Whose game are you playing?

As I prepared to write my last Fuel Your Photography article for a while, an idea came as I was playing with my son. My journey these past few months has been very rewarding, and i think this is quite a good summary of where i've come so far. We get so caught up with trying to beat out or catch up... it's good to step back and gain perspective. Feel free to check it out over at FYP. I hope you enjoy, :) amber

Whose game are you playing?
“Haha… You lose!” my 4 year-old son taunted. He had seen the characters of his favorite TV show playing games of ping pong, and created his own version using my wooden spoon and a play golf ball.
The funny thing is, he has no clue how to play ping pong.
No matter if I missed it or hit it, if I knocked it between his feet, under the couch and to the opposite wall… his response was still: “You lose.”
When it comes to photography, how many of us are in that situation—we get the message “you lose” from all around us.  We aren’t booking enough, we don’t have enough Facebook fans, we’re not attaining a high enough sales average, we’re charging too much, we’re charging too little.
We even hear those words from within our own head.  Maybe we didn’t nail that one shot the client wanted, maybe we’re not confident enough, or believe our pricing is right, or don’t have the gear/props/equipment we think we need.  The most poisonous accusations of all are the ones that can come from within.
The question is: Whose game are you trying to play? Are we letting the ever-changing tide of others’ opinions dictate our happiness or productivity? Are you constantly swinging at who-knows-what, and only coming up feeling empty and discouraged?  The taunts of my 4 year old may not seem intimidating, but the voices (or the silence) of others can leave us paralyzed, and our creativity extinguished.
So what can I do? First of all, decide that it’s okay.  It’s okay not to keep up a frantic race to nowhere.  It’s okay to be on a slower path to “success” than some shooting star.  You can find fulfillment and satisfaction now—you don’t have to wait for some magic ticket.
Next—start changing some habits.  Here’s a brief list to get you started.
  • Watch yourself. Pay attention to how you feel on different blogs/sites—if it helps you want to be a better person, and happy to be a photographer, it’s good.  Nourish your creative self there.  If you feel jealous/comparing, envious/belittling/critical… leave it alone (for now).
  • Take a week off of social media. You’ll be amazed at how much you can get accomplished when you’re not obsessively checking and wasting time.  Maybe there’s cool things to find out, but are they really that important?  You can even try checking your email just ONCE a day.  Novel idea, I know.
  • No looking at other photogs prices. I know you do it.  You first see what they charge, and see how often they’re shooting.  You think, I should be able to charge that amount, or they’re not that good to be charging that much.  Or you go restructure your pricing. For the next week, don’t do it.
  • Go DO something. Fill your time/schedule/mind with volume of creating good things, and opportunity will come.  You will be amazed at how everything begins to fall into place once you’re prepared and happy for it.
  • Learn something new. There’s something exciting about struggling a new hobby/activity and having those experiences of breakthrough that are so exciting.  You will remember when you felt that way about photography.
  • Have real conversations with real people. Don’t just talk about photography, but about their lives and hopes and dreams.  You will be amazed how refreshed you can be and perspective you can regain when you can remember the world holds a lot more in it besides f-stops and 8×10s.
  • Do something nice for no reason. Tie a candy bar to a friend’s doorknob with a post-it.  A giving heart sees people in a different way, and people will begin to recognize it.  They won’t know exactly why, but they will want to be around you.  And that’s when your clients become friends—a natural outgrowth of you just happy being you.
  • Self-Check. Periodically ask yourself: Why are you doing this?  Are you in it for money?  For artistic outlet?  To meet people?  To write a book?  Your motives will most likely change over the years.  When you’re honest with yourself and your intentions, you’ll find everything is clearer to find your current definition of success.
Be kind to yourself.  As you change the very way you think, you’ll be happier and more satisfied with your life NOW.  The voices you let into your head from what you read/see/hear/think has an effect on you every minute.  Habits are hard to change. It’s not an overnight process either.  It takes time to attune yourself with your positive voice inside you.  Choose one item from the above list, and I promise you you’ll be on the road to feeling happier.
I chuckled as I realized the ultimate irony of the game I was playing with my son.  While he was running frantically around, swayed by every which way the ball went, I was the winner.
He was the one running to the far side of the room.  He was making random shots that hit the side walls, never reaching me.  He would be the one to retrieve the ball when it landed dead between us.  Not only did I enjoy every hit I managed to make—and some were truly awesome—but the swings I didn’t make contact with the ball didn’t matter. I just enjoyed where I was and was ready when the next opportunity came.
And when it did, I hit it across the room.
Choose the rules of YOUR game, and then go play it.  Just as Steve Jobs redefined an industry by setting his own rules, you can find your own game to play.  As he said“Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life.” Decide what your definition of success is, and hopefully it will bring you genuine happiness.  Choose your steady course towards that, and let go of the voices which steer you away.  You will replace those voices with ones cheering you on, inspiring you.  As you begin to clear the noise and choose your game, everything will feel clearer, and you’ll feel the strength of others excited for you.
You choose the voices you listen to—you determine your destiny. Play YOUR game.