My business was built on the foundation of happiness. I’ve spoken about this before on Promoting Passion, especially since joy is the foundation on which our lives should be built. When I started photography I had no desire to make it a career. Only when the realization presented itself that it could be what sustains my life did I intentionally begin to pursue it. I was “naïve” and “young” and “didn’t know better” – all of these descriptions that those “older” and “wiser” and more “experienced” used to describe me (and still do).
I didn’t approach business traditionally. I rarely asked myself “What will make money?” and then decide to pursue that. I did it backwards in a way that made others uncomfortable, perhaps because they never took that risk themselves, or because it was a truly risky thing to do. Instead of seeking money, I sought joy. I asked myself what I would do every day if I could, and I devised plans to make that type of work benefit me.
I had no idea if it would be good or terrible or really horrible. It was all of the above at different points. But mostly it was good, and sometimes great, and often very blissful. I am not motivated by money – I never have been and daresay never will be. I judge my wealth by my happiness. Thank. Goodness.
I do, sometimes, need a reminder to stay on that happiness track. Sometimes I veer off. We all do. We often don’t even realize it. We say yes to a few too many things our hearts aren’t in and then we find ourselves side-tracked and unhappy.
This year I’ve spent 100 days at home and 81 on the road, if I’m doing the math correctly at the time of writing this. That means that almost half of my time has been spent away. I love what I do, but I don’t always love how it takes me away from home. I am very attached to the sense of home and a feeling of closeness to my love and my space and my down time and my cats. It is more a part of me than you will ever know. So this year has been hard in that regard. I said last year I wanted to travel less. Unfortunately, life doesn’t work like that. I can’t simply say I want to stop and then stop. I took more and more jobs because they seemed so lovely at the time, but now that I’m booked through November I’m feeling pangs of regret at my constant YES-ing.
I had a real breakthrough a couple of weeks ago when a friend said “I thought you said you were going to travel less!” – a phrase I hear all the time. But for some reason, hearing it that time, I changed my response. Usually I’d start to unintentionally place blame elsewhere – “Oh, yes, but then X came up and I’m doing that…”, or “It’s just so hard to say no!” or “I’ve always wanted to visit X place!”
All of those responses are perfectly suited to place myself out of control of my own life. I wanted to take it back and make decision for myself.
The next day I got an email: a convention I was meant to speak at changed dates suddenly and they wanted me to confirm my attendance, even though it was smack in the middle of two other huge trips. I wanted to say yes so badly. I felt physically sick at saying no. I love the people running it so much. But another part of me, the part that I don’t let come out very often (and the part my friends are always telling me to nurture) jumped out. That part took care of me and looked ahead at my happiness. She said no. She said she had to take care of herself.
Suddenly another email came the very next day, and again I said no to the opportunity. I’m not turning everything down, but I am making sure that I don’t suffer next year. My experiences are rich, much richer than I ever would have imagined they could be. But they are draining, and my joy fades, and while I can keep a smile on my face while I travel 40+ hours alone in one go, frequently, and I so truly see the light in all things, I suffer. My body hurts, I feel less sharp, I miss home. I miss home. I miss it so much.
This is the year of taking back my life. Of saying yes when I feel that glow of inspiration well inside of me, and of saying no when the opportunity doesn’t make me soar. That is so hard. I am a people pleaser. One of my biggest flaws is my constant desire for affections. But sometimes personal health comes from social sacrifices and telling people no when you want to give them a big hug and say yes.
You will understand. I know it because I know us, this amazing community, and no matter if you are introverted or extroverted, shy or not, physically ill or mentally, we all have something we need to tend to. We all have moments we should have said no, or wish we said yes. Or, that we wish we had said yes to different things and no to others.
