Getting Better – The Obsession with Improvement


Photography is my thing. I love taking pictures–pictures with my phone, my point-and-shoot, my fancy SLR, it doesn’t matter. I take a lot of pictures. I justify it by telling myself that taking lots of pictures is the only way I will become a better photographer.

I’ve become obsessed with getting better. I read books, surf photography blogs, but most of all I just take lots of pictures. I think that is one of the litmus tests of whether something is more than an interest. The more you like doing your thing, the more you want to improve.

This was the first photo that I’ve taken that made me feel like I had made some gains as a photographer. It’s a simple shot, but one that starts to feel like it came from someone with a unique voice.

Woman in New Orleans

New Orleans, LA

I’m reading the book “Within the Frame” by David duChemin (see my GoodReads link) that suggests that a photo should be about more than what you saw; it should be about what you felt about what you saw. I like that concept. It requires thought, practice and a conscious effort to really look deeply at the world.

That is the most exciting part about finding your thing. It opens up endless opportunities to delve deeply into something, and learn more about it than probably anyone else you know. And the best thing about learning is that it is a never-ending process. Accept this concept now…

You will never be as good as you want to be.

And that is okay. One day you may be great. You may even be the best (though that is a big title to assume!). But you will never be as good as you want to be. Only one thing limits how far we can push ourselves. Time. Not the time we spend each day on our thing. The time we have left in the big cosmic bank.

Use it wisely.

There are many ways to delve deeper into your thing, but the one that I am finding most successful is the self-imposed assignment. And if you really want to see your improvement skyrocket, add a deadline. Not a fake deadline that only you know about. Put it out there. Make a commitment to someone or something.

I saw my cycling improve dramatically when I made a commitment to ride in an event in France–a full stage of the Tour de France called the Etape du Tour. I worked with a coach (committing his time), I bought plane tickets, and most importantly, I told everyone I knew that I was doing it. There was no way I was going to get out of it easily! And so I trained 4 days a week, even if it meant riding an indoor bike trainer at 11pm. I lost 20 pounds and was in the best shape of my life.

Make the commitment to improving right now. Pick that thing you love to do and start learning to do it better. The information is out there. Everywhere. The more you look, the more it will seem to seek you out. People will recognize your efforts and be drawn to you like a warm fire.

Lantern at the Gamble House in Pasadena

Pasadena Gamble House

And then a community will form around you, which after all, is what this thing called life is all about.

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