anna on her website and follow her on Twitter.