You were destined for great things.
If you want to achieve greatness in your photography, you need to be bold. But how can you build boldness in your life?
I am borrowing many of these ideas from the book: “Bold” — a book that really inspired me to think big, and to take “massive action” in my life. Here are some bold ideas you can apply in your life:
1. What is your vision?
What are your “herculean” goals in life?
Our lives are short, but if you focus all your energy, time, and effort into your life’s vision — you can accomplish great things.
For me, my vision and “herculean goal” in life is to create the most comprehensive, useful, and informative resource on the internet for photography and life. I have this massive goal in mind — yet I try to chunk it down, by keeping my daily goals realistic. I just try to blog daily, and come up with a few new ideas everyday. I know this herculean goal will take me many years, decades, and perhaps my entire life. Yet by having a huge goal in my life, and a grand vision, I have motivation to live, drink coffee, and produce.
The benefit of having a really big vision and goal in life is that even if you fall short — you will still achieve greatness.
Many of us don’t have a goal in life. That is fine. If you are content in your life, that is fantastic.
But if you are dissatisfied in life, restless, listless, and bored — perhaps you need a grand vision in your life. Perhaps you need a “herculean” goal to propel you forward in life. To get you out of bed in the morning. To propel you to make meaningful changes in life. To create “massive value” for the lives of others. To empower others and to empower yourself.
Assignment: What is your “herculean goal”?
Think to yourself— what is the epic dream you had when you were a child? What did you want to achieve, pursue, or accomplish in your life?
Be foolish. You don’t need to reveal this goal or vision to anybody. Write it on a piece of paper, and let it be your leading “north star” in life.
But how do you accomplish this “herculean goal”? Some more ideas to follow:
2. Iterate rapidly
To “iterate” means to make changes and action in life. And better yet, if you iterate rapidly, you will make constant progress forward in life.
Here are some concepts often shared in the tech/silicon-valley community:
You don’t want to become “option-blind” in your grand mission in life. Often times you have a certain idea, vision, or “herculean” goal which ends up not working out.
This means testing out your idea, and if it isn’t working — learn to “fail early.” Don’t stay married to an idea, if you tested it out, and it was bad.
But the problem is when do we know when to quit? What if this little setback in our idea is something we need to further refine our ideas? Which takes us to the next point:
Use your failures to your benefit. Fail early, but in doing so, fail forward. Figure out how you can learn from your mistakes, and use this small setback to innovate.
So when your idea doesn’t work out, use a “post-mortem” and try to figure out what caused your idea to fail, or not work. And then use those learnings to move forward, and to improve.
Another concept is “agile design” — having a design that is fluid, flexible, and easy to change.
You can apply this concept of “agile design” in many different ways. It means for you to have a flexible mindset when it comes to your creative pursuits.
For example, stick to your vision, but be flexible in terms of the details. Think of the analogy of bamboo— it is strong, but flexible, and doesn’t break.
“Minimum viable product”
Another concept is the MVP (minimum viable product). Which means, what is the minimum possible thing you can create, that still works, that you can release to the world?
For example, when it comes to blogging, just try to get a blog post “80% good” and hit “publish.”
Don’t aim for perfection.
When you’re making an app, what is the minimum amount of features you can add to your app, for it still to be work and to be useful?
In terms of “MVP” to photography — what is a “good enough” photo that you feel confident in, that you can publish and share with the world? Or perhaps at what point can you make a photo-project that is good enough in your eyes, for you to print it and share it with others?
Often aiming for perfection leads us to paralysis. By aiming for perfection, we end up getting nothing done.
As an antidote, think of the minimum you can do to move forward.
3. What motivates you?
In life, we are all motivated by different things. We are motivated by having control and autonomy in our lives, we are motivated by the intrinsic joy of mastering a certain art. We are motivated by a sense of purpose and “calling” in our creative work.
We are all motivated by different things— what matters is to figure out what motivates you.
I think it is best to be intrinsically-motivated. That you find motivation from deep inside your soul, rather than outsourcing your inspiration to the words and encouragement of others.
There will be a point in your grand goal in life that nobody will believe in you. If you don’t have intrinsic motivation, you will give up when the criticism, self-doubt, and fear creeps in.
I think another thing that should inspire us is the joy of the creative work in itself. The reward of our creative pursuits shouldn’t be fame, money, or extrinsic affirmation. Rather, what should drive us is the feeling that we are becoming the best versions of ourselves, the feeling that we are developing our skills, and the fact that we are doing and creating something truly great.
