Be the engine, not the caboose

To be a leader takes a little bit of courage, some guts, a little determination–especially when the task which you're setting out to complete is something that many would challenge because it's not in line with the status quo.

But this does beg the question: would rather be the leader who is misunderstood or the follower who never lives to their truest potential? Would you rather be the engine or the caboose? Always leading from the front (also one of the traits of the most successful leaders), or would you rather be stuck at the rear dragged about by the fancy of others?

Often times the risk is worth it. The moment when you question everything you feel, or when the feeling is the direst, that is the moment when you're on to something good. Something worth your time. Something that may just leave a legacy.

So, ask yourself each day: Will I be the engine or the caboose? Sounds kind of silly, but silly is easier to remember.

Traveling to San Francisco

I’m kind of in a rush today. Packing, preparing, catching a flight, an uber, and getting settled in my hotel room. Lots of first world problems now that I’ve spelled it all out. How incredible is it that I will be able to board a metal tube and be launched across the country at 600+mph and arrive safely at a destination of my choosing?

Really makes me rethink complaining that there isn’t quite as much leg room as I’d like. Things are probably better than they seem, it just takes a little perspective to see it sometimes.

Here’s to safe flying!

The pain of discipline or agony of regret

We've all been there. That moment you realize you put off a task for too long and now the only solution is to work 36 hours straight to get the job done or the paper submitted before the deadline. As a procrastinator myself I've found myself in this situation a few times before. Why do we do this to ourselves?

Every time the deadline gets closer we feel the pressure tighten in our chest, or maybe our stomach rumbles, or panic begins to descend upon us. All the product of not getting started earlier and sticking with the task to get it finished.

For myself, it's difficult to inject urgency into me for a task that may still be ten days from the deadline. I do this all the time and then find myself looking back wondering why I didn't just start a few days earlier than I did. (How easy and relaxed most projects would be if I did!)

The root cause of most procrastination is the failure to be able to sacrifice the present pleasure for future gain. We want the entertainment, relaxation, play time, etc... right now and we take it instead of doing the thing that is difficult now but feels great to have done later on.

There is a great saying that you will experience the pain of discipline now or the agony of regret later. I think that sums up being in the throes of procrastination nicely.

Get started today. Find a way to make yourself care (or get a new job.) Inject urgency. Think of your family (or whatever motivates you.) Break the large task into small tasks that are easy to get finished and just start making progress. You will never regret having a bit more finished when the project deadline gets closer and closer.

Go. Now. Do a little work. Then do a little more. Not too much, just a little. Be proud of who you are today when you wake up tomorrow.

How to wake up earlier (and happier)

One of the last things I do each day is to lay out the goals for the next day and schedule my day hour-by-hour from 8am-7pm.

By laying out the next day, I know exactly when I need to wake up and why. This helps to give my morning purpose and keeps me from sleeping in. I want to get up to attack my tasks and I know that by 9 am I need to have X task finished, etc...

When you work for yourself and don't have a boss to whom you answer, creating a work schedule for yourself each night is a good way to ensure you don't lay in bed until noon before deciding to get up and start work.

Layout your day. Wake with purpose. Be more productive. Be happier.

P.S. also, the most important part of waking early is getting to bed at a good hour the night before. Focus harder and work to be more disciplined about getting to bed a little earlier. It helps a bit.

Haters and outside voices

Most of us let peer pressure affect us quite a bit and lots of us let non-peer pressure affect us, too. The pressure of people we don't even know and likely will never know–and who don’t particularly even care about you.

Ignoring the outside voices who shout at you is the best practice. Do what you believe is right and keep looking for what is right, what is best, what is good. Stand on the merit of what you know to be true. Don't let the outside voices push you off your path.

This goes for the people saying good OR bad things. Don't buy the hype, it'll make you complacent. Don't listen to the doubters, it'll make you want to quit.

If Edison, Tesla, Einstein, Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, etc... had waited for the world's approval, they'd have never even started. Ignore the haters and never buy into the hype. Do your work.

