Photography is a very difficult industry to get into, I should know, I have spent the last three years trying to do just that! Along the way, I have learned a few things that I believe are the keys to being 'successful' and these are applicable to just about anyone in any industry... Here are a few of my thoughts...
First though, a little context. I spent pretty much the vast majority of my adult life (and childhood for that matter) trying to work out 'what I want to do with my life'. I always find this concept baffling as at 16, who knows what career they want to do for the next 50+ years? I certainly didn't, so I found myself bouncing from college, to Uni and on to job after job. It was only when a friend asked me to take some pictures of his car that I found something that genuinely interested me.
The old saying goes "You don't find photography, it finds you" and that was certainly true for me. My passion for photography grew with each new shoot and experience, Then one day, whilst listing to countless motivational podcasts on the soul-destroying commute to work, I heard the words "If money wasn't a problem, what would you do with the rest of your life?" My answer? Photography... A fire was lit...
It will come as no shock that the first ingredient to success is probably the most obvious. Anything in life worth pursuing generally requires a lot of hard work. For me, this involved countless hours of practicing, learning new skills and teaching myself the rules of photography. I don't believe you ever stop learning but Malcolm Gladwell's theory that "to become an expert at anything requires 10,000 hours of practice" probably isn't far from the truth.
Whatever your chosen career, hobby or outcome that you are trying to achieve, hard work will almost always be required at some point. Understanding that doing the 'work' is part of the journey to where you want to be is the first step. Realising that the only thing between you and your goals is 'work' will change your thought process. Work is the journey, so you may as well get stuck in and get yourself on the journey as soon as possible!
There is no doubt that to be successful requires hard work, but hard work alone is not a guarantee for success. There are a couple of other things that are required.
The second ingredient is commitment. Again, this may sound blindingly obvious, but a lack of commitment is one of the biggest reasons that people fail at anything. To use another photography based example, I am constantly asked 'how do you get those lovely sunrise shots' (no seriously, I am asked this all of the time!)... The answer, predictably, is because I am out there at 5.00am in the Summer or in freezing conditions in the Winter to make sure that I am there, ready to take the shot when all of the elements fall into place.
There are always hurdles, the two biggest hurdles I have faced in my life is losing my parents. I was incredibly fortunate that my photography helped me get through the loss of my Mom. It would have been easy to stop, blame the world and say how unfair life is. Whereas in part, it is true, life is unfair, stopping because something hasn't gone your way is not an option if you ever want to be truly successful. There is always something waiting just around the corner to screw you up, being resilient and committed to seeing it through to an end is crucial.
One often overlooked part of commitment is breaking your goals down to manageable tasks. The reason people give up or have a lack of commitment is because the tasks and goals they set for themselves are simply too big and overwhelming. Breaking them down into smaller items makes them far more achievable and for that matter, enjoyable. I personally keep weekly task lists and checking items off is one of the most enjoyable parts of my week. Knowing that you are edging closer to your overall goal really works wonders for keeping you motivated.
And finally... Patience
I genuinely believe that this is the single most underrated key to success is quite simply, patience. Too many people are intent on becoming an 'overnight success'. The internet, social media, ridiculous programmes such as The X-factor have convinced us all that we only need one big opportunity to realise our dreams. I'm sorry, but the world does not work like that.
For anyone that you think of as an 'overnight success' I will guarantee that they have been doing their thing for years before anyone noticed. One of my heroes is David Beckham and he always recounts the thousands of hours he spent as a kid, kicking a ball against a wall to 'practice' his free-kicks. He didn't simply walk up to the England team, say 'give us a go mate' and just happen to become one of the greatest English footballers of all time.
You may not turn a profit in the first year or two, get the promotion you are after in the first week of work or become the greatest footballer the world has ever seen! However, as long as you are working hard, committed and patient, you are far more likely to be successful in the long-run. Good luck!
Have you got an 'ingredient' that you think i've missed? Share it the comments below!