Are You Playing to Win?

November 2, 2009

What I appreciate about athletics – tennis in particular – is that sheer persistence, just keeping the ball in play, can often win the point and eventually the match. But there are times as well when one just needs to put the ball away. ‘Cause if you don’t, your opponent is going to. Trouble is knowing when to play it safe and when to go for a riskier, winning shot.

I decided some time back that I was going to play every shot that I could, as aggressively as I could. Even when I couldn’t get a clear winner out of a shot, I was going to try to set up a play so that the next shot could be. But my problem is that I lose a lot of points on very close shots. The upside is that when I win the point, I feel even better knowing that I wasn’t playing safe. Whether I win or lose the match, I go home with the knowledge that I played my heart out.

What’s required most days in my work, though, is persistence. Keeping at the tasks of the day – keeping the ball in play, as it were – is what keeps my day in motion rather than slamming one or two big projects or goals and feeling like I’ve scored a winner. What troubles me about a persistence mindset, however, is that it can draw me into a play-it-safe attitude, and I know after many years in business that playing it safe is one of the biggest risks one can take.

Playing it safe virtually eliminates exploration, which shuts down creativity. You can’t create without trying new things, which is what exploration is all about. And in this economy, when so many people are playing it safe on every front, what better way to set yourself apart in business, and in all of life for that matter, than being creative, attempting the unexpected? In other words, going for a winner, which is what taking risks is all about.

So how about you? Can you afford the risk of not taking risks? Are you playing to win or to just keep from losing?

Charles Gupton

http://www.charlesguptonphoto.com

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Not Without Hope – Greg Ferguson

October 21, 2009

I met Greg through my involvement with Toast Masters, an organization committed to helping people build their confidence in giving presentations and public speaking. Greg has been engaged in public speaking for over twenty years and has recently published a book sharing his knowledge gained on the subject.

Greg always has a positive, focused approach to everything he does. So, as the economy slowed, he turned his attention to reaching another one of his personal goals so that time and energy wouldn’t be lost or misguided. As I’ve gotten to know him, I’ve been encouraged by the manner in which he uses his abilities to help others in the community serving as an advisor in the civic and business arenas.

I trust you’ll be encouraged by his story as well.

Charles Gupton

http://www.charlesguptonphoto.com

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Greg Ferguson leading a ToastMasters meeting.

Greg Ferguson leading a ToastMasters meeting.

Every adversity carries with it the seeds of an equal or greater opportunity.

I am in the residential development business, and as I write this, our local construction output has dropped 75% from its peak before the national economic meltdown.  As a result, our projects have generally been on hold for the last six months.

During this time, it has been nearly impossible to do business the way I have done it for the past twelve years.  There are few buyers and there is virtually no money available through the traditional channels.  We have had to resort to coming up with different assumptions and different actions to be able to move forward.  This takes time and it takes skill in convincing others that there will be a fundamental change in the way we do business in the future.

This downtime in activity has allowed me to re-examine my personal goals and to get focused on them again.  My “chief aim” in life, as Napoleon Hill calls it, is to help others help themselves.  One of my goals has been to write books to help others.  I am glad to report that my reduced business activity for the last six months has given me the time to write my first book on public speaking.  It’s called “How to Give Your Best Speech or Presentation Ever.”

My second book has just gone into the proofing stage and should be available shortly, and I’ve already begun the research for my third book.  Once I broke through all the reasons for not beginning to write sooner, it has become easier and easier to keep my momentum going.  Writing is much like public speaking—the more you do it, the easier it gets.

I expect that real estate development will pick up again in the foreseeable future.  This slowdown has been painful, frustrating, and downright scary.  But in the long run, I believe I will look back on this gap in activity (and income) as a blessing that allowed me to fulfill one of my long time personal goals.

If you are finding your circumstances different than they were a year ago, I encourage you to examine your purpose in life. Recognize this time of challenge as a blessing, and recognize that it carries with it the seeds of opportunity. ~ Greg Ferguson


Will Falling in Love Make You Creative?

October 7, 2009

In the past week I’ve had the opportunity to attend two ASMP sponsored presentations by photographers Paula Lerner and Gail Mooney. Although I saw them on different nights, in different cities, I was not surprised to learn that they occasionally do presentations together. Both of them come out of a still photography background and have moved in the direction of coupling their knowledge of stills with video and audio skills to create incredibly moving multimedia pieces.

