The Advantages of a Disadvantage

My gang of friends.  I'm on the top step.
One of my early childhood tribes, Rochester, NY  (I’m on top step)

I re-connected with an old friend last week.  We hadn’t seen each other in 43 years!  Other than my family members, I have known this friend longer than anyone else in my life, except for one other.  But we hadn’t been in contact with each other, until a few months ago.  We’ve had  a wonderful exchange of emails and a bit of serendipity that led to an in person reunion. It’s been a cathartic experience for both of us.

We were teenagers, who used to “hang out” together. We went to different schools and we lived in different neighborhoods but for a couple of quick years, he, I and a few other friends, hung out together, on the warm spring and summer evenings of our youth. Until I moved…..again.  It was probably the tenth time that I had moved and changed schools, and I was only 16 years old and mid-way through my junior year of high school.   I suppose you could say that I had lived the life of a rolling stone. But it was what I knew.  In one of our dialogs, I reminded him about that move, and he looked at it, as tragic.

In a way, I suppose growing up in a transient lifestyle was a bit tragic.  Just when I would make friends, and feel like I was part of my “new school”, we would move again, to a new community. My dad was climbing the “corporate ladder” and with each promotion came a series of moves. I was the perpetual “new kid” and I guess I was always in search of a “new tribe”.  I grew up, a product of change.

I recently finished reading Malcom Gladwell’s new book, “David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits and the Art of Battling Giants”.  He talks about people who have turned the disadvantages  that they’ve had in their lives, into advantages.  Each chapter unfolds into a story about a highly successful person who had to overcome obstacles or disadvantages in their lives – everything from losing a parent to being dyslexic.  One example Gladwell cites is about a high profile Hollywood producer who had worked his way from his impoverished beginnings to fame and fortune.  His children had everything, but he was worried about their future.  He knew that if they didn’t have to “work” for something, they wouldn’t know the feeling of accomplishment and success.  They would not have the “advantage” that he had growing up, the advantage of being poor.

I realized after reading Gladwell’s book that what I might have looked at as a disadvantage, my nomadic life, was probably the biggest advantage I had.  It has made me take chances in my life and not be afraid to initiate an interaction.  If I hadn’t, I wouldn’t have made friends.  It made me love school because I knew that was where I would connect to people in my new community. I learned to adapt to change.  If I didn’t I would have been miserable all the time or afraid – or both. Instead, I have lived my life, continually exploring my curiosities, whether it is visiting a foreign country, embarking on a new creative project or expanding my craft.

Would I have wished my nomadic life on my daughter?  Probably not, it wasn’t easy. But it certainly had its rewards.


ePubs and Seminars – Why Some Inspire and Some Don’t

I’ve been working on an ePub about the “Business of Video”. I have one ePub selling now and

ePub #2

another one at the formatter, and I finally had  time over the weekend to fill in, the middle chapters of the “business” pub.  I had already made the decision to approach this ePub, the same way I would, if I was editing a video, by starting with the beginning and the ending and then filling in the middle.

As I was working on this book, it occurred to me that I should add a prologue – something that would explain the “why” I was writing the book in the first place. I had decided to write this ePub after receiving countless phone calls and emails from still photographers who had questions about incorporating motion into their own businesses.  The emails and calls started slowly at first, when I began writing this blog, which is geared toward still photographers who were moving into motion. It was after I started giving seminars and speaking at various venues, that I quickly became overwhelmed with the correspondence that I was getting. I realized something had to give, when I was spending more time talking to photographers and associates about their projects, than I was on things that I wanted to do.  I was also keenly aware there was a hunger for this type of information, so I began the process of writing an ePub about the business of motion.

It wasn’t until I received this email from someone who had taken my seminar, that it became clear to me of how I should approach the direction and content of this book.

They wrote:

“ I just wanted to tell you that your seminar was extremely inspirational, even though I can’t really say I learned anything new. Thank you.”

Ten or fifteen years ago, I may have taken that remark in a negative way, but I actually took it as a huge compliment.  It was also a very telling statement.  These days, we are overloaded with information. There is a wealth of content online (much of it is free), and there are days I simply get lost in this sea of information, spending way too many hours sifting through it all. On top of that, there are books, ePubs, podcasts, webinars, seminars, and workshops galore.  It’s become so easy to disseminate knowledge; that we end up receiving a lot of the same information, just regurgitated and repackaged.

I started thinking about the “why” in terms of what people hoped to take away from a book or a seminar.  I believe that most people are hoping to get information that they can use and apply it in their own businesses. Statistically, only 2% of workshop participants will actually act on what they have learned.  Many times people end up feeling so overwhelmed, that instead of applying the information learned, they end up giving themselves excuses why they can’t.  So, when I read this comment from someone telling me that I had inspired them, I realized that should always be the end goal for both the giver and for the receiver  – to inspire and get inspired.  I knew that if I wanted to inspire people to take action as my end goal, that I needed to do more than simply deliver the same basic knowledge that already existed in other books and seminars.  I knew that I needed to deliver the information in a way that was unique to me, through my own voice and my own experiences.

If I can do that, and inspire people through my own passion, I will succeed in moving them to take action.  Stay tuned.

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