Instagram and Homogenization Of Culture

I’ve been sitting in a cafe looking out onto a downtown Chicago street, watching people pass by and trying to think what to write about for the last hour and a half. As I watch hundreds of people walk by, I can’t help but notice something–almost everybody looks similar, within their chosen “performance of self” categories as they do in Minneapolis.

I’ve noticed the same thing during recent trips to Los Angeles and New York.

Now, I’m certainly no sartorialist myself, but I can’t help but think about why this might be. With the age of the internet and mobile devices, specifically apps like Instagram, we’re seeing a broader perspective than we ever have before. We’re getting a direct feed from people all over the world as to what they think is cool and interesting.

Location is no longer a consideration when it comes to fashion, as you could see a really interesting outfit worn by a guy in Japan while scrolling through Instagram on your lunch break. If it is deemed worthy by Instagram’s algorithms, then tens of thousands of people will see that same image all over the world.

While inspiration likely previously came from traveling, or perhaps just walking down your own block and seeing what your friends were wearing, we’ve centralized a place where the coolest trends can exist. Where around the world, if something is cool, it can instantly be picked up in New York, Los Angeles, or wherever.

It seems to me that this would kill the phenomenon of regionalized style–Los Angeles having a “look” that is different from New York, or even Japan.

But as our feeds become filled with references from around the world, we become influenced by all of the same things. It becomes like one giant neighborhood where people get to experience and see what they like and want to imitate.

I would imagine that this substantially reduces the number of different styles in different regional areas as everyone has access to every different region now, and instead of dressing a certain way because our friends, neighbors, or community dresses that way, we can reflect what we see at much higher level.

In terms of business, I find this interesting because it provides a marketplace where companies could potentially tap into a global market instead of being more of a niche market–the trends will change as time goes along, just as fashion always has. But now the market for that type of fashion is massive, created by the centralized model of Instagram.

This also means that in terms of a broader market, more companies have to compete within the broader categories, looking for ways to stand out from other labels, etc. I find this particularly interesting with the trend towards no/low branding on apparel. The giant Abercrombie logo on t-shirts is generally found to be tacky now and most modern clothing only subtly features branding of that type.

Perhaps a small pelican logo or something like that. In a way, this might drive fast fashion, cheaply made clothing that costs less than competitors, as people try to find a way to stand out while still buying clothing that generally looks like this centralized, world-wide style.

I have to question whether this will have the same affect on culture in general, I imagine that it will. As we’re all able to see and access aspects of world culture through our phones, we naturally will adapt certain aspects of those cultures.

In 100 years will this mean that we are a global culture, as we become more connected across the continents and eventually unify as a single species? I’m not sure, but I can tell you that there are a whole lot of people that look a lot alike walking past this window I’m looking out of.


On Side Projects & The Tipping Point

Avoiding burnout on a project is a very real issue that must be dealt with in a variety of ways. In the last three years of writing my blog Break the Twitch, I’ve hit burnout a few times but most recently, I have only been writing once or twice per month for the site in the early months of 2017.

It doesn’t feel good to produce such a small amount of stuff for a project I believe in so much. There is a lot of negative self-talk that goes along with that as well–it’s easy to beat ourselves up over a lack of production. But inspiration ebbs and flows–we’re not robots and we simply can’t do the same thing over and over without stopping.

That is a recipe for disaster, we’re just not built to operate that way.

After a few months of writing but not putting out much content, I started working on a side project with Amy called Minimalism Books–a simple little microsite that lists my favorite books about minimalism. I figured it could be helpful for people that are searching for that particular term.

Amy and I spent about 8 hours over two days building out the site and I felt a surge of inspiration and fulfillment with working on it. In a way, completing that little project helped jump-start me on writing again, as I’m doing here right now.

My daily writing requirement has jumped from 250 words per day up to 500, which is substantially harder. Not just 2x harder, but actually several times harder–not because of the word count, but because of the expectation when you start.

Resistance wise, it’s much easier to sit down with the expectation of only having to write 250 words. Typing starts more fluidly, knowing that it’s only about half as much as this article ended up being. It isn’t some big project, some instead a small step to accomplish your goal each day.

