by Skip Cohen
A few years ago my buddy, Scott Bourne, wrote a blog post, "Who's on your team? Photographers need a network." I remember the post hitting nerves with a lot of people, because Scott talked about one of the most sensitive topics out there, support from your family and those people closest to you.
In all honesty, it's not hard to argue that all of us need support from our family and friends in whatever dreams we're chasing, but there are some characteristics I think make photography unique.
First, it's an art form. You need solid reactions from those people closest to you in order to help build your confidence and skill set. Second, you're taking your "product" to market and you need not only feedback, but support in developing your presentation and your style. Third, you need an HONEST response when something is bad or when you've written content for your website, for example, that just doesn't sound right. Your family and friends are your first and often most significant sounding board.
There is no way to emphasize the importance of having somebody in your life who believes in you. Almost five years ago I was writing my resignation from Rangefinder Publishing and WPPI. My reasons for leaving aren't significant for the point I want to make here.
Most of my immediate family were confused, concerned and anything but supportive. And if they said they were supportive, the tone in their voice or the look in their eyes said otherwise. Fortunately, I had a very special lady in my life, Sheila, now my wife, who along with a few friends not only believed in what I was about to do, but made suggestions on new directions for me to consider.
But here's what I learned about the challenges with family - and if it helps just one of you out there, then it's worth sharing. A lot of the lack of support came from lousy communication on all sides. I made assumptions they all knew my skill set. They made assumptions that my plan was half-baked. From their perspective, who leaves a great salary and starts a new business in one of the worst economies in history?
So, here's a partial list to work with when you've got a family of "Dr. No's" who aren't supporting you and serious changes you're making in your life. Before you cut them loose, consider the following:
1) Why? Get everyone together to talk about why you're about to go in a new direction. Give them all the information on what's brought you to this point in your life. Don't sugar coat why you're making the change.
2) What? Share every aspect of your dream. They can't be supportive if they don't understand exactly what it is you want to do.
3) How? Before you sit down with your family or friends, think about a 2-3 year plan. Then share the details with them in terms of how you intend to achieve your goals and your dream.
4) When? Here's where I missed the boat completely. I sprung it on them with virtually no warning. They were aware of many of my reasons for wanting to make a change, but it had only been in superficial conversations. I literally called and with all the finesse of a Simpson's episode with Marge jumping out of Homer's birthday cake yelling, "Surprise" I dropped the bomb.
Last but not least and this is a lesson I'm still trying to master and it really takes work...When things do get out of control, never use email to communicate anything that's sensitive, especially with people you're close to. Email is the worst method of communication for virtually anything emotional. It's great for business, it's great for contracts, it can even be good for simply touching base, but that's it. Email can never replace the sound in your voice, eye contact and the emotions that make us better than our computers!
Illustration Credit: © alphaspirit - Fotolia.com