Dealing With The Noise with Sal Cincotta
All too often, when we think of noise in photography, we are thinking about our images. The truth is, noise is one of the biggest risks to our business and to our overall mental health. I am talking about the noise of the universe here. No, I have not lost my mind. I am sure my long-time readers are wondering what new drugs I may be on as I write this article, or if I have lost my edge to talk about “feelings” now. If you are a business owner, this is a real problem and a real distraction to your overall success.
Noise comes in all forms, but it all ends with the same results. The bottom line: You are going to be distracted from the things that matter most to you. Now, I can’t tell you what should and shouldn’t matter to you. That’s a personal decision. What I can tell you is that every human has something that matters to them. Whatever that something is, you can’t afford to be distracted from it.
Looking to grow your business? Want to excel at your career in corporate? Want more personal time with family? These are all amazing and lofty goals, and getting distracted by the noise can be the biggest risk to your success or failure.
Here are some of the items I have had to deal with over the years and how I have dealt with them. I hope this helps.
This is, by far, one of the greatest challenges we all face. You are not alone by the way. Every person in the world suffers from self doubt. Yes, including me. It is easy to look at someone successful and believe they have it all together. They are confident, they have money, they have success. They have… what you seemingly don’t have. Right?
It is this thinking that can cripple you before you ever get started. So what to do? Here is what I realized a long time ago: We all started somewhere. Every single one of us. Bill Gates, Donald Trump, Jeff Bezos, Elon Musk, >>insert name<<. All of these people started somewhere. Many of them with humble beginnings— nothing more than an idea or a dream. Of course they had doubts. Jeff Bezos famously told his initial investors this whole thing may not work out and they would lose everything. Does that sound like someone exuding confidence?
There is not much you can do about this. There is no magic pill here. I am merely impressing upon you that we all suffer from this at one point or another. Know this and keep this in the back of your mind so that it doesn’t cripple you. The only way around this is experience. See, in the beginning, I used to feel like my ideas were crazy. People would look at me and tell me why it couldn’t be done. No one ever said, “I love this crazy idea, you’re going to crush it.” I don’t believe the people around me were intentionally being negative, quite the opposite in fact. I just think they were incapable of seeing or understanding my vision. After all, it’s my vision and if you are trying to do something out of the norm, people will naturally gravitate to a more conservative place. 99% of people would quit in that moment.
If everyone around you is telling you it can’t be done or are just not being supportive, where do you find that energy to move forward? This is where you have to push forward. You have to believe in yourself more than ever. That doesn’t mean you wont fail, but you are blazing a new trail— you need to realize this is yours to win or lose. Don’t expect others to boost your ego.
Self doubt will naturally lead to the next challenge: Failure. Maybe not actual failure, but the prospect of failure. That is enough to cripple anyone. “What if I fail?” will creep into your mind at some point. This is totally normal. However, what you do with this voice in your head can be the difference between success, and well, failure.
My philosophy on failure is a pretty healthy one. First, I hate failing. I mean, there is nothing worse to me. I hate the way it feels. It’s like fire to my skin. But I do realize it is part of the process. It has to happen for you to grow. That being said, we need to fail fast. Failing fast allows you to learn from your mistakes and grow. If you don’t learn from your mistakes, not only won’t you grow, but you run the risk of catastrophic failure when it does come for you.
So, while I hate failure with every fiber of my being, I use it to motivate me to work harder and longer than my competitors in every aspect of my life. In my opinion, this is my X-Factor. This is that something that can not easily be replicated by my competitors. How afraid of failing are you? Are you afraid enough to work longer, work harder, make the necessary sacrifices so you don’t fail? Not many people are. I find most of my competitors to be lazy. Truly lazy. Seem harsh? Then how do you explain it? Is it talent? Sure, there is always some level of talent involved in anything, but think about how many “talented” people you know who are complete failures. Why is that? My opinion: They are lazy to the core. The minute things get a little tough, they fold like a house of cards. This is the difference between winning and losing.
Success is not easy. Success is not handed to you. Success is not guaranteed. In fact, it’s borderline delusional to believe that any successful person on this planet had it easy. When we see success, we see what appears to be the final accomplishment. What we don’t see is the fact that it took 15-20 years to get there. What we don’t see are the dozens of failures and set-backs suffered along the way— the divorces, the sacrifices, the tears, the sleepless nights. We glamorize the victories without paying homage to the failures. Success is built on failure. Don’t ever forget that.
I have become more cynical as I have gained experience in both life and business, but the truth is, I have very little respect for my competitors. I find that most small business owners have no idea how they arrived at success. Our industry is a perfect example of this. At one point in time, photography was so complicated that it was dominated by technically-gifted people who could understand a lot of complex concepts and theories. Then, digital came and flipped our industry on its head. Photographers, labs, camera manufacturers, etc. all scrambled to make sense of this new world and many just failed to figure it out. You probably don’t remember this, but at the time, digital was seen as just a fad. Many ignored it. Kodak being one such company.
