Well Project 52 is on track so far and in fact this post is even a day early!
I travel quite extensively with my business and, if things go the way I’m planning, that element of my business will grow into more and more adventurous travels in the pursuit of more unique photo opportunities. If you’ve followed me for any length of time on social media you’ll see that I post photos from most of the places I travel through as well. Social media, combined with my public speaking engagements, puts me in front of quite a few up and coming and/or hobbyist photographers, many who have questions about what I do and are under the misguided impression that I’m “living the dream”.
The most frequent question I get is some variation of “how can I do what you do?” or “how do I get from where I’m at, to where you are”. Many of the people asking these questions genuinely want to know what they have to do, they have dreams and aspirations of one day “going pro” and getting paid to travel and take photos. This post is going to explain some of what I’ve done to get where I am and also ask a very important question, maybe one of the most important questions you’ll ask yourself. Where in your life are you willing to suffer or endure pain?
Through our early life we are often asked “what do you want to be when you grow up” and as we get older that changes into “what do you want out of life”. I think most of us have at least some idea of what we want out of life. We want to be happy and fulfilled. For many of us that means having a secure, well paying job, a great family and friends we can hang out with on the weekends. A smaller percentage of people have more specific ideas of what they want. Very few of us have an actual plan to make that happen or a desire to put in the work required to achieve the results we dream about.
Through out my career and travels I’ve been fortunate enough to have opportunities to connect with and speak with some very successful people. People that have “made it” in business, sports, media or other areas of life. The common theme in asking them questions was one of sacrifice, priorities and motivation. Not a single one of them was just handed what they have on a silver platter, sure some of them were afforded some more opportunities than most, but they still had to work to get to where they are.
I recently photographed and had lunch with a young guy who is making his way as an actor, he has had some success with decent roles on TV and a few movies. From what I know of him and from listening to him, he definitely had a little bit of a head start in life. His family situation is one where he has a little more access than many others to the media and other contacts, but he has still had to work his butt off to actually make anything happen and continues to work and strive to achieve what he wants to achieve. Watching him interact with “the public” was a great learning experience for me and left a deep impression, this is a guy who will go places.
Most weeks I will hear the “joke” from more than one person where they offer to “carry my bags” for some adventure or trip. Most people who make that joke are happy that I get to travel and are expressing their desire to visit that location. What some of them are really saying though is that they want a free trip, a smaller group are wanting to do what I do for a living and to be at the stage I am at in my business right now. Essentially they want the result without the work, sacrifice and effort it took to get here. Some people refer to this as talent. They think the difference between them and someone more successful is talent. This is rarely true. I have said it for years, hard work beats talent eventually every single time.
There is a term going around social media at the moment called “FOMO” or Fear Of Missing Out. It describes an envy of what others are showing they are doing on social media and the fear that if we don’t drop everything right now and do what they are doing, we’ll miss out forever. What most people seem to forget (myself included) is that social media is entirely a highlights reel. It is the movie trailer of life. Highly curated, edited and processed. What is doesn’t show is the obstacles, the challenges and sacrifices that were made to get to that point.
I heard a quote that describes being an entrepreneur as “living a few years like most people won’t, so that you can spend the rest of your life like most people can’t”, I think this quote is incredibly accurate, but also misses a huge truth. There are no guarantees. The core of this quote is about enduring circumstances and making sacrifices many people aren’t willing to make in the hopes that you’ll one day “make it”. Gary Vaynerchuk would called this “Hustle”. This sacrifice I refer to as “pain”. Not necessarily physical pain, although it can mean that too, but more of a discomfort or something less than comfortable.
Success is found in the areas we invite pain into our lives, where we are willing to make sacrifices. If you look at it in terms of becoming a body builder or a professional athlete of any kind, they all make choices in order to pursue their goals. They choose to go to bed early so they can wake up early and train, they choose to follow an incredibly strict diet and they sacrifice much of their social life.
Where I have endured “pain” and invited it in to my life is in the area of my business. I’ve been in business for over 7 years now, in that time I’ve not had true financial security, I’ve slept about half of what is healthy, barely taken a weekend off, let alone a holiday. I’ve had a grand total of 5 days off while I was sick in that time too. I’ve chosen to take the path I’ve taken so that I can do what I do. I also regularly invite “pain” into my photography process, this might mean going barefoot amongst icebergs in Iceland (not recommended), hiking through blizzards, waking up at 3am so I can get to the right place for that sunrise photo or missing a family dinner or get together so I can complete a project and provide for my family.
A friend of mine that I admire recently completed his MBA and is getting his legal degree as he wants to change the course of his career and set himself up for a longer term career. To do this he sacrificed many things, he is a keen photographer and he had to give up most of his photography trips in order to achieve his goals. He did this while maintaining an, at times, stressful job plus being a great dad to his kids and being a family man. I know that there are probably more areas that he has sacrificed too, but he has achieved his result.
It is human nature for us to wish for what others have achieved. We all want the result without the work, this is why people buy lotto tickets, it is a fantasy that you can be handed the result without ever having to put in the work. It is the same as any other success or endeavour. Any dream without planning and purposeful action is a fantasy that will never come true. As my business coach puts it “ideas are great, but execution is everything”. 2017 is about challenging myself in multiple areas and inviting some pain into different aspects of my life.
So I challenge you, where are you inviting pain into your life? Where are you willing to suffer? What results are you wanting and how are you going to get there?
“An ounce of action is worth a ton of theory”
— Ralph Waldo Emerson
“Every worthwhile accomplishment, big or little, has its stages of drudgery and triumph: a beginning, a struggle and a victory.”
— Mahatma Gandhi