1/18/13: Lessons I Learned the Hard Way #1

For the longest time, I’ve been meaning to try my hand at writing. The thing about writing though, is that I rarely have a place to start. After thinking about everything I learned about content creation online, it  only seems fair that I create something to give back, possibly to someone just getting started in school, photography, or anything thing else they want to apply themselves to. So, here is my first installment in Lessons I Learned the Hard Way.

Before you can get anywhere, you need to be willing to learn.

            All too often, people seem to approach subjects with the idea that they simply don’t need to learn. I see this most often in people who learn the basics, and then think that they are way beyond where they actually are. A close friend of mine who has been playing a variety of instruments for most of her life tells me stories all the time about people who picked up a guitar a month ago who have egos that would look big on Hendrix.

Admittedly, I’ve been guilty of this myself. I started to get serious about photography in high school. The praise I got from friends, family, and my photo teacher vastly outweighed any criticism I ever got. It eventually went to my head, and I figured I could retain my large-fish, small-pond status into college. It was only when I saw the amazing caliber of work that my peers were putting out in comparison to mine that I got a swift and brutal beating from the twin hammers of Reality and Humility. Fortunately, that beating was enough to dislodge my head from my ass so that I could realize the distance  I had to go just to catch up.

This segues me pretty neatly into my next point;

Your peers are your most valuable teachers.

I often had a really hard time trying to gauge my ability against the professional work I see in books or from my professors. After all, they had years more experience, and much greater resources than I had as a student. My classmates, however, were on roughly the same playing field I was, which gave me a much better idea of where I was. There was some truly stellar work coming from my fellow students, and seeing what they could do made me want to get better.

Don’t be afraid to talk to them either. If someone turns out some amazing work, let them know it. Is there something that has you stuck? Chances are, someone has already figured it out. Do you see someone struggling? Give them a hand if you can. Working together, while pushing each other to get better really goes a long way in the learning process.

-Work Smarter, not harder.

Growing up, I was always taught to be a hard worker. Whether it was school, chores, sports, whatever, you always have to give it 100%. Which is fine on its own…except when things start to pile up.

Through college, I was usually working at least two jobs on top of a full course load, and it was a massive strain on me. And realistically I just didn’t have the time and energy to give my full attention to everything. All that led to was me completely over extended.

Think efficiency. If you can find a way to apply something from one class to another, go for it. And always be on the lookout for workarounds that may make your workflow simpler. Even little things like finding a shortcut to work or class can add up after a while.

Be sure to prioritize too. If you’re short on cash and rent is due, you can probably afford to skip a class to pick up an extra shift. If you’re fine financially, but your finals demand more attention, rescheduling work is usually an option. If you’re behind everywhere, then taking the hit to your class in underwater basket weaving is probably the least of your worries. Making small cuts to what you need to get done can hurt in the short term, but be really beneficial in the long run.

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