Boiling it down to the essence

Finding my "style" was something that I always chased as a young photographer. Somedays I think I'm still chasing it.

For an artist to find their own style doesn't symbolize the death of their creativity or an inability to work with clients and adapt to what they need. Instead, it's a mark that makes an artist instantly recognizable. Most of us know when we see an Ansel Adams or a Dali or a Picasso. They just have something about them that instantly informs you of who the artist it.

As an artist, doing the same thing over and over again frees you up to explore that avenue and get better and better at that. To this day, as a photographer, sometimes I can feel like I've shot a certain style image enough and it's time to try something new.

Does that mean I still haven't discovered who I am and what my style is? I think it's more an issue of developing the discipline and confidence to continue doing the same style over and over again and perfecting it as best I am able. Think of it as boiling down all the stuff to the perfect core-the essence of the style of artwork I make.

So I think I'll keep doing what I do, maybe even limit myself in what I will do even more in an effort to be amazing at what I do and develop a style that is unmistakable and instantly recognizable.

I'm cutting myself off

I try to get to the point, but I love the extra stuff that makes a statement more "flowery" so I try to subdue that bit when I speak and write. But I'm pretty bad at that.

It's easy to take a small thing and spend ten minutes talking about it when a sentence would suffice. Text messages are nice because it's one line instead of a five-minute conversation. A 3 minute YouTube video is easier to watch than a 35-minute video on the same subject.

Being long and drawn out doesn't make me sound more intelligent, I think it just turns people off. I don't think we should communicate using only a few beeps and boops, but getting to the point early and often is better and more considerate of other's time. This is a goal of mine moving forward.

Trim the speech, edit the sentence, end the conversation. Nobody will care if you leave out the superfluous words and explaining things the long way. Extra words just fill space and convey a lack of confidence.

Enough on this subject. I'm cutting myself off now.

A nice way to operate

You shouldn't build the tallest building by tearing down all the buildings that happen to be taller than your building. You simply keep building higher and higher.

Offering genuine compliments and showing genuine interest in others' accomplishments is the better way to go about building your tall building.

When you offer these compliments and care about the success of others, you show how deep your own confidence is and the integrity with which you carry yourself. This has the double-edged effect of showing how confident you are in yourself and also builds a network of people around you who are willing to help you if you need it because you've always shown that genuine care for them.

It's also a really nice way to operate in general and people will probably like you more. Most importantly, you build your own business, brand, project, etc... while also building those around you.

Build the tallest building by building it, not by tearing others down.

Find your rocket fuel

We've all heard the saying "Hard work beats talent when talent doesn't work hard." It's fun to say, it's easy to say, but to apply it in our life like a commandment it much more difficult.

Hard work and commitment will beat any other traits almost always. There is never an obstacle too big when we're committed to our work and willing to work hard.

Those obstacles become the stepping stones to something greater and as we defeat them, they become like rocket fuel propelling us forward.

Find your passion. Find what you want to commit to. Work hard and then work harder.

Doing the least amount possible

If you know how little you need to do to get by, you can ensure much greater consistency with the things you do.

I like to set minimum attainable standards I must meet, but also maximum limitations I must abide by for nearly every task in my life.

If I just meet the minimum, I can check that item off my to-do list. The maximum limit ensures I don't spend 3 hours in the morning working on sketching when there are more pressing items I must be doing.

Example #1: Go to the gym each day

Minimum standard: Drive to the gym and walk on the treadmill for five minutes.

Maximum standard: Complete my full lifting routine for that day + 30 minutes of running.

Knowing that all I NEED to do is get to the gym and walk for five minutes helps get me to the gym and once I'm at the gym the lifting and cardio is easy. The most difficult part of going to the gym is the going part.

Example #2: Read every day

Minimum standard: Read for five minutes.

Maximum limitation: Read for no more than 60 minutes.

Finding five minutes to pick up a book is easy and most of the time I get engrossed in what I'm reading and stick around for 30 or 40 minutes. Here the maximum limitation forces me to focus as I read because I can only spend an hour reading at most.

