Do You Know Your “Why”?

I have to admit. I’m a skeptic. I’m not really much into new age self-help gurus. Not impressed by psycho-babble. Don’t buy into the trend of the week. Not an Oprah fan, sorry.

But, a while ago someone sent me a TED video by Simon Sinek, a writer and sort of  modern day philosopher. It really struck a chord. In the video, Sinek speaks about why some people or companies are always the artists, the trendsetters, the innovators, that command unbelievable loyalty. One of the examples he used was Apple. Apple has an unbelievably loyal customer base. But why?

The answer is actually the question. It’s the Why? Apple is always the innovator because they do not focus on the “what” (computers and electronic gadgets) or on the “how” (cool designs and innovative products) even though they do both of those exceedingly well. But Sintek observes that people embrace not the how, or even the what, but the WHY.  In Apple’s case, the “Why?” is that Apple, at its core, believes that technology should enrich and make our lives easier, not more complicated. (Ironically perhaps, I’m typing this on an iPad… so there you go.)

It made me think about the “Why” for my studio. Everyone knows “what” we do. We sell photography. Some people even understand the “how” of what we do. That we create beautiful portraits that not only flatter our subjects, but that capture personality and spirit. That we provide unparalleled service so that our clients can fully appreciate and enjoy the images we create, usually by displaying them proudly as something beautiful for their homes.

But, is that it? That’s the “what and how”, but WHY are we in business? The obvious answer for any business, it may seem at first, is to make money. But let me tell you honestly… there are far easier ways to make a living than photography, and I’m not rich, that’s for certain.

Yet, I wouldn’t want to do anything else… Why?

It seems many studios I see focus only on the “how” and “what” of photography. How many sheets of paper you get for $xx dollars. How many different poses or outfits you can fit in a session. I have  always been known as the innovator and trend setter in portrait photography in my market. I have always been the studio that the others try to emulate. Perhaps the reason for this is not the “how and what”. Perhaps the reason is actually the “WHY”.

The “WHY” is the reason I do what I do, and is the reason we are in business:

•    I believe everyone is beautiful, and everyone’s beauty and inner spirit should be captured and recorded, because every life is precious.
•    I believe our children and our families are our greatest achievements.
•    I believe that the art of photography has the unique ability to give us joy and happiness in celebrating LIFE.
•    I believe portraits of our loved ones should be family heirlooms to be treasured for generations, not disposable pieces of paper sold by the square inch.
•    I believe strongly in the value of professional photography to “Celebrate the Story of Life”.

We had a tragedy in our community a few years ago. A young girl whom I had photographed, was tragically killed in a car wreck, just weeks before her high school graduation. Being in business for 30 years, this sadly wasn’t the first time this kind of thing has happened. It’s always difficult, but this time it hit me particularly hard.

I don’t know if it was because we had worked more closely with this young woman and her wonderful family than a “typical” client (she was a member of our “Senior Model Team”… seniors that act as ambassadors for our studio to their class). Or maybe it was because I’m just getting older and starting to appreciate just how short life actually is. Whatever the reason, this time, it was different.

Kellenyi-2402When we went to her viewing, her family had many photographs of her on display. Many of them I had taken. Her too short life on display for everyone to share, and remember. My heart broke for that family.

When we stopped to pay our respects to her parents, they hugged me and thanked me for the beautiful images of their daughter that they would have forever. I gotta tell you… I wasn’t expecting that, and it  really kind of knocked the wind out of me. I’m not typically at a loss for words, but I was speechless and couldn’t really do anything but try (uselessly) to fight back the tears.

But, in a sad way it made my choice of career, and the years I have devoted to my art, all seem worth it. Worth it for that moment anyway. Worth it for whatever small comfort my work could offer that family at the worst time of their lives.

My “why”, I think, is maybe a pretty good one.

I celebrate life.

Do you know what your “why” is?  If not, I hope you find it.

Please feel free to leave a comment, and tell me about your “why”.

Dennis

 

 

 

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