What continued to move me after both nights was more than the beauty of the work they’ve created. What added inspiration to my heart was their continuous passion to pursue their individual vision. Each of them showed personal projects that were obvious labors of love. But just as exciting were the commercial projects that revealed their love of communicating a story. The key in both

Visit Gail Mooney's Blog

Visit Gail Mooney's Blog

instances was not just their technical skills but their passion as storytellers. The love they have for their work is palpable.

Their photographs were still playing in my mind this morning as I was reading a story at ScientificAmerican.com about one’s creativity being enhanced by falling in love. As I scrolled down the page, my perspective on the creative process got dialed in a little tighter. In essence, the research the article is based on looks at the global processing that our minds do when we engage in thinking about love from a long-term perspective. This is in contrast to the local processing that we do when our minds focus on short-term sexual desire. The hypothesis is that a long-term passion/perspective produces a more sustained, creative outlook, whereas a short-term, more “casual-sex” perspective produces a more analytical, less creative approach.

A couple of paragraphs into the article, I pictured an analogy to different perspectives towards business that I often witness. One is the short-term focus on getting the next project/client that (hopefully) will pay the over-due bills sitting on the desk.  It is analogous to the “one-night stand” approach to relationships that may bring an immediate relief to the need to pay one’s bills but seldom leads to long-term satisfaction with the body of work that’s being created.

The other perspective, of course, is a longer-term relationship with one’s creative vision motivated by a passion to see that vision realized. That work is hard, but we make it even more difficult when we attempt to go it alone. I’ve come to believe that building a relationship, even with our own vision, requires a commitment to building relationships with other people. Finding other creative collaborators to work with allows one to focus on the big-picture, long-term view of a project without getting bogged down in the details that can rob one’s vital, creative energy. Plus it allows for other perspectives and objectivity in the work we’re doing.

Visit Paula Lerner's Multimedia Site

Visit Paula Lerner's Multimedia Site

Paula made a comment during her talk indicating that her business model had transformed from one of shooting many assignments for myriad clients to a model of fewer clients wanting a deeper, more intimate body of work to use to tell their story. That change is allowing for a richer, more rewarding relationship with her clients and her vision.

As I meet with business people in dozens of different fields, it’s readily apparent to me whether they are taking a long-term approach to their business and relationships or a short-term, “I need this deal now!” view. As desperate as these economic times seem to be, I believe it’s the global, big-picture view that will produce a greater contentment and a better body of work to offer our clients.

What’s your take on this?

Charles

http://www.charlesguptonphoto.com

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Image Awareness

September 29, 2009

This particular post by Seth Godin struck a chord with me this morning because several times in the past few weeks, people have asked my thoughts or advice either about their portraits on their business cards and/or web sites or they want to know how they can improve the pictures on their web site.

Since we all know folks who ask counsel from everyone they encounter until they get the advice they want to hear, the first issue I must resolve is whether someone really wants an objective response or just wants an “expert” to say what they’re doing is great. My return question is usually along the lines of, “Are you pleased with the images and the results you’re getting from them?” If they are, my job may well be done. I’ve generally found that if someone is satisfied with where they are, they’re just not that interested in moving to new ground.

In other words, if someone’s spouse/child/friend shot their web portrait with a Blackberry and touched it up in Photoshop Elements – at no charge – they don’t want to hear about the poor lighting that makes their face look red or that their web images are simply outdated. Very few people want to hear they lack sophistication. However, in Godin’s words, “We place a high value on sophistication, because we’ve been trained to seek it out as a cue for what lies ahead. We figure that if someone is too clueless to understand our norms, they probably don’t understand how to make us a product or service that we’ll like.”

Let me ask you a question. Say you meet someone at an event who could potentially serve a need you have, for instance, a realtor or a CPA. You’re having an encouraging conversation with strong possibilities of working together when you ask for a card. As you’re talking, you glance down and immediately notice the flimsy card stock, cluttered design and a photo of your companion with his/her company sign in the background and an expression that looks as if it was caught in mid-enema. (The added bonus comes when you flip over to the back to read, “Business Cards are FREE at vistaprint.com!” Classy!)

Is this really the “professional” you want overseeing the details of your business or personal affairs?

In another post by Godin earlier this year, he detailed some of the things you may want to consider when you’re having a business portrait done. It’s a great starting point. One thought I’d add is to have the person shooting your portrait engage you so that you’re relaxed and reveal your true personality.

Admittedly, my interests are served when business people hire me to create their portraits. But this question is raised a lot and I’m more concerned with folks making a decision to do what’s in their best interest.

