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Pushing Past Self-Imposed Limitations

Lesson 6 from: The Method to a Successful (and Fulfilling) Photography Career

Alex Strohl

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Lesson Info

6. Pushing Past Self-Imposed Limitations

Next Lesson: How To Set Goals

Lesson Info

Pushing Past Self-Imposed Limitations

(dramatic music) This episode is here to teach you how to view problems in a new light and for you to become aware of when you're finding excuses for yourself or when you're just simply limiting yourself. The main point of this whole episode is to let you know that you can hear no as an answer, but keep pushing. And be determined to know that there is always a solution out there. So I'm gonna explain. (air whooshing) Whether you're trying to land big clients or just simply trying to get somebody to let you, you know, shoot photos at their house, you're going to need this set of tools. Just remember that busting down these internal walls will take a lot of practice, and what matters most is that you simply get going. First point, get comfortable with negotiation. There is a negotiation episode literally coming up right after, so we can move to the next point. Number two is to take no as an answer, but keep going. This is huge because when I was growing up and I was a teenager, I was i...

nsufferable because I couldn't take no for an answer. And I would just keep bugging these people instead of just moving on and trying to find the right people. So the biggest lesson was to know that you can hear no as an answer, politely decline, and just keep pushing, asking somebody else. Because there's always somebody out there who has a solution to what you're looking for. The biggest thing is that I no longer waste time trying to convince the inconvincible. That was huge when I understood that. There was once, on a Land Rover assignment a few years ago, that's a really good example actually, because I was trying to, the goal was to drive a car, a Land Rover Discovery, on a frozen lake. And not any frozen lake, it was Abraham Lake in Alberta, which has these massive ice bubbles. So I've been there a couple times, and every time I'd go there, I'd ask, you know, "Hey, have you ever seen anybody on the lake?" And people walk their dogs, so I'm like, "If you can walk a dog, (laughs) maybe you can drive a car on it." Then every local I would ask would just tell me that, "Hey, I've heard about this guy driving their snowmobile, and their snowmobile fell through the lake." And the ice broke, and, you know, they lost their snowmobile. They almost died. I couldn't find anybody who lived around that lake, even pretty well, you know, pretty resourceful people, people who are in like helicopter tour business, like people who know the lake really well and guides. And everybody would tell me, "No, it's impossible. You can't drive a lake on it." I probably asked 15, 20 people in a row, (laughs) and the deadline was getting closer, because we said we're gonna drive a car on that lake. We obviously had backups, but I was really determined on driving it on that lake because of the big ice bubbles, until eventually ended up asking another person. I think it was a fly fishing outfit out of Calgary, far away, I guess, a city far away. And they just told me that they had done that before, and they had to hire a polar engineer. Okay, cool. That was when I finally got the first hint of the solution. So the point of this is that I just kept asking people, but, (laughs) yeah, never the same one. I would just move on to the next one, and I would take leads from each. And that led me to knowing I had to hire a polar engineer. Then I just had to find one. And once I had that information, I just found, I think his name was Dave McGonigal. And I found Dave literally in a day once I knew I needed Dave. (laughs) And I talked to him on the phone, he's like, "I don't know, we'll just let the data talk." You know, 'cause I was like, "Everybody told me it's impossible," and he's like, "We'll check it out," you know. So he went there. I had to hire him for a day, you know, cost some money. And he staked out the lake. You know, he staked out the whole runway for us. It was a five-kilometer radius. And he told us, you know, we could drive on it. No problem, it was measured and tested, said to stay within the radius and avoid big cracks. And that was it. That's how we figured it out. So there was no way that we were gonna get that done if we just stopped at the, you know, first 10 nos or if we tried to ask the same people over and over. So that was a huge understanding, that there's always a solution out there. You just have to ask the right people. Number three is to ask the right questions. So like I've explained in the Land Rover story, at the beginning, I was asking the wrong questions. It was, "I want to drive a car on that lake. How can I do that?" And (laughs) that obviously, you know, took me to, "No, you can't do that." But eventually, if you refine, you know, I ended up asking, "What would it take to drive a car on that lake?" You know, "Is there anybody who knows this lake? Is there anybody who studies the depth, the thickness of the ice?" et cetera, et cetera. So as you hear your nos, you just keep refining your pitch until somebody understands what you're asking for. So it's just mental framing, and you only do that through asking a ton of people (laughs) in a row. (air whooshing) To help you out, here's a few questions that I ask myself whenever I'm pitching a project or trying to find the strength to start a new, personal project. Who do I know who has experience with this? How can I add intrigue or interest to my request or this project? Am I telling this person I'm trying to convince enough to get them excited? Or am I just being pretty vague? Am I being clear and easy to understand? 'Cause sometimes we don't prepare our question. It's just like a jumble, and people just don't have time for you, right, (laughs) like I don't know what this guy wants, I'm just gonna say no, right? So just be super clear to understand. You almost have to be impossible to misunderstand. Also, a good one is like would I want to help myself if I was hearing this? This is huge, and it is. I learned this from Steve Sims. He's got a book on, it's called "Bluefishing." It'll be in the PDF as a recommended reading for this episode. But it is how can I make the other person look great? And that is huge whether you're pitching the media to run your stories or getting somebody to give you the keys to this really cool car or whatever. You just have to find a way to make this person look good. And along the same lines, how does this benefit the other person's, you know, or the audience? What are they getting out of it? They're looking good. Cool, and then what else? And then lastly, you have to be fiercely curious, and you have to question everything, including asking why as much as you can and even to yourself. You know, why this? Why that? Why do I want this? Why do I need this? Why is this gonna be good? Why would this person work with me? So here's these questions. That'll be in the PDF too. But I wanted to run through them to give you more color. (air whooshing) Number four, be okay with rejection. Being rejected is just part of the process. There is nine billion people almost on this earth. And you can't get along with everybody, and you just can't get to agree with everybody. So just learn that it's part of it. And it's gonna be certainly painful when you get rejected with your