how to get a shot

getting a shot - The Best Advice So Far

Today, I want to tell you how a seemingly simple thing – a photo – came into being. But zooming out (see what I did there?), it’s really about how opportunity happens.

I’m the kind of person who never had trouble with those old creative writing exercises where you were supposed to find comparisons between two seemingly dissimilar objects. A boot and a wedding ring. A lamp and a compass. That sort of thing. In fact, this kind of associative thinking comes rather naturally to me.

My brain is always on the go, making connections that few others, if any, see. And sometimes this happens so fast that, in energized conversation exchanges, my brain is tripping along so fast that I often make apparent non sequiturs. You might have just commented that it blows your mind how a certain song on the radio could ever have become a hit, and I’ll say, “Speaking of which, did you know that Elvis Costello’s first band, before the Attractions, was called Clover and later became Huey Lewis and the News?”

Now, this doesn’t seem to have a logical connection, I realize, other than the tangential connection that your comment had to do with music. But in my head, “blow my mind” made me think of Toni Basil’s 1982 one-hit-wonder “Mickey” (“Hey, Mickey, you’re so fine. / You’re so fine you blow my mind, / Hey, Mickey!”), which made me think of Mickey Mouse, which made me think of Donald Duck, which made me think of Donald’s nephews – Huey, Dewey and Louie – which made me think of Huey Lewis, which made me think of having read earlier that day that his band used to be called Clover and played on Elvis Costello’s first album.

And so you see, it all makes perfect sense.

Now, please know, as I talk about in The Best Advice So Far, I do make every effort to tune in to what others are saying in the moment; but, again, if I’m with a friend and the conversation is rapid-fire, I can experience these “chain thoughts” and not even realize it until my friend is giving me that look, as if to say, “Um … you’re doing it again.”

Well, today, my friend, I am going to share with you a sequence of events that occurred in a domino effect leading to a photo shoot that occurred on Wednesday of this week. (And for the grammarians among us, let me say right now that I plan to use run-ons gratuitously, because I think they’ll best convey the feeling of how fast-paced and “swimmy” it all went down. Don’t hate.)

There is always more to do when you’re an author and speaker. That is to say, there will never be a time when there is nothing left to do. For me, there’s keeping up with this blog, of course, which I post to weekly (and try to do each Friday, though of late, that’s gotten a little slippery). There are relationships to be built and conversations to be had, guest posts to write, interviews to set up. There are leads to pursue for speaking engagements. I’ve started recording the audio-book, which is still a ways from done, though I’d really wanted to have it out in the early fall. I’ve even started into the writing of a second book (shhh, don’t tell).

And this is all at a point in time when relatively little is happening by way of travel, heavy booking, etc. Still, some things always seem to slide off the plate. One of those things has been getting professional photos taken.

Inside the book, I used a personal picture of me, which a friend took as I stood on the balcony in our Paris flat, looking out at the Eiffel Tower for the first time. She had said, “Stunning, isn’t it?” and when I turned around, answering with a smile and slightly glassy eyes, she took the picture. It was a real moment, unposed and unrehearsed, and so I used it because it felt “right” somehow, in conjunction with the mood of the book. But I’ve known from the start of things that I’d eventually need to get “real” photos taken. Still, it’s just one of those things that seems to always get moved to the back burner.

As I say, book-related stuff keeps me busy. But in addition to writing and speaking, I live a very full life.  There’s the ongoing mentoring, graphic design, a web start-up venture I’ve got my hands into, and various other irons in fires at all times. Presently, one of those things has been putting together a web site for a friend who is a visual artist.

Well, one day not too far back, I got a Facebook message from someone named Peter, whom I didn’t know. Peter told me he had been referred by the aforementioned friend as someone who might be able to help him with a website for his own photography work.  Honestly, I had already taken on too many side projects and was honest with Peter that I just didn’t have the time to take on another site build; but I invited him to check back with me and see where things stood in January perhaps.

Somehow, talk of the website led to my asking questions, which led to talk about choices in life (I know, you’re shocked), which got us talking about topics in the book, which our mutual friend had already recommended to Peter after having read it himself.

