“The greatest mistake you can make in life is to be continually fearing you will make one.” – Elbert Hubbard
What exactly motivates someone to leave everything behind in order to travel the world and document the journey in photos? Everyone has their own journey, but the critical point in my story happened on a January evening in the lobby of a San Antonio hotel.
As I sat waiting for a mentoring session about marketing and branding, I was thinking through all of the questions I needed to cover. I wanted to make sure that I covered all of the “important” information to help with my future.
Everything seemed to be going in the right direction. I had just finished one of my most successful years of photographing weddings. May had been the single biggest month of my career, and I was looking to take things to the next level.
But the truth was an entirely different reality. I was at a critical moment in my life and my career. I’m somewhat of a control freak when it comes to my photography work. Consequently, I was playing almost all the roles in what was quickly becoming a giant production. My little one man show had grown and the constant scrambling to do it all had pushed me to a breaking point.
The problem was that I still loved photographing weddings. I loved the process of shooting the wedding, and I especially loved the joy on my clients’ faces when they saw their images for the first time. But everything else that was involved in the process had become too much for me to handle on my own. I had tried bringing in help and outsourcing some of the work, but neither process had ever yielded the results I really needed.
As all of this was going on, I was accumulating a lot of nice stuff that helped me temporarily feel better. I would look around at the life I was building and the things I had and it would make me feel like I was achieving a level of real success. Whenever I got frustrated or burnt out, I would put my head down and just push through so I could go after more stuff and more success. I just needed to work harder, right?
And so there I sat, with my dreams stuffed firmly away in my back pocket, waiting to talk about how I could bring in more business. Thankfully, the meeting went a direction I never could have expected.
It all started with a discussion of what I really wanted to do and I confessed my dream of travelling the world to take photos. Over the next couple of hours, I was given a fresh perspective by some good friends and was confronted by two questions that will stay with me forever.
“What are you afraid of?”
I contemplated for what felt like an eternity before eking out an almost ashamed “I don’t want to fail at it.” Then came the outside viewpoint that I needed so desperately.
“Define failure in this situation. You go out and see the world as you take photos. If you don’t make a go of it, then you come back and you start doing what you’re doing now. While it’s possible, it’s not very likely that you end up homeless on the street with a crack needle hanging out of your arm.”
I nodded my head in agreement and felt my dreams begin to slowly override the prideful fear that had held me back. And then came the other question that changed it all.
“Is there anything that you own that is worth more than going after your dreams?”
I ran through a mental checklist of the stuff I owned before answering with a resounding “No.”
And suddenly I had the perspective I had lost. There were still hours of soul searching and number crunching to come, but the decision to pursue my dream was finally made.
Amazingly, the dream I had tucked away for a maybe someday was now a possibility. Over the next few months that possibility turned into an opportunity and finally into a reality.