Not one of today's icons started out iconic. They didn't just wake up one morning as if the Success Fairy wandered in during the night and sprinkled success dust over them and *poof* they'd made it to the top. And, if you talk to any of those people who we define as iconic they'll tell you how they're still practicing, learning and experimenting.
Don Blair at 74 was once asked, "What's the most incredible portrait you've ever done?" He immediately responded, "I don't know, I haven't made it yet!" Even then, considered one of the finest portrait artists in the industry, he was constantly experimenting in his search for the ultimate image.
Roberto Valenzuela finds time every week to mix it up and practice his skill set. Michele is working with high-speed sync with lighting, something she hasn't done much with in the past. Tony Corbell, never stops changing his game and trying out things he hasn't done before. In fact, Tony talks very openly about how he first got started, "I may not have been the best photographer in town, but I was determined to be the nicest."
So, for those of you trying to rush the process, here are some tips:
Stop thinking it's your gear that will make you a success. While great gear does open some new doors for you, it's understanding the skills you need that's more important. Vincent Laforet said at a Skip's Summer School program a few years ago, "When you don't have that long lens you wished you had, stop letting it hold you back. Just move in closer!"
There are no shortcuts to becoming a great artist. Practice every day. Ralph Romagueara, past president of PPA, compares being a photographer to musicians practicing their scales every day or a ball player warming up swinging two bats. You've got to practice constantly.
Jealousy is a waste of energy. This isn't just about photography; it's about business envy. A lot of you need to give it a rest and stop thinking everybody else's grass is greener.
Most important of all, know there are a whole bunch of us out here rooting for you and believing in your goals and willing to help when you need the support.