Thursday, March 20, 2008

What's It Take To Be Great?

This is always a hot topic in books, seminars, and presentations world wide. But how often do we consider applying it to ourselves. Most of us are content to move through life doing our job, working at our business - basically doing the same thing day after day. We don't have time to work on being great. Yet, the biggest complaint I hear from photographers as I travel around the country is that business is down. Uncle Harry and Cousin Mary is taking all their business - and on , and on, and on. It's the "moan and groan" drone.

Folks, maybe it's time we started thinking about getting great and being great at what we are doing. Guess what, when you make that kind of mental commitment to yourself and your business, the "moan and groan" drone will eventually disappear. But you have got to want greatness before you can ever get it. "Wanting it" are the operative words here. Those who want to be great have a better chance at getting there than those who only want to be good, and those that want to be good may end up a bit less than that.

I was reading the March 10th issue on Time magazine a few weeks ago. The article was focusing on the "experience factor" of our current presidential candidates - how much experience does one need to be persistent. Well, it was the side bar piece - The Science Of Experience - that caught my attention. The topic was partly on athletic performance - what does it take to be great? Here is an except from the article;

"Take figure-skating as an example. For the 2003 book Expert Performance in Sports, researchers Janice Deakin and Stephen Cobley observed 24 figure skaters as they practiced. Deakin and Cobley asked the skaters to complete diaries about their practice habits. The researchers found that élite skaters spent 68% of their sessions practicing jumps which is one of the riskiest and most demanding parts of figure-skating routines. Skaters in the second tier, who were just as experienced in terms of years, spent only 48% of their time on jumps, and they rested or took breaks more often. As Deakin and her colleagues write in the Cambridge Handbook, "All skaters spent considerably more time practicing jumps that already existed in their repertoire and less time on jumps they were attempting to learn." In other words, we like to practice what we know, stretching out in the warm bath of familiarity rather than stretching our skills. Those who overcome that tendency are the real high performers."

Folks, I think this little tidbit of information gives a good insight into what it takes to be great in whatever we want to achieve in our lives. Practice the hard stuff, it's the second tier performers that spend too much time practicing the easy or routine stuff, within their comfort zone, that they are already good at achieving.

When it comes to photography - practice the hard stuff. Get your camera off "P" for Professional!! Try and practice some lighting techniques you have never tried before. Learn and practice different ways of photographing the bride and groom. Try different or unconventional light sources. I watched a presentation by John Solano at the Nikon booth, showing how he uses a flashlight to add a cool touch of impact to his images. I bought one that evening on-line and can't wait to give it a try. And why not? I might find that I love the results!! Or even more exciting I might find a new way to use this tool, just from practicing. We constantly need to be practicing the hard stuff and more importantly, seeking out the new and the hard stuff to practice.

As we amp up our experience and expertise, the success will follow. Remember too, there are no excuses for failing, only reasons for trying again and even harder the next time around. Then when you get it down, amp it up to the next level of difficulty. Keep the journey uphill..... ALL the time. This strategy will continually help you surpass your own expectations and stay on the pathway of being great. It is the only way to ever get there. You know , it's easy to be the best - you just work a lot harder than the competition. You know the upside of his strategy is that even if you falter occasionally, you are still much better off than where you were before ever trying.

Tiger Woods just won his fifth tournament in a row last weekend. Do you think he's taking this week off before he heads to the Doral? We all know the answer to that one. No one has said it better than Nike.....Just do it!!


  1. This is really a great message and reminder to get out and practice the things that will make you better. I always appreciated my high school coach that would remind us that practice isn't what makes us better, "perfect practice" is what we need to do. Not just going through the motions.

    Thanks for the inspirational post.

  2. Great post. Perfect read as I line up my next personal projects to pursue.

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  5. This is so true and I'm figuring this out as I take more and more shots. They all look the same, but I'm holding back and not trying new things! So I just have to do that. Thank you for pointing that out to me :]