Finding My Core and Being Authentic


One of my joys – and one of my struggles – is learning into being a small business owner. Having worked in Corporate America for over 20 years, I’m now trying something totally out of my comfort zone – being my own boss. It’s exciting and scary.

It’s a joy because I’m pursuing things that I enjoy and am pretty good at – photography and web design. Part of that joy and excitement comes from being my own boss. I’m not at the whim and mercy of a corporation. I don’t have to put in work for primarily someone else’s gain.

It’s a struggle and sometimes scary because one has to wear about 26 hats, as they say. I’m my own boss, but at least for now, I’m also the only employee! I used to say that Corporate America encourages mediocrity and efficiency. There’s also so much redundancy, overlap and “shared responsibility” – which is a nice way of saying a lack of accountability and ownership. Now, the buck stops here!

As part of my startup growth, I’ve joined the Professional Photographers of America. Among one of the many benefits has been their Business Challenge – a 12-month online cohort where we study the business and operational side of being a professional photographer. So, we’ve learned and worked on our business model – everything from product strategy, to pricing, sales, marketing, managerial accounting, social media, etc. We have regular webinars and online discussions with mentors in the field – studio owners and photographers who graciously share their knowledge and experience.  The Q&A is where I learn a lot – but the real life experience and various perspectives has been invaluable.

One of our exercises was around “Finding our Core and Being Authentic.” We did a powerful exercise with Jonathan Main, a business coach and entrepreneur who has helped a lot of people and businesses reach their goals.  Our focus was on better understanding our core belief systems – “finding clarity and an understanding of your core as you develop your authentic self.”

Personally, I got a lot our of the exercise because it mirrored what I’m working through for myself, including this blog series on “This I Believe.” I’ve come to realize that as I solidify my brand as a photographer, I want to make sure it’s consistent with who I am as a person –my personal brand. In fact, for me to be as authentic as I can be, there is really just one brand – Todd Fuqua. How I act, react, and interact in the world should be the same, whether its for work, family, friends or community. This is especially true because I’ve often felt like I had to “become something else” in order to be successful in Corporate America. So, I’ve vowed never to do that again – never to have one “work persona” and “home persona.” I am who I am, I believe what I believe – and to be the best, most authentic me, I must shine out in all aspects of my life. I won’t go back into the closet again…on any level!

In this exercise, we did some pre-work, including writing down those beliefs we hold about life. So, I thought I’d create a placeholder post, where I capture these short expressions of belief.  It’s like my online vision board! As I grow and learn, I can keep this updated or add other insights. So with that introduction, here’s where I’ve started:

Traits I Admire in Myself and Others: 

  • Empathetic listener – in doing so, creates connections, community and healing
  • Lives authentically – has found their own voice & stays true to that in life, and encourages others to do the same
  • Fights for the oppressed – social justice minded, particularly for those whom society looks down upon
  • Trustworthy – they do what they say, and are willing to own up to their mistakes or shortcomings
  • Playful – knows the value of downtime, play, creativity, family & friends and taking time for self
  • Generous – shares time, talents and things with others as gifts, to be given freely without obligation

My beliefs about life

  • There are always three sides to every story
  • There is power in a question
  • People are inherently good
  • Seek to understand
  • Know when to observe without judgement
  • Check assumptions and hidden biases
  • That which bothers me in others is usually foremost my own personality trait
  • Never do for others what they can do themselves
  • I can’t fix, manage or control others
  • The serenity prayer works
  • It’s better to have a good memory than a bad picture – stay in the moment
  • I can choose to be right, or I can choose to be happy.
  • People change
  • Community is messy
  • It ain’t over until it’s over
  • Mother Nature is a bitch
  • We have some control over our lives, We can learn from failure, We matter as human beings, We all have real strengths to rely on and share (from Option B)

 

This I Believe…


Several years ago, I was given a gift for my birthday. It was a CD collection titled “This I Believe.” It was a collection of stories taken from the NPR radio series by the same name. The stories were from people from all walks of life – some famous, some not so famous, older, younger, etc.. The individuals talked about their personal beliefs – and often, why they had come to have these beliefs. Sometimes these beliefs stemmed from the influence of a parent or grand-parent, or mentor, or friend. Sometimes, they came through personal experience – the ups and downs of life. It was a fascinating collection of stories – and was a joy to listen to on road trips.

Having recently turned 49, and facing a new milestone birthday in about 11 months, I’ve been giving a lot of thought, airtime and therapy time to better understanding my beliefs. I’ve learned about CBT (cognitive behavorial therapy) – a tool a friend of mine discovered through his own early recovery during a month-long in-patient program he checked himself into for his own mental health. I’ve realized how much my unconscious (and sometimes conscious) thoughts stem from deep-seated beliefs – and how those thoughts can drive my feelings. I used to think, quite honestly, that this “cause and effect” relationship was bullshit. I had probably been burned enough in my past about the role of feelings – or shall I say, never really came to understand what I believe about the role of feelings. Instead, I took what my “pastoral leaders” in a Christian cult said during my college years as “gospel.”  Well, that fucked me up for a long time! More recently, I spent time in a 12 step program, where feelings and their role in addiction was drilled into me for years. And, I’ll admit that they were probably closer to what I now have come to believe – but even there, I couldn’t fully embrace their way of thinking.  And, in my black and white mind, it was all or nothing – they were right, or they were wrong.

So, my world is little more grey these days.

And my world is a little less clear these days.

And my beliefs are a little more in flux these days.

And all of these statements are ok with me these days.  I’m ok with not knowing – or believing I know or understand – it will. Just writing that stands out as both arrogant, ignorant, and unrealistic.

What I believe is what I believe – and it seems to make more sense to figure that out for myself, rather than take someone else’s doctrine as “gospel.”

What I believe may also change – as I learn more information, have new experiences,  interact with other world views – and that seems to make more sense, than accepting some static, infallible set of beliefs.  Has my 49 years on this earth not shown that life is about change – that change is healthy – and that growth comes through experience, uncertainty and struggle.  It also comes through the loving support of others, and the insight and experience of others. But ultimately, I have one person to answer to – one image in the mirror looking back at me.  And for that understanding, I’m grateful.

So this is me reengaging with my blog, as I take pen to paper and tell more of my story.

This I believe…

Stay tuned for more!

 

Sta

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…

IF2A0474.jpg
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.