I was at a get-together the other night and a friend of mine recounted her recent experiences at a local cell phone carrier store. She had lost her charger and wanted to get a replacement. This was not an easy task as her phone was old (I’m talking really old) and chargers for her type of phone were difficult to find these days. When she told the young man at the store that she wanted to replace her charger, he said, “But you’re eligible for a new phone. For free.” She replied, “But I don’t want a new phone. I like this phone.”
She told us that he was gobsmacked by the idea that she wasn’t willing to jump at the chance to obtain an free new phone — that she preferred to continue to use a phone that was several years old (and not very pretty anymore) rather than exchange it for a shiny new model. He called a couple of other stores and ended up finding her a charger that would work with her phone.
This story really got me thinking about our need to upgrade to the latest and greatest gadget, whether we need it or not. Many of us fall into this trap of upgrading our phones, computers and tablets every one or two years, even though our current model is in perfect working order. It seems that whenever a new version of our device comes out, we no longer like our current item. We become dissatisfied with what we have and want something better.
This need to have the latest and greatest gear seems to hold true for many photographers, myself included. Why just the other day, I found myself lusting over the latest Nikon SLR, even though my current camera works just fine and probably has several years of use ahead of it. Many of us feel that in order to take good pictures, we need the best camera, the best lens or the best filter. This need to have the newest equipment is not only costly, but can also hold a photographer back from progressing forward in his/her career. Some people become so obsessed with the gear that they lose the vision. I have even heard folks say that they can’t go “professional” until they get a “proper” camera (read: more expensive) that takes the best pictures possible.
So we purchase the expensive gear that marketers tell us we need and six months later, our stuff becomes obsolete as new, better gear comes out. Drat! Time to upgrade. Oftentimes, we don’t think twice about dumping our perfectly working gear for the latest iteration.
I can’t help but think of the popular photographers of old, the masters. Did they have or need a camera that took 28 megapixel images? No. They took beautiful pictures with cameras that we today would scoff at. So jow did they do it? How did they take such gorgeous images with such subpar equipment? They knew their craft. That is to say, one’s success as a photographer does not depend on the type of camera one uses but rather on one’s skills and abilities. Having the best camera on the market will not a better photographer make. Only through practice, study and taking a hell of a lot of pictures can a person increase their photography skills.
Now I’m not saying that we shouldn’t upgrade our equipment when we need to, photography equipment or otherwise. I admit that I just recently upgraded my cell phone. But it wasn’t because I was lusting after latest and greatest model (well, perhaps just a bit). My previous phone would reboot itself several times throughout the day and often would become unresponsive to the point where I was unable to answer phone calls. Being as this was my business phone, this behavior was unacceptable. So yeah, it was time to upgrade.
While we often do need to upgrade our tools when they can no longer perform the work required of them, it might help to ask some questions first:
Asking questions before replacing our equipment might prevent us from making hasty decisions and getting caught up in the never-ending upgrade trap. Perhaps like my friend, we can learn to be satisfied with what we have and not continuously lust after something new.
By the way, I didn’t buy the new Nikon nor will I anytime soon. I realized that I still like my current camera and it serves me just fine.
I know that it’s been mighty quiet around here lately. I haven’t been ignoring the blog though. I’ve actually been recovering from unexpected surgery.
That annoying stomach ache I was getting more and more frequently turned out to be a very swelled gall bladder. So I finally went to the doctor and was scheduled for surgery the next day (the Ultrasound specialist said that my gall bladder looked scary”).
This was an experience of many firsts for me – first time for surgery, first time I’ve ever been under general anesthetic and first time I’ve ever been in the hospital. I do have to say that none of these are an experience I wish to repeat. Although everything went smoothly and the health care professionals that I worked with were excellent.
Luckily, they were able to remove my gall bladder laparoscopically (minimally invasive surgery), which meant a shorter recovery time. The doctor told me that I would be out of commission for a week. “No problem,” I thought. “I can handle a week off.” So I prepared my businesses the best I could and went in for surfer. Things didn’t proceed quite as planned, however. While they were operating on me, they discovered that I also had a hernia (I had no idea!) so they operated on that as well. Unfortunately, the recovery time for that is not quite so fast (no lifting or straining for 6 weeks). But as of right now, I’m on the road to recovery.
I do have to say that this is one of those times that can be challenging for an entrepreneur. I can’t just call a boss and tell him or her that I won’t be into work for the next 6 weeks. Nobody is going to step in and do my work for me or deal with my clients. There is only me. So this meant that the day after surgery, I was answering e-mail and talking to clients over the phone. Less than two weeks after surgery, I had a two weddings and a rehearsal over the same weekend.
For just a second (OK – maybe longer than a second), I thought about how nice it would have been to simply be able to call in to work and not have to worry about anything work related — to completely rest for the next several weeks and know that my paycheck would be deposited to my account. I might have even briefly questioned my decision to become an entrepreneur.
But these fleeting thoughts quickly disappeared. In reality, I would never willingly trade my freedom for a cubicle. Even though there will be challenging life periods like this one from time to time, I still prefer working for myself. I love the fact that I can explore my creativity and do the work that I want to do, not work that someone forces me to do. I love the freedom to schedule my days as it suits me. I love the fact that I can explore new creative paths on my own. I even came up with some great ideas while lying in bed convalescing.
Yeah, being your own boss can be a pain at times — but I wouldn’t change it for anything.
“Life is a banquet and most poor suckers are starving to death.” ~ Auntie Mame
I ran across a friend recently whom I had not seen in over 30 years. He had aged (like all of us do) but apart from that, he had not changed a bit.
He still works at a restaurant as a short order cook (which surprised me — when I knew him, he had plans to go to med school). He still has the same interests. He still smokes. He still parties like crazy on the weekends. He even still watches the same television shows. He told me how much he loves “The Young and the Restless” and asked me if I still watch it. It took me moment to realize what he was talking about. He was referring to a soap opera we watched when we were barely out of our teens.
I don’t find lack of change to be a good thing. If you don’t change, you don’t grow — and I believe that it’s part of being human to grow, to change, to evolve. By growing and continuously learning, we discover and live up to our potential. We grow into who we are meant to be. We learn how to be better people and in so doing, motivate those around us to become better people.
By not growing, we often feel empty inside, sometimes even lost. We have the feeling deep down inside of us that there must be something more to life that what we are experiencing. We become exiles from one another and from our community, wandering to and fro like a homeless zombie.
An acquaintance once said to me:
“I never knew what I wanted to be when I grew up — but I know it wasn’t this.”
We need to stop and look down into our untapped creativity and potential and then, bring it forward. But wishing, yearning, dreaming and hoping won’t do it — only concrete action will.
So how can we move from sleepwalking complacency to growth, from exile to inclusion?
There are many ways to get started but most importantly, you have to get started. I have found that creating a list of all the things you want to be or learn — or dreams you have ignored or put on hold — is a great place to begin. I personally did this several years ago and rediscovered photography, a dream I had put on hold.
Now you may say that not everyone wants to change or grow. That may be true — and that’s fine. But often, it’s not that we have made a conscious choice to stay the way we are, but rather we just forgot to follow our dreams. We became complacent, lazy and simply accepted our circumstances.
If you are exactly the same as you were twenty, ten or even five years ago, ask yourself, “Is this the life that I want? Am I happy with the way things are? Or do I feel a yearning to grow and evolve in a different direction?”