Better late than never. That’s how I feel about this blog post. It’s January 8th, 2020. Usually, I write these “start of year ” things a little sooner but hey, better late than never. The word “never” has such crushing finality to it, don’t you think? The connotation puts a finite bookend on whatever statement you’re making or some perceived rigidity in your life. On the other hand, it could also mean sticking to your guns. Never is a strong word. But In terms of goals or work, the word NEVER shouldn’t apply. It shouldn’t be taken as an ill omen, point of contention, or a finite bookend. The word “never “shouldn’t be spoken aloud to deride one’s progress or self-worth. Us freelancers ofttimes work doubly or triply (quadruply? just drooply?) hard to establish ourselves as a commodity, have financial stability (Mental stability too!) and reap what we sow. Freelancers cannot be lazy. We all have to strive toward seemingly impossible goals then move onto the next one. It took me years to establish a sustainable photography business. There are of course many ups and downs and truly when you’re a freelancer the term “feast or famine” most certainly applies. We go from the highest of highs to sometimes the lowest of lows but we chose this for ourself and I don’t know if I could live any other way. The thought of sitting in an office and being a drone for someone else drives me absolutely batty. That is something I may NEVER do again.
This is a big year for me. It marks seven years being a full-time freelancer. I’m closer to the ten-year mark than I ever thought I would be. When I first started I gave myself two years. If I didn’t find a modicum of success I would have gotten a job with Con-ed and let the overtime kill me and may have willingly stagnated my creativity. I’m glad this has worked out so far. I can also be very stubborn and a bit delusional and that helps with being a freelancer. Staying fresh also helps. I’m a big fan of removing old work and replacing those photos with new and better work. It shows a nice progression from where you started to where you are now. As a freelancer, we have to be better, right? Instead of just dreaming about the things we want we need to put the work in and go out there to get them. We have the power because we aren’t shackled to a desk most of the day. The downside is that because as freelancers we make our own schedule and sometimes have a little too much fun or downtime when we really should be concentrating on something else. Freelancers love the smell of their own farts. It’s true. I’m guilty. You’re guilty. It comes with the territory. We perpetually want to be the most interesting person in the world. We’re not. We’re just doing our own thing and it works for us. The reality is that freelancers struggle as much as everyone else. We’re all in this together. That being said there is no stopping you from achieving what you want. Most barriers are constructs we place ahead of ourselves that we think we’ll NEVER get over. It’s a matter of perception. Change your own mind to suit your needs. In many cases, we end up being slaves to our minds for bad or worse. Don’t let the cold clammy claws of anxiety or depression keep you from your goals. Don’t let them put the NEVER in your mind. Rise above it. You’re who you are and doing what you’re doing for a reason. Instead of a negative; turn that NEVER into a positive. I’m NEVER gonna stop. I’m NEVER giving up. I will NEVER yield. Throw what you want at me because I will NEVER stop moving forward. Is that all you got? Because it will NEVER be enough. The ground will crack and tremble with every step I take because I will NEVER be able to stop reaching for my goals and when I get there I will NEVER look back and think of the bad days; only the days that gave me the motivation to surpass my wildest dreams.
When I started my business five years ago (Happy Anniversary to me as of March 1st!) I did it with no capital and no clients. I really didn’t have solid grounding until mid 2014. It was a rough ride (and it still can be!) but I stuck with it. Like all things you have to walk before you run. As for me, I’m definitely a late bloomer. And as much as I want to be at that next level I know it takes time. Currently, work is extremely busy and I cater to a wide variety of clients. Do I take jobs that I may necessarily want to take? Sure (cashing checks brother). Do I take on gigs that I love – Of course I do. I’m lucky to have a network of repeat clientele that can count on my work. When you’re a freelancer – establishing those relationships is important. It’s also important to know your limitations and not to stretch yourself too thin that you freak out and can’t get any work done. It happens. Freelancing is an interesting thing. You’re basically on your own doing your thing with your skillset. Now, in the grand scheme of things, there are lots of people who can probably do what you do but you have to believe in your work enough that you can keep getting clients and build your craft. Study the folks that you like who are deeper in your industry. They made it work, right? Why can’t you? You don’t have to copy someone but you should learn different approaches and add them to your own. There are tons of things that go into being a freelancer and guess what – we don’t have it easy. We WANT to have it easy and that’s why freelancers work so hard. The grind can be tough and frustrating but the rewards outweigh the tough times. I can go on with motivational phrases and quotes from “influencers” or whatever but at the end of the day – all those quotes DO mean something. BUT so does saying it takes time for something to click but when it does get ready for the next level. Stick to it!
