Yesterday Scott wrote a great post called Whos on your team? Photographers need a network. The blog hit a few nerves with a lot of people, because Scott talked about one of the most sensitive topics out there, support from your family and those people closest to you.
In all honesty, its not hard to argue that all of us need support from our family and friends in whatever dreams were chasing, but there are some characteristics that I think make photography unique.
First, its an art form. You need solid reactions from those people closest to you in order to help build your confidence and skill set. Second, youre taking your product to market and you need not only feedback, but support in developing your presentation and your style. Third, you need an HONEST response when something is bad or when youve written content for your website, for example, that just doesn’t sound right. Your family and friends are your first and often most significant sounding board.
There is no way to emphasize the importance of having somebody in your life who believes in you. A year ago today I was writing my resignation from Rangefinder Publishing and WPPI. My reasons for leaving aren’t significant for the point I want to make here. Most of my family were confused, concerned and anything but supportive. And if they said they were supportive, the tone in their voice or the look in their eyes said otherwise. Fortunately, I did have a very special lady in my life and a few friends who not only believed in what I was about to do, but made suggestions on new directions for me to consider. And, unlike Scott, my Dad never wavered in believing in me.
But heres what I learned about the challenges with family and if it helps just one of you out there, then its worth sharing. A lot of the lack of support came from lousy communication on all sides. I made assumptions they all knew my skill set. They made assumptions that my plan was half-baked: I mean who leaves a great salary and starts a new business in one of the worst economies in history?
So, heres a check off list to work with when youve got family who isn’t supporting you. Before you cut them loose, consider the following:
1) Why? Get everyone together to talk about why youre about to go in a new direction. Give them all the information on whats brought you to this point in your life. Don’t sugar coat why youre making the change.
2) What? Share every aspect of your dream. They can’t be supportive if they don’t understand exactly what it is you want to do.
3) How? Before you sit down with your family or friends, think about a 2-3 year plan. Then share the details with them in terms of how you intend to achieve your goals and your dream.
4) When? Heres where I missed the boat completely. I sprung it on them with virtually no warning. They were aware of many of my reasons for wanting to make a change, but it had only been in superficial conversations. I litterally called and with all the finesse of a Simpsons episode with Marge jumping out of Homers birthday cake yelling, Surprise I dropped the bomb.
Last but not least and this is a lesson Im still trying to master and it really takes work. Never use email to communicate anything to anybody who you love, except that you love them. Email is the worst method of communication for virtually anything emotional. Its great for business, its great for contracts, it can even be good for a simple touching base, but thats it. Email can never replace the sound in your voice, eye contact and the emotions that make us better than our computers!