Well, the questions and the conversation continued here and there online until one day, just a couple of weeks back, Peter mentioned that he was soon to be 45 and that this had prompted him to write some overdue thoughts of appreciation to people in his life.  I asked how he would celebrate, and he said some friends were throwing a party for him, but that he wasn’t much for being out and about as of late, especially since it would mean being the center of attention. Kind of in passing (and, I figured, just to be polite), he invited me to come to his party, though, of course, he realized it was a long drive and I wouldn’t know anyone and it might be weird. I made no commitment, but told him “maybe I’ll surprise you,” and that I would at least wish him a Happy Birthday on the day.

To be honest, after that, I really hadn’t given much thought to going to the party, which was over an hour’s drive away, in a neighboring state (though I did mark my calendar to keep my promise of wishing Peter a Happy Birthday). But when the day arrived, a few realizations struck me.

The first realization was that I had been choosing to allow busyness to rob me of spending quality time with real people recently, and that’s the opposite of what I believe and who I want to be.

The Best Advice So Far: Don't allow busyness to rob you of spending quality time with real people.

Second, while I encourage others to intentionally do something new and outside their comfort zones on a regular basis, it had been a while since I’d done so myself (again, due to allowing myself to get into a perpetually-busy cycle).

The Best Advice So Far: Do something new and outside your comfort zone on a regular basis.

And finally, Peter seemed at a place in his life where it would genuinely be encouraging if I were to show up.

So I decided I was going to this party – to wish Happy Birthday to someone I’d never met, and to be surrounded by strangers who would all know everyone else there but me. I signed a copy of the book as a gift, hopped in my car and headed off to Newport, following my phone’s GPS.

Oh, and I did decide it was going to be a surprise.

I arrived about an hour past the start time of 8:00 PM, thinking I’d stay for twenty minutes or so and then head back home again. On my way up the relatively dark walkway to the small courtyard, which was lit only by the light emanating from the windows of the house, it just so happened that Peter was the first person I saw. He saw me, blinked a couple of times in silence, and then simply said, “You came!”

It seemed pretty natural to give this guy a hug, so I did. And then it became immediately clear that I was going to have my memory for faces and names (which is legendary in some parts) put to the test. Within one minute, I had met not only Peter, but Jess and Reggie and Chris and Nick. And within 30 minutes, I’d met another couple dozen really cool people (which got interesting, as a second Nick and second Lauren and second Dan arrived).

Conversation moved quickly from general introductions to deep, personal and important stuff. I swear, I don’t push for this type of thing; it just … happens somehow (though, to be fair, I suppose it might have tipped the curiosity scale a bit when people asked, “So how do you know Peter?” and my honest answer was “I don’t; I just met him tonight”).

Dan #1 has the craziest job: fixing one type of radio gizmo on submarines (yes, that’s his entire specialty, what he does all day at work)!

And I learned from Katie what gyrokinesis is and why it’s her passion, and why she speaks with an unidentifiable world accent even though she was born and raised in Pennsylvania.

I found out about an unusual production of The Nutcracker that happens each year in a room-by-room tour of a Newport mansion, from the dance troupe who stopped in after the evening’s performance, still in make-up.

Ian asked what my book was about, and I told him it was about the fact that you always have a choice, and that living as though you have no choice leaves you in the perpetual yet unnecessary role of victim; and Cara stepped in and said, “You’re exactly right!” and we got to talking later about past hurts and about the personal freedom that comes with forgiveness.

The Best Advice So Far: Living as though you have no choice leaves you in the perpetual yet unnecessary role of victim.

And when I finally left the party more than four hours later, I’d learned a lot and had my world expanded; and I exchanged information with people, and we’ve kept in touch.

And I felt very alive.

Well, let us not forget about the party’s guest of honor, Peter. Since he was the main attraction, we didn’t have a whole lot of time to talk one-on-one that night. But things shifted in a positive new direction, just for my having showed up to his party. Peter expressed wishing we’d had more time to talk, and I said it just takes making a plan. And somehow, in the plan-making, I told Peter how much I enjoyed his photography style and asked how much a shoot might be. But Peter said he’d love to do a photo shoot with me, and that he’d be happy to do it for free, even though I argued that I wanted to value his art and expertise, but he insisted it be a gift for a new friend.

