It’s not what you know, it’s who you know!
We’ve all heard that phrase a lot, but I wonder how often we stop to really think about that? It’s probably most heard in the corporate world when we think of making the right “connections” to get ahead. I’ve witnessed it first hand…we all have at some point. We’ve seen that person that’s less qualified, has less experience, poor work ethics, and a bad attitude get a raise and promotion before those that are more deserving and capable. We’ve witnessed the special treatment they get when it seems like the rules just don’t apply to them. It can be extremely frustrating, but the reality is…it’s true! Who you know can make all the difference in the success and direction of your career path.
The same holds true in the photography world, but there’s an important factor we need to consider when we contemplate this truth. It’s not just who you know, but it’s also what type of person they are and what type of person you want to be. No matter what industry you’re in, there are those who are only “looking out for number one.” The connections and “friends” they make only serve the purpose of furthering their own motives and agenda. They have a mentality of “you scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours” and are typically only interested in lending a hand when they have something to gain in return. Due to this mentality, they often come to realize that (to borrow another expression) “it’s lonely at the top.”
There’s nothing wrong with making connections and friends that are successful within the photography industry. In fact, that’s my point…we should be making those connections! So many times we get it in our head that we’re going to push through this thing alone and continue to work hard until we finally see the fruits of our labors. But just imagine how far you can go when you work hard and know people that have “been there, done that” and are excited to help you reach your full potential. When you meet the right people you’ll find that it’s ok to work together to build a stronger, better photographic community. You’ll also find that when you get to know good people with good habits, you too will find yourself developing better attributes and habits. When we’re positively influenced by another person, it’s very easy to then turn around and be a positive influence on someone else.
It’s all about community. Take time to make friendships and get to know other people in your community. Look for ways to build each other up. Understand that if you’re just coming up, you have a lot to learn…and if you’ve found success then you have a responsibility to be a friend and mentor to others. We need to realize that “I” and “me” will never be as strong as “us” and “we”. Also, asking for help doesn’t mean that you’re not capable, not talented, or not hard working. It just means that you want to be better and can recognize areas that you need experience and growth.
Ultimately, the real issue of discussion here is which person do you want to be? How do you define your success? Are you willing to step on others so that you can stand above them, or would you prefer to raise everyone up together? What is the point of having success if there’s no one around you to share it with? Is that really even success at all? If nothing else, I hope this makes you think about your position within your current community. Are there changes you can make right now to be a better, stronger, more positive version of yourself for you and your community?