As my good buddy Scott hits the path to retirement, I can't let him just wander off into the sunset like the hero in some old western. For me it's been an incredible journey. There are few people in this industry that I've learned more from and SCU exists because Scott helped me build so much of the concept.
The blog side of SCU started with my first blog, Skip's Photo Network and Scott doing a guest post now and then. Later he joined us for a short presentation at the first Skip's Summer School. He had 25,000 followers on Twitter - today it's 150,000! Then we launched GoingPro, our blog, podcast series and book, published by Random House. The blog and our following grew and along the way I enjoyed the benefit of getting to know Scott, respect his expertise and cherish the friendship. He's watched my back, bailed me out of stupid mistakes in social media and had the patience of a saint more times than I can count.
We all have lots of friends, but Scott's grown to be that one special buddy who's always there as a sounding board. He's been a solid partner in sharing ideas and developing new ways to help photographers build a stronger business model. It's with mixed emotions that I cheer him on to retirement...I'll miss his involvement in photography, like so many of you who know him and have worked with him. At the same time, I couldn't be happier for him and the new path he's about to embark on.
And to my good buddy, Scott...thanks for an amazing series of projects, lessons in business, marketing and even photography now and then. Nobody has been a better, more loyal friend and it's been a true adventure!
"A true friend freely, advises justly, assists readily, adventures boldly, takes all patiently, defends courageously, and continues as a friend unchangeably." William Penn
It’s Monday and at SCU that means Marketing Monday - i.e., the time when I get to opine about marketing and photography. But today is my last such opportunity to do so. My time here at SCU is coming to an end. This will be my last Marketing Monday blog post. I have loved helping my friend Skip Cohen get this fantastic resource off the ground. Despite rumors to the contrary, I have no ownership stake in SCU. I have merely served as Dean of Marketing, spoken at a few conferences and written some blog posts. I’ve worked on marketing FOR Skip and it has been my high honor to do so. Few men have contributed as much to our industry as Skip Cohen. He is quite literally a giant in the photo business, and in my eyes, that will never change.
Skip and I have shared a lot of road. While my road is coming to an end, his continues, and there’s something we both know well. That road…It constantly winds uphill. At every turn, just when you think it levels out, it continues to climb. It never gets easy.
As old guys, we’ve seen every exit, every turn-off, every dark alley, every single brick on the road and once in a great while, we’ve been lucky enough to even visit the winner’s circle. But win, lose or draw, both Skip and I have shared the knowledge that only hard work leads to greatness. It’s something we all have to face. And both Skip and I have learned to embrace it.
From your perspective, I guess the bad news is that even fellows like us who’ve had the privilege of sitting on top of the mountain know the hard work never, ever ends. But it’s not something to be sad about. You just have to accept it and move forward.
Way back, when it all started for me, decades ago, I had the silly notion that some day it would get easier. I thought that once you had practiced, and trained, and studied, and got your hands on the best gear and made some money that you’d be able to relax. Well sorry to tell you I was wrong.
I’ve been working 60-80 hours a week all my life. Long after I was a “success,” I spent seven days a week at the studio. For 14 years I didn’t even take Christmas off. And that’s the information I want to share with you as I take my leave of SCU. As I sit here at the end of my road waiting for you, rooting for you, hoping you won’t take some of those nasty turns that I did, I know that no matter what — you will have to pledge yourself to hard work…and lots of it.
As Skip continues SCU and I move into retirement, the one constant thing for those who remain is hard work. Hard work is always the best place to start if you’re struggling. Hard work is always the thing that lets you feel like you’ve accomplished something, even if you can’t see the results right now. Hard work builds character. Hard work creates a feeling of investment that propels you forward, and helps you find the strength to edit just one more photo before you go to bed. Hard work lets you make just one more sales call, shoot one more wedding, design one more album, print one last print. That extra inch, foot, yard or mile is always the result of YOUR hard work. And believe it or not it’s very satisfying when it’s done with a pure heart and purpose.
As photographers, we have a sacred job. We are all high priests of memory protection. Those of us who wear that mantle with sincerity of purpose don’t end up minding the hard work. Because the gift we give our clients is quite literally the most valuable of gifts. We save tiny moments of time for them. We preserve and protect those moments. It’s worth some hard work isn’t it?
I wish like Hell that I had some super secret to share with you as we say so-long to one another. But I don’t. All I can guarantee you is that if you work hard, and then work harder, and then work harder still, some day you’ll look up and there it will be. The end of the road. You’ll have paid your dues. You’ll get to see what I see now - which is a life full of precious memories, protected, kept and shared.
I’ve taken inspiration from the greatest football coach of all time. Vince Lombardi who once said, “I firmly believe that any man's finest hour, the greatest fulfillment of all that he holds dear, is the moment when he has worked his heart out in a good cause and lies exhausted on the field of battle-victorious.” I feel that way now and understand what he was saying better than ever. Hopefully this post will help you understand it too.
It’s been a very great privilege and honor to have this platform to share with all of you, and I want to thank those of you who took time to let me know that my work here helped you in some small way. I can’t think of anything that means as much to me as those moments where I was able to make even the smallest difference for you.
While I won’t be posting here after today, there is still one last thing for me to do in relation to SCU and I’m very much looking forward to it. I am going to speak at my last photo conference - ever. And there’s nobody I’d rather do that with than Skip.
At SCU Thrive 2014, I’ll join my good, dear friend Skip to teach people how to thrive in their photography business. We’re going to be in Las Vegas on March 2, 2014. I hope you’ll come join Skip and I there. I am looking forward to saying goodbye to some of you in person.
Oh and one more thing - if you attend the conference, expect to put in some hard work.