Yeah, so the short version is this: I finally got publicity pictures done this week.

*boring*

But the long version is so much cooler, because it illustrates so many of the points I write and speak about: choice, taking positive social risks, treating people as people and not just background props on the “stage of me.” In fact, Nick (a young man who has been one of Peter’s go-to models for shoots) and I got to talking pretty deeply that night about life and choice and what being present really means. And I suggested that being present means being ready – making sure you are in a frame of mind to receive and to give at the same time, much like he and I were doing in that moment.

The Best Advice So Far: Being present means making sure you are in a frame of mind to receive and to give at the same time.

People say that “opportunity knocks.” But I don’t think it does. Opportunity in this sense is a personification, not a living entity. Opportunity has no mind. It makes no choices. People make choices. Therefore, it is people who create opportunities – or miss them – based on the choices we make.

The Best Advice So Far: Opportunity is not a living entity. It makes no choices. It is people who create opportunities – or miss them.

The choice to remain perpetually busy or to make time for the people around us.

The choice to walk the same route over and over again, or to try something new.

The choice to stay on the surface or to dive a little deeper.

The choice to be me-focused or others-focused.

The choice to hide or to be known.

This is the story of how I got my shot.

So how will you get your next shot in life?

Thanks, Peter, for your friendship, generosity and willingness to take chances; and thanks to all of the “party people” who made the new guy feel welcome, and many of whom have since taken chances of your own.

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About Erik

Erik is an author, speaker, blogger, facilitator, people lover, creative force, conversationalist, problem solver, chance-taker, noticer and lover of life. He lives in the Boston area. "It's more about writing lives than writing pages." View all posts by Erik

19 responses to “how to get a shot

  • Ellen Morris Prewitt

    One year, my New Year’s resolution was to go places I’d never been, and not just physical places or world-traveling. Turning left on a street I’d never turned left on counted; so did going to art events in areas of town where I’d never set foot before. It was an adventurous year, and reading this post makes me want to repeat it.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Erik

      Welcome, Ellen! I live this out and talk a good deal about exactly that sort of thing in my book: stopping in at a shop you’ve never visited, whether you need their services or not; taking a different route home and the like. I’m so glad to know this post inspired you to consider resuming your “little adventures” again. Please do it (and there’s no need to wait until next week!).

      Liked by 1 person

  • K'lee L.

    Very nice to find your words, humor, and refreshingly candid perspective, Erik. This is a great story and a reminder that resonates with truth. Thanks for sharing such an awesome story.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Erik

      I’m glad you found a personal connection, and I hope it helps encourage you to take some positive social risks of your own. I appreciate your taking the time to leave an encouraging comment!

      Liked by 1 person

      • K'lee L.

        Yes, a ‘light switch has been flicked on’. I intend to run with it, walk with it, stumble with it if I must… but keep going with it no matter what. Thank you, Erik.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Erik

          And thank you, for starting out my day with a meaningful connection and renewed sense of purpose to what I’m doing.

          BTW, is your real name K’lee? Or is that a pen name? In any case, is that the name by which you most like to be called? (I’m big on using names, but I haven’t yet know what name would best connect with you; so I’m asking.)

          Liked by 1 person

          • K'lee L.

            K’lee is my ‘real’ name and pen name at the same time I suppose! The ‘L’ is the first initial of my last. I’m curious; if you were given the task of providing me, a newly born Soul in this world, with a name and I could not begin the process of living until you did, what would that name be? (my blog posts and pics may help with the naming… they may make it harder…)

            Liked by 1 person

          • Erik

            Well, I’m going to wax philosophical on you here and say that I would name you K’lee; because that is your name, and, therefore, it is part of how you have perceived yourself since before birth. It is integral, then, to the person you have become. If, for instance, you had been named Hubert, your life would have been different at every turn. Would kids have made fun of you? Would it have made you feel special and unique? or like a freak? Would it have caused you to take more chances in life? or fewer? Who can say. But you are today who you are partly because of the name that was chosen for you. Many cultures do still believe that the meaning of a name directs a life. So I would not be so presumptuous as to change the name already attached to your “new soul,” the name which has, in part, made you a person who is insightful and gracious, willing to learn and curious about the world.

