“Comparison is the thief of joy.” -Theodore Roosevelt
This has been rattling around inside my pretty little head for a long time now. This idea that I have to compete with others, that I must be better than them to succeed, that I must hide my knowledge and not share the how when it comes to business, or the where when it comes to locations. That if I meet an editor or agent, I can’t tell anyone else because they might get my spot. And on and on.
It’s this world we live in.
It’s the norm.
You know what? I don’t care about the norm, about trying to climb the ladder of success by kicking others on the way up, or by hiding said ladder so others have to spend time finding it before they can begin their own climb. I’m not looking to fight my way to the top, only to be lonely when I get there.
I just turned 38 and so it has taken a bit of these ever-so-many years to grasp the idea that I’m not competing with anyone but myself. In earlier years, I’ve watched other photographers and writers succeeding, and I’ve tried to be like them, to model my work after them, and surprise, surprise, that didn’t work at all.
What does work? Being myself. Sharing how I see the world, not how another artist would photograph it or write about it.
When I first started helping my buddy Nic learn photography, he shadowed my every move. At first, it was simply to be able to see what I see, to understand why I’d set up a shot. But then I told him I couldn’t wait to see his vision, his view of the very same scene, because when he was shadowing, he was only taking the very same photos that I was. He was sharing my view, my vision, not his.
That’s probably when it began to settle with me, the moment it literally clicked (pun intended) that I had to do my own thing, to stop trying to make my work look like that other person’s, no matter how much I admired them. I could learn from them, but I didn’t need to BE them.
Now I work with a number of different photographers who are in business in my own backyard (and who are sometimes literally in my own backyard!), and sometimes when I was away from them in the early days, I’d think selfish thoughts about how I should tell them this, but not that. Hold something back. Not share it all. Just, you know, maybe 80%. It’s good business, don’tcha know! But when we’d meet up, when they’d text with questions, I’d immediately want to answer and help. I realized those competitive thoughts were not mine, they were not from my own heart.
That’s never who I want to be.
I will never be a business expert, nor do I think I will ever be a famous photographer or writer. But what I know is I have to be happy with who I am as an artist and business person, to measure my success by what I do, not what others do, and part of that means having my own No Compete Clause in place. The normal No Compete dictates, for example, that if you help another photographer learn, or if another assists you, they can’t compete with your business aka “get off my turf!”
I’m not going with the norm. I’m going with this: I’m not competing with you. I am your friend. I am cheering you on. I believe in you. I think you can make your business work. I think you are growing into a fine photographer. I think you are amazing.
This isn’t a race. This is an artistic journey. Let’s go together in our own way without tearing each other down. Let’s admire each other’s work without feeling less than, without thinking our own work is worse…or better. Let’s remember that we are all beginners when we begin, and that sharing still works outside of the kindergarten years.
I am in competition with myself – to learn, to grow, to become the best version of a photographer and writer that I can be. My way. Supporting you. Let’s do this together.
All photos of me and Nic are copyright and used with permission from Micaela of Reminder Photography, who I’m not competing with, so please visit and like her Facebook page.