Let greatness and self-mastery guide your motivation.
Assignment: Aim for the moon
I think that sometimes we lack motivation in life because our goals aren’t grand enough.
In Google, they call their big goals in life “moonshot” goals. They try to aim for “10x” improvement — which propels them to innovate, to work hard, and to think differently.
You can aim for 10x better by trying to think to yourself: “How can I improve [x] by a factor of 10?” Or better yet— the easiest way to do something 10x better is to do something totally new. Because if something is totally new, nobody has done it before.
Have an audacious goal. The bigger your goal, the more risk you will take. And the more risk you have, the more driven, excited, and scary it will be. And we all need some excitement in our lives.
4. How to innovate
Nowadays we aren’t limited by our tools, resources, or technologies. Rather, we are limited by our own ideas. We are limited by not being innovative enough.
But easier said than done— in terms of innovation. How can we practically innovate more in our lives, and in terms of our creative work?
One of the best ways to innovate is to not ask people what they want. Because people don’t know what they want until you show it to them. If you asked Henry Ford to do what people wanted, he would have just made a faster horse. If you asked Steve Jobs to do what people wanted, he would have just made another phone with more buttons and features.
As an artist, you need to have the courage to have your own ideas, and to think differently. Sometimes it means that you look at what everyone else is doing in the world, and thinking to yourself: “What is something that everyone else believes in, that I think is a lie, or totally wrong?” Or you can think to yourself: “What are the commonly assumed truths in the world? And what if the opposite were true?” This will help you break out of conventional thinking, and come up with truly unique and innovative ideas.
For me, innovation also means to be radically transparent and open. One of the radical innovations that Tesla did (through the guidance of Elon Musk) was to release all of their patents. This helped propel the entire industry of electric cars forward, and also forced Tesla to work harder on their own electric cars. Because once the “secret sauce” was out there— everyone was forced to work harder and to innovate.
Also I feel that innovation is easiest when you own your own platform. Meaning — you are not a slave to the platform of another company. As a photographer, that might mean not being a slave to traditional social media platforms (Facebook, Instagram, Flickr). It might mean building your own blog, website, or publishing platform — where you can be creative on your own terms. Because any social media platform (that you don’t own) — you will always be constrained by their layouts, workflows, and design.
Lastly, I feel it is important to have a mission in life that is bigger than yourself. We all exist for one another. No human would decide to live on earth if he/she was to be alone. We are put on this earth to help one another, to improve the species of humanity, and to empower others.
If you think about serving humanity, you lose a sense of ego, fear, and selfishness which holds us back from true innovation. True innovation might mean to cannibalize yourself— to make a decision that will hurt you, but help others. By making the iPhone, Apple knew that it would hurt their iPod sales— but they did so because they knew the iPhone would be a vastly better product, that would help empower more of their users.
5. Embrace flow
There is a concept of “flow” (or being in the “zone”). It is when you are putting the maximum amount of creative effort in your work, and you lose all sense of time, of yourself, and the work comes out effortlessly.
When you are in a state of “flow” — you are innovative, creative, a bit crazy, and without fear. This is the “optimal” state we should strive for.
Writers are in a state of “flow” when they are totally engrossed in their writing. Photographers are in a state of “flow” when they are shooting and their camera becomes an extension of their eye. Entrepreneurs are in a state of “flow” when their ideas keep flowing, and they are focused on taking practical action to put their ideas into the real world.
How do we enter a state of flow? Some ideas:
More risk, more focus
Many extreme-sports athletes enter a state of flow when there is a state of danger. Surfers are the most focused when they are riding a dangerous wave, which might kill them. Weight-lifters are the most in a state of flow, when they know they might dislocate a shoulder when they’re lifting a weight 4x their bodyweight.
If you want to enter a state of flow, take on a project which you consider risky. It can be risky financially, creatively, or in some other way.
You want something risky enough to force you to focus, and create the best work possible. Yet you don’t want it to be too risky that you become paralyzed with fear.
Find a worthy challenge.
Inject novelty and randomness to your life
To find more creativity in our lives, we want to have a rich environment which stimulates us. We want to surround ourselves with novelty, unpredictability, complexity, and randomness.
If you are a photographer, shooting in a foreign or new environment always helps you see the world differently, and better enter that focused state of flow, when everything is suddenly more interesting.
When it comes to coming up with ideas, studying fields outside of your comfort zone will help you innovate. For myself personally, studying physics, cognitive science, philosophy, psychology, and sociology has helped me come up with better ideas regarding photography (than just reading photography books).
