Thinking back on all the things I’ve done over the last year, I keep asking myself, “How do I know when to trust my gut and ACT?” Why do some risks make me experience failure in order to grow and other risks immediately sprout wings? Believe it or not, the former is always more valuable to my growth. I’ve learned more from failure than accidental or even calculated triumph. Either way, knowing when to take a risk is about weighing the investment vs. return. Solid relationships are the most valuable thing worth risking for and it’s nearly impossible to put an investment price tag on them.
My good friend, Nick Onken, lives in NY. My MTH2010 Tour Co-Pilot, Jeff Holt, lives in Charlotte. Jeff flew to NY this week to help Nick with some major office projects and a shoot today. My web designer, Ross from Flosites, was in NY all the way from Moldova. Although I talk to him almost daily about dozens of projects, I had never before met Ross in person. Ross was staying with young superstar photographer Joey L, who I had heard of through Nick and Jeremy Cowart. I am, to say the least, inspired by what this barely-twenty photographer is doing with his life.
So… this past Tuesday night. 5pm. Twitter.
Me: I just bought a Rolodex. Yeah, you heard me.
Ross: what about a ticket to NY
Me: ok… you, @nickonken & @jeffholt KNOW that I want to come.
Ross: @nickonken @youpluswephoto @joeyldotcom & @jeffholt all want you to come do something crazy for the beginning of 2010
Nick: If @flosites can’t tempt you, then @jeffholt and I will. Come come come to NY!
What is the most important component to making things happen? People. The people you surround yourself with can 100% change the course of your life, teach you, mold you, and give you the opportunity to love. We had all just gotten back from Christmas break this week and I was busier than ever with an unusually full inbox and dozens of calls to make. I was exhausted. What trumped all of this was the thought that I could be changed by surrounding myself with these people. I hit a point early this week where I knew I needed a change in environment to shift my thinking. After writing my last post, I felt a little too vulnerable and woke up thinking… what did I just write? It is not easy to put myself out there. I felt an overwhelming need to rein it in, get focused, and surround myself with the people who just get me. Ari, Katharine, Emily and Whitney certainly do get me. More than I realize sometimes. After all I experienced in the last two weeks, they told me to just go. Ari and Katharine said the exact same thing to me… “You need this. It will be good for you.” I’m so thankful for their honesty and care for me. So, around 2am, I took a deep breath and hit “purchase” on a ticket to NY.
Me: @nickonken @jeffholt @flosites @joeyldotcom @danielkudish #peerpressure You win. What’s for dinner tomorrow? How’s that for #MTH2010!?
I do not say this with the slightest bit of exaggeration … the 24 hours I spent in NY completely changed the game for me. My perspective took a major shift and I left NY Thursday night with more confidence in my direction than I have ever felt. I was ready for it.
How? It started the second I made the choice to go. The moment I purchased the ticket, I had a responsibility to take my decision –my investment– and run with it. If you’re going to do something, do it 100%. Otherwise, why make the investment in the first place? The more we risk, the more we stand to gain. Financially it was a big investment, my time was a big investment, spending a night away from Ari was a big investment, being away from my office and my work for a day was a big investment, and the thought that I’m traveling to 6 cities starting next week and could exhaust myself crept up on me in the form of fear. Everything you invest in should have a return — whether that means learning from a failure or soaring from a strategic choice– it is your responsibility to make that happen. If you’re going to take a vacation, take a vacation. I have, over time, learned this the hard way. Unplug, leave the laptop at home, do whatever it takes to use that time wisely. It’s an investment. When you come back to work, you will be refreshed and ultimately benefit from having let yourself take a break from your inbox. Your perspective will have shifted. I knew that no matter how great the investment, taking 24 hours to go to NY could shift mine and make me better, clearer, more focused in the end, help me step away and figure out what has happened in the last weeks, and give me the opportunity to possibly ignite a fire in people I care about.
Nick and Jeff are two of the people I count in my very small “inner circle”. They have become like my family… with a sense of “Dead Poet Society” adventure. We share something I’ve never experienced before and I’m just starting to recognize this in myself: we want to truly experience life with all five senses, encouraging everyone we meet along the way to do the same. As Nick said in his recent blog post about making things happen, “What do I want out of 2010? A well balanced passionate life with great people, great food, and great wine. I want to be a better photographer, grow my business, start more business, build better relationships, and much more. Live life for the epic moments. Life is short and who knows how long it will be.” Amen. Live life for the epic moments. I want to experience life with my eyes wide open, authentically, with people I can share my life’s passions with. I trust them. That’s rare. And I never would have solidified these thoughts had I not taken a risk and clicked “purchase” on Orbitz Tuesday night. Yes, that kind of investment is money. Money most people don’t have to spend, including myself. But, what price can you put on friendship, inspiration in its highest form, and building relationships that make this journey of life worth experiencing? You just can’t. It’s priceless.
