Who isn’t a high achiever these days? Who doesn’t have ambitions and goals? We all see other people doing things, we see it first-hand thanks to social media, but the how and why of it isn’t always clear. So we set out to do something similar with no road map and no real understanding of the effort or steps involved to get there. Unless we choose a well-trod path in life, chances are we spend a good long time fumbling around in the dark.
And what keeps us going is ambition, a dream we are willing to work hard for and a vision of what success looks like. And we do work hard, day in day out we work. You could call it perseverance and determination and a love for what we do, but there’s a very fine line between passion and belligerence.
Most successes in life are a slow burn. We hope we’re on the right track but who can ever be entirely sure? As much as we seek advice, no one’s path to success is going to look the same and the truth is there’s no formula. But because we’re always looking outside ourselves for proof of success, it’s easy to miss our personal mile-markers. Who can say what interim success looks like? I mean, is that even a thing? So anything short of our ideal is, put simply, not good enough.
Here’s how it sounds in my head sometimes: nothing is ever good enough. I’m never working hard enough, my successes aren’t big enough, my failures are because I’m not talented enough or I’m a joke. I’m not smart enough, savvy enough, or personable enough. I’m not good at communicating, I have a fundamental inability to genuinely connect with anyone. And that's on top of the usual not enoughs when it comes to my personality and body.
It’s so easy to think this is coming from a genuine place, and to believe it. Sometimes I’ll just come home and ask Adam “am I a bad person?” – and when the waters get muddy I go from being bad at something, to just being bad in general. It gets personal very quickly.
When that voice builds up enough momentum and claws its way into our hearts and minds, it’s crushing. It becomes all we can hear and we start to spiral. No one is going to convince us we’re anything but useless.
It needs to stop
What I have discovered is that these kind of painful thoughts can’t survive if you just go back to what you love most. For me it’s my actual work, it’s getting on the road taking photos. Not being a photographer, but just coming up with fun ways of photographing for the sheer love of doing it. It’s chasing that thrill I get when I capture the kind of light that makes my heart jump. It’s finding other photographers that I admire dreaming over what they create, and the idea that everyone is in it together, just creating amazing stuff that makes them happy.
In the face of my love for the process, all that worry below the surface can just take a back seat. I’m here to create work that I love, and be determined in creating only what I love – nothing else.
Who knows what success will look like for me or anyone, maybe I’m already achieving it. All I know of success is that it’s usually made up of what I see other people doing, which nine times out of ten is a story I made up in my head of what it took for them to get there. I can’t follow that path, I don’t know the way…
And this is the truth of it all: if you want to do something brave and creative with your life, it is supposed to be challenging. It is sometimes full of self-doubt and criticism, it’s scary, it’s long hours and sometimes pretty lonely. But it doesn’t have to be so painful. Fall in love with the work you create, with the process of creating it, and the community of people creating alongside you on their own path. It takes the pressure off, I promise.