I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.

-Nelson Mandela

At Photoshop World a few weeks ago, several photographers spoke to me about breaking out. They all had a common denominator. They were afraid to move forward. Some thought they didn’t have the right gear. Still others were afraid they lacked skill. Others said they feared rejection.

I can name one million things that might hold you back from success as a photographer. Most of those things originate with simple fear. I understand fear. I wasn’t always on top.

My parents used to beat me. My dad sent me to the hospital with beatings so severe that I required surgery. I used to fear my parents. First my mother, and as I got older, my father. When I was 14 he pulled me into the house for a beating and after he broke my nose I did something unexpected. I reached down deep into myself and found the strength to fight back. I knocked him out. I broke his nose too. I went to detention for it but it was worth it.

Years later I started racing motorcycles. One day I did a tank slapper on my 750 class Honda. (look up tank slapper on You Tube. It’s not pretty.) I broke my collar bone, my jaw, my nose, lost two teeth and had a cracked rib. An old hand at motorcycle racing told me that as soon as I got out of the hospital I needed to get back on the bike and conquer my fear. I did. I never ran competitively in the first place. I have a body built for playing football not racing. But I found the courage to be brave and I got back on the track.

When I broke into photography I had not one single clue what I was doing. I was faking it until I could make it. I was afraid ALL the time. EVERY day that someone would realize that I didn’t know what I was doing. But then an old and wise photographer informed me that all of us feel that way – even the greatest among us. And he quoted that Nelson Mandela saying at the top of this post.

It’s okay that you are afraid to put yourself out there. It’s okay that you are worried about rejection. This is normal. But if you can be brave, you can overcome these worries and in my experience, once you find the courage to be brave, even for a few moments, good things can happen to you.

My life has been full of ups and downs, tragedy and triumph, pain, agony, and glory. There’s no perfect life or perfect people. We all stumble. We all face our fears at one time or another – in one way or another.

I’m here to tell you it’s all right and that sometimes you just need to be brave. Go for it. I am rooting for you.


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Join the conversation! 6 Comments

  1. I am sorry to hear about your tragic life as a child. In a way, I can relate. My father was addicted to alcohol and without releasing much information, was not a nice person. At the age of 13, was subjected to watching my grandfather break my grandmother’s arm. So, it is true, that we all go through something in our life and have fears and upsets. But through our life experiences, we can grow stronger and move forward.

    Thank you for your inspirational post. Curious to see the photos of the grizzly if you have them. Keep the vision. Tammy

  2. Great article Scott. Bravery is needed for success. Without risk there is no reward.

    While different than your story, I left my high paying, secure and good job to start Mosaic. (www.mosaicarchive.com). I have a wife, a house and now two children. We didn’t have much more than a powerpoint and a dream. We had 6 months to make money or risk loosing everything. I didn’t take this risk lightly. I was afraid all of the time as well. In the beginning there was lots to fear.

    Now, the risk looks worth it with thousands of happy clients. We are thriving.

    For all the photographers out there, go for it. Be brave. I too am rooting for you.

  3. So true and beautifully put. Thanks for putting this out there..

  4. Thanks for sharing this and reminding all of us of the truth!

  5. Thanks, Scott. Your Pricing/Negitiating/Selling class at PSW was one of the best I attended. And I promise, I’ll be brave… tomorrow. ;)
    No, seriously, I’m just getting started but will absolutely put myself out there. I refuse to regret not having done it!

  6. This is an inspiring post. thanks for this and well done!

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