01/25/17 | Career, Leadership, OOO

Why You Should Live Your Life Like a Startup

Anna Akbari, PhD, author of Startup Your Life takes the startup concepts of Hustle, Pivot and Failure and applies them to everyday life.

Hustle. Pivot. Failure. These are words we hear a lot of in the startup world, but most of the time they refer specifically to the companies we’re launching or working for — not our personal lives.

We often think our personal lives just happen to us or that following the path we or others have long tread is good enough. In a sense, it’s the same ill-fated narrative large companies tell themselves: “We’re on top now, things are great, so why fix what isn’t broken?” Famous last words of more than a few once-dominant companies and industries…

So, as we begin another new year, it’s an invitation to not only to change a few bad habits, but to resolve to rethink the way we live our lives in a sustainable way.  In other words: It’s time to “startup” our lives.

In my new book, Startup Your Life: Hustle and Hack Your Way to Happiness, I lay out a framework for optimizing your life and boosting happiness by adopting the same principles that fuel Silicon Valley and applying them to your personal life. But these aren’t just ideas I came up with randomly — it’s a formula that’s guided me through many of my own rocky challenges.  

Here are a few of those key principles that ushered me through trying times — many of which may also resonate with you.


I grew up in a poor, single parent household. Money and resources were extremely scarce, connections and status were nonexistent. And yet, I eventually attended wealthy, elite private schools, thanks to a lot of hard work and scholarships. I joined every club and activity possible, found ways to give back to the community, and developed my creative talents. It definitely wasn’t a smooth ride, but eventually the hustling paid off. Startups pride themselves on their ability to bootstrap, and regardless of our personal financial wealth and initial social status, we can create our own happiness and carve an individual path to success.


A few years ago, I was really unhappy. NYC was no longer a fit for me, my career felt stagnant, and my relationship prospects were nonexistent. It wasn’t the life I wanted. I was stuck.  So I decided to be as proactive as possible: I imposed a six month deadline to move and shake up my life completely. The mere imaginings of a life that could be was enough to excite and reinvigorate me. I ultimately chose California as the site of my personal reinvention, as it’s where I’ve always felt like the better version of herself. And while the motivation to uproot was personal, I found that my best career opportunities followed me there. For years I’d been making decisions based on what seemed most professionally rational, only to realize that I needed a giant pivot that allowed me to follow my heart and open my mind to possibilities beyond immediate “practicality.”


At the start of 2015, I was healthy and resettling back into NYC for a serious relationship.  But within a few months, I broke off the relationship, moved back to California, and learned of a critical health condition. Within a short period of time, a life that was (seemingly) full of stability wasn’t. But after months of procedures and successful surgery, as well as eventually reentering the dating pool, I learned something: Failure is merely change. And change is always present; it’s constant.  And the sooner we learn to flourish in an ever-changing environment, the better off we’ll be.  

While these experiences are personal, their lessons and the framework and tactics I used to overcome them are universally applicable.  From the person struggling to find the right career path to the woman unsure of whether or not she wants children, a startup approach to living and operating applies to all aspects and phases of life — not just in Silicon Valley startups, but in the way we think and operate every day.

Header Photo Credit: Pexels.com

Anna Akbari, PhD, is a sociologist , writer, and entrepreneur. She is the author of Startup Your Life: Hustle and Hack Your Way To Happiness. She is the founder of Sociology of Style, an image and life coaching company, and a partner in HVCK, a Silicon Valley innovation consultancy. A former professor at New York University and Parsons School of Design, she is a frequent public speaker at conferences and for corporations and has written for and been featured by Forbes, CNN, The Atlantic, The Economist, The Financial Times, TED, Bulletproof Executive, New York Observer, DailyWorth, The Huffington Post, and dozens more.Connect with her on Instagram or Twitter: @annaakbari

Anna Akbari, PhD

Anna Akbari, PhD

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