Startup Lessons – Learning is Your New Reality #staystrong


from: Diary of a Portrait Photographer, Edition 1

At some point, I’ve been wanting to write down my reflections and intentions for the New Year. Deadlines usually work for me. Jan 1st or Three Kings Day (Jan 6th) would normally be my go-to deadlines. But not this year for some reason.

And therein is one of my key reflections for the New Year. Create space for both creativity and efficiency. As an Industrial Engineer, I understand process and project management. That’s a strength. So, for me, find balance – but err towards strengthening my more creative, unstructured, passionate self. So I missed a deadline – so what. But, I feel inspired now to write – so this was the right moment after all. So much for my perceived level of control…(mini-truth – serenity works!)

Which leads me to a deeper intention. I want to live more deeply in the grey. Everything in life is negotiable, except death and taxes. There is less right and wrong, less black and white. There are also times it’s worth taking a risk – whatever that means in the moment. So relax a little. I can choose to be right or be happy – I choose to be happy and to value relationships more than being right. (Easier said than done…but it’s a start!)

And I’m reminded of sayings from my past:

  • Never underestimate the power of a question
  • Never do for others what they can do themselves
  • Perfection is the enemy of “good enough”

Ok enough platitudes and bumper stickers…

As for 2016 and 2017? Last year was about starting the process, launching new ventures, and having the baby. This year, it’s about focus. And lots of growth, learning, hard work.

And learning seems to be my new reality.

I’ve struggled with this learning curve shit in the past year. I came to the realization that for 20+ years in corporate America, I had invested the time into a career, the results of which were knowledge, experience, peer recognition and advancement. (And money. And identity. And no soul).

Now, as I start my second career in two different areas, there’s been a lot of soul-searching, self-discovery and growth. I’m drawing on a lot of experience in technology, project management and photography…sure. But, doing this “on my own” is SO new to me! I’m facing a constant and daily learning curve. The devil is in the details, and it takes time to gain experience and to hone a skill, a proficiency into a professional and profitable business. And, for me, that’s been humbling, frustrating and fearful – and sometimes a barrier to my own progress.

For my own reasons and needs, I’m choosing to write this because I want to be able to look back on this in 5 years…and be able to reflect on how far I will have come by then. I want to see the growth – but always remember that there has been rough times getting there. Things have been scary, hard, overwhelming at times. I feel useless and stupid sometimes. I feel old and beaten. But, I’m living through those moments and gaining momentum. And it feels great. And sucks. At the same time. And, I’m also learning so much more about myself, my thoughts, my beliefs, and my strengths. And it is also bringing me joy, freedom, hope, inspiration and fulfillment. Ultimately, this road I’ve been on is finally reconnecting me with the real me – which is fancy way of saying even more learning!

So yes, learning is my new reality. But, if I can live through my fear, the journey brings life. There is no destination…which used to scare me, but now brings a sense of relief.

I’m tempted to write about the a-ha’s along the way. The conversations I’ve had that have moved me. The new insights, or tough lessons… But the details are less important. Just remember – stay strong. But, do remember what a lady in pink taught you… And remember the connections you made in your first shoot – how they shaped the lens through which you see yourself in the world. And remember that cancer sucks. Even a lot of it.

In closing, I share my “Stay Strong” playlist. When life gets me down. When a friend betrays me. When I betray a friend. When the waves come. When doubt enters the complex mind. These poems have been one of my anchors this past year.

Everybody’s Free (to wear suncreen)

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Click for Apple Music Playlist

Humble and Kind, for Hunter Max…


It’s been awhile since I’ve written in my blog.  Lots of good reasons, lots of choices, some excuses…  Life continues to be good.  Very good, indeed.

In recent weeks, I’ve enjoyed the rich combination of great joys and real sorrows. It’s a reminder about the circle of life. We all have our moment to make the most of this precious life. As I heard this song on my Apple Music mix for the day, I thought of the many experiences I’ve lived through in the past 10 years.

None of my life experiences were pre-ordained, all were the result of a choice I made, and all of them led me to this moment.

And each of them was shared with two furry creatures who have been with me through thick and thin, through addiction and recovery, through the dark days and the new mornings, through geographies, lovers, friends, love, loss, victory and defeat.

And for where I am today, I’m grateful.

As we all begin to age, we begin to feel and show our age.  I, with my constipation and reading glasses… Hunter, with aching bones, pain and nerve issues.

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I love you Hunter Max.

Thank you for reminding me of the simple pleasures of being more fully in each moment. I love your jagged smile, your gimp leg, your growling and your deep moans of love and affection.

You continue to bring great joy into our lives, from that very first day in Puerto Rico when you wandered into our lives. Your days and weeks here with us are numbered.

It’s a reminder of the circle of life…neither good nor bad, just the circle of life…

You remind me to always stay humble and kind….

https://itunes.apple.com/us/playlists.applemusic.com/embed/pl.5fc3870431d1435ebb2771f614db7e18?country=us&app=music

Vocations, egos and the universe’s sense of humor!


Funny thing happened to me the other day…

Someone did something that pissed me off.

Eventually I realized what really bothered me about it was…

I do the same thing all the time.


There are times when I love how life unfolds, reminding me that the universe will continue to take care of me if I stay out of the way…

I’m making a transition from photography as a hobby to using my lens to tell stories as professional photographer. My intent is of course to earn some income along the way. Who wouldn’t want to do what they love and get paid for it?

I’ve been looking for ways to refine my skills and to learn new techniques. I’ve also been looking for ways to add to my portfolio, even it in the beginning it means some pro-bono work. It gives me exposure and starts to get the word out about C Todd Creations.

