PHOTOGRAPHERS STRONGEST TOOL: YOUR INSTINCTS (NOT YOUR CAMERA)
WHAT IS MY SECRET TO SUCCESS?
From the inception of my photography career (and video work) I listened to this nagging feeling that persisted to the point of total annoyance. For me, I think that my parents didn't really push me to stop listening to it but in general with all society it is killed off slowly. For whatever reason, I listen and always listened to this feeling. I didn't know what was or that it had a name.
I knew that it was a nervous feeling and something that was quite loud for a feeling. Call this person. Don't trust that person. This person may need help, see if they're OK or this person isn't really on your side. I listened to this voice and I'll tell you exactly how it was re-introduced to me after several years of hiding it in the dark corners of my mind.
I had dinner with a friend that I met on the Madonna Tour at the start of my career. Jamie was influential not only in Madonna's career but that of Ricky Martin, Christina Aguilera, Britney, Celine, Cirque, Prince and danced for Michael Jackson. You listen to this type of person when they offer solid advice. This video on this page really goes into detail about it. However, he asked me to dinner and it was during that dinner that he broke me down. Told me that I cared what others thought, that I wasn't doing much with my life, that I didn't listen to a higher power, that I was wasting my talent and so much more. It WAS brutal but I'm so thankful for that day. After the breakdown was the build up and he refreshed me on instincts. He actually broke it down and told me how they work. I'm going to do the same for YOU!
DO I NEED TO BELIEVE IN GOD TO UNDERSTAND INSTINCTS?
Let me kill the debating point for the naysayers right here and now. No, you do not have to believe in God to subscribe to instincts. You have to believe in something bigger than you, that's the only requirement. You also don't have to call it instincts. You can call it God. You can call it Buddha, Allah, Christ, or God (if you want). You can call it gut feelings, energy or the universe. You can call it 6th sense or sixth sense. You can call it nature or life, feelings or a hunch.
Call it anything you want. The name is the least important part of this exercise but whether you believe it or not, we all have this innate trait within us. It goes right there with hearing, seeing, tasting and touch.
WHAT ARE INSTINCTS?
The dictionary says it's "A natural or intuitive way of acting or thinking". Birds build nests, it's natural to them. They don't worry about what other birds think, they just build it because it's a means of survival. It's what you do naturally, like the way a new mother holds her newborn. She's never held her own child, but suddenly it's natural. Salmon swim upstream to reproduce. They just do it, because it's natural.
Reference.com says, "Instincts help humans and animals avoid danger, form groups and even choose mates." Instincts examples are calling someone because they keep crossing your mind. It's a mother knowing her child is in trouble or hurt. It's knowing that something bad may happen, so you don't get in that car or walk a certain dark alley. It's also buying a lotto ticket because something told you to buy it today. It's in my own case, buy a camera even though you have no idea how to turn it on.
It's something completely natural that we all have in us. It's supposed to save you and help you. It's supposed to get you out of danger, help you find a mate and make life easier. Yet, many of us don't use it and silence it to fit in. This happens to more people than you think.
WHY IS CARING WHAT PEOPLE SAY ABOUT YOU, SO TERRIBLE?
I am completely guilty of this, or I was. Even today I care, but far less and I couldn't be happier about that. Here's why caring what people say it is lethal and terrible for you as a person and a photographer.
We let our egos get in the way. That's why we care what others think. What if they don't like my photography? What if my camera isn't good enough? What if they think my idea sucks or that I don't have what it takes? What if this or what if that!? That's why it's terrible to care what people say. It stops you from achieving the incredible. It gets in your way of success and beautiful ideas because you're wasting your talent & time on the opinions of others. These people will judge you regardless, so you might as well make it something great.
In some cases they won't even judge you like you think they would. That's your ego speaking for you. Stop it! I wouldn't show people my work, because what if they thought I was terrible? What if they thought I was an idiot with no talent? Harsh? Sure but that's what I thought and it's my truth. But it was my ego that got in the way of showing my pictures, telling people I want to take pictures or that I could possibly do this. So I hid behind the talent of others and never really started my own career because of fear. My ego was responsible for that fear.