            Liked by 1 person

          • K'lee L.

            Amazing, Erik! Thank you for this banquet table full of gifts this rainy quiet morning. I also believe in the power of a name. I find it fascinating many cultures of the world recognize and respect this tradition associated with names. I realize too asking you to name me, someone you’ve just ‘virtually’ met is a big task! I’ll leave the offer open in case down the road a suggestion makes itself known. In the meanwhile, I am K’lee and you are Erik. It’s a great pleasure meeting and discussing life with you, Erik.

            Liked by 1 person

  • Sean P Carlin

    Writing that challenges conventional wisdom and cliché is often the most insightful — the most worthwhile. I’m really taken with the light you’ve shed on the old aphorism “opportunity knocks” here: that opportunity doesn’t make choices, people do, and that “it is people who create opportunities — or miss them — based on the choices we make.”

    This story is a really beautiful demonstration of that thesis, Erik. I know many people, I’m sorry to report, who seem quite comfortable in “the perpetual yet unnecessary role of victim.” I think the work you do here — empowering others to empower themselves by realizing they always have a choice — is so important in a world where it’s easier than ever to feel overwhelmed and impotent. Keep it up, my man — excited for all to come in ’16…

    SPC

    Liked by 1 person

    • Erik

      Awesome comment, Sean. I appreciate your continual encouragement and perspective.

      I’m thinking even now about the choices I want to make for 2016 (and I’m starting them now, because anything worth doing should be started right away, in my opinion).

      Liked by 1 person

  • D. Wallace Peach

    Sounds like fun, Erik, and so like you to just head out to a party where you don’t know anyone (sort of). I’m not surprised at all that it ended well with your circle of friends that much larger. Hope your holiday season is going well 🙂 Keep smiling. Can’t wait to see your professionally shot picture on the new book!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Erik

      Thanks, Diana. I’m sure you’ve experienced my “absence” in the face of having allowed myself to become so busy. The move was a big part of that, which was understandable; but we’re a few weeks out from that now, and I’ve realized I just need to reassess and simplify life again. (That choice seems to come around a lot; never “finally made,” it seems).

      I haven’t seen the finished work myself yet. Peter has a signature effect he goes for, so that will take a little bit, especially around the holidays here. But I’ll be sure to share once I’ve got them!

      Liked by 1 person

  • Jed Jurchenko

    Hey Erik,

    It’s fun catching up on all of the projects you’re working on. I didn’t know that you already started your next book, and an audio-book too–that’s awesome!

    Your story is a great reminder to me, of the value of friendship. I continually struggle with business as well. Sadly, I’m sure that I’ve missed some fun experiences, happy memories, and great opportunity to team-up with others, by getting too caught up in the business of life.

    It’s interesting how when I do put people first, all of the other stuff seems to fall into place. Of course, this doesn’t mean we should attend every event that comes our way, but this is a good reminder for me that it’s perfectly OK to relax, slow down, and invest in relationships.

    By the way, when are we going to connect again? It’s been way too long 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Erik

      Hey, Jed. You make a great point here, that we don’t need to attend every event presented to us. There would have been nothing wrong with my not having gone to Peter’s party. It was far and I didn’t know him well. As with anything, it comes down to choices we make. And it really is more about the reason behind the choices here, not the choices themselves (i.e., realizing I’d become too busy, was living “small,” etc.).

      As for you and me, I know – we need to put something concrete on the calendar. As I’m forever repeating, “a goal without a plan is just a wish.”

      Liked by 1 person

  • dustinfife

    You can’t do this and not show us a photo!

    Good to read. Life has been “busy” for me too and I’ve hardly had time to write (let alone read what others are writing). Good to have a reminder to have perspective again.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Erik

      Hey, Dustin. Believe me – I’m still in the middle of my perspective shift, making changes. It’s something we all have to keep coming back to. And as for a photo to show, I haven’t seen the finished product(s) yet. Peter stylizes photos a certain way in post-production, so that will take a little while for him to go through the film, choose what he thinks are the best shots and do “his thing” with them.

      Liked by 1 person

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