Embracing the Journey

As an artist, I believe that it’s essential to revisit your old creations and compare them with your current ones. In this world, we have a lot of talented people who may not always see the value in their work. They might even think that their creations are terrible, worthless, or not good enough. Despite this, they keep trying, keep practicing, and keep sharing their work. This kind of perseverance is bravery in action.

I recall a few years ago when I received an invitation to visit a local video game bar in Orlando, FL. They were hosting a Star Wars Day celebration and had encouraged everyone to attend dressed up in their best Star Wars costumes. As a photographer, I arrived there eager to capture some amazing photos of the attendees carrying light sabers.

Once I got back home, I edited the photos using the skills I had acquired up until that point. The outcome of my effort was not terrible, but it was clear that there were a lot of mistakes and things that I could have done better. However, I choose to look at those photos as a stepping stone to where I am today, and not as a source of self-criticism.

Admittedly, many people scrutinize their past work every day and berate themselves for not doing better. But, for me, it’s important to acknowledge that my past work was a vital part of my learning journey that brought me to where I am today. I am proud of the fact that I took those photos and used all the skills that I had at the time. And, more importantly, I was willing to keep learning and acquiring new skills as time went on to continue improving.

If I hadn’t continued to learn, I would not have been able to take and edit the stunning photos that I took of my wife this year on Star Wars Day. These pictures are a testament to the progress that I have made as a photographer and artist. And, for that, I choose to celebrate my past work instead of belittling it.

42 Bits of Wisdom: Lessons I’ve Learned on My 42nd Birthday

I am celebrating my 42nd birthday today, and like many others I know, I don’t feel my age. Despite feeling much younger, the fact remains that I have lived on this planet for 42 years and have seen and experienced a lot. Although I don’t consider myself an expert in life, I have picked up some truths during my time here. So, on this special day, I’d like to share with you a few bits of knowledge that I have acquired throughout my life.

Holding a grudge is a foolish practice. I grew up in a family that was notorious for holding grudges as a means of punishment, but I eventually learned that holding a grudge is like holding a hot coal in the palm of your hand and expecting to burn someone else.

Politics, religion, and family are subjects that make people blind, and no matter how compelling your argument may be, you will never win a fight about them. It is better to let it go, move on, and allow others to live in their own beliefs.

The family you choose is more important than the family you were born into. Additionally, you should never make fun of someone if they haven’t seen/heard/watched something. Furthermore, you shouldn’t feel guilty about things that bring you joy, even if they may be perceived as “geeky” or “uncool” by others. If your friends make fun of you for something you enjoy, they are not your real friends.

You should not trust tradition or the status quo blindly. It’s often not the right path to follow. Instead, choose your own path, even if it’s unconventional.

It’s crucial to go to therapy.

Honesty is always the best policy. Too many lies are told out of fear, and if you can’t trust the people around you with the truth, then they shouldn’t be in your life.

Most people should not get married before the age of 30. Furthermore, you don’t need a fancy wedding day to signify your love for someone; it’s the relationship that matters, not the wedding.

Taking lots of pictures and videos is essential to preserve memories. Similarly, telling the people in your life that you love them often is crucial.

Many of the “great” things in this world are overrated. Instead, define your own “great.”

Writing letters and thank you notes to people can make their day.

Imposter syndrome, anxiety, and depression can’t speak the truth; they only speak fear.

It’s okay to have a messy house; who cares if someone sees it or judges you for it? If someone judges you for having a messy house, they don’t need to be in your life.

Don’t live your life for other people. Instead, buy what brings you joy, dress in a way that makes you feel confident and comfortable, and live your life for you.

Nobody cares about the things you’re bragging about; they may even resent you for it. It’s better to keep your wins and losses private because you don’t know how others will react.

Never stop learning.

It’s essential to learn to be comfortable with being bad at something new. Many of us were raised with the idea that we must be good at everything we do, but it’s okay to be bad at something when we’re learning.

Make sleep a priority. It’s important for your physical and mental health.

Staying hydrated is crucial. Drinking enough water can do wonders for your body.

Always return your shopping cart. There’s simply no excuse for leaving it in the parking lot. It’s a small act of kindness that can make a big difference.

Don’t fall for the allure of fame. It’s often an illusion and doesn’t bring true happiness.

Give yourself credit for what you’ve accomplished in life. Celebrate the victories and challenges you’ve overcome.

Music is a gift that can inspire and heal. Take time to appreciate its beauty and power.

Mental health issues like ADHD, depression, and anxiety are real and should be openly discussed and supported.

