Reconsidering my elevator speech

When I think about an elevator speech, I think about bras. Most people have the wrong one and it doesn’t really work for them. Sure it does the job in the mean time, but it could probably be better. And just like a great fitting bra, once you have one you never know how you ever lived without it.

A while back I took a class that looked at the different aspects of business. As an artist I don’t always think about myself as a business, but when you break it down it is key component.

During the class we were challenged to think about what made us unique and what we thought people would want to know. Having a plan makes the inevitable conversation so much easier.

I don’t know how many times I have been approached and people ask me what kind of pictures do I take. I want to give them a simple answer that summarizes the body of my work, but I usually end up doing myself disservice and start off saying something like this:

“Well yea know, I take all sorts of pictures. It’s kind of hard to describe but……well I guess you could call it…..”

In that short amount of time I have already lost their interest and probably made them less interested in my work.

The way up in a financial building

I have always had a hard time committing to a specific pitch, because I thought that it might limit what people think about me and my work. But on the flip side if I am giving them a bunch of garble I’m not really doing myself any favors either.

After becoming more and more irritated with myself by my responses I have finally decided that it is time to be a little more proactive with my image and create a solid elevator speech.

It’s really quite simple too. Now when people ask me what I do for photography I tell them that I take portraits of nature. So far this has seemed to spark some level of curiosity and I get to explain and even show them some of my pictures.

Like I said it’s concise and gets people interested and is far better then fumbling over what my art isn’t about versus what it is about.

Of course in all reality you should be prepared with a little more information than that. I like to think of things in terms of food, and in this case a sandwich. Important aspects of your career could be education, time in the field and then the direction you are headed or current projects. Smush all that together with what you do and you’ll be just fine.

I know people say to practice things like this on family and friends, but I am really not fan of putting myself out there to the people who make fun of me the most.

I try to if at all possible without seeming to self-center bring up my photography in conversation. That way I get a chance to practice my elevator speech during casual conversations. After my encounters I try to think about what felt right and what did’t go so well.

They always say practice makes perfect and I think in this case it really does apply. The more you talk about the better you will get and the more confident about yourself and your product you’ll be.

In my opinion confidence really is key. Even if you are just starting out be proud of what you have to offer and internalize your self worth. That type of mentality will take you further than you think.

Crushing Societal Expectations

It was probably about two years ago that I sat here writing about almost the same thing. Against my better judgement I had enrolled in the MBA program at SNHU, because I thought it was the right thing to do.

It’s not that there is anything wrong with SNHU; in fact it is the best school I have gone to by far. The problem was my choice in degree program.

I really can’t blame my adviser either, because I was pretty convincing that this was the life that I wanted. Despite my previous degree in English Language Arts I had talked myself into a more stable career that would offer what I thought was a strong financial future.

When you’re younger, people always ask you what you want to be when you grow up. We say things like a dancer, baseball player, fireman and teacher. Careers like accountant and business manager rarely escape our lips.

Still we see it every day in advertisement and as we drive down the road: to be happy in life we must be successful.

To be successful — What does that really mean?

I think I thought what most people thought. You get married, settle down, have a kid, get a retirement plan and save for your “future.”

No one ever came right out and said that this was what was expected of me, but it was always something that I felt obligated to do.

Now I know that there are some nay-sayers out there so let me insert my disclaimer here:

This post is in no way intended to offend anyone because they chose to be boring, so if you are offended maybe you should reconsider your options.

I realize that I am coming across a bit harsh, but it is only until you are on the other side of the fence that you can see how miserable you really were.

So here I was about two years ago a few classes into my MBA program and basically hating every moment. For those of you who have followed me over the years, you know that I made the incredibly tough decision to leave the MBA program to return to my love of writing.

Although my career outlook was less than certain, I was considerably happier. Maybe this is what success is suppose to look like.

Fire QuoteThe “Summer I Turned 30” as I like to call it, also brought more changes into my life. To summarize what will likely be my first novel, I met the most amazing woman, and now share my life with her. Although I have never been happier, making the choice to turn my life upside down wasn’t taken lightly.