As I sit down to write 500 words for today, I feel a heavier weight on the first words as I begin. This article better not suck, as it has to make it to 500 words instead of just 250 today.

Going in with the expectation of having to hit a certain milestone, a certain quality mark, is exactly what prevents us from doing our best work to begin with. When we can simply let the words flow, unedited, we have much more to work with.

I often compare this to the idea of trying to sculpt a bust out of clay without taking the clay out of the container. The container of clay represents a blank page with no words on it–there’s nothing to work with, nothing to edit, to mold and shape into what will become your work of art.

Writing unedited, allowing the words to flow is like scooping the unformed clay out of the bucket and putting it onto the table. The unshapely ball that somewhat resembles a head and face slowly get worked into what looks slightly more like a human face.

We know where to take it if we have clay on the table–take what doesn’t look like a nose and shape it into what does. It turns all of that potential creative energy into kinetic creative energy.

So find the number that allows you to get past your tipping point, where the weight of an idea will carry itself once you lift it high enough into the air, and then do that almost every day.


Looking Beyond The Surface of Entrepreneurship

I remember when I decided that I wanted to be an entrepreneur–it was the day I realized that no job I could ever get would keep me engaged in a meaningful way. Unless, I suppose, I was able to work at a company that offered unlimited flexibility and creative control.

In my early 20’s it always happened around my six month mark, when I’d start to feel the boredom strike. If the job was simple enough and I couldn’t find any particular ways to improve the processes involved, it felt very empty to me. In my younger days, that meant disengaging with the job and eventually, just not doing the job very well.

Starting a business changed all of that–all of a sudden there was no end in sight, no limit on the processes that I had to master. The work was never done and there was always some aspect of learning curve to tackle. It opened up an entirely new world of what work could look like for me.

Up until that point, I had learned that the way I did things, often quite differently, was completely wrong. School taught me this–I found myself only ever wanting to fit in, to look the same as the people around me, and just do what I was told. Because I wanted to fit in, I’d just sort of follow along with the way my teachers told me to think, accepting that it was the right way to do things.

You may be familiar with the below cartoon–in this case, I felt like the elephant.

College helped further affirm that I wasn’t very good at climbing trees. I remember sitting in lecture halls during my freshman year wondering how any of it was going to work–things just weren’t clicking for me.

Entrepreneurship is a mold-breaking opportunity–it widened the playing field to where I saw that the tree I was continually asked to climb was just one small part of life as a whole. It was just one test of a particular type of intelligence, one that largely reflected learning how to follow directions really well.

In business, you have to do the opposite.

If you do the exact same thing as everyone else in your field, you have no competitive advantage. When it comes to marketing a business, blending in is the absolute last thing you want to do. In almost every area of life oddities are rewarded–they’re what makes us stand out from the rest and allows us to be chosen over others.

Those oddities may provide a strategic advantage over our peers, even though it may be initially perceived as a flaw.

The Struggles Are Amplified

The hardest thing about being an entrepreneur is that the things you struggle with are amplified. If you thrive within a structured environment, you’ll be required to create your own that meets your needs. There is no longer anyone to tell you that you’ve done a good job for the day, you can head home content with your work complete. There’s no one to decide how productive you are, no quarterly review to determine your eligibility for a raise.

There is only your effort, your goals, and your definition of what a successful day looks like. How much is enough? When can we be done for the day? If you struggle with figuring these things out in a day job, taking the leap will blow these struggles wide open.

If You Want Something Different

If the structure that society has set up for gainful employment isn’t working for you, if you want something different, you should build something. Something you care about, something you’d like to see in the world if it doesn’t yet exist. If the “correct” way to do something isn’t the way you’d do it, but you got the answer wrong on the test anyway, try making your own test instead.

You don’t have to quit or take the salto mortale right away, but start building something and see where it goes. It takes a very long time to undo the damage done to our psyches throughout our lifetime. I’m only just beginning to learn that I can challenge authority when I don’t believe something is right. Just because someone says that’s the way it is, doesn’t mean that’s actually the case.

Do what feels good, do what feels right.


allow the time that it takes

There is this constant pressure in life to change how things are so that they’ll be how they can be. Looking back on the last decade of my life, I wouldn’t say I exactly had a plan, but I never went long without a side project or some adventure. I’m not sure if the drive to always have a side-hustle came from my discontent with how things are and a desire to build a different existence, or simply my broad diversity of interests.