Last week, I spent time with Broadway’s “roving listeners.”  Each year, Broadway Church hires local youth from the neighborhood. They roam the neighborhood, getting tSo know their neighbors. They name, connect and celebrate the gifts, talents and stories of the people living here in Mapleton-Fall Creek. Here are some of their stories…

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Steve P. sharing one of life’s lessons his father taught up as a kid. It’s the same one he taught his three sons…

Click here for more photos…

Last week, we started a series at Broadway UMC, naming, celebrating and blessing the vocations of those in our community – the ways in which people choose to live our their faith in our neighborhoods, schools and places of work. We were all asked to bring along a “symbol” or tool of our trade to share at communion. This seemed like another great opportunity to “insert my lens.” So, I planned on bringing one of my pictures along to service “vocation plate” at communion. I also brought my camera to capture some of the ways in which people chose to share their story.

When my friend Mike (who also happens to be our pastor) saw some of my photos from my walk with the rovers, he suggested they be included in the slideshow projected at the front of the sanctuary before service.

What a great chance to have my work showcased. And I didn’t even have to ask.
Marketing is my least favorite business activity, so I was grateful and excited.


Then there are times when life unfolds…and I get in the way.

I still love how life unfolds.  It just takes me a little longer to get from “WTF?” to “Oh yea…that universe thing!

And in these situations where my ego gets in the way, there is usually a lesson to learn…or re-learn 🙂

When I got to the sanctuary, I settled into a pew towards the front, where I could easily take pictures during the service without disturbing too many people. The pre-service welcome slides started. As my images started to float across the screen, I recognized the Ken Burns and other effects used by the slideshow application. Then it hit me… Those were my photos…but the included watermark had been cropped out! (Remember that marketing thing!? It may be my least favorite business activity, but it’s still important – especially a new small business owner).

I was frustrated, disappointed, angry, sad…

The voice in my head started in… “Why would someone have cropped out my watermark? Don’t they respect artists? Don’t they know I’m trying to make a living from this?”

Then the committee in my head started to freak out. “WTF? They really don’t give a crap about me as a person and as an artist here. They talk all of this crap about shining a light on the gifts and talents of our members and neighbors. And, when it really matters and could have made a difference, they screw me over. What a bunch of hypocrites.”

Then that little voice started – you know, the one driven by “fight or flight” genetics, just like Darwin said. And since I was now in control of the universe, with the ability to know people’s thoughts and intentions, I did what any self-respecting artist would do. I picked up my shit, and headed out. “I’ll show them…”  I started to craft the articulate email I was going to send out as soon as I got home…

As I was walking out, a friend who I hadn’t seen in awhile ran up to me. He was only adding to the fuel for my growing road rage. We had a misunderstanding the last time we saw each other which was still unresolved. I’ve also been disappointed by his multiple unfulfilled offers to use me for a shoot on of his projects. Anymore, I’m so done with his empty promises, I discount anything he says and rarely give him more than a cursory listen. And the committee in my head feeds off this self-pity.  “He’s just like the rest of them. He really doesn’t give a crap about me as a person or as an artist. He talks all of this crap about shining a light on the gifts and talents of our neighbors. And, when it really matters and could have made a difference, he lied to me and ripped me off. What a bunch of hypocrites.”

As I walked home, with my bruised ego and growing rage, some recent conversations I’ve had with another friend Tony came to mind. We’ve watched some great TedTalks on shame and guilt. He’s also more recently talked to me about CBT – cognitive behavioral theory – in the context of life in general as well as for people in recovery. With CBT:

negative patterns of thought about the self and the world are challenged in order to alter unwanted behavior patterns or treat mood disorders such as depression.”  

One of the techniques used is thought tracking, where we take time to pay attention to those initial thoughts that come up in our head – that “committee speak” I refer to. Understanding those, then probing deeper with questions like “If that’s true, then what else is true?” or “If that’s true, why does that matter to me?”  

I’ve been trying this recently, asking myself a series of those questions for at least three cycles…or until I reach the deeper truth or belief that might drive those initial thoughts.

In summary, CBT is a way I can catch myself, ignore my first reaction, and “stay with my feelings” until I’m better understanding what’s behind my feelings, my impulses, my thoughts. Over time, if those underlying beliefs don’t serve me well, I can explore alternatives that are more in line with how I am wanting to live out my life.

As I probed, I realized several alternatives:

  • Though it’s possible there was deliberate intent to crop out my watermark, it’s also possible that he added the photos to a template slideshow and the appliction inadvertently cropped the picture.
    • If this were true, there is still an opportunity to share why watermarks are important to an artists (with legal ramifications / protections), and make a formal request in the future when I share CTC photos to maintain the integrity of the original photo and watermark when sharing.  But to assume malintent is unfair and with little basis in facts. 
  • With the second friend, it’s likely that like me, he is busy and human. I’m sure I’ve made offers or promises to do something, send something, ask something on behalf of someone else…and I forget or get busy and find other important tasks
    • Again, if this were true, there is still an opportunity to approach him, and discuss how I feel now when we talk about work or projects. But, I’m able to see him as perfectly imperfect (like me), bound to disappoint (like me), but generally, having pure and others-centric intentions or motives. 

So, a lot of thoughts and words to say –

take a moment, stop, breathe, count to ten, and probe into those thoughts to see what else I learn about my feelings, reactions, and beliefs.

 

And, give others the benefit of the doubt, don’t assume intent, and be gentle with everyone -starting with me.