See what I did there with the watches? (Time is what I’m implying)
2017 was a weird year. For everyone. But these kinds of things help us grow and mature. We learn from our mistakes even though sometimes it takes us a while to realize that. 2018 will personally be a year of laser-like focus for me toward the goals I want to achieve. I used to never make resolutions. I didn’t believe in them. But I believe in myself now more than ever and know I have resolve. We all do. I encourage everyone to try and be the best they can at whatever they want to do and not to let anyone stand in their way. My goals are to be a better person and a better photographer. Over the last year, my passion for production came back like a phoenix from the ashes. I was too mired in always thinking about work and getting gigs that I lost sight of some creativity in my life. Since making that realization I’ve accumulated quite the number of ideas in a notebook (complete with color coated post it’s) that I’m hoping to write, film, produce, and rock over the next year.
It’s been close to five years since I started my photography business full time and my passion has been reignited to create more than what my skillset is. This year I hope to create my own YouTube show, expand my podcasting, shoot bigger photography projects, write at least four shootable projects, get in better shape, see more movies, read more books, be a bigger fanboy of the stuff I love, create more art (I can draw and paint ya know!) and just be an all-around better person. Of course, there will be bumps in the road but I’m at the age where I need to consciously reassure myself of my decisions. I’m a self-admitted late bloomer but on a great day I wake up feeling like I’m 17 again. Maybe I should look into that. Life is such a learning process and it would be very easy to just stay the same without any progression. The late bloomer in me talking is feeling like I’ve been waking up for the last five years. I’m still not 100% there and who knows if I ever will be but progress, right? You don’t have to be confined by whatever crazy walls your brain builds for you. We can literally do anything our mind thinks of. All it takes is a little push, positivity, and the will to manifest what you want.
What is gonna motivate YOU this year?
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The New Year effects folks in different ways. Some get excited to start over. Some get depressed because the past year has come to an end. Most people make resolutions that they end up breaking by…ohhhh Jan 8th? (I think that’s fair, right?) Mostly the New Year is a time for reflection of the good and bad over the past year. Although this could be dangerous I think it’s good to appreciate everything you’ve gone through in the past year. With this we can rebuild and reconstruct ourselves. I’m a firm believer in an onward and upward mentality.
At 34 years old I finally realize that those cliche New Years sayings and business sayings are all true. Now I don’t know if I’m getting sentimental as I get older (even though I’ve always been sentimental) or if I’m overcoming the affected cynicism of my twenties. I may also have a different attitude about work and life because I grew up in and still live in New York. I’ve always said this city could be a big balled fist of anger and anxiety one minute and then a paradise of awesome the next. I don’t have small town sensibilities – instead just a get out of my way attitude that I share with my friends who also grew up here. Is it douchey? Maybe. But that’s all we know. It’s not a malicious thing but New Yorkers have an inherent “keep it moving, buddy” attitude. Combine that with being a freelancer and the anxiety that comes with it means the sentimentality and cliche sayings kind of go out the window and hit you at once when you finally get some time to breathe. Maybe not the best way to live but that’s all we know sometimes – especially as a freelancer. We are driven, go go go, and need to get from project to project to survive creatively and monetarily.
I’ll be the first to admit that I was a bit overwhelmed toward the end of the year with project after project and some very extreme highs as well as some extreme lows. (You could associate being a creative freelancer with being a junkie. It’s feast or famine sometimes but we always want more and sometimes when things go wrong we take it personal and blame ourselves…big time.) However, I took the holiday break to consciously reflect on the past year and the things that went right and the things that went wrong. At first I was adamant about fixing mistakes going forward or not doing XYZ but doing ABC instead and it got to the point where my brain was eating itself because I didn’t have all the answers. I was creating unnecessary anxiety for myself and the New Year didn’t even begin! After a couple days of downtime and reading some excellent articles on wellness as a business owner/freelancer I decided to start from scratch as far as resolutions go and maybe throw them out the window. I decided to maybe try and adopt a different attitude toward things and think differently…maybe even think better.
