I was listening to a podcast by street photographer Valerie Jardin this week. I’ve listened to her podcast for a long time. Even if you’re not into street photography, she’s worth a listen. She interviews a lot of people – not just photographers – about everything from photography to time management.
This week, Valerie interviewed a photographer and psychologist Jenika McDavitt about living your passion – taking photography from a hobby to more of a business and what psychologically can hold people back. They were talking about photography, but this applies to anyone who wants to follow their passion.
I’m currently exploring how photography fits into my life and paths to take my photograph my to the next level so I was very interested in this interview.
At one point they were talking about luck – or how some people seem really lucky. Both Valerie and Jenika agreed that luck isn’t really a thing – some people make their luck happen.
Jenika used an analogy that really struck home – a bag of marbles. Red marbles are those great opportunities that lucky people seem to have a lot. In terms of photography, red marbles might be exhibits, workshops – that sort of thing. Lucky people seem to be able to reach into a bag of marbles and pull out red ones a lot of the time. Opportunities seem to come their way often so often that we see these people as lucky.
Right now, I’m having a lot of opportunities come my way and I’m feeling really lucky. I’ve got quite a few workshops coming up including teaching at the prestigious Out of Chicago spring photography conference in April. I also have two solo exhibits this year and one next year already on the books and I’m busy negotiating for a third this year.
But what Jenika was saying was that these people who always seem to get opportunities – always seem to be pulling out red marbles from the bag – aren’t really lucky. They’ve just filled their bags with red marbles!!
I’m paraphrasing a lot so you may want to go listen to the interview your self, but here’s how I understand it.
People get red marbles by networking and applying for things and finding out what the opportunities are available. They work at collecting these red marbles – or potential opportunities.
Think of it this way, every time you meet a new person it’s like getting a red marble for your bag. Networking with this person may or may not lead to anything. You may or may not ever choose this marble when you reach into the bag, but it’s one of many red marbles there. The more red marbles, the more chances you’ll have for a great opportunity.
Getting out there is key.
If you only have 1 red marble in a bag of 100 marbles, then you have a 1 in a hundred chance of a great opportunity coming your way. If you’ve collected lots of red marbles – say if 50 of your marbles are red than you have a 50% chance of something coming your way. This is just an analogy, but a great way of looking at life.
The opportunity may not happen. Even if 99 of your marbles are red, you may still pull out a blue one – the opportunity doesn’t happen – or a specific opportunity doesn’t happen. That’s life.
The point is that it’s not just luck – there are things you can do to help the opportunities come your way.
This really hit home with me. I’ve talked a couple of times about my 100 “Nos” project (and here). For this project, I’m trying to collect 100 people saying “no” to me. Along the way I hope some people say “yes” to me and I get an opportunity. This is a way I’ve found to help myself get over my fear of rejection and get out there. I’ve actually had to suspend this project for a bit because I’ve had so many “yeses” that I’m quite busy.
I’m even starting to get opportunities even when I’m not looking. A state senator’s office contacted me this week for permission to use some of my images in a video and the local papers have done a couple of articles on my photography workshops.
This isn’t luck. I work hard at making my images the best they can be getting my photos out there for others to enjoy, which includes shelving my natural shyness and putting on my marketing hat and getting out there. I got most of my workshops by cold pitching to a few local organizations.
I’d like to think that there’s a lot of work involved at the beginning – like pushing a snowball down hill. Once I get it started, it will gather momentum. There may be some of this, but I need to keep up the hard work.
It’s not just about being lucky. It’s about knowing people and being generally in the right pace at the right time – which means getting out there to be in the right place at the right time. They have a saying in photojournalism about how to get a great shot: “f8 and be there”. You have to be there to get the shot.
More opportunities come to people who work for them.