Monday, April 18, 2011

You Already Have The Answers

While consulting for other small businesses, I've found that most people already have the answers to help them overcome the problems they're currently facing, but for whatever reason they ignore those answers or they convince themselves that someone else has a better answer.  There are so many different ways to solve problems or move forward, but the best solution is the one that will work for YOU.  Fortunately, you probably already know what that is.  Unfortunately, you may be spending so much of your time thinking about, and maybe even trying out, the ways that other people do things that you've confused what works best for you with what works best for other people.

For example, I used to look at a lot of blogs and participate in a lot of forums.  If I did enough of it, eventually one of these things would happen:
  • I'd compare myself and my work to that of others and either feel inferior or superior.
  • I'd feel like I had to try what everyone else was trying because it was different and seemed "cool".
  • I'd have an idea I thought was original and want to try it, but as soon as I found that someone else had tried it, I wouldn't even attempt it because it no longer felt original.
  • I'd spend more time focusing on others and what they were doing rather than focusing on what I needed to do.
I've tried to re-enter the world of reading lots of other blogs and message boards, but each time I've spent more than an hour on these things, I start to notice one of the feelings above creeping back in.  In each case, they take me further away from who I am as an artist and as a business person.  I'm not saying there isn't value or inspiration to be found by checking in once in a while to see what's new, or to learn what "everyone" is obsessing about right now; what I'm saying is not to get so consumed by it that you start questioning yourself and your individual style, or that you start judging others rather than just being at peace with the fact that everyone is different and on their own unique journey.

So, how do we solve this problem?

The only way for you to get better at what you do is to listen to yourself.  Listen to what feels right and good for you.  Listen to what you're saying to yourself.  Notice when you say, "I can't" or "I don't know how."  Either find someone who "can" or spend time investing in yourself so that you can "know" for yourself.  Push yourself to try new and different things, but always analyze whether you feel good about what you did, how you did it, and why you did it.  If a task you're doing feels painful or too difficult, it's a clear sign you need to find someone else who enjoys it and thinks it's easy (yes, there are people who love doing the things we hate- like accountants!)  Just because someone else "seems" to be doing it all on their own, doesn't mean that you have to.  You have a unique set of strengths and those are what you need to spend your time focusing on in order to be successful.  

You already have the answers, you just need to take yourself seriously.  If you aren't sure how to listen to yourself, get a mentor, a coach, or a friend to listen to you and be your mirror by sharing what they hear you saying.  Sometimes we dismiss our own thoughts, but they have power and control over us in ways that we often don't realize.  When we hear someone repeat these thoughts back to us- we gain a greater awareness of our own truth and a window into our own best solutions.

Anne Ruthmann is a lifestyle & wedding photographer from Boston, MA. She spent 10 years practicing marketing & management in corporate and non-profit businesses before pursuing her passion for photography as an independent small business.  She loves helping others find creative and low-cost solutions to business problems.  Check out her next workshop or free talk at SmarterBusinessWorkshop.com.

20 comments:

  1. Anne - thanks for sharing your insight. I very much agree with your thoughts and find myself getting caught in one of those four scenarios when I dig into forums and websites...

    This article is one of the fine examples of why Photo Lovecat is one of the only blogs that regularly read all posts. Very nicely written article. Thanks again Anne.

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  2. Good post, I agree with everything you wrote. I have actually distanced myself from photography forums and generally browse photography blogs for business inspiration. I can't tell you how "free" and creative I've been feeling these days...

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  3. So true, and speaks to where so many of us are at!

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  4. "Just because someone else "seems" to be doing it all on their own, doesn't mean that you have to"

    It is so easy to be swept up with that thinking too! It is liberating though to just be, and do what is right for you.

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  5. Yes, so very true, Anne. I went through a major period of self-doubt recently brought on by forums. Just because Jasmine Star says you need to join forums doesn't necessarily mean they're good for your self-esteem!

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  6. I've been much happier about my work and my business once I stopped following other photographers. Indeed it's very easy to start feeling inferior when you start comparing yourself to others....

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  7. I agree with the other anonymous poster - I have been trying to find good blogs with photo biz advice more often lately. Thank you for such elegant writing and sound, actionable advice.

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  8. great encouraging articles for new entrepreneurs

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  9. I agree: reading forums and blogs can be very counter-productive. I have them in Google Reader to pop in now and again for a break from a big editing job, but I only follow one wedding photographer forum (it's not public, so people can get specific) and try to cull the blog list now and again. I did a recent culling and it was like spring cleaning.

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  10. Anne
    Very inspirational thoughts and great advice that we can all take to heart. Thank you

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  11. Thanks for the insight! I've been "fasting" from facebook lately and while I enjoy looking at other photographers' photos and all the cute props that are sold out there, it can make me feel inferior because my business really hasn't taken off (YET!) like I thought it would. I can feel myself relying on myself and how I want to do shots without comparing myself to others. It's so simple but I didn't even realize it. Sometimes the answer is just staring you in the face!

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  12. Thanks for sharing, Anne. It is so easy to get carried away into the world of Keeping up with the Jones'. Such a bad business model and life model in so many ways. Thanks for the reminder. Saw a rather bizarre movie on this topic with Demi Moore where folks were paid to be the family in the neighborhood that everyone wanted to keep up with. Led to tragedy in the end.

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  13. that is a very good comment, something i need right now with my business being rather slow right now. Who's isn't? It is easy for the competition to look busier than me but they probably aren't:). Just focusing on what I need to do with my studio and not to wrry about "them" is the way to work. Now to keep up that thought. I agree with talking to someone, I used to have a biz coach and that saved my assets! Time to find a new one or maybe even talk to my wife more!! For me there is too much of me wrapped up in my studio of 26 years, it gets tough to not take things personally. Keep up the good writing, and good times for all you other readers.
    J

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  14. Someone once said, and i would like to share..."Limitations live only in our minds. But if we use our imaginations, our possibilities become limitless."

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  15. It's already June and you guys haven't posted in so long... where are you? :-(

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  16. "The only way for you to get better at what you do is to listen to yourself. Listen to what feels right and good for you. Listen to what you're saying to yourself."

    Truer words have never been typed. Thanks so much for this post!

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  17. Beautifully said Ms. Anne. This blog post is very motivating especially for photographers struggling to create uniqueness in their works but ends up copying someone else' subject.The best phrase that left a mark in me "but the best solution is the one that will work for YOU."

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  18. This is what I needed to hear! Thanks you Anne!

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  19. Wonderful blog post. I think the best way to find peace of mind about your own creativity, is to accept that very few things are truly original anymore. It's just simple math...

    What makes each photographer special and unique, is not necessarily the style or composition of their shots. It's the individual perception and personality imbued in their work.

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  20. More digital photography tools, more filters and effects, more content and more learning resources.
    Small Business Inspiration

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