We live in a society that’s obsessed with the idea of status. This idea that you really need to be “somebody”.
The problem with caring too much about status is that it means you learn way, way more slowly.
We’ve all been in that business meeting or class where we had a legitimate question but didn’t ask it for fear of looking stupid.
Unfortunately, we missed out on the opportunity to put aside our ego, learn something, and grow as a human being.
Well I figured why not dial that up a notch this week and really humble myself?
If you haven’t figured it out, I’m enjoying getting more into photography these days. In my past days at ad agencies, I’ve had the privilege of getting to know some really cool people – including this guy, Kiriako Iatrides – my favourite photographer in these parts. He’s a guy who is constantly putting out incredible work but comes from humble beginnings. No fancy photography school – just some great mentorship, lots of reading, and a ton of hard work.
Well, I saw he put out a post that he needed a 2nd Assistant for a shoot coming up so I signed up because I thought it would be a really good way to learn.
Here’s the problem, though. The job didn’t come with a lot of “status”.
It’s the kind of job you do if you’re trying to break into the photography world so you do the dirty jobs to eventually work your way up to a 1st assistant and then hopefully get your own gigs
But! If your goal is learning, you’ve got a front-row seat to the photographer in action, how they work with people, and the techniques they’re using.
So I took the gig for the day making a lot less than I do at my day job – but it wasn’t about the money so I was fine with that.
Where the real challenge came was when I stepped on set being on the bottom of the totem-pole.
You see, I’d been on the top of that totem-pole before being either the “client” or the creative director. And here I was being told to clean up sandwiches and turn water on and off.
It seems so conceited for me to even type/admit that I thought that, but if I’m honest, that ran through my head. And here’s where my brain and most of our society has it all messed up.
We think our value is tied to our role.
Here I am on set worrying what people will think of me because of what I was doing. Was I a different person than a year ago when I had a fancy title at a bigish ad agency?
My role had just changed.
Serve with enthusiasm or get out of leadership.
Someone smarter than me recently said that quote up there. When I heard it last week, I was thinking it only applied to you when you’re the leader.
But sometimes being a leader means doing things that are outside your own perceived “pay grade”.
Another smart person told me, “Leaders lead without the title of a leader”.
So here I was, keeping a good attitude on and doing whatever was asked of me with as much enthusiasm and excellence as I could.
There is nothing wrong with putting in the work required to get where you want to go.
In the end, I learned a ton – even moreso than I thought after the day was over. I keep thinking back on and processing through things I want to try the next time I have my camera out.
And the places that we are in don’t define us.
If you’re in a “small” role, don’t worry about it. Believe in your value, keep working hard, and hold your head high.
That’s a more valuable life-lesson than even what I learned about photography.
All it cost me was a little bit of pride.