by Skip Cohen
Just like everybody, I go through stages of focusing on one particular aspect of the challenges of being in business. "Failure" the "F Word" is simply not an option, but it's come up a few times in posts over the last few weeks.
Failure is way over-rated and can only happen if you fall and don't bother to get up. Yeah, I really do believe it's that simplistic...because it's all in your mind or what you let other people put in your head. Success on the other hand is a whole lot harder to define.
I have no idea how "I Am" did as a movie, but the trailer about Tom Shadyac pretty much says it all, because by most of our definitions he had it all. He was definitely successful, but still wasn't happy.
We all define success differently, but a few of my favorite quotes seem to help on the topic...
David Brinkley: "A successful person is one who can lay a firm foundation with the bricks that others throw at him!"
Bill Cosby: "I don't know the key to success, but the key to failure is to try to please everyone"
Woody Allen: "Eighty percent of success is showing up."
What prompted this short rampage on the success/failure theme was the increasing number of comments lately where I'm hearing photographers who are spending too much time focusing on the slowness of reaching "success". They're acting like they think they've failed!
Well, I live with a very special lady who absolutely refuses to let me even use the word, "failure". If something didn't work, then it simply didn't work, but nothing in life is a failure until you stop trying. So, the challenge today, in terms of your business is really very simple. Notice I'm saying "simple" - not EASY...it still takes work.
Try out the following exercise:
1) Shut off all cell phones, your computer and anything else in life that interrupts your thought process. That might mean locking the kids out of the house for a couple of hours.
2) Find your most favorite place in the house.
3) Whether you like wine, a cup of coffee, a soda, a beer or a martini makes no difference - get yourself something to drink and get a pad of paper - that's right - we're going to do this long hand.
4) Ready? Just start writing down ideas and brainstorm the challenge - write every idea down and no idea is a bad one. What ideas? Let's start with things you could do to get people to know about your skill set, business and passion for photography.
Example: You're a wedding photographer and business is down. What things could you be doing to raise awareness for you and your business?
Do more local advertising? Put together a direct mail campaign? Purchase a list of brides? Take the owner of the local bridal gown store to lunch? Do a Saturday bridal shoot at the store? Who's the biggest hair salon in town - they know everything that's happening especially in small communities. Look at your brochure or website - are the images the best they can be? Would you hire you, based on the information on your website?
How about a joint mailing with several other vendors in town, e.g. a limo company, a florist and a caterer?
5) My suggestion is to spend an hour doing this and then bring somebody else into the discussion, be it your spouse, associate or a friend who knows you well. We're all too close to our own business. I'm always amazed when a photographer shows me something about their work to critique and they're so surprised over my suggestions to make a change - it's because it's the easiest assignment on planet earth - to review somebody elses work/project when you have no direct involvement. So, don't underestimate the value of one of your friends, who's not in the business, to just come in and join you in the process of looking for new ways to attack the challenge.
Most important of all, let's ban the word "failure" from our vocabulary. Nothing is a failure, just a life lesson or an FGO (Friggin' Growth Opportunity) - sorry can't take credit for that last little gem!
Thomas Edison: "I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that don’t work."
Illustration Credit: © jojje11 - Fotolia.com
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