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 upon whom society looks down
  • 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
  • Presume goodwill
  • Seek to understand
  • Know when to observe without judgement
  • Each of us is doing the best we can
  • 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)
  • Don’t yuck on somebody’s yum
  • Strive for curiosity, courage, compassion and connection



New Year Ahead – what is in your heart?

A friend recently introduced me to a new way of thinking about New Year’s Eve, and all the “hype” leading up to a changing digit or two in the date…

That in which you are engaging or contemplating this evening will become your intentions for and in the New Year.

So, as I considered this evening’s activities, I created time and place for the following passions or gifts:

  • Baking  – which is really about sharing generously with others, showing hospitality, eating meals together, and building community
  • Photography  – which is really about telling stories, connecting with others through empathy and creativity, and building community 
  • Tech Geek (digital photos, website, social media, video remixing) – which is really about creating, using a tool to enhance but not dominate life, and having fun
  • Blogging –  which is really about telling stories, connecting with others through empathy and creativity, and building community 🙂

In that same time, he is doing the same for the following passions and gifts:

  • Acro-Yogawhich is really about building community, making healthy life choices and having fun
  • Body Work – which is really about building intimate community, being aware of one’s self in relation to others and to the universe, and having fun

And he will join me afterwards, where we will enjoy the following shared passion:

  • Being with Loved Ones (Family, Friends & Pets) – which is about finding shelter and being home, unconditional love…and warm hot cocoa!  Add your own thoughts…


Peace, love and light for you in 2015…

Day 85 – Naming, blessing and embracing my talents

I was meeting with a friend yesterday and he introduced me to a small group of men doing some amazing work with youth and community ( In introducing me, he named what he saw as my gifts. He mentioned that I was creative and a connector. For many years, I’ve balked at being called creative. I don’t see myself as such. But, now, in a more humble manner of listening and removing my own ego…I’m able to hear more what others see in me. And, I’m more open to embracing those talents, those gifts — naming and blessing and celebrating them.

Along those lines, I was recently reconnected with a man who had a great influence on my life as an elementary school teacher. As a young boy of 10 years old moving from Louisiana to Canada, I remember facing the teasing from my peers, having a funny accent. 😉 I was also young and short for my age. Skipped a grade while in Canada made that “difference” even more pronounced. There were two men – Mr. Rogers and Mr. Heady – who went out of their way to make me feel welcome. They “took me under their wings” and broke down the barriers my accent created, and helped me connect with the students. I have ALWAYS shared fondly of my time in Sarnia and spoken of these two men. Well, recently, a friend from Sarnia connected with me on Facebook and told me that Mr. Rogers was looking to reconnect with students. What a great blessing! And as we started to reconnected, Mr. Rogers wrote back, “Remember you as one of those students who brought the fire for learning to class every day.”

So completing that spirit of naming by gifts — some of them I see more fully today are…curious; connector; creative; fire for learning.