A Question from Brooke Shaden: What About Community?

A Dusty Room by Brooke Shaden
credit: Brooke Shaden

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In my career as a photographer, I have made several changes in my journey that have all been beneficial to making a living, how I feel about myself, and how I can benefit others. Every single one of those changes has had less to do with me and more to do with other people. Yet when we think about our business or passions, we often ask questions with “I”.

How will I make enough money?
How will I support my family?
How will I attract clients?
How do I continue to change?
How do I connect on social media?

…and so on. The list of questions differs from person to person, but what remains fairly consistent is the way in which we think. MY business. MY future. Mine mine mine. And we should think that way, right? I mean, my business is my business, or at least I thought when I started out.

But every single time I made a successful change, it came from asking myself how I could benefit others and not just myself. That is not to say I wasn’t thinking about myself and my well-being, but I was just as concerned with how others would be effected.

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I tried replacing all of the above questions with something that didn’t include the word “I”:

How will charging more money benefit the consumer?
(More complete content and a more fulfilling community experience)
How will supporting my family cause better change in the world?
(We can do more good by volunteering and donating)
What do my clients need?
(Inspiration, community, motivation, storytelling)
What changes will better the community?
(Being more open and giving of my time)
How will I build a community?
(Share my story without filter and invite others to do the same)

Your questions might be different than mine, and that is okay. You can still transform them into questions that regard others and not only yourself or your business as the sole receiver of the profit. And when you do, you’ll find that you are naturally building a community, or a whole lot of allies, in the search for a more fulfilling path to journey on.

The Sound of Flying Souls by Brooke Shaden
credit: Brooke Shaden

The first time I made a change that would benefit more than just me was when I went to India to volunteer for the first time. My business was really getting off the ground thanks to some lucky breaks, and it was a good time to do something for someone else. I had no idea how to give back, but I did my best to share my story. By doing so, I have been able to parlay that into a bigger series of workshops, speaking events, giving back to those who need it most, and setting the foundation for my own success by listening to different perspectives around the world.

The next time I made a change that was not only for me was when I started sharing my techniques more thoroughly. From CreativeLive to more in-depth blogs, to hosting Artist Retreats, and speaking at conventions, I have poured my heart into giving as much knowledge as I possibly can. In return, I have received more love than I could ever imagine, and that has strengthened my resolve as an artist.

Often, in answering questions that suddenly include others in your grand plan, you will notice a theme emerging. For me, it is community. Just in answering my new questions I used that word four times. I have come to realize that my career can never be called successful if I am not making a positive impact in the community. And when I realized my career was not making any such impact, I grew afraid. I was scared that, at the end of my life, when I looked back on what I did, I would only be able to say that I created photographs. That was unfulfilling. It was disappointing. It was not, in any way, what I wanted from my life. I wanted to do good. Nothing more. Just to do good.

So next time you are evaluating your business or thinking about making a leap into a new project, ask how it will benefit others. That is more often than not a sign that you’re moving in the right direction. My business was never my business alone. It is a community brought together by a common goal: to inspire and be inspired, to motivate and find motivation, to tell a story and to hear a story. Your business is never your business alone. It is a collaboration of all the people who supported you and of all the people you supported in return. All business is a community.

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Join Brooke Shaden for her in-depth and inspiring bootcamp, Fine Art Photography: A Complete Guide. Learn more.

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Brooke Shaden is a fine art photographer and motivational speaker. She is hosting her first Promoting Passion Convention in October which is geared toward creatives who want to write a better story for themselves.