You’re not ready

July 2017 issue

You’re not ready

Sounds like the perfect time

When my daughter started competing in triathlons, her biggest challenge of the swimming, running, cycling race was the swimming segment. She was a terrific swimmer—strong with efficient form—in the pool. But she’d never raced in open water. Moving fast while trying to maintain a straight line undefined by swimming lanes was disorienting and scary. The biggest lesson she learned from a seasoned pro: head down, keep moving, and look up occasionally. The best method, she learned, is to peek your head up out of water now and then to make sure you’re moving toward your goal, then head in the water and back to work. Don’t fixate on the finish line; just keep moving one stroke closer.

That’s what I envision every time I begin a new endeavor I’m not quite ready for. Which is, let’s face it, every time. Because every time you find yourself at a beginning, you feel awkward. You don’t have every bit of knowledge you need, every question answered. There’s a degree of fear. You don’t want to fail or appear foolish. So do this: Keep your head down, move forward, and just sneak a look toward the finish line once in a while to ensure you’re on the right track. Congratulate yourself for every step forward. This way you won’t find yourself wildly off-course. A little misdirected, maybe, but that’s no big deal because you’re still making progress in the right general direction.

Photographer Tera Girardin is a role model in this regard. We share her story, "How One Photographer Tackled a Book Project," in which she details her first foray into self-publishing. She admits fear and doubt at the start: “There are all those things you tell yourself that prevent you from making a big move: It’s too hard, it’ll take too much time, I don’t know how to do it.” She didn’t know how to do it—until she did. And now she has a sold-out book to her credit.

You’re never going to be ready. It’s never the right time. You’ll never be completely prepared. Don’t be afraid because you don’t know. Knowing you don’t know is, in fact, knowledge you need. It lets your ego breathe a sigh of relief as it lets down its guard. Once you accept this ignorance, go ahead and relish it. Because soon you’re going to leave the not knowing behind. And once you usher in the light, you are changed. You are a person who knows these things. This new self you’ve created may be visible just to you. That doesn’t matter. In fact, it matters most.

We’re all capable of so much more than we can even conceive. The beauty is this: We don’t even have to believe we can accomplish great things. We just have to keep our heads down, move forward, and accomplish them.

Jane Gaboury is director of publications at Professional Photographers of America.

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