How can 24 hours change you? You have to let it. I got to Nick’s place and immediately we jumped into conversation about our futures, adventures and vision, friendship and pushing the limits with our work, possibility and change… over nachos in Nick’s kitchen. I got to see his new book that comes out in March. It’s a gem. It will rock the photography world and encourage so many to travel, to adventure, to — to use the book’s title — “Photo Trek.”
We headed out in the crisp cold NY air to dinner at Alta and met Ross and his wife; photographer Angelica Glass; my new buddy Ben Spell; Joey L; Lindsey Thorne; and Daniel and Davina, who drove from Canada to be there at dinner with us. With Joey to my left and Nick to my right, dinner ensued with passionate conversation, laughter, and a sense that we were all among game changers. I sat back at one moment, looked around the table, and thought to myself, “how did I get here?” I took a risk. As Gary Vaynerchuck says in Crush It, I valued legacy over currency. I wanted to experience life with good friends and be there to build them up. I wanted to ignite a shift. If you follow me on Twitter, you may have seen me tweet this around 10pm:
We really did. All 50+ items on the menu. OK, ok, it’s a casual tapas place and there really is an option to order one of everything called “The Whole Shebang”. But, it gave us a good laugh to say that we “ordered the whole menu.” That was oddly symbolic for me and summed up my entire trip: experience all of life, with eyes wide open, surrounded by people who encourage and build you up, who you do the same for 100 fold, and taste, smell, touch everything along the journey. Live for the epic moments. Building a business is great. Building an empire is fantastic. Building a life is what making things happen is all about.
Someone said to me today that if they are meant to do something, the money they will need will come without them trying too hard to get it. Like “fate”. I disagree. If you are really meant to do something, you figure out how to make it happen. You build a plan, a strategy, you ask for help, you educate yourself, you just get it done. When you find that clarity of knowing you are really “meant” to do something, you have no choice but to act. Life doesn’t just happen to us, we make, act, do, choose, compose, plan, activate, cause things to happen. Happiness (and money) will come when you are living your passion, living a balanced whole life, living your personal brand with authenticity and when you have a solid business structure to back it up.
Sean Low. Oh, Sean Low. Let me count the ways…
A few days before NY, I had a conversation with Nick and Jeff about Sean Low. I met Sean for the first time at Engage08… what feels like eons ago. I’ve said it before and continue to see it in action; Sean shifts my perspective every time I listen to him. I’ve been telling Jeff for a while about Sean’s brilliance and his gift with creative businesses. I told them the story of how Sean took Preston Bailey from major debt to planning for royalty and taking in an average of $600,000 for his design fee. Yes, just for design. For his art. Sean knows how to monetize and add value to people’s creative genius. I emailed Sean that morning to see if he was available to meet. I knew that bringing he and Nick together would create those once-in-a-lifetime sparks that fly when creative minds align and challenge each other. Bringing my three favorite creatives together at one table was like magic. I just sat back and watched our lives change with each word that was uttered. If you’ve met Sean, you know what I mean. If you’ve met Nick and Jeff, then you really know what I mean. I wish I had a recording of those three mind-opening hours! Unreal. Sean was thrilled to hear about what we are doing with MTH2010 and solidified for me that we are on the right path. He tells his clients, “I don’t want to work with you if you don’t want to change the world.” That stuck with me. That’s where my heart is. I want to enable people to change the world through my life’s work. I want to invest every part of me into this… which means making a lot of adjustments in my life. I have to live this to teach it and I’m committed to that. I have friends like Nick and Jeff who keep my mind in the right place and my heart open to whatever comes next. I have found my passion. Sean looked at me and said, “Lara, you’re there.” Thank you, Sean. I am taking those words and running with them. I’m hitting “purchase” on my life starting here and now and every breath I take will not be taken for granted. I know that sounds like a grand statement, and well, it is. I feel it. This is new for me.
More to come… I’m still processing it all. As Nick said after we met with Sean, “I think my head still has smoke coming out of it.”
images :: my iPhone
P.S. I’ll be announcing the MTH2010 First Class Scholarship winner on Monday. Thanks to everyone who entered!
A little surprise giveaway… we just finished Crush It here in the office. Leave a comment here and enter to win our office copy with a note of encouragement in it from all of us. Giveaway ends next Friday, January 15th at midnight.