Saturday, March 20, 2010

The Most Important Predictor of Success in Stock Photography

"We learned quickly that the most important predictor of success is determination. At first we thought it might be intelligence. Everyone likes to believe that's what makes start ups succeed. It makes a better story that a company won because its founders were so smart. The PR people and reporters who spread such stories probably believe them themselves. But while it certainly helps to be smart, it's not the deciding factor. There are plenty of people as smart as Bill Gates who achieve nothing."

The above Paul Graham quote was brought to my attention by travel photographer David Sanger. It reminded me of some of my early years. It was five years after I decided to be a professional photographer that I managed to finally make a living at it. During those early years I was a substitute teacher, delivered tickets, worked as a janitor and so forth. The last job I had before I could just shoot full time, was as a landscape laborer. Even after I was able to give up the odd jobs I remember my accountant suggesting to me that I get a ‘real job”. Years later one of my bookkeepers quit because, as she said, “you won’t be in business a few months from now”. I’ve had my share of ups and downs, but I have had determination.

A great way to define determination is the willingness to do whatever it takes. When you add that kind of determination to a clear, focused plan, it is almost impossible not to succeed. Set clear goals, break them down into small steps, set deadlines for those steps and follow through. In light of the one-two punch of image oversupply and the recession I find myself re-committed to this process. I have set a new income goal for myself, broken out what I believe to be the necessary steps to reach that goal, and am working hard at completing those steps. If I miss a deadline, I set a new one. I am always learning, which means I am continually adjusting those steps. The fact that I am writing this at nine-forty three in the evening shows I am willing to do whatever it takes!

Brian Tracy is a motivational speaker and success coach. Years ago, when I was at my absolute lowest, someone gave me a Brian Tracy tape...which I listened to over and over and over again. One strategy he suggests that has always struck me as being very astute is that you should figure out what is the one thing, that if you mastered, would be the most important thing to propel your career forward, then master it. For me, way back then, that one thing was Photoshop, and it totally changed my career and my life.  Next, Tracy suggests, figure out what is the one thing, that if you mastered, would propel your career forward, then master it. Next, well, you get the point. And isn't that true?

All it takes is determination and perseverance. You can hone your creativity, you can master camera techniques and computer programs. You can learn the business end of stock photography. You can succeed. Have the belief in yourself and the knowledge that your goal is reachable. Set that goal, break it down into small steps, set deadlines to those steps, and get your butt in gear!


JimMac said...

Great post today. Tomorrow I am taking a technical exam for a certification. In order to get the funding, I had to take exams, one of which I was studying for on Christmas eve. Why? Do whatever it takes. Keep up the good work.

John Lund said...

Thanks Jim!

sharply_done said...

While I agree that determination has a role to play, it may be that the most important factor in a successful career is ... luck. Malcolm Gladwell makes an engaging case for this in his book "Outliers: The Story of Success".

John Lund said...


Sounds like an interesting read. Does he address how to increase your chances of having good luck?


sharply_done said...

Kinda, but not really - it's along the lines of the ideas presented in his first book "The Tipping Point". Given what we do, his latest book "What the Dog Saw" may offer some valuable insight, too. I can easily say he's worth reading - pick him up and browse along with a coffee next time you're in the bookstore!

Paul Maynard Photography said...

Thanks for your post today. It was very inspirational. Yes, determination is the key. Life is full of surprises, and if your not determined you may just get knocked out by life. Reading books, blogs, forums, listening to tapes, podcast, and anything to help you move closer to your goal is so important.

One of the best inspirational books to date is, "You Gotta Read this Book" by Jack Canfield & Gay Hendricks. It is a compilation of 2-3 page stories of how a book has changed someone's life.

Anyway, thanks for the inspirational post. I needed it today!