I don’t know why I have always been so preoccupied with what I thought everyone else wanted from me, but these unspoken expectations ruled my life.

I monitored and censored everything from the music I listened to, the way I dressed, how I cut my hair and even the type of art I created.

Reading this aloud to myself I realize how ridiculous I have been. I wasn’t benefiting anyone, not even myself for limiting who I was inside.

There was saying I use to hear a lot in school. People would say “Let your freak flag fly.”

Since reclaiming who I am I have received more compliments than ever. People say that I am confident, beautiful and create amazing works of art. I might not necessarily internalize their words yet, but I have definitely noticed a difference in myself.

It’s interesting to me how clear everything is in hindsight, and it’s only you are on the other side that you realize how much different life can be.

Although I am still in the beginning stages of my journey I have realized that I wasn’t do anyone any favors by denying myself who I really am. No only was I depriving myself of enjoying life, but I wasn’t able to give back to others with my fullest capacity.

Just food for thought if you ever find yourself in a similar situation like I was in. Happy chewing.

A little mental preparation

It’s crazy the things that get us stressed out. Even the little things that are suppose to make us happy can have us cringing on the inside. I tend to be an over-thinker so this happens to me a lot. I am the type of person that the phrase, “Making a mountain out of a mole hill,” and runs with it.

All in all I can actually handle most stressful situations, but strangely enough it’s the little things that get me worked up the most. For one I hate doing paperwork, not that I think that there is anyone out there that actually likes it, but the thought of doing it is enough to make me want to pass on the whole thing.

I think it was back in July or maybe early August that I had talked to the local director of the arts center about hanging some of my work for a gallery show. I was of course thrilled to pieces, but then quickly realized that it meant a lot of leg work on my end.

rocking chairOf course I’m stupid I knew that there would be work involved, and that’s not what really bothered me, it was the decision making that stressed me out the most. It was one thing to think about my art hanging on the wall, and it was another thing to make it happen.

First off I have to tell you that it was a good thing that she was so patient with me, because anyone else would have likely of had a few choice words for me.

The stress started when I realized I had to had to fill a large space. But the funny thing about stress is that I was stressed before I had even seen the space. I had no idea what I was even working with and already it was getting me.

So because in my mind I saw this grandiose space I immediately thought that it was going to cost me an arm and a leg to produce that much work to fill this space (which I hadn’t actually seen yet).

I am not sure how your brain works, but for me when I am stressed it is only natural for me to come up with excuses that seem perfectly legitimate. I seriously had no idea what I was really afraid of (the unknown I guess) but it took me forever to go see that space.

And you know what? Once I did, I realized “Oh, this isn’t that bad.”

Figures right? All that stressing for nothing…..not quite.

Well at least I had gotten the first obstacle down. I did some rough math and figured out how many photos I needed and eventually bought frames, but the kicker was I hadn’t actually chosen my images yet, but because I tend to do things backwards I already had the frames.

With a lot of self talk and few e-mails from the director I picked about thirty images. Picking pictures for the show was as hard as I thought it would be. I knew that this part of the process would be tough and I anticipated that.

Eventually I made a folder on my desktop labeled art show and began dragging pictures to it one by one. There I did it, 30 pictures, but then I had to size them all…….blah!

That part actually wasn’t as hard as I thought. I knew which pictures I really liked and which ones I wanted to made bigger. So if anything that was the easiest part.

About another week or so of stress induced procrastination I finally sat down and with the help of my girlfriend got all the pictures in the frame. The kicker though was that I did this all the night before I was suppose to hang my show. Yup talk about some serious procrastination on my part, I should probably get an award for that or something.

So now that I have spewed out 600 or so words, my story really does have a point. As I was telling this to a friend of my mine she was like “Well yeah of course you were stressed this is a big deal.”

Like the idiot I can be I blindly said, “It’s just an art show it really shouldn’t be that big a deal.”

I caught myself part way through my response and realized what I had said. Of course it’s a big deal. Anytime you put yourself out there, especially something personal like art you are at risk for being judged and getting your feelings hurt.

So I guess what I am saying is that my stress induced procrastination might have been slightly justified, but still mostly irrationally and a waste of my time.

