Is there a secret formula for success? Is it a five-step program? Or perhaps even ten steps? What does it take? Will external motivation alone help you reach your goals? I don’t think so. I firmly believe that internal motivation or inner drive is the key to almost everything.
But, before we move on, what is success? Is it to have millions of followers on Instagram, or is it something different entirely? I will discuss that in more detail at the end of the article.
I will tell my story, and a good starting point is two of my images. This first image I shot back in 2013.
Four years later, I captured this scene:
What does it take to go from an image that almost no one noticed to an image awarded an Editor’s Choice award at National Geographic?
I firmly believe there must be some inner resolution. That’s the first step. A quality decision which states: “I desire to improve, and I am willing to pay the price to do so.” This resolution rests on a foundation of honesty. Back in the day, I had to come honest with myself and admit that my work was found wanting and that I could do a lot to improve it.
As a math teacher, I have seen this principle in action many a time. It is easy to see when a student has made this inner resolution. The improvement is almost instant. Of course, I try to motivate my students, but external motivation doesn’t last and swiftly dwindle when the going gets tough.
I made this resolution in October 2013. I know it is the main reason behind any success I may have had.
Setting a goal
I also believe it is important to set a goal. For my students, it may be a grade that will qualify them for further studies. Back in 2013, I set the following goal for myself:
If I can produce one image that is good enough to reach 500px’ first page during my lifetime, I will be happy. And I was willing to pay the price knowing many hours behind the camera and the computer would be necessary to hone whatever little talent I had.
There are no short cuts. Instagram PODs, bots, spamming, always buying the newest gear — I honestly don’t believe any of that will make us better photographers. They are just tell-tale signs. I am afraid that we are not willing to pay the price.
I have found it immensely helpful to watch and read processing tutorials and study other’s work. Even repeatedly shooting the same subjects has led to progress. When we begin to learn new things, and our work slowly but surely starts to improve, the desire to evolve doesn’t fade. It pushes us onward, also through periods of frustrations, failures, and creative blocks.
What is success?
What I so far have written about success rests upon a limited and instrumental definition and understanding of the word. Depending on our ambitions, success can also be so simple as having found a hobby that enriches life and offers us plenty of moments of sheer fun. In this regard, photography definitely has been a success for me. What about you?
“I don’t think being good at things is the point of doing them. I think you’ve got all these wonderful experiences with different skills, and that all teach you things and make you an interesting person, no matter how well you do them.” (unknown)