One of the things what we do as photographers, is occasionally we have to take all of our photographs, and all the data that we have on old hard drives, and migrate them to new hard drives. That's what I was doing last Fall. I was doing my due diligence, I was being ahead of the game. And this is something that we have to do as photographers, kinda like normal people have to change the tires on their car. Ideally, you change the tire before it blows out or before you get a flat, right? It gets to this point where you say, "Hey, okay my tires need to be changed." You go and make the swap or the switch. So there I was migrating all of my photographs, I mean my life's work, like everything I have done from old hard drives to new hard drives when something went wrong. And when that first happened, it was like my heart just sank. And all of these emotions... I was flood with emotion. I felt ashamed, embarrassed, angry, upset, confused, and there was about a two or three week period there, w...
here I thought it was literally gone. Fortunately, I got everything back. And in a way, this kind of this near death experience, sort of a near death creative experience cause all of my creative stuff was almost dead and gone. And in that in between time it really added clarity to my craft. It made me think a lot about, what would I miss? I would miss the photographs of my kids, I would miss photographs of mentors, of friends, and then when I got all the photographs back, you know, I went through every image I've ever captured, literally, I mean it took me forever. And I cleaned house, entire shoots that I wasn't happy with, boom, gone, deleted forever. It also shaped how I wanna move ahead. And I think near death experiences do that for us. And maybe you've experienced this yourself. Sometimes these near death experiences are really big, sometimes they're on creative stuff or maybe it's really small. And I've always found that smaller deaths, well they teach you about bigger ones as well. Like when my pet rabbit, Strawberry, died as a kid. In a way it prepared me for what might come next, which was a death of a cousin, and then a friend. Or maybe later in life when I was in graduate school and I had to do some Practicum work. I was assigned to volunteer in a hospital and I was assigned the cancer floor. So I spent my days, and weeks, and months sitting down with people and just listening. And when you spend time with people who are potentially facing death or wrestling with really difficult things, you can't help but learn a lot about life itself. Sometimes when we face death it adds clarity to things that we're a little bit convoluted or confusing before. That's what one nurse found. She spent a lot of time with people near the end of their days, and she found that they had four common regrets. Let me share those with you. One was the courage to be yourself. A regret that they worked too hard, too much, too long. Another one, courage to express their own ideals, opinions. And last but not least they regretted that they hadn't stayed connected more with friends. Now why is it then that we don't spend more time thinking about death. Well I think mostly just because it's, it's hard to do, right? It's a huge topic and why would we wanna think about that? We just wanna be creative and do all this wonderful, amazing stuff, but sometimes by thinking about it, it can gives us this little bit, maybe not even a little bit, it can give us a really huge edge. I wanna share some words from Indian poem. And in this poem, there's a king who is... A question is posed to him and he's asked, "King," this wise king, "what is the most "wondrous thing in the universe." And here's his reply, "the most wondrous thing "in the universe is that all around us "people are dying, but we don't believe "it will happen to us." I think that's one of the reasons we don't think about it. We just think, "Ah, this isn't my thing. "It won't happen to me." But then, surprise, it happens to a friend or a pet and it makes us really rethink who we are, what we do, and the fact that we all have limited time. What I've become to believe at least creatively, and also just in life, that facing the fact of death is something we desperately need to do. It's good for our soul, it also clarifies our vision, and it clarifies life. It helps us to live in a way where we're not living with regret, right? Mary Oliver, the poet, writes about this. She says, "the most regretful people on Earth "are those who felt the call to creative work, "who felt their own creative power restive and uprising, "and gave it neither power or time." Yeah, that is great regret, I do not want to have. If that creative juice and power is uprising, I wanna respond to it right away. Why don't we? Well we're afraid, right? We're afraid it won't be very good, we think about how we compare ourself to others, they're better than we actually are. But if we say, well in the face of death, who really cares? I mean who cares, I'm just gonna go for this thing. Well, that's how Roz Savage found her own voice and her calling for what she does. Roz is an amazing woman, but if you go back in time a little bit, you'll find her as a management consultant and pretty miserable with what she was doing with her life. And so there she was stuck not knowing what to do. She did this great creative exercise. She wrote two obituaries for herself. The first one was her life as it currently was, and then the second one was the obituary that she really wanted to have. And seeing the disparity and difference between the two, it gave her the motivation, the mojo, the courage to take the risk to abandon her old life. She quit her job, sold her house, and she embarked on a life of adventure. And Roz is known for many things, but she's best known for being the first woman to row across the Atlantic, the Pacific, and the Indian oceans, all because she thought about her own life, she thought about life and also death. There's one proverb that I cling to and here it is, "teach us to number our days "that we may be wise." When we realize that we have the limited number of days, it brings wisdom out of who we are. So how then does all of this relate to you and I. What can we practically do? How can we use this, in this space, which we're holding here which is about being more creative and alive. Well I think there are a few things. Candy Chang has a great TED talk out there called Before I Die. If you do a search for her online, you can watch it, and basically the core idea of it is that... She would put up, in neighborhoods, these chalk walls and stencil on it the words "before I die" blank. She would leave chalk out and people would write up their ideas. And now the beauty of this approach is it wasn't something like this... She didn't write "I want to" blank. If she had written that, the answers would have been trite, but because the word die was in there, like hey before I die I wanna do this thing. It gives you kind of this courage. It's like you know what, yeah, before the end I'm gonna make sure that that happens there. That's a great exercise to do for yourself. Another way that you can do that is thinking about this idea of regret. You can ask yourself this question, "I wish I would have." What are those things that you wish you would of done? Here's some answers from my own journal. I wish I would have slept outside more often. I wish I would've written that one book that I really wanted to do. I wish I would've been kinder to my parents when I was a teen, you get the idea. Take a couple of minutes and think about that. What are some things that you wish you would've change as you look backwards. It can help you then move ahead. Last but not least, this will be a fun exercise, it's a bucket list with a twist. Now we all know that a bucket list is this list of things that you wanna do before you kick the bucket, right? And usually bucket lists are fantastic and they're a ton of fun. You know, on my bucket list is I wanna go and visit this far off land, I wanna jump out of an airplane, whatever it is. But what I want you to do is to approach this a little bit differently. Rather than these experiences and these things like jumping out of airplanes, and adrenaline, excitement, and all of that which is all really good. I want you to add the twist of thinking about your own space and your own craft. So how does that apply to me, just by way of an example. So I love taking pictures, I love photographing people. So what's on my bucket list with a twist towards that? Well one of the things that I desperately want to do in my lifetime is I wanna create a definitive portrait of someone. The people I like to photograph, that I've wrote down, artists, musicians, poets, actors, athletes, creators of some sort. So it's one of those types of people, I wanna create a definitive portrait which is the portrait for that person's life. I desperately wanna make that happen, so that's one of the things that I'm working towards. Well what else, I write books. I write a lot of books on Photography and whatnot. One of the things that's on my bucket list with a twist is to use that writing skill that I've developed, but not write another Photography book, but I wanna write a kid's book, a book for children. I've always wanted to do that, so there that is. It's like taking what I do, but pivoting it a little bit. And so that's what I want you to do as well. What's that pivot? How can you take where you're at and then apply that in a new way. One more that I have on my list is, as you know, I'm super passionate about creativity, about life, about empowering, inspiring people, well I wanna take all that and I wanna create an organization that teaches kids how to be creative as well. So again, you get the flow or the idea of that. And most importantly with all of these things, choose maybe one or two of these that you wanna do, but just take the time to think about how we have this limited amount of time. And see how it can't add some clarity to your own craft, and clarity to the things that you want to create.