YOU HAVE AN EGO. GET RID OF IT.
If you're reading this, you have an ego. Admit it. You care what others think, and you want everyone to see your images. You have an ego and you join great people, like me! I have an ego also, a huge one. But we have to drop the ego (or the worst part of it that keeps you back). Your ego is your sense of self-importance and when you take yourself too seriously, things fall apart. Can't wait for everyone to attack me for this part but I stand by it.
Your ego wants you to take good pictures, the best photographs. Your ego wants you to have a great camera and have people envy you. Your ego wants your name associated with beautiful work and wide acceptance. So what happens? You don't start because your work isn't yet perfection. You stop showing people your work, because what if they don't fall in love with it. You keep buying the latest and greatest camera, because your ego wants people to look at you. Are you guilty of any of this?
I AM. I am still working on it though. Back then, my ego wanted people to know that I worked with Madonna and if showed them my work....maybe they'd think less of me. My ego wanted my photographs to be celebrated and didn't want anyone to critique my work. And because of that, I never started.
Huffington Post says, "As an artist you cannot create without your ego". Learn to drop the parts of the ego which keep you back. Keep the good. Destroy anything that prohibits you from taking a chance, because you're afraid what others may say about your photography and creative work.
HOW TO GET CLOSE TO GOD, THE LIGHT, THE UNIVERSE, YOUR INSTINCTS, YOUR GUT, ENERGY?
It takes practice. Developing your instincts and gut feeling takes lots of practice to get it working again. What else takes time? Taking beautiful pictures takes a lot of time. Getting a body in great shape takes time, and so does finishing school or buying a house. However, it's not impossible and it's absolutely closer than you think.
If you're working on taking great photographs and mastering the camera, then work on mastering your instincts. Learn how to listen when no one is talking and listen to how your body feels around certain situations. Learn how to listen to how your energy level changes around people, situations, and keep listening.
If you get a weird feeling, and it persists listen to it. If the feelings says you should call someone, call them. If the feeling says to grab a camera and look for something to photograph, do it. Maybe you'll help someone you love feel better. Maybe you'll take an amazing photograph that can change your portfolio or meet someone that contributes to your career.
If you get a feeling that you shouldn't set foot into an uber, don't. Cancel it and pay the cancellation fee. The drive might think you're odd, but who cares. Listen to your gut. Over time you'll notice when you were right and when you were mistaken. You'll learn when you overreacted and when you were absolutely correct. You'll get better at listen to true instincts vs. paranoia.
Like anything, it takes practice to build up. Like going to the gym, you won't be a master in one week, one month or even one year. Like the first photograph you took, it wasn't great. But it was a start and a great step towards your future. Learn to listen to yourself.
Nadia Goodman from Entrepreneur Magazine says, "As a business leader, you constantly need to come up with new ideas. You're creating a vision for tomorrow -- a world that doesn't exist yet. And your greatest resource for getting it right is your instincts."
Nadia also goes on to say, we should ignore the rules. All the rules are made by someone else who had an instinct five years or fifty years before you, The leaders who trust their instincts will be the ones who set the new rules -- the ones who anticipate and solve tomorrow's problems.
I couldn't agree more with Nadia. Trusting your instincts IS your strongest and greatest resource! Take your time learning but it's something you listen to and trust every day. Sometimes it's serious and sometimes it's a matter of which coffeeshop to visit. You've got this!
WHY DON'T PEOPLE BELIEVE IN THEIR 6TH SENSE ANYMORE?
In any culture and any background, you'll notice that likely one of the first 3 words any child learns is "NO".
- No, we don't cry!
- No, be a good girl and smile...don't scream.
- No, boys don't cry...it's OK!
- No, don't do that. What will people say? You're a good baby!
- No, we don't want people to look at you.
And you can see how in a matter of years, we've conditioned kids to go from expressing themselves to silencing them. Ultimately everything I listed about has a theme. It's not doing something innate and natural because we want others to accept us. Heartbreaking.