It’s okay to have a collection of unread books. The joy of collecting and owning books is often enough.

Trying to please everyone is impossible. Focus on being true to yourself and your values.

Many companies and corporations exploit their customers. Be aware of their practices and hold them accountable.

Don’t expect your job to care about you as a person. In many cases, you’re replaceable. Companies that claim to be like family should be approached with caution.

Be wary of the police and always have a lawyer present when speaking with them. Protect your rights and interests.

The world is imperfect and unfair. Learning to forgive and finding inner peace can help navigate life’s challenges.

Learn to distinguish between intuition and fear. Trusting your instincts can be a powerful tool.

Sex is often portrayed as more important than it really is. It’s not the only or most significant aspect of relationships.

Women should have autonomy over their own bodies and choices. Society should respect and support them.

LGBTQ+ people deserve the same rights and opportunities as anyone else. Discrimination has no place in our society.

Coke is superior to Pepsi. It’s a matter of personal taste, but let’s be honest – Coke is the real deal.

Chips and salsa is the ultimate comfort food. It’s hard to resist the satisfying crunch and tangy flavor.

Remember that you matter. Your existence and contributions have value and significance.

Age is a privilege that not everyone gets to experience. Embrace the wisdom and opportunities that come with it.

Fighting Perfectionism

Some of my journals

Why is it, as humans, we feel this need to always be perfect? Never allowing anyone to see our imperfections and flaws. Who taught us that? Where did it come from? For me, it started VERY early. I was 8 years old and my parents took me to a book fair. Vendors sat behind tables stacked with books inside an old school’s gymnasium. I was in heavan. As I walked up and down the aisles picking up books I wanted to read I spied a vendor selling journals, and on display was this very cool Star Wars journal with Yoda on the front cover. I wanted it! I asked for it! I got it! I could not be more thrilled and I was so excited to get it home and start writing. When we arrive back at our house I rushed to my room, pulled out a pencil, and started scribbling. No one has ever told me I have pretty handwriting, so after a few sentences, I realized that my handwriting was terrible and for whatever reason, I decided I had ruined the page. So I tore it out. This started a chain reaction that eventually lead to the destruction of this beautiful journal that I had craved so much. Tearing out the page scared the journal and you could tell a page had been torn out, so I tried fixing it, and with each fix the “issue” in my mind got worse and worse. Eventually, I gave up and the journal found its way into the trash. I was disappointed, upset, and heartbroken that I was not able to write in this journal to these perfecting standards that I had somehow adopted as young as 8 years old. This was my first step, albeit I didn’t know it, toward the idea of fighting perfectionism.

Growing up I was taught that there was a certain order to how you lived. You went to High School, then College, for me I was expected to go on a mission for the Mormon church (that was non-negotiable), then I would return home, get a job, get married, buy a house, have kids, retire and then die. I did almost none of those things.

I did go to High School but never finished college. Didn’t see the point in it. I did go on a mission for the Mormon church but had a false start on the first try, got sent home, and a year later went out again, only to get sent home early 18 months later for medical reasons. Got married to my first wife in 2005 (mistake) and got divorced 9 years later. In between, I could never decide what I wanted to do for my profession. I tried being a paramedic, safety professional, sales and marketing professional, multi-level marketing, gym owner, back to sales, and now photography. Got married again but to a different person (not a mistake), and somehow never managed to own a home inside all that time. My life has been anything but perfect. At least according to how I was raised and the expectations I was supposed to live up to.

Now does that mean I messed up? Sometimes…sure, who doesn’t? Overall… absolutely not! Life is not about living perfectly. We have to fail in order to learn. If we never color outside the lines we will only learn what’s inside the lines. There is a whole universe outside those imaginary lines, and there is absolutely NOTHING wrong with living a life others don’t agree with or even understand.

The bottom line is this…I think the best way to fight perfectionism is by living an imperfect life, because when we learn that living an imperfect life is to live perfectly…all of us will be a lot happier!

A record playing a Queen album

Unsupportive Photographers

Unsupportive Photographers
A candid shot I took and edited at my Cousin Hannah’s wedding

I want to share a story with all of you about an experience I had over ten years ago with a group of unsupportive photographers. It’s an experience that has stayed with me, and even now, 10 years later, when I think back on it the memory remains clear.

When I started learning the art of photography I had absolutely no idea what I was doing. At the suggestion of a friend of mine I bought a couple of Scott Kelby books on photography and learned enough to try my hand at aperture photography. What I mean by that is I shot in aperture priority mode, because at the time shooting in manual scared the hell out of me.

