I wonder how many of you have already broken your New Year's resolutions? Research by British psychologist Richard Wiseman in 2007 has shown that 88% of all resolutions end in failure – and many Britons continue to make the same resolutions every year.
My personal opinion is that we'd feel better about ourselves if we didn't make them in the first place! Many New Year resolutions come from feeling sad, angry or anxious about ourselves. When we make them, we put ourselves under unnecessary additional pressure, and when we break them we end up with further bad feelings about ourselves, including guilt, shame and self-loathing. Broken resolutions are an additional stick to beat ourselves with. It's as if we almost expect to break that resolution to prove that 'it can't be done'. Our brains love to give us reasons why we can't do something, when it requires a lot of strength and willpower. It makes it easier for us to give up and think we have good reasons to do so. A New Year's resolution is about making a change, therefore it's about making something become a habit. And for something to become a habit, we must do it at least 21 times, scientists have shown. So if we want to get fit or go for a run every day, we must do it for 21 consecutive days before it becomes a habit. That's 3 weeks in a row. When you look at it that way, you can see why most of us break our New Year's resolutions by as soon as the second week in January...
So for me it's always been more about goal-setting. This was also exactly what my wise business mentor - a very experienced businessman and Managing Director - told me when he visited our home just before Christmas. A very good piece of advice indeed...
Amongst the many goals I have for 2013, there are some personal projects I plan to work on in order to sharpen various skills. These will range from photographic skills like various techniques, editing practise, and playing around with lighting, to business skills. Yes, you read well, I said 'business skills'. Many photographers, myself included, fall into the trap of concentrating solely on their art, and on producing stunning images. Then they wonder why, despite those amazing images, they don't make any money, or not enough to make a living. Something I've been learning a lot about lately is that although being a 'businessman' doesn't come naturally to me, I must occasionally put on the Stetson and turn into JR Ewing.
Don't get me wrong, I don't mean to turn into the terrible character JR Ewing was. I sure despise his ruthless stepping over anyone who got in the way of his power and business empire, be it family, friend or foe - even his own son. But something about his shrewd business acumen and his ability to see a business opportunity in every encounter gave me food for thought. Before you go all "OMG, you watch 'DALLAS'???" it's worth mentioning that I wasn't even born when Dallas originally aired. I blame my '80s-nostalgic wife who watches faithfully the re-runs of 'Dallas' on CBS Drama every night at 11pm!
It's a good habit for any photographer to keep busy, keep the skills sharp, and keep up-to-date with any new techniques and trends. And whilst that's sufficient for an amateur photographer or a semi-pro, if you aim to make a living out of your art, you have to drag yourself away from the camera and into that murky world of market research, leads strategies and business hunting. Which for most of us creative, artistic people worth our salt, is often worse than being skinned alive.
The process of securing business begins long before a client has even expressed an interest in hiring me. I have learned the hard way that simply having a professional website, quality images and low prices doesn't automatically flood my books with clients. Not even having a Facebook business page or a Twitter account does the trick. It's a very 'common-sense' thing, yet it is estimated that 80% of new businesses fail not because they don't have a good product, or because they're too expensive. They fail because nobody knows they exist, or that they are better and cheaper than their competitors. Even ads and exhibitions are just ways of being seen and raising your profile. But ultimately they don't make people hire you. It's easy to be a brilliant, talented photographer. To be a SUCCESSFUL photographer, you have to be a businessman. Simples, as my friend Aleksandr Orlov, Founder of Compare the Meerkats would say.
Another goal for me this year is to really sort out my fitness. The weight I put on over the festive period came to me as a shock. My fitness often takes a back seat when I'm busy and it's wrong to ignore it to that extent. As a photographer I prefer to be out and about taking images rather than sitting in the office editing them, or do admin. I have always believed in the Latin quote 'Mens sana in corpore sano' ('A healthy mind in a healthy body'). So this year I've been splitting the day up to take care of this important thing first. Working out first thing in the morning provides me with a clear head for work during the day.
Chaos reigned supreme on Blighty's roads yet again, and people struggled to get to work, schools were closed, panic-buying ensued in supermarkets, and airports cancelled flights, despite the millions of pounds poured into measures to avoid scenes akin to those seen in 2010. Britain huffed, puffed, spluttered and came to a halt at the first snow storm to hit its shores, whilst my wife's family in Norway and Romania laughed until they cried at the pictures coming out of Britain, as they got onto their chain-wheeled buses, into their winter-tyre-clad cars or walked in snow up to their knees to school or work, in -20 degree temperatures. For me, however, the snow helped my fitness regime. Long walks around Eccup Reservoir, in deep snow and carrying a heavy camera backpack make for a great workout, whilst providing some stunning photo opportunities.
But as the pink hyacinths on our kitchen windowsill are blooming, thoughts of spring start creeping up and something else worth mentioning is this year's Harrogate Spring Flower Show, which will take place as always at the Great Yorkshire Showground, between 25 and 28 April. The prestigious Flower Show's photography competition for Spring 2013 is now accepting entries. The link can be found here. The two categories this year are 'Spring bulbs' and 'Winter in the garden'. With the current weather spring bulbs might be problematic, but winter in the garden seems more accessible - if a little bit colder.
I entered both competitions last year and managed to secure a win in Spring and a runner-up prize at the Autumn Show. So this year I am targeting again the top spot. Although I have been warned, half-jokingly, half-seriously, by the show's Project Officer that at this rate they will ban me from entering the competition, to give a chance to others too!
So with all that in mind I am going to leave you with 'my numbers of the day' for 2012, as Sky News' Jeff Randall would say:
- 9000 - the number of images I took in 2012, (rounded up).
- 11 - over the festive period (a month) I put on 11kg, 1 stone 10lbs O.M.G!
- 21 - longest hours I worked in one go on editing after a shoot
- 1 - number of hours it takes my desk to become cluttered again after getting tidied
- 6 - number of competitions I entered last year, winning 1 and being runner-up in a 2nd.
- 10 - the average number of coffees Mrs Oakes drinks each day, and which I faithfully fetch to her desk whilst she works from home.
All the best till the next time. :)