Let Your Mind Go
Most of us unknowingly walk around thinking about the next thing and the thing after that with a furrowed brow deep in thought. If we let that tension and anxiety go it would lead to a clearer head and clearer thinking. It’s one thing to worry but it’s a completely poisonous thing to worry about the endless possibilities that could happen. Don’t sweat what you don’t have control over. Sometimes we need to surrender ourselves to the universe. That doesn’t mean to stop working and be a bum. It means just keep working hard at your thing, hone it, and know that good things will come your way.
No One Is Coming After You
We get so hung up on perceptions that it’s crazy. I think this is one major thing that separates leaders from the rest of the pack. They don’t worry what people think about them. As long as you’re not hurting anyone then who cares about thinking of the time you stumbled over your words at a meeting and causing yourself unnecessary anxiety. Own your self perceived flaws and move on. At the end of the day no one gives a shit and if they do then that means they’re a psychopath.
Mind Your Manners
You don’t have to engage with everything that upsets you. The best part of freewill is that you can just choose to go about your business without engaging anything! Instead of fueling your day with nonsensical anxiety and anger toward people or situations, why not just let it go and be as nice as possible. Genuinely killing people with kindness not only leads to soulful fulfillment but pretty much diffuses any situation. No one wants to be the one that yells at the nice guy.
Take Care Of Your Body
Work out a bit and stop eating like shit. You’ll feel better.
Work Harder, Smarter, Better
Sometimes we get comfortable and coast. Don’t do that. But don’t kill yourself either. Through experience you’ll find that the things you once did could be done a better more efficient way. If you really go through your routine you can fine tune things in a instant because you’ll be thinking about them for once instead of automatically doing them. Look at downtime as a blessing because you can take stock of what you’ve been doing and grow from that.
Remember The Love You Have
It’s not all about money. Money is nice. BUT money can’t replace your family, your spouse, your kids, or your roots. We get so stressed out during the day that we take that anger out on those closest to us. Instead we should find comfort in their proverbial arms while the outside world melts away. Chances are you wouldn’t be where you are without those people.
Be Firm But Don’t Be A Dick
All this talk of taking it easy and relaxing is fantastic but don’t let folks step on you. As a freelancer it can be hard to speak up sometimes. Lots of times clients or a client’s rep will speak to you as if they own your or as if they could do your job better than you can. Just firmly remind them why you were hired in the first place and if they persist then in a professional way just explain to them that their attitude leaves much to be desired. No harm no foul.
Be Who You Want To Be
What’s stopping you? Just the walls you put up yourself. Have confidence in the person you want to be or evolve into. All it takes is a bit of will power and good energy.
Send Positive Energy Outward
Take a deep breathe and exhale yourself into the universe. Just remember that you’re one being in an endless sea of space and time. You’re the only you. Spread joy, love, and positivity wherever you go. Folks will react in kind, situations will react in kind, and the universe will react in kind. Negativity and pessimism are the greatest anchors that we tow around. Let those anchors go and fly free.
Just chill out and everything is gonna be ok.
Anyway, that’s my two cents. Thanks for reading and have a happy new year guys!
(Book a shoot or two while you’re at it!)
I was always a big guy. I was a big kid and I became a big adult. I was always very proud of being big. I never had any confidence issues or wished I looked a certain way. That being said in the back of my mind I thought a better lifestyle, routine fitness, and a slimmer body were not within my reach, which meant I didn’t care and I was happy to indulge in the things that packed weight on my body.
It wasn’t until June of this year when I realized how completely unaware I was about anything health related or fitness related. At 33 years old, 6’3″ and weighing a tad over 290 pounds I decided to get a check up. I haven’t been to the doctor in ages (ages means about eight years) and I figured what’s the harm? I’m healthy! I know my body! (and a slew of things that later on I would come to know as excuses) I got a call about a week later to come in and get my blood test results. How bad could it be? I was a rockin’ dude with a rockin’ attitude! Clearly I was delusional as my doctor rattled off cold facts about my body. I had high blood pressure, high cholesterol, was obese (what an ugly word) , and the nail in the coffin was when he sat me down and told me I had Type 2 Diabetes. That last part took me for a loop and rocked me out of my brain a bit. Type 2 Diabetes? I’m not THAT fat I thought. I took a minute to process the news and collected myself as opposed to yelling, getting mad, or killing the messenger so to speak. He did his job and told me that I had a disease. He gave me the option to either take a pill that would help with the condition (more of a band aid) or try and reverse it by losing at least 30 pounds. At that moment I sucked it up and opted for the latter. I asked him what could have caused it. Was it drinking? I didn’t really have a sweet tooth for cakes and pies. I was confused. I told my doctor I drink juice and eat fruit like they are going out of style and he pretty much said “No wonder you have diabetes.” He t old me to come back in three months for a followup and to try and lose as much weight as possible.