really cool idea you thought was awesome, but just know that it's part of it, right? I've had my pitches torn, you know, to pieces by clients, and it's painful. It hurts. You think like, "I fucked up," but sometimes it's just timing. There's a thousand reasons. So just don't let these things hold you back. The important thing here is that you don't treat yourself too harshly. You know, don't think that you blew it and it's all your fault. Treat yourself with kindness, and don't jump to conclusions. Because like I said earlier, it just could be so many different parameters that made that your request, your pitch just didn't get accepted. On the bright side, if you look at it from the other perspective, you actually learn how not to do something, right? You just learn how not to pitch your story or not how to ask this person or how not to get this gallery to show your work. So frame it in the other way, and just be okay with being rejected. Number five, study the stories of others. Another approach to help you break down these internal walls that we set up for ourself is to read and research people who've done crazy things. Jim Carrey, for example, lived out of a caravan for years before he, you know, he made his breakthrough and became Jim Carrey. Benjamin Franklin, he dropped out of school when he was 10 years old. Stephen King's book was actually rejected by every publishing house he pitched to, his first book. He put it away, and then his wife convinced him to actually present it one last time. And, you know, that book went on to sell more than 350 million copies. This is all inspiring to hear it, but it actually works if you read these people's books, if you just study them. Because, at least to me, it makes me feel very optimistic that it's gonna work, right? It's worked for all these people in way harder situations. (air whooshing) So by referring to this method, these five steps I've outlined, just know that you'll have to come back to them often. Because you lose faith, and it happens to all of us. But remember, like I've said earlier, just fall in love with the process, and just follow the method because it works. Whenever I am feeling like, "This is not gonna work," you know, I might just dig in, into somebody's book again and, or pick up my notebook where I wrote some of these quotes. Actually, having a quote above your desk from somebody who's done tough things always helps. Like I actually have some on my screensaver on my computer. I just keep these inspiring messages around. And if you keep these, just the simple rules that I've outlined, if you keep them handy, even print it out on a piece of paper, it'll give you the fuel in your fridge, in your bathroom where you brush your teeth. It is something to live by. It's not something to do, you know, once every three months and forget about them, come back to them. Should be more consistent. Repetition is always gonna be the money maker. (air whooshing) Now to the exercise. The simple goal of this exercise is to get you breaking down these inner walls, like the questions that you've seen earlier. That, to me, that's just inner problems, that they're self-imposed. And I understand that. We've all done it. But knowing that people have pushed through them through practice is what will break down these walls one by one. So let's begin with one figure. Let's say that you're not comfortable yet sharing your work with others, like the person I quoted earlier. First off, just go and show your work to your friends and family first. Because they'll be nicer with you. And just tell them that you want to do a little exhibit for them, that you want to do like a photo night and you want to show them on a screen or something. Make something a bit more theatrical around it. Don't just show them on your phone or your laptop. Make a little event out of it, but with your, you know, people you're really close to, because they'll be nicer (laughs) and also because it can be a bit nerve racking to talk about your photos, especially if you have never done it. Just gather a story or two around each photo, and literally do a show and tell. Bam, show a photo, tell a story, next one. It's always nice to talk about things you've lived. Because it just gets you talking, and you'll just gain a bit more confidence doing that. You know, once you're comfortable with that, showing them to your inner circle, put them out to the outer circle, your favorite coffee shop or little grocery store, whatever. Just convince somebody there to let you hang your photos. And frame them, and put your name under them. Don't put a price under them. That's always really corny. Just hang 'em out there. And just seeing them every, (laughs) you know, every time you go to your coffee shop and seeing people look at them and listening to them, somebody will critique them and criticize them. Somebody will love them. That will just give you that confidence boost, I think, seeing them every day. At least for me, like I gain confidence through my work, through doing little exhibitions and each time making them bigger or talking to larger crowds. So it's all about these little steps. So show 'em to your family. Once you're comfortable with that, or your friends, do that multiple times. Then you, boop, do the coffee shop, the grocery store, and then so on and so forth. (air whooshing) Now, the second case figure is if you're already comfortable showing your work with others. Let's use this confidence to do something that you never thought you could do. It could be reaching out to somebody who you admire and asking to meet them, right? There is, can't remember who said this quote, but everybody is one email away, everybody, including your, you know, the most famous people in the world. They're just one email away. You get one chance at talking to them on an email. Now, if you follow the steps above (laughs) and you've had the empathy to wonder, why would they want to meet them, right? I really believe that to meet interesting people, you have to be interesting. Otherwise, why would they want to meet you? You could also ask somebody to get access to this very unique place. Let's say that there's been this really cool building near you that you've always seen. You know, like, ah, I'd like to get in there, it's abandoned, and make some photos. Go to the town hall, and ask them if you can get in, right? Maybe they'll say no. Well, keep asking. Ask different people, right? Just build this confidence of getting rejected. The goal really is to do something you never thought you could do and getting that little win, right? This is a good one too. Ask a friend either at a party or nowadays (laughs) on the, you know, through an email to introduce you to maybe five people who they know closely who might need to hire you as a photographer or a filmmaker, whatever. Just ask that. It's very uncomfortable to do that. Hey, hey, buddy, do you mind introducing me to people who might need to hire me? That's an uncomfortable question. So frame it well. And be ready to be rejected, or be ready to hear, "Yeah, yeah, yeah." And maybe the person will never do it, right? But just try it. Or lastly, you could simply, if you've never had a show, put together a collection of your favorite images or that make sense. And maybe contact five galleries, and ask them to consider your work for a show. And tell them why. You know, pitch them. If you've already had a show in your local gallery, then try something in Tokyo, right? What matters is that you get repetition, rejections, and you do this impossible thing. So good luck.