I believe it’s always best to present one’s image on the same level of business that one wants to be working on, not a level below. Every marketing/branding book and blog I read says that we are in the age of “Brand You”. When the economy and job market are at it’s tightest is the time you need to be most concerned with your image and your “brand”.

What does your portrait say about your market sophistication?

Charles

http://www.charlesguptonphoto.com

On Twitter @ http://twitter.com/CharlesGupton


Altered Image for Microsoft?

September 23, 2009

Because I monitor a number of blogs that are directed towards the communications industry in general and photographers in particular, I see a fair number of posts and articles discussing mistakes and PR blow-ups over the use or mis-use of photographs. Many of them seem to occur through the use of royalty-free or other cheaply sourced stock photos. Often, it seems, that in the interest of trying to do too much with too little, the ultimate cost for a company is much higher than if they simply hired original photography which fit their needs exclusively.

Obviously, I have a self-serving interest in getting hired for assignments, but I earn a good portion of my living from stock images, too. My primary desire is to work with my clients to find a solution that fits their need for the best value that they can get. That is the foundation of a lasting relationship in my book.

Altered photo in Microsoft ad

Altered photo in Microsoft ad

In this ad, Microsoft used a poorly altered head-swap for racial considerations, an Apple computer on the table and a cord to the monitor in the foreground was left unplugged. So, what were the savings versus the costs for Microsoft?

Just food for thought…


Charles

http://www.charlesguptonphoto.com

On Twitter @ http://twitter.com/CharlesGupton


Not Without Hope – Karen Tiede

May 11, 2009

Karen and I met through a couple of different business networking events. As we talked at length, I was impressed by her quest for continued education and to apply her skills to help other people. I was equally moved by her positive spirit in the face of some daunting challenges. So I asked her to share some of her thoughts in this post. You can learn more about her organizing company at www.red-tuxedo.com.

Charles

http://www.charlesguptonphoto.com
On Twitter @ http://twitter.com/CharlesGupton

Karen Tiede

Karen Tiede


Hope is bigger than life.

I never quite understood what people meant when they said, “there’s no hope…” to mean, “there’s nothing medical science can do to bring a person back to a full and healthy life.”  If there is any truth to the Christian message, and if there is a brighter future in store, then hope clearly HAS to be bigger than this life we stumble through. It’s helpful to ground myself in the largest sense of the word in order to bring perspective to the smaller events that offer a decision point about hope or despair.

I spent 20 years with a company that was reasonably satisfied with my contributions to their bottom line and, similarly, I was happy with their contribution to mine.  Now that job’s gone on a flight to China.  I could not create any amount of assurance that any similar job available locally would not be similarly off-shored before the first anniversary.

I have an aging body, but an agile mind.  With limited financial resources in a “bad” economy (whatever that really is), the opportunity to indulge the demons of despair and unfairness lurked, especially when some co-workers were called back.

And yet, I’m an American, and the flow of immigration indicates more people see this as a land of opportunity, and hope, than not.  My grandparents came here to figure out a better life (and a new language), and managed.  Am I less able than they?  Every business around me was started by someone, and I can’t be less capable than every single one of those people.  In the service of full disclosure, I have already learned that there are a lot of business opportunities that will not work for me.  I am not going to make a reliable living if the business demands sustained physical fitness.  I am not able to make art that will sell at a living wage in the amount of time between now and when my money runs out.

Thomas Edison knew a lot about how not to make a light bulb but didn’t let that body of knowledge affect his hope. I have more ideas; they are in the test stage now; I expect something will bear fruit.  Businesses fail for a lot of reasons, but mostly because people give up on them.

Having a penchant for thoughtful organization, I’ve started a new company helping people bring order to their lives in such a manner that will allow them to sustain that order. As with any new endeavor, the initial momentum seems slow but it is building. I believe if I don’t give up, it’s going to work.

Hope is a decision.  ~ Karen Tiede


The 3/50 Project

May 8, 2009

I saw this project mentioned on a couple of different blogs I read on a regular basis. I liked the concept so much I found myself mentioning it to a number of folks in conversation. Only seemed right to share it with you here as well.

Save the national economy by saving your community’s economy. By investing your resources back into businesses in your neighborhood, you allow them to keep their doors open and return your money back into your community, yet again. In addition to stirring the economy, buying from local businesses gives us the opportunity to build better community relationships as well. How great is that?

Charles

Click on image for more information

Click on image for more information