Not only is it heartbreaking but it's understandable also. Our parents want us to fit in. They want us to cause the least amount of waves and not be teased. They want to look good in front of peers with a well-behaved child and that's their ego affecting you. It's not that your parents or mine are terrible people. In fact, they're incredible people doing their best to make sure we fit in.
However, over time we all fall trap to this. We're told to be less like ourselves so we fit in more like everyone else. That's really how we start to lose our instincts. We're told to shut up, for the sake of others accepting us. Think about that. Think about how many times you've been told to not do something, because they want you accepted and not criticized by others.
I'm certainly not suggesting that we let kids run wild and without guidelines. I'm pointing out how it all starts. Somewhere in the middle is the best method and it varies from person to person.
DO I HAVE ANY INSTINCTS IN ME IF THEY KILLED IT OFF? (REAL WORLD EXAMPLES)
Yes! You still have your instincts just like I have my abs under my belly fat. It's there, it's not significant or noticeable but it's there. The more I work on it, the more it'll take shape and form. Your instincts or gut feeling is exactly the same.
Listen to it. If you have a sick child but the doctor says they're fine, your instincts will tell you otherwise. As a parent, you KNOW something's wrong and your instincts say you should see another doctor. There you go, it works!
If you had a weird feeling about taking on a client but ignored it, then the client ended up being the worst...that's your gut feeling. It tried to speak to you and warn you. You didn't listen and decided to accept the client, only to feel it was a complete waste of time and energy. That's how instincts come in play.
In my case, I had a weird feeling that I should buy a camera. I had no idea what an F-stop was or how to turn the camera on. But the feeling persisted and I listened to it after a couple weeks of it nagging me. I went and put the camera on my last credit card available. I played with the camera for a week and then a call came in from a friend of a friend: "Walid do you have a camera? Want to photograph Usher today at his rehearsals?" - BAM! Instincts poked and poked me until I got the camera!
It's happening each day for us, large and small. Learn to listen to it, when you accept your instincts and when you deny them...just listen to your gut feeling. Learn to recognize when it speaks to you. Learn to recognize when you deny it and what the outcome was.
ANIMALS DON'T KILL THEIR INSTINCTS
Animals have fight, flight or freeze. They don't take the skills away from their young. They don't care what other deer think or what other birds think. They just do what comes natural. We do the opposite. We shut our kids down and tell them to behave a certain way in order to be accepted by others.
Understandably we have a more complicated society but I think you get the point. We teach each other to silence our instincts, our 6th sense or stop listening to the universe. We essentially tell them to put their greatest tool away and forget they have it.
NO! You're not going to do that if I have anything to do with it. I want you to succeed. I want you to give this a chance!
CAN I PROVE INSTINCTS ARE REAL?
Can I prove that energy or the universe, 6th sense or gut feelings are real? 100% impossible to do that. I can give examples that you may relate to but I cannot reproduce this in a lab. At this point it's up to you to believe there's something bigger than you. It doesn't have to be God or traditional religion. It's not even a part of religion, it's a part us...you & me. It's as much a part of us as hearing and tasting is.
After reading this far, you're either in or you're out. I'm hoping you're in. Remember, you can call it anything you want. Call it the universe. Call it 6th sense or your gut. I don't care about what you call it. I care that you listen to it and apply it not only to your photography business but in life.
DO INSTINCTS WORK FOR ONLY GOOD THINGS?
Instincts work in all capacities of life. They work in the good and they work with the bad. Instincts tell you that certain projects are bad for you. Instincts tell you that certain people aren't on your side. Instincts also tell you that taking a lesser paying job might be the route to take, because it'll lead to more jobs than the alternative.
Listen. It's the greatest voice and I want you to experience it. The closest you will ever be to God, the universe, energy, the spirit, the truth, is when you listen to your instincts. That's a conversation from something greater than you & I and it's attempting to communicate to you about something awful, incredible or amazing.
Read how IGNORING MY INSTINCTS NEARLY KILLED MY CAREER HERE