Nobody likes a hypocrite. And we’re about to tell you a story that, at first glance, might seem a little hypocritical. Before you judge, hear us out. There are pretty big lessons here, and seein’ as how we’re Texans, we know big.
If you’re a regular reader of our Life & Craft newsletter, you’re accustomed to hearing us talk about cows and horses and maybe, the occasional pig. But dolphins and unicorns? What’s up with that?
You see, Dana (name changed to protect privacy), a fellow photographer and reader of our blog, was having a less than stellar time with her photography business. A former school teacher, she had cashed out her retirement fund to launch it. She wrote:
“In hindsight, I was utterly unprepared for what I was attempting. I had no idea how to run a business! To be totally honest, my photography skills weren’t that great either. (I shot on auto mode - what I now refer to as ‘put it on green and go’).”
Yet, over the next several years, her business grew. She and her partner, but they weren’t taking salaries, just paying the bills. She even sold her house to keep bankrolling her dream. Then, suddenly, everything fell to pieces in one terrible month. In a strange turn of events, several clients all cancelled gigs for various reasons, leaving Dana with the realization that she wouldn’t have enough income to sustain herself over the coming months.
Knowing that we love dishing out advice almost as much as we love dishing out desserts, Dana sent us an email asking for help. What should she do? Should she blog harder? Chase different clients? Or should she send us a check for emergency coaching that would turn her business around and save the day?
Even though we were smack dab in the middle of planning a stellar business workshop for photographers, Luke took one look at her email, downed his coffee, and sent Dana a very surprising reply:
“Get a job - do it now! DO NOT even think about accepting another photography job or restarting your business, or I will come knock you upside the head! You need to focus your attention on survival at the moment - I know that sounds a little dramatic, but you do. You have been knocked down (we all have!) and you need to make sure you stand back up on the right two feet. ”
Dana was shocked by Luke’s reply, admitting to us later that Luke’s advice threw her for a loop! Didn’t Luke have the answer in his pocket, for the low-low price of $1900 dollars’ worth of coaching? Dana wrote:
“In a world where everyone wants to sell you something I had become accustomed to hearing: ‘Just check out our amazing class/book/webinar/program...it's guaranteed to solve all your problems and make you a millionaire overnight!’”
But, you see, the way we operate — it’s more dolphin than unicorn. Dolphins are. They also happen to be highly intelligent and very sociable, which means they can be trained to do spectacular things with proper training, a lot of time, and plenty of hard work. Unicorns, on the other hand, are mythical creatures. They’re an elusive dream — wish for them all you want, but you’re probably never going to see one.
Our coaching is designed for people who have the desire, the ability, and the time to invest in their businesses. The trouble with Dana’s situation was that despite her strong desire, she didn’t have the time or the ability to work hard on her photography business. Not at that moment. Bill collectors were going to knock shortly, and when they did, Dana needed to have a check for them (not one for us!). Trying to work on your business when you’re under that sort of pressure doesn’t lead to a careful curation of one’s brand and clientele - it leads to taking any kind of gig for a buck, just to get some gas in your tank.
Dana took our advice to heart, and she got back to us with some great news - she applied for and landed a job managing photography at a local aquarium, a position that would let her use skills while receiving a steady paycheck. She’s plans to relaunch of her business when she’s able.
“Even if we both have to work other jobs for a while, we are committed to getting it right this time. I’m working very hard on letting go of the past, forgiving myself for all the mistakes I’ve made, and focusing on the future. Thank you for ‘shaking me awake’, thank you for your integrity, and thank you for just making time to lend a helping hand to someone who really needed it.”
Dana isn’t just working with the dolphins, she is one! Instead of falling for the unicorn myth of fixing her business with one swipe of her credit card, this super smart girl will be flippin’ her business around Flipper-style.
If you came to our Life & Craft Workshop, congratulations! — you know that you went to dolphin school. If you decided to pass this time around, we want to applaud you too. Perhaps, like Dana, conditions weren’t right, and your next step is putting a different business building block in place. All we ask is that you do it — get that job, buy that camera, learn to shoot manually, create that website! Facing reality (however it may look) takes a lot more courage than grabbing for a mythical quick fix. Yes, we sell coaching programs, but that’s secondary to our desire to truly be of service to this community. The way we see it, there’s nothing hypocritical about saying: “We have a great coaching program — and you shouldn’t buy it!”
The Take Aways:
Scientists agree that dolphins have problem solving skills and advanced communication capabilities, and it has been proven that some species are able to transmit knowledge from adults to calves, very much like we do. Do you notice a theme here? Problem-solving takes time, ability, and training; so do good coaching and learning. Dolphins are in it for the long haul!
- As the saying goes, ‘Practice what you preach or change your speech’. We preach about the goal of building a business that supports the lifestyle you want. And we don’t know anybody who wants to stress about paying their bills or live in fear of financial ruin. Coaching is a luxury that can greatly enhance your business, but it’s not a necessity. Investing in coaching was one of the best things we’ve ever done, but we didn’t do it at the expense of paying our bills. There’s no shame in waiting ‘til you’re ready. And when you’re ready, we’ll be here.