Held Back by Opaque Forces
I’m speaking with a mentor about my life goals, habits and barriers, trying to get insight into why things aren’t exactly how I want them to be. She’s given me these questions (in reverse order):
Q: How do you feel 12 months from now, when you have successfully created your vision of the future for yourself?
A: I feel great. I can picture myself relaxed, in a nice apartment or house, looking out the window at a sunlit scene in the distance. It’s late morning and I’m drinking coffee; my partner is here, reading a book or something. I sit down at my desk and everything is in its right place. I can check on my revenue streams: patronage, photo sales, YouTube clicks. I go to my podcast page and read some comments, check my email and see that I’ve been invited to speak somewhere. I slept well knowing that I’m existing with purpose and pleasure in the world, that I make some small difference, and am proud to be in a city/place I believe in (Berlin or Los Angeles, probably), with exciting people and opportunities around me.
Q: If you could wave a magic wand and create your life exactly the way you want it to go, what does your life look like 12 months from now?
A: I am on the road to a successful personal business, running my media channels and outputting quality content. Nothing too crazy, nothing like a grand opus. Just modest, well-thought-out videos that mix art and philosophy. I’ve created a brand identity and I believe in it. I put out regular podcasts that now include conversations with friends and strangers, and no technical impediments are in the way. I’ve set up my website with an online store and I think it looks and functions great. I continue making travel photos and research topics of the day, but now these activities culminate in monetized completion, my voice something like a beacon for people that also feel alienated and confused in the world.
Q: What is your greatest challenge right now?
A: To get each one of these endeavors to the next step:
- Brand identity. Committing to a YouTube name and website URL.
- Podcast marketing, building a community and list of donors. Learning how to have phone/video conversations that I can publish, and include people I admire.
- Software mastery and computer ability: using video editing tools without getting confused and slowed down by my old laptop.
- Photo editing: working more efficiently instead of spending days and days on a set of pictures that don’t end up on my website even. Publishing them to complete something.
- Website development. Figuring out how to integrate a print shop into SquareSpace, or ditching that platform and using WordPress, which can definitely be configured properly.
- Staying on track. Choosing one goal every day and finishing it.
- Feeling balanced and loved. Loneliness is a problem at the very moment, and I’d appreciate a woman in my life (having just ended a 2.5-year-long relationship. My friend group isn’t the best either, but it’s not so bad.
- Feeling sane and clear-headed. With all the chaos in the world, it’s hard to focus on my personal work, easier to read news, get upset, look for a way to vent and express it without getting canceled.
Q: What inspires you about this work? What is your *Why*? Why is this work important to you?
A: I think the most honest answer I can give is that it doesn’t even occur to me to ask it. It is the most natural thing for me to do, like what I’d do in retirement, as a hobby — do our hobbies and interests need a why?
Of course we can explain them. Expressing my artistic vision and my philosophical insights offers me pleasure and satisfaction. Materializing these things for public consumption gives me a sense of accomplishment.
And of course I’ve thought more deeply about it — through my career difficulties, of course I ask why I even bother. I suppose the answer here is that I see others doing it successfully, and I wonder why I cannot also be successful. Surely I should be able to also grow an audience and earn decent income from my photography and writing. I just don’t have the same understanding of the marketplace, the same business acumen. I lack a competitive edge in these aspects. But those are why nots.
I’d be happy to actually take a normal job for the reliable income, within reason. But I’d still go about making photographs, having challenging conversations and juxtaposing ideas with aesthetics. So why not aim to build these skills into income?
Q: What “pain” do your prospective clients have that you solve?
A: As a writer and artist, I see my work in the world less as entertainment (though it could be as simple as that), and more as enrichment. For my minimalist landscape photography, people have blank walls they want filled with beauty. For my podcasts and articles, people have attention to fill (while driving or doing chores), and an interest in challenging discussions. For my creative writing, people have a longing to be understood, and to sympathize with other voices.
In general, there is a pain associated with a lack enrichment. Even those who have it want more. We crave relating to things; in my case, those things are truth & beauty. Or perhaps: curiosity & minimalist aesthetics. It behoves us to be more informed, to consider news stories from other angles, to hear how a millennial traveler might approach a topic.
Q: Where does your audience hang out?
A: I don’t know. I want to believe that my audience is diverse. They might hang out in the same places as me: bars, clubs, parks, friend’s apartments. Or maybe they’re in ranch-style homes in the suburbs, at corporate retreats or dinner parties. I’m not sure how much to target certain audiences. What matters more to me is that they have an appetite for my style of work.
Q: What stood out for you from the Mindset Mastery webinar?
A: The importance of mindset, but this is something I’ve already spent much time considering. I wonder if I’m in the healthiest mindset, and I’m sure I suffer from anxiety and a lack of discipline. But these aren’t my biggest problems. I do the work, and feel committed to my plan; I just get distracted, confused and leave things incomplete. I also lack the help I think I need, from experts in my fields of interest. This sense of technical difficulty gives me a cloudy feeling, a haze of confusion and misdirection. Despite my looking, it’s hard to see the path in front of me, where to literally place my feet.