This technique has been the most effective way to get me doing the daily task I want to incorporate into my life and be consistent with them. Reading, praying, working out, sketching, email, cleaning my office, learning new skills via online training, writing these blog posts, and a number of other things.

Have you considered setting a minimum standard for something to be considered a success in your life and business?

Buying the Sigma 50mm f1.4 ART or Canon 50mm f1.2L?

In a sharp break from the normal philosophical-leaning posts on this blog, I want to talk about some camera gear.

I've been long overdue for an upgrade to my 50mm lens. Over the past 3-4 years, I've had this love affair with my 85mm lens and haven't used my Canon 50mm f1.4 enough to justify an upgrade.

Now is the time for an upgrade, and I'm forced to make the choice between the near 15-year-old Canon f1.2L 50mm lens and the larger/heavier and $600-cheaper Sigma 50mm f1.4 ART lens.

The choice of the actual Canon branded lens that has an additional 1/3rd stop in the aperture department seems to be the obvious choice, but after looking into the comparisons, the Sigma lens seems to be very superior when it comes to the lens distortion and sharpness. The only downside I've found to the Sigma is that it's about an inch longer than the Canon and it's about half a pound heavier.

Both lenses have fast focusing (for sub f2.0 lenses) and weather sealing.

For additional sharpness and less lens distortion at a $600 cheaper price tag, I decided to go with the Sigma.

The only argument I heard about why the Canon 50mm f1.2L was better was that, despite it being a much less sharp lens, it "just produces a better portrait."

I'm not really sure what that means and I haven't been able to find anyone who compares this made up lens feature. For me, I'll take the best available tool and find a way to make beautiful portraits with it.

Sigma 50mm F1.4 lens review should be coming soon!

Doubt the people you love the most

I want the people I care about to doubt me, underestimate me, and be sure that I will fail. It's the best motivation for my success and it drives me more than pretty much anything else.

Because of the way doubt fuels me, I doubt most the people who I want most to succeed because I know how it feels. I believe that my doubt will be a great motivator to their success (if they know I am doubting them and they care about my opinion).

It's a loving sort of doubt, not the doubt expressed by people who want you to fail because of insecurities. This is an empowering doubt meant to help push someone to the next level and then shove it in my face.

Years ago I loved when people complimented me in various ways, but these days, I prefer the people who express doubt and arrogantly proclaim that I will be a failure. The compliments drove me to get fat and lazy, the doubt and arrogance drive me to work harder and ensure that I'll be shoveling dirt back in their faces as the years move on.

P.S. today my wife and I lost a dear grandmother on her side of the family. Death is always a sobering reminder of the fleeting nature of life. Take nothing for granted and do your best today as if it's your last.

Did I wake up too late?

It's never too late to start. This maxim stands true for a day of work or a life of accomplishments (or lack thereof.)

Resist the urge to lay down and give up because you've got a late start. Woke up 3 hours late? No big deal. You may still do 80% of your tasks (and don't sleep in again!). Just discovered your passion at age 45? No problem. Sam Walton opened his first "Walmart" store at age 44.

Sam Walton didn't let his late start deter him and now his family has a pretty successful thing going on.

Sometimes I wonder how many good things get passed up because you or I got started later than expected. How much are we surrendering because we can't remain agile and flexible even when our first plans don't come through the way we expect?

Never give up. Never make excuses. Never be envious of those who have youth rather than experience.

Monday is beautiful

In a world where we all hate Monday so much, I try to show the day some love. For me, Monday is a fresh start, a clean slate, a promise of what's to come and the excitement of a new week full of potential.

I love Monday. Do you?

Kodak paid the ultimate price

This isn't a break-up story, it's what happens when you stand still when you stop moving when you stop innovating.

When a company gets large it also gets cumbersome and moves like a large ship. Smaller startups are far more agile and can risk it all if they believe it will make the difference. Large companies play it safe and prefer to be risk-averse.

