Would it surprise you that what we think is more powerful than reality? That mere thoughts can be as powerfully uplifting or critically damaging as what we actually do?
“I don’t think I am ready to get out there and show my book” he said to me.
It didn’t matter that he was indeed ready to get out there. He did have a good book to show. Hell, it wasn’t perfect, but it didn’t have to be. It had to be as good as it could be for the place he was in his life.
And it was.
But he had convinced himself that it had to be as good as some of the photographers on his list… the ones that are shooting every week. The ones that were ‘ready’ ten years ago. Or twenty. Or five.
He wanted to ‘catch up’ to them before going out with his wonderful work. Catch up is not possible, as there is no race involved. No comparison between his work and any number of others was valuable in any way.
Except to convince himself that he wasn’t ‘ready’. And not being ready means we have nothing to fear. We can never lose if we never try. We can never face the pressure to succeed if we choose not to bother succeeding.
Choosing not to be involved can be rationalized a lot of other ways as well. We have heard them all, haven’t we?
“Terrible time to start a business…”
“Photography is dead.”
“Everyone is shooting for free, so there is no hope for me.”
I am so tired of reading about the death of photography I could bang my head against the wall. While I guess the theme serves a purpose for link-bait posts on PetaPixel and DSLRLounge and other online publications, the reality is that photography is growing in leaps and bounds.
Unfortunately it is not growing as fast as the excuses, reasons, fabricated mythologies and link-bait articles about impossible success is are.
You know there is an entire industry out there devoted to keeping my friend from thinking he IS ready? No, they don’t have an association or annual meetings, but the reality is that they coordinate in insidious ways. And we can see those in action if we look closely.
From “pop-culture” to the news organizations to the specialized media that we tune into because we THINK they have our back.
And they may have our back on occasion, but there is no guarantee that they will be there when we are in need. They are not in business to help us succeed, they are in business to sell advertising and advertising likes big reach and nothing gets big reach like whining about failing.
The ones who have succeeded are turned into pop-stars. Bigger than life celbrities that are really succeeding because – well, they’re special. Special people make it. Special people get to be celebrities and have groupies and you…
… You are not special.
NOTE: Have you ever seen a sitcom or movie or play where the actors have to play the part of a ‘regular’ person who has to appear in some sort of ‘acting role’? The part calls for the ‘regular person’ to appear on TV or in a play… and the actor portrays them as fumbling, moronic, stupid and absolutely incapable of that ‘small part’ they are asked to play. Do you think that is by accident? Or could it be that they want you to think that acting is such a demanding, incredible, nearly impossible art that regular people are simply incapable of even attempting the smallest of parts.
Because ‘regular people’ are not special.
You are as special as anyone, as capable as anyone – all you may lack is the PR department.
But this fear of being thought of as not ‘special enough’ can keep us cozy in the knowledge that we probably wouldn’t have been good enough anyway, so trying to would just have proven it and why prove it if it is just the way it is… – even better in the voice of Eyore.
We choose not to play in the arena. We choose not to engage. We choose not to flex our creativity but instead to hide it, bury it, and ignore it. For fear of being found not special enough to have it.
Brene Brown told Chase Jarvis something in his interview with her that stuck with me like glue. “Unused creativity becomes toxic.”
Think about that… unused creativity becomes toxic.
Hiding behind that wall of uncertainty, failing to enter the arena of challenges, and staying cozy in the warm blankets of ‘status quo’ can actually be dangerous and poison the mind.
“Hold on there, Don… what if we truly are NOT ready…?”
Oh that can certainly be the case. Beginners are not ready. The ones that open their ‘studio’ after shooting for 11 months on auto and have no idea at all about how the world of photography works are not ready. (They will be featured on one of the online forums of an example of why you shouldn’t think YOU are special and try it because they did and they failed and if they can fail you most assuredly will too. Because Craigslist!
Getting ready to enter the arena means knowing what you can do, and how to do it. It means being open to learning – and learning quickly. It means giving up things that may not be of value to you as you engage. It means understanding what I mean by that.
We are all as ready or as unready as we prepare ourselves to be and tell ourselves we are.
And let’s be really honest. We KNOW when we are ready. It is not rocket science. It is not mystical… and it is not something that only ‘special’ people know. The folks I am talking to here are the ones that know all they need to know, and find excuses to somehow ‘need’ more… the never ending, all encompassing “I’m not ready…”
Is my friend ready from a photographic standpoint? Yes. Is he ready from a business perspective? Yes. Is he capable… of course.
But what is stopping him is not those areas, it is the fear of being found wanting. The fear of failing publicly. The fear of being branded… a loser.
I just read something interesting. In Silicon Valley there is a group of venture capitalists looking to invest in the next big thing. Criteria to get in front of them… you must have failed TWICE at a business and lost more than a million dollars in each. They wanted someone who had risked it all, lost it all, RISKED IT AGAIN and LOST IT AGAIN… they wanted a fighter, a scrapper, a dreamer with some hard won STEEL in their gut. Someone they would feel confident was ready to enter the ring with the scars and broken bones of failure.
We may not be that guy, but we can enter the same arena. Rocky didn’t win. They went a bridge too far. The Ronin saved the reputation of their master.
Let’s gear up. The arena of life calls.
(Watch this video of Chase Jarvis and Brene Brown having a discussion about vulnerability, critics and putting yourself in the ring… consider it homework for the soul.)