This is a post I’ve been wanting to write to myself for quite some time.
I got a start on it at the beginning of my journey, but now I feel that it’s time to dig a little deeper.
Motivation is a funny thing. People spend their whole lives falling in and out of it. People chase it, attain it, use it, lose it, forget about it. Some people have too much of it, they burn out and go through the psychological spiral of finding it again.
Really, that’s what this post is about. Rules for motivation. Rules that guide me. Laws, even. What these rules boil down to is a simple list of core tenants that ensure I won’t be compromising my motivation and will to pursue this part-time passion.
So, let’s start at the top.
As of today, I love my day job. I’m a UX designer – a pretty good one, too. I make a very decent living, I work with great people, in a great company, my life is full, and I’m happy.
Photography is a supplement to my life that I’ve deemed complimentary to where I want to be and the goals I want to achieve. And much like any supplement, that means the overall purpose of engaging in photography is a means to assist my life holistically.
And also much like any part of my life that I’m not enjoying, this also means that I can cut it off at a moments notice and not think twice about it. That’s not to say it will remain a supplement forever – where the universe takes me is anyone’s guess and I’m open to anything.
Right now, I’m safe-guarding this part-time passion – photography – from the road of other part-time passions I’ve had in the past. I’ve learnt a thing on three, and with photography, I don’t want it to end up like some of the other pursuits that have crashed, burned, and faded into the ether.
So here are the core tenants I will abide by when engaging in photography (some of these relate specifically to Instagram and/or other social media platforms).
Addiction sucks. Remember why you do it.
I’m a pretty compulsive guy. Not in a creepy way, but when I get passionate about something, I stop at nothing to attain it. That means late nights, no sleep, hustling, meeting people, making myself uncomfortable, learning, reflecting, refining – all of it. But in the blur of it all, you gotta remember why you’re doing this in the first place. Don’t just do it because you want to be the best at everything (another annoying trait I’m self-conscious about). Your part-time passion has a part-time place. Remember it. Remember that addiction means you’ll suffer if it’s gone. But when the thing you replace it with is no longer temporary, then it’s also no longer an addiction. It’s a part of you. This applies to skill-growth, success, and most importantly, friendships.
Shoot everything. A lot.
There’s two parts to this. The first of which is that there is only 1 way to get good at anything. Persistence. Do what you love, do a lot of it. You’ll get there. Build good processes and trust in yourself to execute.
The second part is variety. I’ve yet to even cross over the 6 month mark in this journey, and yet I’ve already heard and been told of a dozen stories where people have either burnt out, or have had some kind of creative block. Ideally, you don’t want that. Typically the reason this occurs is due to the passion feeling like a job. You feel like you ‘have to’ shoot, ‘have to’ edit, ‘have to’ post. The obligation kills you slowly.
The solution? Reframe.
Reframe your mind so the passion is varied and the pressure is off. Remember this isn’t your main job, so why stress out about it? Why limit yourself to a ‘theme’ or ‘style’ of shooting or editing or posting? You’ll just end up pigeonholing yourself and getting tired of doing the same thing over and over again. There is no feeling of despair here. Shoot everything, shoot what you want.
Define your audience
Related to the previous point, don’t play with compromises in this space. Even if the goal is to start getting sponsored by companies to shoot things and get paid in the process, defining your audience and defining the types of companies you want to attract is important. Don’t sacrifice who you are just so you can fit in. Never do that.
You want an audience who loves everything you do. When they refer to your ‘style’, they refer to you as a body of work, not just to your visual aesthetic. You want to attract brands that know you can shoot everything, and you want your style (you) to permeate through everything you do. Yes, it’ll take longer because you don’t have a ‘theme’ or something visceral they can easily define, yes it means that you’ll probably get less work, yes you won’t be ‘known’ for that ‘type’ or ‘style’ of shot, but again, remember why you’re doing it. It’s better than being someone you’re not, burning out and crashing this passion in to the ether again.
1000 true fans. That’s all you need.
You’ve read enough books on all of this. You’ve been through this game enough times. You know what you need. You know not to get caught up in the larger numbers game. Follower count means nothing.
It’s always about the quality of your relationships.
Your ‘true fans’ come from everywhere. Your friends and the people you meet are always the first ones. All the rest of them, if they’re not true, they don’t really matter that much. It’s great they’re around, but you want quality in your life, quantity comes a very distant second.
People. It’s always about people.
That’s the thing that means the most to you. Not just chasing the skill, not just growing an audience, not just satisfying your creative needs. I mean, it’s all of that, but mostly it’s all about people. Meeting new people you can hang with, ones you can share your life with. People you can call your friends for as long as you can remember. That’s the ultimate goal.
It’s not a job. It’s something you love. Remember back when you first found design and what that meant back then? Remember the feeling you had as a teenager when you first found photoshop, messed around with tutorials and created something uber cool you couldn’t wait to show mum about? Remember the satisfaction of finding the path you wanted to pursue in life through design? Remember the complex product problems you solved in a complex company and the feeling that you had made it on to the right track in life? It should feel like that. It’s fun. And it feels good.
Smile. Laugh. Have fun. That’s what it’s all about.
P.S – What you just read is in no way, shape, or form, my opinions on others who decide to pursue things I don’t want to pursue. It’s just my opinions. You do you and I’ll do me. Whatever works for me might not work for you. We’re not in the same places in life and will never be, therefore take only what’s useful to you in your life in this post and discard the rest. I don’t mind. 🙂