Although it would seem like common sense, proper motivation is key toward not only getting things done, but getting things done well. This is true in any creative field and this is especially true, it seems, in the over-saturated everybody-with-a-camera-is-a-photographer world we live in.
If I’ve learned anything over the last several years, it’s that our levels of motivation can be affected - both positively and negatively - by just about anything anyone says regardless of how small and/or how seemingly insignificant a comment may be, regardless of how tough an exterior we try to build up. That being the case, it’s important to remember that regardless of what our end goal might be in all this (hobbyist, weekend warrior, working pro), it’s important to remember that unless you surround yourself with positive, hard-working and like-minded peers, there is a good chance that you’re going to continually face an upward struggle when trying to reach your goals.
About a year ago, I stopped in to visit a high school guidance counselor friend of mine. As we stood there talking about the details of our upcoming weekends, I overheard the counselor in the next cubical talking to someone, a student presumably, about their future plans after graduation. The squeak of a chair and the heavy ‘thud-thud’ of patent leather on metal gave me all the imagery I needed; the counselor had his feet up on the desk (and, I imagined, his arms most likely crossed behind his head). I listened as intently as I could, suddenly reminded to a time when my school counselors tried to dissuade me from all the fun things in life as well.
A few moments later, my friend excused himself leaving me alone in the office. As much as I tried not to eavesdrop on the conversation in the next cube, the counselor’s voice was loud enough that I (nor anyone else in the general vicinity) couldn’t help but to listen.
The student briefly explained to the counselor what she wanted to do, where she wanted to go, and all the things she wanted to experience in life. There were, to be honest, some pretty admirable, if not lofty, goals. The office got quiet for a moment, then the counselor’s voice carried over the cube wall. In a few moments he had systematically deconstructed each and every goal that the student had, and instead, tried to put her on the fast path toward mediocrity. “I know you think that’s what you want to do,” He said, “ but truthfully, when it comes to stuff like that, most people never make it.”
In an instant I was brought back to my own experience with counselors, friends, and adults, all of whom seemed to take a certain weird joy in telling young creatives to give up on their dream. And, to be honest, after a while it wasn’t much of a shock hearing an adult pick apart and crushing dreams, I mean, that’s what adults do, right?
At that moment, my friend returned to his office, we left for lunch, and I didn’t get hear the rest of the conversation. As we ate lunch, I couldn’t help but imagine the student sitting there, mouth agape, wondering why someone would suck all the fun out of life before it really began.
As I was driving home from an Fstoppers-related trip to San Francisco to review the new Sigma 50mm f/1.4 Art lens a few weeks ago, the memory of the counselor and his de-motivational speech came back to me. While I don’t, in any way, consider myself as having “made it” I do feel as though I am at least on the right path (fingers crossed). As the night wore on, the thoughts of how far I’ve come mixed with the thoughts of how far I’ve yet to go. With the easy part being over, the next part of the road ahead toward “making it” in a professional sense looks to be even more difficult and almost completely uphill. Where I could once rely on help and advice from friends and peers, the rest, actually making that leap from one stage to another is now completely up to me. The decision of making it or giving up is in my hands, so to speak. Suddenly, in a wave of panic, I had the thought that giving up on this crazy creative photography dream would be so easy.
So that night, somewhere between San Francisco and San Diego, a realization came over me; that counselor was completely right; most people don’t ever make it. For a multitude of reasons, the rule seems to be that we do what we want until life kicks in and then…and then what? And then we stop doing what we want and instead do what we have to. In short, most of us don’t ever make it.
I won’t argue with anyone’s reasons for giving up on their dream and I’m certainly not here to judge. But, as I was driving, I tried to come up with a list of reasons why we’re so easily convinced to give up one dream and settle something just because it’s more easily-accessible? Or more socially acceptable?
What started as a short list quickly blossomed into a multi-page essay on giving up, giving in, and striving for what we want. Rather than that, I’ve included just the list.
We Lack Self-Confidence.
We Listen to Our Detractors.
We Settle for Less.
We Accept the Status Quo as the Norm.
We Allow Boredom to Set in.
We Don’t Realize That Some Boredom Comes With the Territory.
We’re Afraid of Commitment / Hard Work.
We’re Afraid of What Others Thinks.
We’re More Afraid of Success Than of Failure.
We Buy Into The “Traditional Route”
Our Personal Definition of Success is Based on Someone Else’s Definition.
We Refuse to Believe That yes, it can happen to us.
We Have a Built-in Fear of Sharing / Contributing.
We Grow Up.
I should say here that by no means do I think this list is all-inclusive. In fact, I’m sure I am missing some rather huge reasons for why "most people never make it," and I'm sure that I continue on, this list will grow and change and evolve from it's current work. So for right now, for better or worse, it’s the list I'm going with. It's also list I keep in mind to help me overcome the daily battle against the notion that giving up and settling for less is far easier and much more attractive than putting in the amount of work it takes to "make it."
If you’ve got a spare couple of moments, I would love to read some personal experiences of how you attempt - or have attempted - to push yourself through to the next level, especially against such seemingly impossible odds.
Thanks for reading,