As I See It: learning from life lessons February 2010

As a teacher, I often play the role of life coach, mentor, friend and even therapist to many of my students. I have developed these skills through my years of photographing, painting, teaching and carefully observing life. When you add a lifetime of art experience to the eye and heart of a trained observer, an interesting person emerges. If you listen to and learn from your experiences as they unfold every day around you, you can find the answers to many questions in life. These are my observations.

Is there a secret to your success? Maybe you are only l% better than the next person in line, but what is that l%?
There is a good chance you probably possess an unrecognized quality that you don’t acknowledge as special precisely because it comes so naturally to you. Take a good look in the mirror and ask the people closest you to help. Is there a unique, particular gift that you possess? You cannot capitalize on this special quality unless you first identify it. Perhaps you are innately organized, or possess a great sense of humor; whatever the trait, once identified, remember to consistently rely upon it as a tool.
It is also important to examine the way that you confront a situation. Usually, there is a certain moment when you will stop pushing and retreat to a more comfortable position. I think that sometimes fear is the reason that we pull back. We have fear of success as well as fear of failure. Sounds screwy to have both but I think at different times and for different reasons we can have fear of one or the other or even both. If we succeed, we have a lot of responsibility to follow through and make things work. This might be a tall order for some. Fear of failure is just our ego talking. Winners win because they are more self aware of the fear factor.
Being able to recognize this point of hesitation and then being able to stretch beyond it is the key. We need to change away from our old behavior. We all talk about change as a good thing but few really have the persistence to follow through with it past our fears. One thing that you might try is to focus on others instead of yourself. Changing the focus will not only divert your attention away from any fears but will always come back to you many fold in positive ways. Maybe you have a project at work that you are really afraid of. Try to inspire those around you who are helping with the project. If you can make this a habit, you will be able to push beyond any wall of fear. You don’t have to even get it perfect. In fact, trust that it won’t be perfect. It will surely be nothing if you do nothing. Just get your rear in gear and get going.
Visualization can also help make a project successful. Simply put, picture yourself succeeding at your project or activity. I use the process a lot, especially when I am about to enter a stressful situation. Before a big photo shoot, I lay out all my equipment and examine it all to be sure I have everything I will need and that it is all working well and ready to go. I think about the space I will be working in and the type of shots that I think the client will want. I actually run the whole story in my mind the way a football player will run the plays in advance. You will see where the pitfalls are ahead of time and have a Plan B ready. It takes a lot of the fear out of a situation for me. I am still totally responsible for the job that needs to be done, I have my game plan all figured out, a good idea of how I want to do the job and a Plan B in my vest pocket just in case. Pre-visualization has always worked for me.
Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that a project will not succeed because you do not have enough money. You will just have to be more creative (perhaps an unrecognized personal quality?), and that is a great learning experience. Push yourself to be a problem solver. Even though I worked with a very wealthy pharmaceuticals company, the people who came to me to help them do a photography or video project had very small budgets. I had to figure out how to do things for no money. It was a good training experience on creativity building.
Surround yourself with interesting and exciting people who can help to inspire you. Find a mentor or coach. I had several mentors throughout my career in the work world as well as the fine art world. You will learn a lot from them about success and failure. No sense repeating things that do not work. Why waste your time if you can learn how to avoid the bad stuff from someone who has already been there? This kind of guidance is priceless and will help you to mature in so many ways. Several years ago, I was able to identify teaching as a quality that I was good at and that gave me pleasure . I learned how to teach better by surrounding myself with good and bad teachers. It helped me to identify those qualities that would help me to succeed. The good ones inspired me to do better. The bad ones were a red flag of what not to do.
Today, the employee who continues to just stroll along as usual will most likely be the first one to get let go. Don’t sit back. Think in smarter ways beyond the obvious and identify your special skills. Let them see that you can think outside the box. You know, when I first heard that term it was from a marketing specialist who wanted me to produce a program for him on thinking outside the box. I must have had a strange look on my face because I really didn’t understand what on earth he was talking about. What box? Being involved in an art career my whole life, I was totally unaware that there were people in boxes. I didn’t know there was a box! After he explained it again and I finally understood the concept that he was trying to get across, I had a good laugh. He thought I was a bit strange. He had probably been surrounded by some of these non-creative people his whole career. I had not. What he didn’t understand is that my box is the Universe. Yours can be too.

Do not let fear hold you back. Is it lack of money, time or energy? Is it fear of failure or even fear of success? Identify it so you know your enemy and develop your own plan to fight back by changing behaviors.
Identify your strengths and push them to the forefront, find people to inspire you further, be persistent and visualize positive results on your path to success.

Copy Right 2010 Nancy Ori

Author's Bio: 

Nancy J. Ori has been respected for over three decades as a corporate photographer and video producer for New Jersey Media Center LLC in Berkeley Heights, NJ. She now enjoys teaching at photography classes and workshops in the US and Europe as well as tutoring privately throughout the year. She was affiliated for many years with the Ansel Adams Workshop in CA and is presently on the faculty and regular lecturer at many New Jersey art centers and Museums. In 1990, she established the New Jersey Heritage Workshop Series, which she holds annually in Cape May for photographers and other artists. A six-time grant winner from her Union County Board to produce photographic projects for her community, Nancy was also awarded the Woman of Excellence Award in Arts and Humanities for Union County in 2004. Ori’s work has been widely published and exhibited in museums and galleries throughout the United States and Europe. She holds a BA degree in Fine Arts and an MS degree in Visual Communications from Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, NY.