What I Learned After 30 Days of Self Reflection

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It's been awhile since I've submitted a blog post, almost a week actually. This turn of events wasn't a planned one, I for one never thought I'd be away from my blog for so long. I always feared that any distance from my readership would result in declined numbers, that people would check the blog, see a lack of updates and then never return.

That's a scary possibility. It all started with Comcast... If you have Comcast, or now xfinity, then I no longer need to finish my statement, but for those who don't, well... they fucking suck. I haven't had a consistent internet connection since December 30th. I've had 4 technicians check out the issue and it was just something that was deemed out of their control. Initially I didn't believe them, surely something went wrong, I just figured no one actually took the time to look and figure it out, but, perhaps my theory was incorrect, and it was an issue not fixable by man, because last night, randomly everything was back to normal.

It was a bittersweet feeling, as soon as I saw my green light flash on I was overwhelmed with a sense of joy, I instantly went to YouTube to catch up on Casey Neistat's and Gary Vee's content, but I also felt the pressure to blog... I had to blog right away. I had a few things lined up that I think the majority of my readers would have been interested in, but I'm going to postpone those for a later date. What I want to talk to you about today is how my life has been over the last month, without internet.

Life Without Internet

My internet 100% went on on the 30th, it sucked because it was right before the new year. I had this big plan, you know, new year, new me! I was going to be pushing out a shit ton of content, I was going to really dedicate every minute of the day to this blog and my new job (my new job sucks). I essentially planned to juggle with both hands... I was going to be the world's best juggler.

Related: You Have To Be Able To Juggle With Both Hands

Now don't get me wrong, some of that did happen, at times I used my resources and visited coffee shops or coworking spaces which allowed me internet access. There I would write out as many blog post as I'd could, I'd schedule them to post at different times of the week... that's how I was able to create the new content you saw as of last week. This routine got old, I hated walking in the cold, I hated 4am nights, keeping up a blog with these type of limitations just wasn't possible, Starbucks and coop spaces just weren't efficient solutions.

For the next few days I spent my mornings doing nothing, I was creatively frustrated. I spoke to my friends about all my ideas, but eventually they stopped caring about them, I went as far as talking about a TV show... I understood their decision haha. Occasionally I would read a book, but that didn't last long... I then tried audiobooks, I went with the service audible. Over the month I'd actually end up reading about 4... Over and over again. For those wondering I completed Walter Isaacson's biography, Steve Jobs, Gary Vaynerchuk's Crush It, Aziz Ansari's Modern Romance and Marc Ecko's Unlabel.

The Book That Changed My Life

Unknowingly the book that stood out to me was Unlabel, a book based on Marc Ecko's life, it's also a book that provides you the blueprint on how he built his brand and how he later learned how to do so without selling out. The title sounded a bit cheesy and I'll admit I didn't really know why selling out was such a bad idea, but after reading it I guess it all made sense. As a disclaimer I read this book on my own, it's old and I wasn't like paid or asked to promote it, I don't even like Marc Ecko, but his story related to mine and for that reason it really spoke to me.

The book really helped me define somethings. Marc's biggest problem was that he had this brand that was liked, but it wasn't necessarily respected by the masses. It was popular, but his end goal was to always be one of the big brands, to be in Macy's and have longevity. That really made me think about my brand, I knew I was into photography and blogging, but I never really set an end goal for myself. I think it's supercool to micro plan or have smalls goals, but those should be in place to eventually reach the ultimate goal. He also noted that after years of doing the samething he himself had to become a brand, because in order to appeal to the masses you needed more than a logo, but a figure behind it.

My first thought was that this statement he made was bullshit. But when I tried to think of the biggest brands I realized he was right, they all had public figures behind them. Apple had Jobs, Nike has LeBron (or Jordan), Adidas has Kanye and even Mcdonalds has Ronald. I thought about my brand, what it stood for, who I was and who I wanted people to think of me as... I later figured out those last two things had to be the samething.

dogs never bite me... just humans marilyn monroe

A photo posted by Keenan Hastings (@keenanrivals) on

During the middle of January I posted a picture of a woman and her dog. It was a picture I took a little while ago, at the time I hated it, didn't have a lot of character, but as I studied and research photography I realized I had something. Men are normally associated with dogs, so for a women to be walking a "man's best friend" I felt like that alone was an interesting way to look at it. The photo itself also provided some heavy shadows, which in light looked terrible, but when converted to black & white it was actually pleasing. For those of you who know me you know I'm big on quotes setting the storyline for your photography, so to top it off I used a quote from Marilyn Monroe, "dogs never bite me, just humans". In my opinion it was a masterpiece. 