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Ratings and Reviews

Janelle Dransfield

A helpful combination of mindful and technical! I loved all aspects of the lessons Alex taught in this workshop! They were well thought out, specific, and easy to follow. Each category had numbered lists of steps, followed by more specific descriptions of them. The lesson about the art of negotiation, as well as the one out in the field with his dad were both full of really helpful first hand knowledge. (Also, side note: loved how his dad did NOT care about the production hahaha. Just a man about his business. A perfect example of someone you document and direct when you can!) The only reason I didn't give this five stars was because of the uncut interview episode with another photographer about how to find motivation. It was the longest episode, but there wasn't a lot of content there, and the video was really drawn out considering how much was actually being said. Maybe if the person being interviewed had been given an idea of the questions before hand, or if all the dead space had been edited out in-between, it would have felt like a little bit less of a filler? That being said, I really enjoyed this course overall and got a lot out of it! Well priced, and I would definitely buy again.

Oswaldo Martinez

Phenomenal guide to find YOUR reasons to be better This might be my favorite workshop from Alex. He shares amazing insights and provides frameworks to help you understand the why behind what you do, and plenty of valuable advice into how you can improve or find your own motivations. Loved this one.

Tommaso Novi

Absolutely amazing. You can see the works these community put in this course, is simply amazing and incredible. Inspiring is the right word!

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