Posted In Inspiration

Choose Your Own Adventure

Kyle McDougall | December 14, 2016

The World Wide Web was created only a short time ago back in 1990. Since that time, to say a lot has changed would be an understatement. I can still remember sitting at my desk listening to the dial-up modem squawk as it tried multiple times to connect to a server. Like with any advancement in time, new technology and platforms are created that are both embraced and criticized.

More recently, social media has without a doubt been the biggest game changer in recent times when it comes to both the way we do business and the way we interact each other. Love it or hate it, it brings with it a lot of opportunities. Never before have we been able to reach an audience so quickly and easily (although you could argue it’s becoming more difficult) and because of that, the ways that we create, share, and socialize are constantly changing.

Exposure is something that I talk about often, not in the photographic sense, but more so the amount of information that we’re exposed to on a daily basis, all which is a by-product of social media and ultimate connectivity. Habits have become engrained in many of our lives where we constantly turn to our phones or devices to see what new content is on our feed, or if anyone has liked our photos or posts yet.

For many of us, this habit has become a crutch to lean on that allows us to ignore or avoid specific social situations, regardless if we realize we’re doing it or not.

We’ve all seen—or even been—that person that pulls their phone out as soon as their partner leaves the table to go to the washroom, or when waiting in line to pay, or even while walking down the street through crowds of people.

Everyone has their own feelings on this type of total connectivity, with many people even encouraging others to embrace it. I’m divided, but with a large portion of myself standing on the opposite side of the fence. But this post isn’t meant to be about choosing a side. Instead, my focus is on helping others understand the importance of themselves being the ones who decide how they’ll let that constant flow of information and exposure affect them.

 

Rose Coloured Glasses

In my opinion, social media’s most dangerous weapon is that it has the ability to distort or glorify reality, which unfortunately some people fall victim to. Now, for the most part, I don’t mean distort in the sense of people telling lies, or showing fake content, but rather the fact that the personal content we’re exposed to only shows a sliver of that person’s actual life, and many of the details and realities are left by the wayside.

I’m not just talking about that one Facebook power user that we’re all friends with—who makes their life out to be the most flawless, exciting, and glorious adventure in the entire world—rather the people we admire and strive to emulate or embrace. Those people don’t purposefully distort reality; on the contrary, the onus falls on us—the viewer. We choose to take in information from those sources without thinking about all of the other things that are happening behind the scenes that we aren’t aware of.

I’m talking about the non-glamorous realities that the person doesn’t have time to post, nor are probably worth posting in the first place. The delays, the long flights, the missed shots, the broken camera gear, the expenses, the weekends spent writing, or marketing, or selling. Those things aren’t glamorous, they’re just part of the process, and you either embrace them, or you don’t.

 

cyoa

Choose Your Own Adventure

When I was younger, my favourite books to read were from the Choose Your Own Adventure series. Those thrilling pieces of literature left the reader faced with the arduous task of making what seemed like life changing decisions. Do you get on the boat and chase the bad guy, or wait for the police? Do you run into the burning house, or wait for the firefighters? Do you jump out of the helicopter into the water, or wait until it finds a safe place to land? Decisions like that can be overwhelming when you’re a kid. Luckily, if you screwed up, or even worse died, you always had the option of skimming back a few pages and trying your luck again.

In the real world, every big decision you make is one that you have to live with for a period of time. Those decisions also bring with them an overwhelming amount of non-glamourous tasks that are necessary to keep the motor running.

Unfortunately, many people don’t realize that beforehand, and when the time comes that they make a new career choice or follow a new passion, those tasks show up and give them a gigantic slap in the face. Even worse, with today’s culture that often preaches the importance of “hustling”, it can be easy for people to beat themselves up if they don’t find themselves embracing the non-glamourous tasks while also training for a marathon, writing a book, traveling the world, and sleeping four hours a day.

Some people are naturally built for the hustle and embrace the entrepreneurial life. But the reality is, not everything may be for you, nor does is need to be. That’s why you need to choose your battles wisely, and not assume that just because someone is taking a certain approach with their work, that you need to do the same. For example, maybe you see another photographer running a successful business leading workshops across the country, and you think: “I’ll only be happy once I’m doing the same”. The danger lies in the fact that people don’t often think any further than that, and when they make a decision to do something similar, they’re faced with a bunch of responsibilities that they don’t actually enjoy.

Do you want to be away from home for weeks or months on end? Are you ready for the unpredictability of travel? The delays? The lost luggage? Are you ready to live out of hotels and communicate with your family through email or Skype? Those seem like simple things to envision, but often the glamor of someone else doing something blinds us from common realities, and it’s only once we’re in the ring that reality hits us. The real question is: Are you willing to make sacrifices in your life to free up the necessary time that certain decisions require?

Some sacrifices are relatively easy to make and often times end up being beneficial—binging Netflix, skimming social media and the internet for hours on end, engaging in lengthy discussions that involve criticism or complaints. But other sacrifices are far more important—quality time spent with friends and family, exercising and maintaining a healthy diet, financial comfort/stability etc.

 

You Don’t Have To Be A Rock Star

The most important thing to always understand is that no one is forcing you to become a rockstar. You don’t have to be the most recognized photographer in the world, or the richest and most successful business woman/man. If that’s what you strive to be, and the hustle makes you happy, then power to you, keep on the same track. But if you constantly find yourself lacking commitment to new endeavors, then maybe it’s time to stop and think about what really makes you happy, in the most honest and authentic way possible. I don’t say that to give myself or anybody else permission not to work hard or to avoid chasing dreams, rather as a wake-up call to help you understand that life isn’t as complex as we all make it out to be, and often times a lot of us end up pursuing goals that leave us unfulfilled.

It may sound cliche, but happiness can be found in the simplest things. Unfortunately, we’re really good at complicating our lives, and we often end up racing through every day with our eyes and minds only looking forward, never inward.

If you’re at a point in your career where you’re stuck trying to decide what direction to take, drop the expectations and take some serious time to learn as much as you can about yourself. Time is limited, and every day really does matter, so make sure you’re using them both as wisely as possible. Every commitment you make—even if later on you decide to change it—uses up that valuable time, so try and look at situations with an honest approach. Make decisions that please yourself first, even if they require you to let go of some of the seemingly glamorous returns that other paths may provide. Choose your battles wisely, because if not, you may end up living someone else’s life.

 

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