Have you ever thought or said any of the following?
"I have no idea what I'm doing."
"There is no way I can do this."
"What am I doing with my life?"
"I'll never be as good as they are!"
"Look at how much they have accomplished and they are MY age! What am I doing wrong?!"
If so, welcome to the world of entrepreneurship. We are in a world where everyone wants to pave their own way and turn their passions into paychecks. The competition is high and the competition is fierce. It's nearly impossible to avoid being swept up in it all.
But trust me, you are not the exception here. Look up stories of successful people and learn about their path to success. Honestly, I've never heard of a single person who had a perfect road to get where they wanted to be.
However, there is a way you can have a smoother journey to success. And it's by following one simple rule: Capitalize on your strengths.
The Downward Spiral
In the world of photography, or any profession, there are thousands upon thousands of professionals in the field. And this means there are a plethora of different business plans and ideations. But let's not forget, no person is the same, and one thing that works for one may not work for another.
The problem I've had growing my business is comparing myself to other photographers, and not in a constructive way. I saw girls who were 22/23 years old (in comparison to my 26) making damn-near six figures and killing it. They were not very different from me from what I could see: They grew up in the Midwest, loved sharing personal photos of their pets and sipping different teas, were active on social media, were inspiring and creative, and had a passion for their art. But they were so much further ahead than I was. Why?
The constant thought of "why?" was the start to my demise. Don't get me wrong, it's important to reflect and always strive to become better. But we can also go about this in a very destructive way. "Why?" became a pity-party for me. It was always associated with something negative in the end result. It was no longer aiding business growth.
"Why?" led me to staying up until 2am looking at other photographers on social media in envy and disdain. It was toxic. I would utter to myself, "They get to do this full time and I still need to work 2 part-time jobs to even pay my bills? Seriously? This is bullsh*t!"
But what was I missing in all of this? I was forgetting my own strengths. Things that did make me great and things I should be extremely proud of.
Timelines and Success
Like I said before, no two people are the same. No person's path will be the exact same as yours. I'm going to sound like my true 80-year-old soul here when I say this, but society has royally effed us. We are made to think we need to adhere to timelines and that success is a absolute term. It's not. And there is no timeline.
So me trying to compare my path with these other photographers was a waste of my time and my talents.
Utilizing the Rule
In my opinion, shifting your mindset is one the hardest things to do. And I mean shifting your mindset for the longterm, not just for little moments where you need to be uplifted.
I have worked with hundreds of different people, I met so many different people while working in the marketing world, and one thing I noticed was that each business owner was different in their business approach. And while all deemed successful, they did so in their own right. Some I agreed with, and some I did not, but that's a whole different blog post.
So I looked at my own business ventures and started seeing common ground in what worked for me (noticed I didn't say "what did not work for me"). I talked to my clients, I looked back on old emails/text messages, and talked to vendors and other photographers I have worked with in the past. And here's what I found:
- I have a way of making people feel comfortable in not-so-comfortable situations.
- I have a strong sense of empathy.
- I like to involve others and love helping others succeed.
- I love pushing for a bright future.
- I am extremely passionate.
- I have an "eye".
- I inspire and motivate.
- I make things work.
Notice none of these things said, "I am a strong analytical thinker," or "I am extremely organized," or "I never worry," or "I know every piece of technology in the industry."
That's because those aren't strengths of mine. And that's okay. I have always been a right-brain. I get bored easily, I strive off other people's energy, I love meeting new people, I am idealistic, I am creative, I am passionate, I care about how I make others feel, I am emotional. My vendors know it, my business partners know it, talk to me too long about the technological breakdown of something and my eyes will glaze over. Say something that should be constructive and I take it way too much to heart. It's just who I am.
Does this make me a bad business owner? Does this make me a bad photographer? Some would say yes. But I disagree. I have met photographers who know everything straight from the text book. They know every piece of equipment and can talk tech all day long. But they lack people skills and are clueless when it comes to creating a comfortable and memorable experience with a client. And that's where I strive.
But at the end of the day, we could both produce beautiful imagery. Which in reality, truly is the end goal here. But we both got there in totally different. Who is wrong? That's for our clients to decide. But it's how we decide to run our business and it's us focusing on our strengths instead of beating ourselves up over the negatives.
Sure, do I have my days where I compare myself to other business owners, abso-fricken-lutely. And that probably won't change. But I've learned that focusing on my strengths is the best way to grow my business. And where I fall short, I find others that can make up for it. I love finding the ying to my yang in all aspects of my life.
All in all, I know other business owners have plans that will work faster than mine, and that's great for them. But as long as I feel good about how I run my business, that's all that matters. Because at the end of the day, passion and hard work will pay off. No matter who we are.
We need to learn to be patient with ourselves. We need to be kind with ourselves. And we need to learn to praise ourselves in all that we are.
We all have strengths: Learn them. Embrace them. Capitalize on them.