Try not to have the same routine everyday, or else you will just have the same routine thoughts.
Inject randomness, unpredictability, and novelty into your life. Then you will have more of a chance to meet foreign challenges, and enter that state of flow.
Another tip — if you want to enter a state of flow, you just want to avoid boredom. Do things which challenge you, stretch your abilities, and are fun to you.
We rarely have fun when we do things which aren’t challenging. If you like going to the gym, you will be bored if you lift the same 1 pound weight for a 100 times. If you’re a photographer, you will probably be bored (after a while) shooting the same subject-matter for your entire life. If you are an entrepreneur, you probably want to create different types of businesses, that challenge you.
Have fun. That is one of the only worthy ways to live. Children are the most creative and innovative, because they avoid boredom. They have fun. They make every little ordinary thing into something interesting.
The last thing to enter a state of flow is to get some sort of feedback.
As a photographer, you will get feedback on your work by reviewing your images, or getting feedback from other photographers who you trust.
If you are an entrepreneur, you will get feedback from other innovators, or whether you’re earning money or not
You can get feedback from the environment, feedback from yourself and your own opinion, or feedback from others.
Feedback is the only way we can learn, via a process of “trial and error.”
6. Create the future
There is no way you can predict the future, but invent it for yourself.
I believe that you have control over your destiny. You can create the life that you want for yourself. You can accomplish all your gear goals in life, as long as you never stop hustling, innovating, and striving.
Spend every minute of your day thinking about your great task in life. You need to be bold. You need to have guts. There will be dark moments, when you fall into despair.
Don’t fear for your own livelihood. No matter what, by chasing your dreams, you will never become homeless or starve to death. Take this note of inspiration from Elon Musk:
“Don’t leave any dollars in reserve, you can always feed yourself, but don’t leave money on the table. I spent it all.” – Elon Musk
You can’t sit around and expect others to accomplish your life’s big task. You need to do it yourself. Don’t trust others; only trust yourself. Know that you’re the only person who can do what you want to do.
Make your own challenges in life, and make them grand.
Whenever you get any setbacks in life, don’t give up.
Assignment: Don’t think of decision-making in binary terms
When you have several decisions to make in life, don’t just think of making a binary decision between “Option A” and “Option B”. Know often in life you can make a decision of doing both “Option A” and “Option B”.
Furthermore, there is often a “Option C” you can pursue.
Be flexible, and think outside the box.
7. Have a healthy disregard for the impossible
You can change the world. You want to be optimistic— but rational at the same time.
Think of all the things that humans have once labeled as “impossible” in the past:
- Flying in the air like a bird
- Flying to the moon
- Cloning organisms
- Breaking the speed of sound
- Cure disease [x]
- To have free, instantaneous, over-seas communication
- Self-driving cars
- Supercomputers that fit in our front pockets
Now what are some currently “impossible” things in the world exist, that we can fix, innovate, or improve on?
- Curing cancer/AIDS/other modern diseases
- Interplanetary travel
- Solving world-hunger
- Free, global internet
Of course you don’t have to tackle these huge challenges. But the purpose is to know that what we once thought of “impossible” is just a barrier that we put on our minds.
The greatest things about human beings is that nothing is impossible — the only limit we put on is our own thinking and ingenuity.
We can accomplish anything really great in life. But we need to be bold. We need to have confidence in ourselves, not to fear failure, risk, or death. We need to devote every minute of our days to accomplishing our herculean goals, or at least heading in that direction.
What holds us back? Only ourselves.
If you’re reading this, you are probably a photographer, creative, entrepreneur, or just a human being — who wants to do something great in your life.
Boldness is a mindset. It isn’t having a ton of money, resources, or support from others.
Boldness is what drives us to innovate. Boldness is what helps us squash fear, and achieve the greatest things in life. Boldness is what drives the human race forward.
How can you be more bold in your life? Lose concern for yourself, and your own survival. Focus on your own idea above everything else.
Don’t fear failure. Fail forward— use your setbacks as a benefit or advantage, for you to innovate.
Action is the primary action for you. No idea without action or execution will change the world. Focus on being a person of action, not of words, thinking, or theories.
Take that photograph. Make that piece of art. Write that article, blog post, or book. Do something crazy and totally unique. Disregard what the critics say — they will always hate on what is unfamiliar and different.
Hustle with every fiber of your being, and don’t die on your deathbed with regrets.
Learn more: Photography Entrepreneurship 101 >