In 1976, Kodak sold 90% of the film in the country. Less than 30 years later they're a dead company. Why? Because they failed to innovate. With billions of dollars in revenue tied up in the film photography realm, they failed to make the transition to digital when the rest of the world did and they paid the ultimate price.

Your company is smaller than Kodak was in 1976 and far more agile. Don't be afraid to make changes, try new things, and take risks.

What are you doing to stick out?

Are you noticeable or easy to forget? In today's marketplace, having noticeability is useful–unless you're in a crime syndicate.

But to be noticeable requires doing things differently or being so magnificent at what you do that people cannot ignore you any longer. The problem for us is that there is only one Michael Jordan, one Lance Armstrong, one Ansel Adams, one "greatest-ever" legend at nearly everything.

We all have a limit on just how magnificent we can be at any given thing (I could shoot 1000 basketballs a day and never even crack an NBA roster, let alone compete on Jordan's level,) but we all can go about things differently and in a more daring fashion.

Be the first bookmobile, the first person to transform an old airplane into your home, or the first person to walk across the North Pole. Do something different and run the risk of being noticed.

I know in principle these things are true, but I still find myself tempted to play it safe because the comfort of conformity is a seductive and entangling mistress. If you're going to be different, you have to live it and it must become your modus operandi. Everyone can sniff it out if you're faking the commitment to doing things differently. That's not the noticeability you want.

What are you doing to stick out?

Forcing creativity

Forcing creativity, or as I like to call it, "getting work done" is the bane of all the dreamers and creatives in the world. We love to dream. I'd dream all day if I could make a living at it. Hard work needs to be done to get ahead. Walking doesn't cut it, you need to run to make progress.

My favorite way of forcing my creativity and getting things done is to place myself under artificial time constraints. Building my own deadlines and sticking to them.

Of course, you need to develop the self-discipline to actually want to stick to your deadlines. After all, you're the only one to whom you're accountable. Will you throw off the deadlines and embrace the mediocrity of relaxed, slow-paced, get-nothing-done-ness?

Or will you make those deadlines the most important thing in your working day? Will you actually make the change and get that work done or consistently stick to your schedule?

Try forcing your own creativity. You just might find it's pretty great.

Selling for cheap vs. expensive

Would you rather sell one $1 product to 1,000,000 people or one $100,000 product to 10 people?

1 million customers bring 1 million potential tech support issues, 1 million overhead charges, and 1 million transactions that need to be processed.

You can take care of 10 customers and treat them like the kings and queens that they are.

Bottom line is that your company makes the same profit (probably more due to less customer service and transactional fees!) and you don't need to stay up all night struggling to care for a million customers.

How do you charge $100,000 for your product? Become the best at what you do and never stop until you get there.

New Year's Resolutions

If you can create a New Year’s Resolution, can’t you start now instead of waiting for a special day?

Make changes for the better whether it’s the 1st of the year or the 100th day.

Goodbye, 2018

2018 was a good year. Not great, just good. I left a lot on the table and played it safer than I should have. It's always easier to talk about taking bigger risks than actually going and taking those risks.

I'm not one for "New Year's Resolutions." They only last a few days, anyway. I prefer setting goals for the year and working toward them. Here are a few goals for 2019–personal and professional:

  1. (5 am) wake up every day

  2. Read 52 books in 2019

  3. Write a post every day

  4. Sketch 5-6x a week

  5. 5,000,000 views monthly on my YouTube channel

  6. Start a photography YouTube channel

  7. Be consistent weekly with my podcast

  8. Create more impressive videos, even if that means creating less of them.

  9. Create 2x-5x courses/products for my company.

  10. Hit 1.5 million YouTube subscribers

  11. Hit 100k followers on Instagram

  12. Be more personal on all social media (show my face and get involved more)

  13. Achieve more than 3x of these goals this year.

I made a list at the beginning of 2018 and I achieved 1 of the ten goals I outlined. The main goal will be achieving more than ONE of these goals this time around.