I knew I wanted to shoot people, and thankfully I had two friends who agreed to do a shoot in a hollowed-out abandoned building. I took the shots and I knew they needed work, so I posted a few of the shots to a Facebook photography group I was a member of. I probably should have known better, but the feedback I got from literally hundreds of unsupportive photographers was overwhelming. I was called amateur, newb, pathetic, childish, and more. The number of negative comments from unsupportive photographers was enough for me to pull the post down, and NEVER comment or share in that group again.

Now keep in mind…The photos I posted I knew needed work, and I said in my post that I was looking for feedback and advice on how I could improve. The post received 203 comments and not one single person offered me any kind of advice. No one talked to me about lighting, posing techniques, or editing suggestions. Not one.

Fast-forward 10 years later. I am an accomplished photographer. I’ve worked with a variety of clients, businesses, and settings. I am in no way perfect and continue to learn, but I am certainly none of the things those unsupportive photographers called me 10 years ago. How did I do it? How did I improve? By following the advice of supportive photographers like Peter Mckinnon, Sorelle Amore, Jeremy Siers, Denny Den and so many more. Denny as a matter of record owes me nothing yet has always found the time to answer any questions I have ever sent his way on IG. That level of encouragement and support is the kind of photographer I think we should all try to emulate.

Being a supportive photographer is remembering we all start somewhere. Everyone starts at the beginning, and everyone has to learn. So the next time you see a photo from a photographer asking for advice, help, or support…choose to be kind.

Unsupportive Photographers
A shot I took at my Nieces dress rehearsal for Into The Woods

Top Three Social Media Mistakes

A few weeks ago I had the honor of participating in Doce Blant Publishing‘s Q&A.  During our conversation we talked about writing, publishing, book covers, and of course my favorite…social media.

Social media has taken the world by storm, and new platforms seem to arrive everyday. While Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram seem to still hold the heavyweight titles, new platforms like SnapChat and Periscope are growing in followers by a surprising number!

With all the platforms out there no one seems to have a clue how to navigate all of them, or even how to use them.  Understandably it can be confusing.

Now before we go any further here, if you are looking to improve your social media skills, you NEED to look up Gary Vaynerchuk, and read/watch every single piece of information he puts out!  I’m serious!  Everything I have learned about social media came from him!

Now that being said lets get started with a few social media basics.

  • STOP posting the same content on every single social media platform!

While you may have a Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram account you need to understand that each of these platforms was made for very unique things! Just because Instagram gives you the option to post your photo to Facebook and Twitter doesn’t mean you should!

You need to understand, that is a quick way to lose followers, and irritate people! Imagine for a moment that your best friend had some news to share with you. Could be anything you can imagine.  Now ponder how you would feel if that same friend texted you, called you, and showed up at your house all at the same time, telling you the news in the exact same way.  It would annoy you right?

Going even deeper into this topic you wouldn’t talk to someone in person the same way you text them right? Would you have a conversation with people in the same way you send email?  Doesn’t make sense does it?

Now that you understand that, you need to learn and understand a little bit more about each platform and what it’s purpose is.  Once you understand that, start posting content that is in harmony with that social medias platform.

  • STOP posting bad content!

Whatever social media platform you decide you use, ask yourself these questions…Why am I posting this?  What kind of value does this content have to offer?

Bad content is bad content.  No one wants to read it, see it, or interact with it!

With so many people on social media these days there is A LOT of bad content out there!  So make your content stand out above the rest.  Make it valuable, and something people look forward to seeing.

This means you can’t copy other peoples crap!  Be creative, unique, and different. Make your content a light in the darkness.

This means you will have to think, plan, and be a little strategic with what you put out on the internet.  Not many people have the patience for that, but if you want to be successful in social media you HAVE to do this!

  • STOP posting to 10 different social media sites!

There are a lot of social media sites out there.  And learning to navigate all of them takes time, study, and A LOT of patience!  So I suggest starting with ONE.

You heard me ONE social media platform, and study it, work it, and drive home good content on it for a year!

Focus all your effort on that one platform.

I have seen far too many people try to manage 10 different accounts, and instead of managing one account really well, the manage 10 accounts really poorly.

After 6 months to a year of working one account well, try branching out to another.  But when you do, same rules apply.  Study it, learn it, and publish good content to it.

It is better to have one amazing social media account, than 10 really shitty ones.

So there you have it.  I hope this was helpful.  I will probably be posting more on social media in the future.  So if you have a question about social media, put it in the comments below.

Till next time, be safe, have fun, don’t do ANYTHING I would do, and Cheers 🙂