Endings and beginnings.
So much is said about the end of the year, about how it makes you think about what you’ve done in the year that’s been, about what you’re going to do in the year to come. Taking stock of your life. All those promises we make to do better, that we rarely keep, because that’s all they are. I’m not making any resolutions this year, and whenever I’m asked about them I just say, no, I’m just doing what I do.
Don’t get me wrong, I am very much thinking about what’s happened in the last year. It’s been the first complete year of business for me as a professional photographer, and it’s been a challenge. The technical aspects of photography are one thing – I already knew a lot, but taking photographs as an amateur photographer and taking photographs as a professional, with the intent of getting paid for my work, well that’s something else. You have to develop a thick skin as far as your photographs are concerned. It’s quite possible that the awesome portrait you’ve taken is going to be of absolutely no interest to your client. And you can’t get upset with them. Sometimes people just see themselves a particular way, and there’s nothing you can do about it. If you work with them, get their feedback along the way, you’ve got a greater chance of success.
I actually don’t want to dwell too much on the photography. You keep your mind open, learn a lot about the business along the way, and seek and take the advice of others, exploring what will work, what won’t and finding the answers. But something else that comes into play is your moral compass.
Yesterday, I was at the funeral service for a former work colleague who’d passed away a few days before. Someone from my IT days. I’d worked alongside him for several years, but I wouldn’t really say I’d got to know him as a close friend, which is my loss. He was very entertaining, in a good way, and while somewhat (justifiably) cynical about some aspects of the working environment, he was hardworking, and always sought to do his best. And he was, by all accounts, and my own experience, a good man. As clearly demonstrated by the number of people who turned up to share in remembrance of him.
It got me thinking, wouldn’t it be useful if we could all see what our own funerals would be like? Not for some morbid or self-congratulatory purpose, but as an indicator of how well regarded we were, so that we could get a clear message about the need to do better in future. I’ve heard it said that you shouldn’t care about what people think of you, and I agree. What people feelÂ about you, the impact we have on them, though, I think we should care about. I’d like to think I’ve had a positive impact on people, even the ones that it seems to me now, never really appreciated it.
Sure there are those who might say, yes, but what about these dictators that have loads of people turn up at their funeral processions, weeping and wailing, but they’ve been brutally suppressing their people? I suppose in some cases, we’d have to have some idea of why those that turned up did, and vice-versa. For the vast majority of us, however, we probably don’t need to, as everyone who turns up does so by choice, hopefully not just to make sure we’re really gone.
It’s not the only yardstick of how good our moral compass is, of course. The people we have around us are a lot more important than whether they turn up at our funerals. Â But how often do we take a good hard look at the people we think of as our friends and ask the question, are they really my friends? And if it leaves you with no friends, that’s probably a clear indicator that you’re doing something wrong – we get the friends we deserve. And we deserve the friends we get.
I started my photography business because it was something I’m good at, something I wanted to do, and because I wanted to create photos that would put a smile on people’s faces. What I do has value, but I am determined to value it, and to do what I do in an ethical manner, which is why I’ve always been open about my pricing, why I don’t do photo viewings on the same day as the shoot, why I don’t give my clients alcohol and many more things besides. It’s important to me, and yesterday served as a reminder of that. Succeed or fail, at least I’m doing it my way.
So take stock of your life, look at the people you call friends, and look at yourself, the things you do and how you do them. Don’t resolve to do things better. Just do things better. Don’t wait for the New Year to come in. The New Year should just be an excuse to party – or not, depending on your choice. Enjoy it, and have a great one.
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