Tag Life Lessons

Posts: 2

Street Photography and Startups

If you've been following my blog posts, you'd know that RapidMiner isn't the first Startup I've worked for. My first one was straight out school for an engineering firm in New Mexico. It was the best of times and the worst of times. I am who I am today from the lessons I learned there.

What many people don't know about me is that I like to take photos in cities. I fancy myself a hobby street photographer and I like to roam around and capture small slices of life in the streets. It's a very personal and lonely endeavor but I'm fascinated by the undercurrent of people interacting with places, people, and things.

Port Authority Escalator

It's also very therapeutic! It gives me time to think when I roam around AND it sharpens my senses to opportunities. You have to be quick to get that shot!

I recently stumbled across some street photography tips by a prolific street photography blogger, Eric Kim. I watched this "kid" go from shooting bad street photos to shooting really good ones. He experimented, he networked, he tried new things, and dropped things that didn't work. Now he's traveling the world and hosting street photography workshops. He's like this own "startup" and despite what all the haters say, I like the guy!

I gleaned a few of his tips. Some of them contradict each other, but I can overlook that. Why? Because life is one big contradiction. What ultimately matters is learning to see an opportunity, evaluate it, and then take it if it makes sense.

Fulfill Your Personal Maximum

I am certainly not a “master” myself; just a humble student dedicated to a life-long pursuit of learning.

The Startup is you and your people. Without all your brains, you'd be dead in the water. Life long learning is important to keeping all those brains sharp and creative. Always remember, your employees want to contribute to something larger than themselves and if they feel like their work becomes to rote, then you'll lose them. Invest in life long Learning.

Shoot 25% more than you think you should

If you see an amazing character once in your life, realize that you will never see them ever again. So live life without regrets and make the photograph.

This tip reminds me of not missing a good opportunity AND under promising but over delivering. In the Startup world you have go above and beyond for your potential and existing clients. You are the reason they are taking a chance on your startup, so don't blow it.

Kill Your Master

Remember that after learning from the masters, you need to know when to ignore them or when to go against their teachings.

As you journey through Startup land, will meet and have great mentors and influencers. I still talk to my old mentors, which I affectionately call "Tor"mentors. They will have great wisdom share but what you need to do is learn as much as you can and then chart your own destiny. You're the captain of this Startup, you take their teachings and set out on your own into uncharted waters.

Kill Your Ego

By detaching your ego from your photos, you can judge them more honestly and objectively.

Don't get hung up on something and lose your objectivity. I see this happen a lot when teams are formed to make new products. They lose themselves in the product that they forget who it's really for, the customer. If you can't honestly and objectively evaluate how good or bad your product is, well then you got a problem. Be prepared to kill your creation.

Stay Hungry, Stay Foolish

Many photographers become jaded after years of shooting. They lose a sense of their hunger and passion. This is what leads to artistic death and stagnation.

This is a tough one. At times you can get tired and things just seem to be going all wrong in your Startup. You have to be vigilant against losing your hunger and passion, because it's really tied together by a thin thread. If you feel jaded or burnt out, take some time off and detach for a bit. Then come back and be a force to be reckoned with.

Create A Relationship with your Subjects

By getting to know your subject, you connect with them on a deeper and emotional level, which might help you uncover some hidden truths about them, which might manifest in the photos that you take.

This is about your customer or clients. You have to get to know them to understand why they're involved with you. Don't be that selfish lover than only thinks about your orgasm, think about theirs. Once you build a strong relationship, everyone feels "in it together," and that goes a lone way to building your brand.

Unlearn

I want to leave you with the last lesson it would be this: unlearn.

If something doesn't work, toss it. Start again. Don't be tied to dogma.

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On Self Reliance

In 1994 I moved to Albuquerque. I had just graduated with my engineering degree and was offered an entry level position at a firm out there. I packed up my meager belongings and drove 2,000+ miles cross country to start a new life. I learned about New Mexico, traveled through the state, and made long lasting friendships. The Land of Enchantment still holds a dear place in my heart to this day.

Yet not everything was great. I learned what it was like to work in a corporation with all the positives and negatives. I had new responsibilities and I had to navigate new social situations. I made mistakes but I learned from them all.

The highs were high and the lows were low. I was getting pretty miserable after a while but then something happened that changed everything. One morning I read the Albuquerque Journal and spied a column called the Corporate Curmudgeon. It was a weekly column about inane corporate life but this week the author picked an inspirational topic. A half and hour later I was stunned by what I read. My life had changed.

The author quoted Emerson's essay "On Self Reliance" and that lofty essay has impacted everything I've ever done up till today. It taught me to always re-invent myself, to persevere in the face of adversity, and made me into the man I am today.

Right to the Point

This particular quote is what struck me hard.

If our young men miscarry in their first enterprises, they lose all heart. If the young merchant fails, men say he is ruined. If the finest genius studies at one of our colleges, and is not installed in an office within one year afterwards in the cities or suburbs of Boston or New York, it seems to his friends and to himself that he is right in being disheartened, and in complaining the rest of his life. A sturdy lad from New Hampshire or Vermont, who in turn tries all the professions, who teams it, farms it, peddles, keeps a school, preaches, edits a newspaper, goes to Congress, buys a township, and so forth, in successive years, and always, like a cat, falls on his feet, is worth a hundred of these city dolls. He walks abreast with his days, and feels no shame in not 'studying a profession,' for he does not postpone his life, but lives already. He has not one chance, but a hundred chances.

What Emerson says is that failure is ok as long as you learn from it. Make your mistakes but follow the truth! Don't compromise who you are and walk tall. Don't be discouraged when things go wrong, just pick yourself up and keep going.

After all, what else is there?

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Neural Market Trends is the online home of Thomas Ott.