Gil - I have been saying no to projects with other people, and work I don’t like that know will consume too much time and not pay enough, and yes to more scriptwriting projects because that is the direction I am moving in now. What I think I’ve given myself is time, and creative energy. When we become successful, in the sense of being more in demand, we forget that the creativity others are so excited about, has to be nurtured with periods of time where our mind, consciously or subconsciously can mull over ideas. We need to be able to wake up at 2am with a breakthrough on a project, and get up and make notes, even if that means we have to have a lighter schedule the next day. When you make yourself go back to sleep, ignoring the breakthroughs, because you said yes to a day of work you don’t really want to do, in the sense it underpays for the energy it saps, that’s when you know you need to readjust your parameters. And while in the past I always tried to please people and not make waves, now when people ask for favours or make crazy work demands, a little bit of anger smoulders. Maybe not anger, but a kind of resistance, or maybe indignant resolve that stops me from to giving in to the option that suits others, but is unhealthy or unproductive for me, or eats up time that is precious to me. I don’t mind the feeling because it really helps me to stand strong when I would previously have wavered. And when you do decide a path and stay firm, the universe does seem to respond with more and more opportunities, almost as if fate takes note. I also think saying no when successful is also hard because it feels like you’re being rude in response to a form of compliment. But time really is the one thing you have to value, if you’re going to maintain a quality life experience, and continued improvement in your creative output, I think.
brookeshaden - I agree with every word, Gil. Every. Word. <3
Nicole Keintz - Dear Brooke~bless you and thank you for sharing! I can relate to everything here! Last year I was waaaay overbooked, mostly doing shoots I didn’t love to earn a little money, but it left no time to pursue my art. I could feel the enthusiasm and joy draining away. But I didn’t want to say no or turn down any opportunities because I’m still trying to get established and need to make connections and gain experience. Still, I was spending all my time and energy in the portrait world and that’s not what I’m interested in pursuing, so it didn’t make sense! I started to make some changes, small steps back toward my passion and then we found out my brain tumor came back. EVERYTHING stopped. I no longer had a choice, I was forced to take a break. My recovery has been very challenging and a couple months ago I decided that I had to take this entire year off to focus on healing. It was a tough decision at first. I felt so frustrated and discouraged as I turned down one opportunity after another… It hasn’t been easy but I’ve worked very hard to change my attitude to see this year as being full of potential, instead of nothing but an empty calendar. I am shooting just for myself and just for fun. That in itself is very healing. This time has given me a pause to examine and appreciate what truly matters and to plan very carefully how I want to spend my time and how I want to approach the future. Even though having brain surgery for the second time was miserable, I choose to see it as a blessing. I’m in a much better place now. I have discovered strength I didn’t know I had and the courage to follow my heart in unwavering pursuit of creating art that makes my soul sing. I could go on and on…. But I’ll end by saying I feel truly blessed to have met you and made a connection. You are a constant source of inspiration and LIGHT. Thank you for openly and honestly sharing your journey. You will always have a fan and a friend in Montana. Thanks again! Sending you love and hugs!
brookeshaden - Nicole, there are no words for how inspiring that is and you are. I hope you know that. Just reading your words has encouraged me to find my best self and never to take anything for granted. You will, and I’m sure have, inspired so many people. I can’t wait to see what is next for you. If ever I can be of help, just shout. Hugs!!
Nicole - Oh Brooke! Thank you for the kind reply, you are a gem!!! Work on my exhibition is currently on hold, but it’s always in the back of my mind. I’m getting stronger every day and as I continue to make progress I’m starting to visualize it taking shape…. Hopefully next year, I’ll keep you posted! Your encouragement means the world to me, thank you for taking the time to respond. Best wishes and hugs to you too! 🙂
Patti Ford - Reading this post came at a perfect time for me? Besides having a hard time saying no to clients, I find my time is shrinking more and more, being bombarded with family responsibilities — a mother with Alzheimers, a son with schizophrenia, a daughter who is a single mother… So I have really, really been trying this year to focus more on the quality of my art rather than the quantity, limit my sessions, etc. Your post was uplifting and inspiring. Thanks.
brookeshaden - Patti, wow, you have so much on your plate. And I can’t claim to begin to understand how difficult all of that is. I’m really glad to hear you are taking care of yourself too and creating what fulfills you.