If anything I am hoping that I learned something from this and maybe, just maybe if I am lucky the next time around won’t be so bad (I did say maybe).

I know a girl

It’s kind of hard to even know where to begin. I can’t really say that I’m not myself, because I’m happier than I’ve ever been, so it might be more accurate to say that I am finally who I am suppose to be.

Why am I so happy you ask? I can’t necessarily place the blame solely on a singular person, since we all know that happiness comes from within, but the majority of my plastered smile is a direct result of one woman: Jamie.

ColorJamie (yes that’s her real name) is amazing, and I love her. Jamie is the type of person I have waited my whole life for. Seriously she makes me so happy that my friends post barf photos as comments to my posts, because we are so mushy.

It’s kind of ridiculous when you think about it, and by ridiculous I mean freakin’ awesome. To meet someone that you fall for, and to have no regard to gender is an amazing thing.

I’ve had a lot of people ask me about my sexuality since I’ve been with her. Of course that might have something to do with the fact that I have been married twice, both to a man, but really to be honest I don’t give it a lot of thought.

Maybe I’ve “Come out of the closet” or maybe I haven’t, but at the end of the day it really doesn’t matter to me. What matters is that I’ve found love and friendship with an amazing human being who reciprocates the same feelings.

Love is Love, it’s really that simple.

Don’t wait to do what you love

They say that when you do what you love, that you never work a day in your life. Over the past few years I found that statement to be very true.

I used to do what everyone else thought was good for me, but never took the time to consider what I really wanted out of life.

When I was looking for a potential career, people always talked about money and job advancement, but never what my true passions were. Even when the topic did come up in conversation about my love for art, writing and working with others, it some how got manipulated into something so far gone from where I started with that I didn’t even recognize it.

It would be like saying “Oh good you like to write, because there is lots of paper work in this job.” Um, no…not even close.

I hate that people feel like have to put aside their passions until they retire. I read obituaries as part of my job at the paper, and I can tell you that people are dying every day. I have always said that, “Some people don’t get their someday.” And it’s true; sadly not everyone will live long enough to do all those things on their bucket list.

I understand that people can’t just quit their day job and run off to what ever they want, but I think that people should work at creating more time in their lives to do the things that they love.

Love LifeIt can seem selfish to indulge in the things that we love to do, but the dishes, the housecleaning and mowing the lawn can all wait.

Set aside time, even if it is just once a week or even once a month. Do the things you love, take a walk with your camera, sit down and start reading a book, tackle your bucket list starting today.

Okay that came out a little direct, but I mean it. It really kills me when I hear people say that someday they will learn to do something. By putting those things off you are not doing anyone any favors, I promise.

Something I have learned from taking pictures

I always feel like I have to start some posts with a disclaimer, so here it goes. I am not saying there is a right or a wrong to do some things, this is just how I am doing it right now.

When I first found free picture editing websites I was very excited to see what I could turn my photos into. I loved using different effects, shadowing around the boarders, and of course put my name at the bottom.

When I was done editing my photo, it really did look like a piece of artwork. A lot of time and care was put into the image making sure that it looked just right. I did this for a while, obviously liking my results, but recently I began to change my approach to the final product.

After a while I couldn’t help but feel like all that doctoring up took away from the image. When I took pictures my goal was to capture the natural beauty that I was seeing, so why was I trying so hard to make the photo look so different?

I ended up not liking this method, and began taking a minimalist approach to my photos. I used some basic features like clarity, vibrancy and cropping. I also stopped digitally signing my photos.

simplicity-quotes-tumblr-beautyIt took some getting use to, but I found that my photos looked more natural and believable. I also had the satisfaction of knowing that what I was looking at and sharing with others was my photo, not some doctored up image.

I have continued to keep my approach to editing the same, using a minimalist method. I truly like I was see, because I am actually look at the image free of distractions and noise.

I have also found that I am getting better at taking pictures too. I rely less and less on the editing process and more on getting the right lighting, angle and subject matter.

With all lessons learned in life there is always a greater meaning if you are willing to look for it. We always hear that simple is best, but usually fail to see how it applies to all areas of our lives. Consider this one, a lesson learned.