Stay on Track! (But don’t be afraid to jump tracks.)
Maybe you think I’m contradicting myself with a title like this… but I’d argue that I’m not. It’s so easy to derail your own efforts. You want to move forward – but which way is forward? If you can identify your goals, it’s easier to move toward them. Take the time to think about where you want to be in 5 years… 10 years… 30 years.
When I was in high-school, I already knew that I wanted to be a photographer. At the time, I wasn’t taking any photography classes, and my job had nothing to do with photography… I was working as a camp counselor. :) But I knew where I wanted to go. I bought my first camera, learned to work in the darkroom, studied art and art history – and then my path was diverted. My parents weren’t convinced by my plans to be a photographer, and they insisted that I change my major. I did so – but I never lost sight of my goal. A few years later, freshly graduated with a degree in information technology, I started shooting for stock. Then, I worked as an interior photographer for a big hotel chain, and I started doing portraits on the side as well. I wasn’t there yet – but I was traveling in the right direction. I was looking for opportunities to get my foot in the door. I wrote a few articles, sold an image to a magazine here and there, did some presentation for local groups, taught some classes, started a photography blog (this blog)… I was headed in the right direction.
Over those years, all kinds of opportunities came my way – not all of them related to photography. I chose the ones that kept me on (or at least near) the path I wanted to follow. But I couldn’t have made the right decisions along the way if I hadn’t known where I wanted to be in the end. I was getting closer to my goal.
But don’t think that it was smooth all the way. Stock photography looked promising for a time, but after a while, it was clear that it wasn’t what I wanted to do – so I changed my focus. Commercial photography looked like a good way to pay the bills, but I grew to hate it – so I jumped tracks again. After years of following leads and meandering slowly in the general direction of my goal, I discovered that I had found the track I really wanted to be on… nature photography and teaching. And here I am, doing exactly what I want to do – and making a solid living doing it. It took hard work, dedication, and a the willingness to adapt. But I made it. And so can you.
Start by identifying your goal, and then work your way toward it – one step at a time… Don’t be afraid to adjust your plans as you discover new things, and get to know yourself better… Put one foot in front of the other – even when your path seems to lead up-hill… And one of these days, you’re bound to get where you’re going. Just don’t forget to enjoy the journey!