instagram matters

instagram is a little portfolio. it could be of your life, your art, your shop, your products, or your perspective. but the truth of the matter is that it can do almost everything a website does but better. i am not suggesting that you game the platform, but maybe figure out the best way to use it.

as with any creative endeavor, find the people who do it well and identify what makes their profiles work. i am a huge fan of the way aoc uses instagram, so i tried to think about what was good about it. her posts feel authentic, not over-polished, and full of useful information that relates to her mission. thus, i try to shape my presence in a similar way.

i recently did a bit of consulting work for a cafe. “why do i need instagram?” the owner asked me. i told him the truth: when a customer considers coming to your cafe, instagram will likely be the first or second thing they check when they decide whether or not they’ll stop in for the first time. and, being near a train station, this is especially true for out of towners.

for you, how can you make a first impression on instagram to show your audience what you’re all about? who does instagram well, and how can you take parts of what they do and make them yours?

a little bit of perspective

every day, we have the power to choose how we look at things. our perspective has the strongest influence on how we make decisions. so, it makes sense that we should shake up our perspective every once in a while to look at our problems from a new angle.

i like doing a weekly “zoom out”. this means that i take a step back, and consider my plans in terms of a ten-year strategy. a zoom out could also mean imagining where my plan fits into the global economy. it could also mean seeing how i fit into the general schematics of a city.

changing your perspective could also mean zooming in. you’re smart, you can probably find a number of creative ways to alter your worldview. the point is, if you feel stuck, it can help to change your perspective. if you don’t know how to do this, talk to a friend, pick up a book, or listen to a podcast. being open to the thoughts of someone else is by definition taking a different point of view. this, oftentimes, is all the push you need to realize what you’ve been missing.

a little bit of soul

there are some large companies that are able to communicate “soul” really well. in a time when large, seemingly heartless organizations are taking control, brands that bring a human touch to their operations stand out. the first one that comes to mind is trader joe’s – i recently spoke with employees that love what they do. one of the reasons is that trader joe’s manages to make grocery shopping a fun experience.

aoc, too, brings an authenticity to politics that resonates with people. further, on twitter, whenever big companies tweet like they’re people (see netflix), it brings a lot of joy to their customer. tech companies tend to lean on profitability and scale, and are often in conflict with soul. however, google with its bright colors and twirly hats brings some fun and whimsy to the brand. why is this important? it makes the company feel a little bit less like the monolith it is.

if you run a company, it’s important to recognize that soul is really really hard to maintain. chasing profits scares it away. and sadly, curating soul means that we scare away sustainable business practices sometimes. i invite you to find a way to balance soul with your business so that it pays you while also preserving your humanity. because your humanity is invaluable.

i love my cat

i take a lot of photos of my cat, and it’s kind of embarrassing. i used to be the kind of person that would scoff at people who loved their cats. i used to think that they were being a little over the top. but now, i can’t help but be part of the club. sophie, the little black cat my girlfriend adopted, has become a source of huge joy in my life.

it is hard to figure out exactly why i lose my shit over this cat. when i wake up in the morning, she is asleep on the pillow next to me. when i work at my desk, she is perched in her little cat bed to my left on the windowsill. when i sit and watch tv, she finds a spot nearby. perhaps what i like to much about this cat is that she prefers to be nearby.

usually i enjoy things because they puzzle my brain. i like challenges, difficult questions, and changing environments. the joy i feel when i spend time with my cat is a lot different. it is simpler. and as an over thinker, this confuses me. when my cat closes her eyes when i scratch her cheeks, i think “why do animals elect to spend time with us?” and i still have trouble finding the answer.

my mission is to define the future of work

we all know 9-5 does not make sense, and my question is where we are headed next. what’s wild about companies like lyft is that it operates on its own schedule. artists, filmmakers, web developers, and more have the opportunity to work on their own schedules and don’t have to be tied down to a specific place or schedule. not only is this exciting, but it also is collectively powerful since it gives our workforce considerable agility.

as i interview young people who make a living online, it becomes clear to me that there are common challenges: time management, motivation, marketing, health care, etc. while an employer usually took care of some of the more managerial tasks for us, we now are burdened to make these structures for ourselves. my job, at least for the time being, is to help my peers figure out how to be their own boss.

the informal vs. the formal job market

the formal job market is posted online and has a series of clearly defined hoops to jump through in order to land the position. the informal job market exists in the background, and the key to becoming a part of it is being curious and testing assumptions.

i got a lot of my jobs just through shaking hands and asking questions. people often will grumble that certain industries heavily depend on “who you know”, and they’re not wrong. jobs are created by people, and it pays to know the right people.

what’s thrilling about finding work in a loosely organized field is that you can open yourself to huge opportunities if you play your cards right. the hard part is that there is no handbook, and at the end of the day we all have to eat. they key is knowing your strengths in both formal and informal spheres, and using them to your advantage to get where you want to go.

the time of day matters

people are different, and the way people work varies as a result. i am a morning person, my girlfriend is a night owl. our productivity levels heavily depend on the differences in our personalities, upbringing, and values.

i’ve noticed that i get a lot of my writing done in the morning. in the evening, after 6pm, it is incredibly difficult for me to write. however, it is a great time to study. studying requires long instances of uninterrupted silence, which is more easily found when the day is done.

on the bus, i can get very little done. but, this is when i either listen to a podcast or a playlist. i can scroll through twitter and instagram, or take a moment to just think. the best part is identifying this window (and others) in a mindful way.

by identifying my morning hours as “office time”, evening hours as “study blocks”, and bus time as “focused play”, i now can sort my to do lists into the scheduling slot that works. i know that if i need to research health insurance plans, i might get the most out of it if it do it in the evening. if i need to write an e-mail to a client, i will do it in the morning when i’m writing anyway.

your system may be different from mine, but identifying the cycles of your work allows you to name them, and to categorize the tasks you can reasonably get done. and this is a kind of superpower.