If you don’t know how you got where you are, then there is a very high probability that you will ultimately fail. Why? Because if you don’t know how or why you are where you are, the minute any level of competition applies pressure to your business, you will start operating with paranoia and ultimately fail. I have seen this time and time again. When I started as a photographer, no one would share information. Why? Because they were convinced if I knew what they knew then I was a competitor and would steal their business. In a sense, I suppose that is true. We are competitors, but are we really competing on how to use a printer? Or how to use Lightroom?
I will never forget when I started teaching the business principles of photography. I would get hate mail from local photographers. “Why are you teaching our secrets?” I wish I was making this up. Personally, I believe a healthy industry raises all ships. If I didn’t, this magazine wouldn’t exist. ShutterFest wouldn’t exist. To this day, we do not get along with many local photographers or groups because of their pettiness and personal insecurities. It is a sign of how insecure they are in their own skills and businesses.
I view business like competitive sports. I love competing. I love having a target. It makes us stronger. In my career, we have never backed down from a fight when it comes to business. We set our sights on our goals, plant the flag and go at it, full speed ahead. My entire team is focused on winning. We love competition. Make no mistake, I have said this time and again: We want to destroy our competitors on the battle field, but after the game, we also want to high-five them.
This is so difficult for people to understand about my way of doing business. If you were ever an athlete in your life, you understand. If you don’t have a competitive bone in your body, this will be so bizarre to you. You get caught up in your feelings. For most people, competition = hate or distain. For me, competition = challenge. Challenge to my business, my team, myself. We grow from challenges. We collapse from hate.
Do not allow your competitors to distract you from your goals. If you are focused on being better every day your business will continue to grow and prosper. If you spend too much time worrying about your competitors and what they are doing, you will find yourself distracted from their nonsense. By focusing on moving forward in your business, you will put pressure on your competitors without even trying. It will become clear very quickly who can run with you and who will need to take a knee.
Good grief. The world of social media is filled with noise. It is a necessary evil, no doubt. Our customers are there and we need to be there as well. However, the keyboard warriors are there too. Their day-to-day is spent wallowing in their pathetic lives and failures. Instead of focusing on bettering themselves or their businesses, they, instead, lash out to anyone and everyone who is successful. Their fears and insecurities present themselves in very transparent ways.
Jealousy and envy are very ugly things. The saying, “If you’ve got haters, that means you’re doing something right” has never been more true. The keyboard warriors of the world are just mad because they suck at life. Everyone knows it, it’s pretty transparent. The funny thing is, they are the only ones who don’t see it. Every time I have had someone leave an ignorant comment on one of my images or pages I research that person and sure as hell, they suck. Either their work is inferior, they have no business, or they are visibly struggling. I have yet to have a highly successful business person stop by my page and leave a negative comment. Why? Because they are too busy being successful that they don’t have time for petty bullshit.
Personally, I have never had the time to stop by someone’s site, Facebook page, YouTube channel, or any other social media platform to leave an unsolicited negative comment. I don’t even know why I would. Again, this is just noise. Do not get sucked into it. Do not let it get you off your game. Use it as fuel. I love when I see moronic comments. I use it to fuel my next stage of business. It tells me I am dong something right that someone was so compelled to tell me how much I suck.
Side note, I love trolling the trolls. They rarely know what to do with some of my responses. I think it confuses them. It’s like toying with a cat and a piece of yarn.
Family / Friends
Not sure if I am alone in this or not, but my guess is you have all suffered from issues with friends and family at some point in your career. The people closest to you are the loudest and can be the most distracting. We trust these people. They are, many times, our compass. I am telling you, you have to cut through this noise if they are not helping you succeed. I am not implying they have to do the work with you, but man, it is so important to your mental state that the people closest to you are not being negative. This is the most dangerous kind of noise.
When I was coming up, very few people believed in what I was doing. They thought I was nuts. Why would you leave a perfectly good six-figure job in corporate that you could retire from for this “photography” thing? Talk about creating self doubt. Many times during my journey I thought I would lose it all. These voices were sitting there in the back of my head trying to talk me into quitting and going back to what was safe, a job in corporate. “I can get my old job back”, I thought at times. No! That was the worst thing that could happen. I had to fight hard to push those thoughts to the side so that I could focus on the dream.
Not everyone is going to be on this journey with you. This is your dream, your battle to win or lose. Don’t expect others to support that out of the gate. Trust me, once you succeed, everyone will tell you how they knew you could do it and how brilliant you are. Where were those people when you needed them most? Be sure to block out that noise and surround yourself with like-minded people. People on the same journey as you. People who believe in you. People who want to see you succeed chasing your dream.
I hope this article helps you understand that we all started somewhere and there are things you will learn along the way. If I can help you avoid some of those pitfalls and challenges, then success is truly mine.