It's December 31st, 2016 and I'm sitting at the same Dunkin Donuts that I spent early mornings, writing both of my first two books, Photographing Men and Photographing Women. This year has been nothing short of a whirlwind and I'm blessed to say that it's been a great year of self reflection and self discovery. I learned what’s possible if you’re willing to actually work for it and you're not afraid to fail.
I, like many others, have always let excuses, time and a feeling of inadequacy hinder me from the possibility of “greatness.” As children, our naivety allows us to roam wild, learning, growing and adapting to the world around us. Somewhere around adolescence, we’re jaded by the words of others and the feelings of inadequacy amongst our peers. Naivety is then replaced with awareness – the awareness of the possibility of failure.
Imagine an infant who’s still yet to walk, unable to learn because they’re constantly told they’d never be capable. If they could understand those words, how would that affect their perception of the world? Would they walk? Would they run? Would they sit and stare at the world? That’s the world we live in. When you close your mind to the words of others, the negativity washes away.
Once you can truly isolate your mind from the world, all that is left is to heal the battered remains. You need to learn how to walk again. Be it with crutches or holding to walls, you need to learn how to stand up and walk again. Once you can escape the cruel world of others, then you’ll learn to achieve your own greatness.
Don’t worry about jogging, sprinting, or running a marathon just yet. Walk. Walk until you learn how to walk effortlessly. Truth be told, you’re going to fall. You’re going to get hurt. You’re going to cry… and every single time you do, you need to dust off your knees, clean your hands and keep moving forward. No one is going to feel your pain as much as you are. You need to endure that pain in order to move forward.
Here’s the thing about life… EVERYONE will fall differently. Some will get more hurt than others. Some will bleed more than others. Others will have help getting back up. But at the end of the day, your fall – your failure, is your own. You need to learn how to cope with that and make it back up with whatever means you have at your disposal if you want to walk again.
I don’t create large projects, classes or products without having some sort of need in the marketplace. I study the market to see if there’s in need in the marketplace for what I’d like to create. Create a pilot product to beta test my idea to a small niche group. From there, I’ll receive feedback and then replicate it on a larger scale. If there’s no response for what I’m trying to create, I head back to the drawing board and start again. It’s a really practical way to look at content creation.
So here's a personal example, my first book Photographing Men was originally a 90 minute segment on CreativeLive that I pitched to their production team on a whim after creating a quick portfolio of work about 2 months prior to the class. They liked the idea enough to give me a spot on the show for Photo Week. That class received enough feedback and response to warrant a 2-Day workshop that launched in late 2014.
For that class, I put together a styling guide and posing guide that I sold as a package to the class or as a one off purchase on my site. The class was a hit and several industry magazines were interested in the topic. At that point, I had written and taught enough information on the subject that I felt it was an appropriate time to pitch a book to publishers in the photography industry.
I headed over to Barnes and Noble, opened every single book about Photography technique that I could find and copied the publisher's information from those books. The next day, I started reaching out to every single one of those publishers and only two were interested. After going back and forth with both for about a month, I made a decision on which route I wanted to go and the rest is history. Photographing Men became a reality.
The premise is, I took baby steps. Even when people didn't respond to my emails when I was writing my first proposals, I didn't stop sending emails until someone responded to me. It's that tenacity that made Photographing Men a success.
Don't take the word No as a negative. Always look for an alternative, or head back to the drawing board and re-analyze your ideas to see if there can be any improvements.
The point is, the only thing stopping you from creating great things isn't anyone else... it's you.