We all understand that everyone has different strengths and weaknesses. In some area of our lives we may be very successful, and not so much in others. We might be knocking it out of the park at work, but a failure when it comes to relationships. Or a wizard in the kitchen, but appalling at directions. Of course, we can look at these things and say “I’m just no good at that” or we can move beyond a fixed mindset and try and change an area that we struggle with. It’s all too easy to compartmentalize your life and not see how areas are related. Success in one can lead to success in another, and vice versa. The way you handle the things you’re good at often contains the seeds of how you can fix the problems with something else.
Enough psychobabble – let me give you a more concrete example. So, personally, I’m very good at something that lots of people struggle with – getting up early in the morning to go and exercise – but pretty rubbish at something which comes naturally to some people – sales and marketing. By analysing how I make the good stuff work, it’s possible to translate the same tactics across to the area where I have problems.
Here are two ways that I make the early morning exercise thing work:
First, the emotional and wider impact. There’s a big positive from taking exercise and feeling fit and healthy, that’s pretty much beyond argument and hugely backed up by stacks of research. I can vouch for this – I feel much better when I’m fit and active than when I’m out of condition. There’s also an emotional side to training first thing in the morning. Even in mid-winter, when it’s dark, cold and possibly even wet outside, there’s still a certain emotional charge to being outside in the elements. In spring and summer, this is a given – few things are more satisfying that a run through woodlands as dawn is breaking on a summer morning. So, when I’m lying in bed, warm under the covers, I need to bring to mind the emotional and physical benefits of getting up, out and on the move, and use them to over power the inertia that naturally comes from staying in bed.
Second, the practical side. Like most things, the practice of exercising in the morning is made up of lots of little steps – beyond the first step of getting out of bed, I need to get into the right kit, warm up, drink some water, take some kit with me (keys, phone, headtorch in winter) and so on. If any of these stages are difficult, or feel like an obstacle, they may be enough to put me off and keep me in bed. So, I make each stage as easy and as automatic as possible. One of the most useful things to do is lay out my running kit the night before, as well as working out where to run or what exercise to take the next day. Not having to think about these stages means they get done almost automatically, and there isn’t a ready made speedbump in my path that can slow me down. Imagine if instead of laying my kit out the night before I didn’t even have any clean kit – odds are that rather than try and search for some, or dig some out of the wash basket, I just wouldn’t train – it would be enough of an obstacle to stop me dead..
So, there are two broad approaches – emotional/mental, and practical. Let’s try and use these to fix an area where I’ve historically always had problems – marketing and selling my business.
The practical is actually the simpler one here. It’s part of the general trend of “breaking big, scary things down into smaller, more manageable chunks”. If I put on my to-do list “write and send out the marketing newsletter” it is unlikely to get done, as it’s too big, and made up of many smaller tasks. These tasks include things like deciding which work I’m going to include, gathering the right images, formatting them to fit the newsletter, writing the copy, proof reading the whole thing, making sure my mailing list is up to date, and then sending out the campaign. If I don’t get something done, there’s a natural tendency to feel like I’ve failed, and to be quite hard on myself, and so my motivation to continue dwindles. If, instead, I allow myself to achieve small steps on part of the longer road, I’m more likely not only to get started in the first place, but to actually get finished.
I can take this fragmentation even further by getting organised. So, I have notes in evernote made of what format the images need to be in, what my word count should be, some examples of good copy, and lots of general structural copy advice, all of which smooths the path for me in the same way that prepping my workout kit the night before does.
Slightly more complex is the emotional and mental side of things. Since marketing and selling myself isn’t something that comes naturally to me, there’s an automatic tendency to inertia – just like staying under the duvet! It’s much more comfortable to come up with a time-wasting task than knuckle down and confront something that feels uncomfortable. The biggest challenge I face on an emotional and mental level is convincing myself that marketing and selling are activities I need to engage in, and that avoidance is actually unsustainable.
I can take a negative approach, by trying to convince myself that not taking any action will mean that gradually over the months and years work will steadily fade away, and I’ll be forced to wind the business up and go and get a real job. I find it more useful to take a more positive approach. I can remind myself that working with people on shoots, and collaborating to create great work, is something that moves me deeply, gives me enormous satisfaction, and is essentially why I’m still doing this job 20+ years later. It’s about reminding myself how great it feels to be shooting good work with good people, and earning good money for it. It’s about having faith in the quality of work I produce, and what value I can bring to a client, and by extension how much more business I can create for them. It’s also about shooting more of the work I want to shoot, by targeting exactly the sort of clients I want to work for, rather than leaving it all in the lap of the gods and taking whatever work comes my way.
So, using methods that create success in one area of life, it’s quite possible to fix another area, even if there seems to be very little common ground between them!