Either way, I’ve never felt content just doing one thing. Mastery really was never a consideration for me, at least until recently–I have always been incredibly engaged until the moment the learning curve starts to taper. Once I have a foundational understanding of something, I’m pretty much ready to move on.

These days I find myself thinking more about how a two-pronged needle doesn’t pass through fabric. One hundred shallow wells will produce no water, yet a single deep one is much more likely.

Removing distractions and focusing on our goals is a beautiful thing and it allows us to make some serious progress towards the life we want. But that isn’t to say that it should be rushed–allow the time that it takes. Most things in life could be considered a practice, a daily one at that, one that we simply get better at slowly as time goes on. This is what most paths to mastery look like, slow, steady, intentional practice and honing of craft.

These things don’t have to be rushed, we don’t have to scramble to get to a place where we aren’t already. Perhaps much of contentment comes from appreciating and simply existing where we are while honing our practice for continual improvement. Finding that balance between pushing forward and sitting still.

Somewhere in there, lies the secret to happiness and contentment, that balance between personal growth and achievement, and seeking bliss within our current beings. So instead of rushing forward, perhaps we may allow the time that it takes and enjoy the journey along the way.




I’ve heard that having wisdom is being able to take your own advice. It must be why consultants often get paid so much money, it’s usually much easier to see problems from an outside perspective. Once you’ve been in a project, living with it, breathing it, it all becomes a big bowl of spaghetti.

You can’t tell where one noodle starts and another one ends.

After two years of implementing aspects of physical minimalism into my life, I’m struggling to implement it into my own creative endeavors.

Between YouTube comments, tweets, facebook notifications, emails, and the demands of producing video and written content, I’ve found myself completely overwhelmed. This is despite the fact that I’m so incredibly grateful for the comments and interactions I have through these mediums. Add that on top of managing the business side of things, writing a book, preparing a talk, and eghem.. a new puppy, and things really feel like they’re boiling over.

It’s very easy for me to get sucked into a continuous cycle of small, quick tasks that add up to a full day of work but don’t seem to actually make meaningful progress on much. The way my schedule currently is, I’ve realized that I could spend an entire day on something each day of the week and still come out ahead.

For example:

Monday: Respond to all YouTube comments and outline a new YouTube video and corresponding blog post.
Tuesday: Schedule all Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter posts for the week.
Wednesday: Write 2,000-3,000 words on the book.
Thursday: Film & Edit YouTube Video and create blog post for it.
Friday: Respond to all emails and clear inbox

Truly, the problem is that I worry about all of these things all at the same time. I can’t seem to segment them out in a meaningful way so that I can actually get single tasks done consistently. The world of online entrepreneurship is such a blob of possibility and opportunity.

The work will never be done and the prioritization of what aspects need to be done is what I’ve sort of always found difficult. I know that I can get this by using the same principles that have created space in my physical life, but it’s much easier said than done.

I’ll attempt to be wise and take my own advice here and see where it gets me.


Change What You Can

There are so many things in life that simply cannot be changed, why not focus on changing the things we can? It’s a simple question, but not necessarily a simple answer. Firstly, we’re not necessarily aware of the things that we can change.

Either because they have slipped into our lives or we simply don’t notice them. Our tolerance builds slowly as small distractions become prevalent in our lives eventually leading to what seems like a normal life.

Despite not noticing, it’s there. The constant smartphone notifications interrupting our day is something we adjust to–but what is it actually doing? We must consider how our brains are adapting to be able to handle these recurring disruptions.

As humans, we were built to notice things that move off in the distance. To catch the small environmental changes for our own survival–it might be a predator in those bushes.

The tech we use full takes advantage of this, in moving, beeping, buzzing, and popping to capture any amount of our attention that it can. And they’re all competing for that small slice of attention.

So, why not take control of the things that we can control? We can turn off our unnecessary notifications.

We can remove the excess from our homes and take back our spaces. We can actively work to do the small things that matter to us every day.

There are many things in life that we simply cannot control, many outcomes that we might not have liked. But we are empowered to change so much of what can influence those results.

Change what you can, and flow with the rest.