I recently had a discussion with Yasir Nisar over a cup of warm tea and hot samosas. Yes, tea and samosa. Yasir is a professional photographer here in Pakistan. His pictures can sell upwards of 50,000 rupees each. Each.
His calendar for the next few months, by his own admission, is packed with client work. Along with the client work, he finds the time to pursue his original passion: landscape photography. He recently came back from the serene Neelum valley.
You may not like his work, but he does. And that matters. Also, people paying him money to take pictures like his work. So I’m sure it’s OK if YOU don’t. Yasir won’t mind that much either.
So, sipping bad tea and biting through spicy samosas, we talked about how easy it is these days to capture a good photograph.
You just follow the instructions, and you are guaranteed results.
Same settings, same angles, same perspective and it won’t matter who’s behind the camera.
Sure, Yasir’s photography equipment is worth a few Hondas, but come to think about it, it’s like a recipe. Much like cooking: you can, even after a little bit of practice, produce good results if you know how to follow the recipe.
That is simple and easy. Right?
I mean how hard can it be to take a good picture, right?
Taking good pictures is not that difficult. And a lot of people say that Photography is their ultimate hobby. Yasir says that too.
But there are not many Yasirs out there.
Being On The Job / OR Showing Up
A lot of photographers don’t have the type of client work they’d want.
Why is that?
Because it is not easy. You probably know the method, it’s so simple. But you, my friend, will not do it. Because it’s so. Damn. Hard.
I met Yasir because his car mechanic happens to be near my house. So Yasir called up when he was there. His car needs constant tweaking.
Yours would too if you travel from Karachi to Lahore by car, every other month. Only to head out to the Deosai plains in the mountains a few weeks in between. That, if you don’t know, is the length of Pakistan. In less than two months. By road so he doesn’t miss the scenery on the way.
He traverses the length of the damn country at least two to three times in a year. Maybe more. Why? To take photographs. Gigabytes upon gigabytes of pictures.
He shows up.
80% of success is just showing up. You have to show up at your place of work. And showing up at your place of work for years and years is not easy. It’s simple to understand. But not easy.
Your place of work may be a little space you’ve carved next to the kitchen or a lonely spot in a cafe, or depending on your job, it may be the mountains of Himalayas or the deserts of Rajasthan.
But show up, you must.
What’s Your Primary Job?
A photographer’s primary job is to take photographs. Lots and lots of it. A writers’s primary job is to write. A chef’s primary job is to cook.
Have you identified yours?
We fret a lot about quality. Is it good enough? Will people like my work? Am I good enough? At best, this quality-centric approach slows you down.
Especially when you’re starting out, your work will be below par.
“The key, at first, is quantity. That is how you build quality.” ~ James Altucher.
But still, you must put in the hours. Yasir has client work, he has carved a life he wants, following his passion, yes. By God’s Grace. But it took him 5 to 6 years of head-spinning, crazy schedules. A dedication to his craft. He knew his job.
Do you know your job?
And part of that job is to show your creation to the world, where it belongs.
The photograph must be published and the lasagna must be served. You writing must see the light of day. Feedback is essential to improve. No matter what field you’re in, you must ship. Not to make money (that too, like quality, comes later), but to fight the fear.
The fear all artists, all creators, all entrepreneurs face. Steven Presserfield’s remarkable book “The War of Art” – a must read bestseller – is based on this very topic of fear.
It is all too common for the most skilled among us to bury himself in fear. Beware! You must ship. You must try to “sell”. Either for money, or for feedback. Or ideally, for both.
The fear will kill your work. Don’t let it.
Fight the Fear
I was in Abu Dhabi last year, to run my first triathlon. I had saved money for months. I had trained in Lahore where there is no triathlon club. I was there, one day before the race, full of fear. I feared the open sea. I had never swam in the open ocean before. A day before the race, I tried to swim in the open sea for the first time in my life. I couldn’t even go past the shore line. I was dead, dead scared. Sure, I could swim the 750 meters, but ONLY IN A SWIMMING POOL. This was a mighty big swimming pool. What have I done? How can I push back the fear? Can I quit now? I mustn’t. If anything, I got my money’s worth of fear. Raw. Naked. Fear.
I don’t know how, but I got into a chat with another triathlete there by the name of Martyn. From England, this guy was sixty four years old. I told him how scared I was, and I don’t know how to go about this.
“You know, Mohammad, I’ve been running triathlons for thirty years. Back home, I swim in proper rough seas at 3 degree Celsius, not the calm seas that I find here. But you know what? Even swimming in these calm waters, after all that time swimming in rough seas, I was scared,” then he said something that changed the way I look at fear itself. He said, “the fear is always there.”
You will always be scared of putting your work out there. With time, it may get easier, but the fear will remain, ready to pounce on your dreams if you let it.
Perhaps we’ve got it wrong: it’s not we fight fear, we manage it.
Everyone doesn’t love Yasir’s work. That’s part of the job. And not everyone will find my writing – my creation, my sweat and blood – not everyone will find it empowering or uplifting. Maybe no one will buy my stuff. That will be hard. But I must publish. That’s my job.
So practice managing your fear. Identify you job. Ritualize it. And understand that part of the job is to show your creation to the world, so you can improve your skill and sell your work.
Not many people will have the stomach for this. But for those who do show up and fight the fear, the world changes.
See, it’s so simple.
Liked what you read? Know someone who can use a bit of fear-fighting? Do share this on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter etc… thank you.
My case study on how I started a Milk Distribution enterprise here in Lahore is almost complete. Expect a “sales focused” email in a day or two. God willing. Hoping that you like it *gulp*