For my last blog post of the year here are some small lessons I learned in 2011 that I hope help you in 2012.
A to-do list is a tool, not an accomplishment
You might clear those tasks out, but that list will fill right back up again. Don’t become addicted to efficiency, leave some room in your life for the random and to let your passions direct you.
If they can’t see you, you don’t exist
You need to get out there and start making calls, doing lunch, and getting your work seen. You can wait forever for your website or portfolio to be perfect, but there are people who want to hire you right now who can’t find you. A portfolio is a living thing, it needs to grow with you and be honed by feedback and experimentation – Perfection is a journey, not a destination.
This is a social business
Your work may get you in the door these days, but your personality is just as important in how you are perceived. Don’t exist outside your brand; make yourself a part of it. When you do you will take more responsibility and pride in your work.
Be wary of who you get feedback from
Listen to your clients’ needs and thoughts, and be selective about your mentors. Taking homogenous online and group critiques too seriously results in being a better them, not a better you. Your goal is to be the anomaly, not the average.
ACT! – No one else will do it for you
You can spend all the time in the world talking about your great idea or planning your dream project, but unless you take action and make it happen it’s all just theory. Or as Joey Shithead puts it…. TALK-ACTION = ZERO
If you are truly passionate about photography as a business then don’t treat it like a mindless job – Genuinely care about your work, your business practices, your clients, your community, your subjects, your stories, and your team. It will pay you back in the long run.
Have the courage to fail
If you are not making mistakes you are not trying hard enough.
Never Stop Learning
Never be too prideful to learn something new – consume knowledge and media like it’s the air you breathe. I have seen veterans of this industry learn new skills from first-year students because they were open and excited about growing. Make study, experimentation, and shared mentorship a part of your regular routine to better understand how the world around you works. You never know where your next inspirational goldmine may come from.
The path that worked for others may not be the one that works for you.
If success in any creative industry were as easy as following a roadmap laid out by bloggers, educators, and experts, then everyone would be living their passion. Never be afraid to deviate from the prescribed path if you feel that it is the right choice for you. Take responsibility for your choices and never be afraid of making some noise.
Don’t let fear and apprehension stop you from doing something you really want to do. Start saying yes more, especially to your own ideas, even if you think they are crazy – those will be very often be your best ideas. Saying yes is the first step to really making things happen.
Conversely, don’t let a misplaced sense or duty, obligation, or desperation prevent you from saying no. Stick to your own path and learn to walk away from a bad deal.
Stop hanging around people who have given up
I see it all the time on blogs, on forums, at industry events, and any other place that photographers and creatives might gather en masse – an overwhelming sense of negativity that pervades this industry like a virus. What the finger of accusation is pointing at seems to change weekly, and complaints about clients, rates, technology, MWACs, pro-sumers, students, the internet, micro-stock, and the economy all start to sound the same after a while – a jumble of depressing but comforting noise that can suck you in and have you spouting the same rhetoric back at others. But, if you listen to that noise long enough, one crystal clear idea starts to creep through – that this is ultimately about blame. The underlying mantra behind so many of these complaints can often be reduced and simplified to one statement; “This is not my fault, this is caused by something beyond my control, so I do not have to act to fix it.” This kind of thinking may bring some small amount of cathartic relief, especially when joining in with the masses collectively laying blame on something else, but it will do absolutely nothing to remedy the situation.
I am so over it, and I don’t want to be part of that culture of excuses.
That is why I am so grateful to have made a conscious decision over the last year to surround myself with people so against this type of hive negativity that the idea of giving up and giving in is completely alien to them – either because of their unrelenting positivity, or their indefatigable passion pushing them to take actions that they believe in to find answers to their problems.
I have seen a thirty-plus year veteran of this industry have one of his most successful years ever by adopting new technology and marketing strategies in a time when many of his contemporaries languish in dwindling careers lamenting “the good old days”.
I have been amazed by the positivity of a friend as I watched her struggle and grow as she worked through her first year in business when so many people were telling her to give up – now she is profitable, growing, and excited for the future.
I am constantly inspired by the unrelenting creativity and passion of my studio partner, Scott Gable. And I have seen so many people start to leave their negative attitudes behind on a professional forum I moderate thanks to the support of a group of unbelievably determined people.
These are the people I surround myself with because they want to be better, and that pushes me to want to be better myself. If you take anything away from this blog post, this is the one lesson I hope you take to heart.