Okay maybe not a masterpiece, but I was happy with the outcome. I told one of my followers that this particular image was one of my favorites, he responded by saying all of my images were his favorite, he goes for the shooter, no so much the individual shots.

Again this circled back to my personal brand, this individual likes me, not necessarily my pictures. I mean don't get me wrong, I'm sure he enjoys my work, but he found an interest in me the creave, not just my creations.

When you think about it we all are kind of like this, yeah it's the quality of work that captures us initially, but it later becomes about the person or the company. I found this true with Apple, it's the reason I purchase an iPhone every year, same with music... I'm dying to hear Kanye's new album, and I'm probably going to listen to it everyday simply because I like and support Kanye. We do this with the opposite sex, see a beutiful women, your enticed, but that exterior beauty only last for so long.

So now that this book made me aware of my lack of personal brand, as well as my lack of long term vision I was on a mission to find those things out. Where do I want to be in 10 years with this website, my photography and RIVALS? And more importantly who am I and what do I want to be remembered for?


I took these questions to a few platforms, I tend to think I'm very professional on Instagram, if you follow me on Instagram or read the blog you probably think I'm a level headed person... Maybe. Twitter is a different story. I'm an emotional 25 year old who doesn't have it all figured out, and I'm extremely expressive about what I like and dislike in today's world. I posted a mini rant on Twitter (it's still there, I don't delete) and like often I didn't get many responses, that was saddening, but it was still calming to get a few things off my chest.

I then decided to repeat the same rant, except on a different platform. I was going to do a Periscope, but I was walking home, so I chose to do Snapchat. I'm not a big video person, I hate being seen, but Snapchat made it so easy that I really didn't judge myself after ranting and posting the video. I said a few things about photography, the creative process, the importance of social media and my city. The response was like no other. In the matter of minutes I was receiving all kind of messages and video messages from peers of mine. People who have never been to my website, old friends from school. It was crazy.

These people once saw me as the funny guy, or the quiet guy, depending on what era they met me in. But after a few consistent days of snaps they saw me as something different. The informative guy or the creative guy... It was truly a way to rebrand myself. Through this app I was able to reach a market that I never would have been able to on Twitter or Instagram.

I kept doing this, to be honest, I liked the attention, but I also got to know a little bit more about myself when I talked. My rants were hardly about photography, as of late photography has become more of a hobby for me, less of a business. I enjoy it as much as I use too, but I when I shoot I like to shoot for me, I don't think I enjoy the creative process as much when it's for other people.

I also learned that I like marketing more than anything, I for whatever reason want people to understand the importance of social, brand awareness and that even if you don't have a website or fancy camera that you too are a brand.

I felt like this helped me answer at least one of my questions... Vaguely, but a starting point. I had a general idea of what I wanted to do with my life, my only issue was monetizing it. I want to teach, rather it be photography, the creative process, the art of vulnerability, or why social is important. I want to present at TED Talks, StartUpGrind, schools and maybe even host my own workshops.

Believe it or not I feel like Snapchat is going to help me do that. I missed the wave on Twitter and Instagram, I had each platform early on, but never used them... I'm not going to do that with Snapchat. I'm going to push it's importance and pretty much vlog my life, some days it'll be inspirational, others it'll be my day in the life, either way, people will care.

By the way, if you're not following me on Snapchat then do so now @KeenanRIVALS. Thanks!

Who Am I & Who Do I Want People To Think I Am

We touched on this earlier, remember i noted that these two things needed to be the same? I still believe that. It's important that your personal brand is consistent amongst all people. In Marc Ecko's book Unlabel, he says that your personal brand is what people think when you leave the room. What are they saying about you? If it's not in line with what you say about yourself then you've failed.

As of now I'm not sure what people say, to be quite honest I don't make much of an impression when I'm in the general public... I go to events and workshops and what not all the time, and I'm usually the guy in the front who remains quiet during the entire show. I don't want to be that guy anymore. I want to be outspoken, I want to challenge people's theories if I don't believe in them, I want to give unsolicited advice and I want people to listen to me.

I want it to be the same on social media, I want to be known for being real. For not sugarcoating anything and also for providing an open and honest information to new photographers. I want to let people know they don't have to be great to be great and I want to provide the most common cliche to people when I speak... You can be anything you want to be. If I could pick one person's career and say I want to be that guy, it would probably be Gary Vaynerchuk... Except I would have more of a creative mindset, he's more profit based.

How do I make people think this about me? Well again, I have to think it, it has to be who I am. I haven't figured out what steps to implement yet to achieve this goal, but it's a working process... Hopefully having my internet back doesn't slow me down. :)