You can do this, Rich. I told myself. You can fuckin’ get off your ass and do this. Put in the work and get the results. After having a cry to my wife in the parking lot of Rite Aid over the phone while telling her the news (I felt awful in part about the state my body was in but the fact that I felt like I betrayed my wife by not being healthy made me pretty upset) She was my rock in that moment and assured me that together we can fix the diagnosis even though at that moment I wanted nothing more than to hit Burger King and get a double whopper (to be comforted and to go along with the attitude that got me there in the first place – fuck it – who cares – just eat it) I didn’t end up getting Burger King. Instead I went home, did my research, and came up with a game plan. For the next two weeks I started a diet and exercise program adhering to what were foods that diabetics can eat and should avoid. I cut out sugar and carbs completely along with fruit, juice, candy, chocolate bars, fast food, or anything processed. I became a calorie counter and label reader. I cut out coffee, vitamin waters, gatorade, or anything unnatural. My goal after three months was not only to lose 30 pounds but to walk into my doctor’s office with a 40 pound weight loss. I took up running pretty hardcore and would run by his office every single day (still do) and mentally say “I’ll show you!” (I cleaned up the language there) even though I knew it wasn’t his fault. I just needed something else to direct my emotions to. I would run every day and currently do between 3 and 4 miles a day. 5 Miles on a good day. I’m addicted to running and run around my neighborhood like a maniac every morning. My playlist is epic. It’s a combination of rockin’ metal tunes and more rockin’ metal tunes that are extremely positive and motivating (ask me about it)
Three months later I walked into my Doctor’s office 40 pounds lighter (fuck yea) and a whole lot peppier. He congratulated me on the weight loss and said the blood test will hopefully reflect the physical change. I knew I wasn’t out of the woods yet and had another week to go before the results were in. My blood pressure was perfect, which was a good sign. A week later I got the call that my levels looked good and that I was no longer in the diabetic realm. I had overcome my diagnosis from three months prior, lost a ton of weight, and had a better outlook on life. Suck it diabetes.
Now just imagine if I didn’t go to the doctor.
Through this process of getting healthy and staying healthy (the hardest part) I became an extremely positive guy. I was always positive and energetic but this experience took it to the next level. I have become irritating in my positivity and want everyone I know to become that version of themselves that they never knew existed. If I could do it so could anyone. All it took was will power and determination. Those are two things that are free and inside us all. We can do anything we set our minds to. We can beat diseases. We can become better. Even if you feel fine I encourage you to go to your doctor, get a check up, get a blood test. You could be living obliviously drinking lemonade by the gallon and not realize what you’re doing to yourself. Health matters. It matters to you and to the people around you. Be big. Be little. As long as you’re healthy and positive that’s really all that matters. I discovered things about myself, my psychology, and my physiology that I never knew about and that’s huge. This whole process gave me peace of mind and I will continue down a healthy path and help and support anyone who needs it. I’m not a certified personal trainer but I’m a good listener and motivator.
Unfortunately Type 2 Diabetes is the most common disease facing this country. The good news is that it’s reversible. Take the news of a diagnosis and turn it into a positive by creating a new life for yourself. Take the opportunity to unlock that healthy being inside you. You can do it! Realize your self worth and get out there for the better.
I’m still losing weight and wanted to write this post after losing 50 pounds (I’m about a pound shy but who cares?) Here is a before and after. The before is taken earlier this year (shot by Michael Benabib) where I was about 295 and a photo I took in my home studio at 241 (11/18). Help me spread love and positivity and encourage anyone you know to turn their life around and get healthy. Be body positive and health positive.