Boogie - The beginning paragraphs reminded me of one of my favorite quotes by Dr. Maya Angelou, “You can only become truly accomplished at something you love. Don’t make money your goal. Instead pursue the things you love doing and then do them so well that people can’t take their eyes off of you.” I think you have successfully achieved that with your work through your passion. We also have to remind ourselves that our creative energy can both fulfill and drain us. I have been watching your videos since it was just you, your camera and a tripod jumping up and down the woods lol I gravitated towards you because you showed us that it’s okay to prefer to work alone, on a budget, with minimal care at technical camera settings and fancy equipment. I’m on an opposite situation of where you are now. I’m eager to shoot, do workshops and travel… but I either don’t have the confidence to do so, nor do I have an audience (yet) and the funds to make them into a reality. I admire you and your work so much, and if you feel the need to say NO to people, I hope you know that you are still loved and admired. Saying no to things and giving yourself some “‘me time” shows that you, too, love and admire yourself. One of the biggest changes I did to make more space for happiness was to move away from a stifling and depressing town and move to Southern California. When I moved here I told myself that I would be kinder to myself, that I wouldn’t allow people to treat me in a way that diminishes my spirit, and lastly, to create beautiful images. I have since graduated with an AA in Digital Photography, I intern at my college for Advanced Digital Photography, I’ve won ribbons and awards and have had art shows… and I am going back to the same school to pursue a degree in Graphic Design. These are accomplishments and choices that many people (especially my family) find unconventional because I don’t make $100K+ a year like they do. And trust that I have been judged to no end for it. But I am happy. I don’t make money a goal. I do the things I love doing and I have the power to say yes or no. Wishing you more rest and blessings, Brooke.
Isa - Hi Brooke! In first place I wanted to thank you for sharing your thoughts and life with all of us. I do had a hard time saying NO. I’ve always felt that saying no could lead me to be unloved or uncared… also felt that saying no was going to hurt others and that saying no was maybe being rood or just made me a “bad person”, so in time and with some help I ve realized that being always caring of everything except myself was not good for me, and because of that and fear of to be honest I don’t know what, I missed a lot of opportunities to be better and follow my dreams. Right now I’m in a process realizing that there is always time for yourself. That work your, partner, etc it Is not everything and that is ok to have time for yourself and your dreams! Thank you for sharing. It is awesome to know that are other human beings who have the same issues! I’m starting the photography path as well as part of “following my dreams” and your art has been an inspiration. Wish me luck!
Wendy Baker - I am so happy to hear that you are taking back your life of joy. I’ve often wondered how you manage to do so much for so many and still keep space for yourself. My current problem is that I don’t seem to be able to turn down travel invitations if there is a chance that I can get some beautiful photographs. I’ve scheduled my photography business to give me six months of client portrait/wedding work, then six months of time off to work on fine art. For the past few years I have used up way too much of my fine art time traveling and taking more photos, leaving me no time to actually do the work of contacting galleries, etc. I’ve finally asked myself what I am afraid of–and am now working on meeting my goals. Tomorrow my husband is going on yet another business trip– of course I was invited to go along. For the first time I said, “No thanks.” I’m going to stay here and get some prints made and hit the local galleries. Feels good.
Fit BMX - I have a big problem telling people no. But for me it is helping others, at the sacrifice of my own work. I have really been trying to be a little more selfish, but not in a bad way. 😉
You have done (and still are) so much for others, you shouldn’t feel bad at all for taking time to yourself. And if someone tries to make you feel bad for not doing X then they aren’t the kind of person you need in your life, distance yourself from them.
Stay strong. (Hug!)
Vicki Kurasz - What is this word “no” that you speak of? We can actually do that?! 🙂
My problem is that there is so much I want to do that I keep taking on more. BUT…I need to keep my time filled because when I don’t I get depressed. But…now I am stressed because I don’t have much me time. My house and cat miss me. Between working a full time job, teaching bellydance three nights a week, trying to get a photography business started, and babysitting my grandson 2-4 days a week, there is no such thing as me time anymore. Oh! But I do love to take road trips with my photography buddies!!! Yeah, but that is still not the same as being home to recharge my mind and body. Oh well.
Ashley - I wish I had more chances to say yes!
I understand the need to say no. But how wonderful it is to have so much happening that you even NEED to say no.
-Ashley from FL and proud owner of the clock
Thad - You know it’s funny that this would come-up because I think I have a problem saying no. But it’s not the same problem you have, I think I say it too much. I need to be more open to adjusting my plans. Sometimes I feel like I can just get stuck in something and can’t wrap my brain around saying yes to something else at the same time. I know I miss out on a lot of opportunities because of it . I don’t wanna be a yes-man and get overwhelmed with things to do but I’m going to try make a change to my attitude and be more open to “the now”.
Anna - So true. I keep saying yes to so much. Good for you! <3
The Life We’re Living » Promoting Passion - […] been traveling what feels like nonstop for years. I wrote about this recently when I talked about learning to say ‘no’. I want to go in more detail about why I feel the need to say no, and it isn’t just because […]