As I reflect on 2023, it is hard to believe the things I was able to accomplish in such a relatively short period. I am almost hesitant to post these things at the risk of sounding too “braggy”, but I do think it is important for those of you who read this blog to see that it is possible to make big, huge, massive strides no matter where you are in your career. HOWEVER, there is a downside to going about it the way I did – not taking any time to rest, reflect, spend appropriate time with loved ones, and simply detach.
I am guilty of participating in the “grind” culture. I have done so for the last 6 years and it has taken its toll.
I pretty much traveled and worked non-stop from March 2023 to December 2023. I made some big, fat, risky, expensive moves and only got an average of 6hrs of sleep per night doing it. I said “yes” to WAY too many things and moved too quick on things that I should have been more patient with. I let the amount of time I spend with the most important people in my life grow shorter and shorter and I let my faith get a little shakier.
Normally I would make a post showing my “Top 10 photos”, but this was an important year for me in many ways and I wanted to offer something a bit more detailed and introspective. I have decided the best approach would be to write out the things I am reflecting on in lists and not post any photos for a change. Maybe this post will shed some light / motivate / help someone out there.
By the way, this post is poorly structured. I just wanted to get it all out on “paper” and not think much about the structure.
Some of the (what I would consider to be) major accomplishments that took place this year:
1. Travelled to LA to assist my mentor and who I now call a friend, Simon Devitt, which has helped to modify the way I conduct business (for the better).
2. Started a podcast called “Arch Photo Pod” where I sit down with architectural photographers in person and record a long-form conversation on video.
3. With the help of an amazing committee of community-focused photographers, I organized the world’s first interiors and architectural photography conference.
4. Co-hosted two in-person workshops in Brooklyn with my close friend Brian Berkowitz for commercial and residential architectural photography.
5. Produced a much-needed course for a well-known photographer who will make a significant impact in this industry (official announcement soon).
6. Helped over a dozen photographers in a 1×1 capacity get clarity and help make significant moves in their business.
7. Photographed projects for and earned the trust of 14 new clients in 4 different states.
8. Photographed my first arena, luxury hotel, and airport. All things that I wanted to have done within the next year.
9. Started laying out the foundation of a new industry-adjacent business with some friends. More on that in the future.
10. Invested a significant amount of time and money into mentoring this year to help channel my creativity.
How was I able to pull these off? I have adopted a few philosophies over the years that have helped me navigate my decision-making:
1. Ask for help. Have a group of trusted peers who will tell you the truth, give you feedback, pick your brain, etc. For almost every decision I have made this year, I generally bounce the idea off of at least one or two people in my immediate circle. I have 4 photographers I can call at any time and talk to them about anything that is on my mind – personal or business. I have another circle of about 10 photographers that I can talk to about business at any time. I have an even larger extended network of people so I can ask specific questions when needed.
2. Don’t be perfect. Move fast and refine things over time. Over-analyzing is can just be procrastination in disguise, but it also might be a sign that you shouldn’t do that right now. If I spend too much time on an idea, it will likely never happen. For example, I originally thought about starting an architectural photography conference in 2021. The idea kept coming back and leaving until May of 2023 when I finally decided I was going to do it. I formed a committee to help think through things with me and we launched with a speaker roster, website, brand, venue, etc. by July. Yes, two months.
3. Keep exploring. I can’t stress enough the idea of exploring new ideas. As stupid as some ideas might seem, they come from somewhere and if you just entertain them for a short period of time by talking through them with a friend, working out kinks, etc. you would be surprised at what might come out of it.
4. Just “ship it”. If I allowed my imposter syndrome to get the best of me, I wouldn’t accomplish anything. There is nothing particularly special about me and I don’t think that I am someone who necessarily has a lot to offer people. The difference with me is that I know that (almost) every single person who puts themselves out there most likely thinks they are also an imposter. Sure, there are egos – but those egos are generally coming from a lack of real confidence. That said, I just don’t get in my own way. If I see something I want, I figure out a way to make it happen. If I see something is missing, I either find someone to make it or I do it myself. For example, there wasn’t an architectural photography conference that existed and I felt it was needed. I offered to help a few other people take the initiative to make one and they declined – so, I decided to just do it myself. I was tired of waiting.
Now I don’t want to pretend this all just happened easily and that I just walk through life snapping my fingers and things happen. All of these things have come with great sacrifice. Just to name a few:
1. I don’t know enough about business administration. I
spent invested a LOT of money this year. More money than I have ever had before. Putting on a conference alone costs more than most photographers make in a year (more than some make in 2, 3, 4 years, lol). I also invested significant money on my own education and working with a mentor. Hardly any money went toward gear. As I write this at the beginning of 2024, I find myself a bit worried that I am going to have a significant tax bill due come April and it makes me realize that there is so much that I don’t understand about the nerdy business administration side of things. I am positive that I like am losing a significant amount of money from not being aware of certain things that would help make my business work more for me than me work for it.
2. Prioritize faith, family, and health. I sacrificed a lot of time away from my family. This is not good. At all. I am not proud of this one bit and it is something that I am really taking into consideration for the future. Fortunately, my wife is a very strong, faithful, patient and grounded person so while my time away did cause some issues, we are going to work through it. Of course work matters, but it should not be prioritized ALL of the time over those things. These are the only things that matter in the end. Regarding my faith, I am a Christian. It is a very important part of my life that I have neglected this year. If I am being completely honest with myself, all of my “accomplishments” are meaningless without faith. I did not pray once about any of the decisions I made and I did not seek guidance as I should. As far as health goes, with all of the travel, photo shoots, editing, late nights, etc. I simply let my health slip. My anxiety was through the roof this year due to lack of sleep, poor diet, and poor spiritual health.
3. Establish WRITTEN policies. I have general policies that I like to stick by, but I need to sit and write down the things that are important to me and stick to them and stop catering to requests that are outside of my policies. I know that by doing things the way I know works best for me and will yield the best results, all things considered, is how I can best serve my clients. When I over-compensate and/or cater to every request so as not to upset anyone, I will occasionally end up becoming slightly resentful and it is nobody’s fault but my own. This isn’t to say that I won’t remain flexible, but there are times when requests are simply outside of the scope of work we initially agreed to.
SO WHAT’S IN STORE FOR 2024?
If I had to give 2024 a keyword or theme, it would be “BALANCE”. No extreme changes, no resolutions… just try to keep everything balanced. Less work, more living. A healthy, sustainable exercise routine vs. trying to lose weight and build muscle. No fancy diets, just no over-eating and bingeing… and just enjoy eating vs. using food as an outlet. No grinding hard to get new business, just try to maintain and build new relationships with the people I want to work with. Enjoy watching a show or movie at night vs. thinking I NEED to work all night. Spend time lifting others up and trying to see the good in all, instead of choosing to go “all-in” or “all-out” on relationships. Being a person of service vs. a person who offers services (there’s a difference… trust me). Pursuing questions and interests I have instead of beating myself up for getting side-tracked. Being comfortable just being present around the people who are important to me instead of thinking about whats happening before, after, or during my time with them. I could go on and on. I think you get the point.
Accomplishments are great, but they are meaningless if you kill yourself trying to achieve them.