Out Of The Frying Pan Into The Fire

How I Left The Stress Behind and My Search For Photographic Self Discipline

“Freedom is hazard!” I’ve heard it said and cannot disagree. The speaker was referring to human freedom, but I’ve found it applies to every kind of freedom, like the freedom of walking away from that nine-to-five cook-top that boils so many of our hours and lives down to residue. I want you to read on about how I stepped out of that frying pan and the hazards I’m finding in the fire of that freedom.

That Was Then: Discipline in Logistics

Image of a glass photo sphere on top of coiled materialIn a previous life, not too far gone, the first deadline of my day arrived at 3:30 AM and hard deadlines followed one upon the heels of the last in a stream that lasted until 5:30 PM almost without interruption. The discipline of meeting those deadlines successfully, of solving the myriad problems inherent to each one as they arose, is discipline imposed by the machine of commerce itself. Failure is not optional in the logistical realm, not in mine anyway. Discipline wasn’t optional either. I thought that kind of discipline, of meeting the requirements of the machine, deadline after deadline after deadline, was something in which I could take pride, and I did. I was wrong. It was a hollow pride. It was the pride in meeting deadlines imposed from outside myself. All I had to do was wake up, turn on the stove (so to speak), and jump into the frying pan. Again. Until I decided that I was done with that. Until I jumped right into the fire.

Do It Now

On August 1st, 2018, after many years in that aerospace-logistics frying pan, after someone jumped on my last nerve and squashed that sucker flat, and knowing I had the full faith and support of my family, I ended a logistical debate with the button-pushers by announcing my early retirement. I gave a month to train my replacement. Throughout my career my mantra for meeting all those deadlines was this; Do It Now. Wake up? Do it now. Must I go to work? Do it now. Spend a precious hour organizing the coming day? Do it now. Drop everything without hesitation when you know it’s the right thing to do? Do it now! On September 1st, 2018, I concluded my final inventory, shipped my last export and jumped right into the fire.

This Is Now: Self-Discipline in Photography

One doesn’t just up and quit one day without a plan. Most anyone who’s worked the nine-to-five frying-pan life has fantasized about how that final-straw conversation would unfold. Of that set of folks, some smaller subset has not just thought about it, they’ve started assembling the pieces needed to make it a reality. I was one such. I had many times envisioned a different life in which I earned my living creatively, with a pen, with my voice or with my camera. As the inevitable day drew nearer (I could feel its approach daily) when push would come to shove, I invested some savings in updated camera gear and started making lists, hatching plans, forming my LLC, and immersing myself in the vast educational resources at the fingertips of any twenty-first century entrepreneur. All the pieces were there, the ambition was there, I’m told that the raw talent’s there though I’m a poor judge of that and, then, September 1st was there. That’s when I jumped and the real fire licked my soles. The thing that I couldn’t just assemble, couldn’t buy, of which I’d been supplied by the machine all of my working life, now had to come from within. That element is self-discipline. It ain’t easy to come by either; I can assure you. After the first weeks and months of getting reacclimated to a new paradigm I have found that the discipline to wake up to shoot the sunrise, day after day, when no wheel of commerce waits to pulverize the sleepy-headed, is much harder to come by. The flow of deadlines are easier to ignore when cargo is not piling up around you awaiting your immediate attention. This, to me, is the hazard of my newfound freedom; it’s the hazard of failing at self-discipline. Freedom is hazard, but freedom it’s also self-discipline. It’s the shield against hazard. And it’s more difficult to achieve by orders of magnitude.

Practice Practice Practice

According to my father, good habits and virtues, like self-discipline, were no different than muscles in our bodies. He taught that, without continual flexing and practice, those habits and virtues would atrophy, wither away into something lesser. As with most of what he tried to teach me, it was only in my adulthood that I realized he was right. So I’m committed to exercising the self-discipline muscle in every way I can. The day I walked out of the logistical realm, I walked into a CrossFit studio and enrolled. That’ll work the shit outa that self-discipline sinew. That gets me up at the crack of dawn most days. I have developed a production schedule and a workflow for that production that I can put into practice every single day. This blog is an integral element as well. Expect to see it published with disciplined regularity. As my new enterprise, Phat Shutter LLC, matures through its first year and beyond, I’ll be blogging about the lessons I’ve learned, the pitfalls I’ve encountered, and I’ll report honestly regarding the practice of self-discipline in my photography venture and in my life. Please watch for that; help hold my feet to the proverbial fire.

Thanks for taking the time to read my words and to review my art.