Changing Your Shutter Speed

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Death and Taxes

We’re all going to die, whether we are at peace with it or not. Knowing the certainty of this fact is often something I think about when making decisions in my personal and professional life. How will I feel at the end if I do or don’t make this big change or decision? Perspective helps in those moments. I like to think that as I’m falling out of a plane, parachute attached, at age 97, there will be clarity as I realize I can’t reach the cord to open the chute. I sometimes like to think about the “cool” ways to go, hoping that the action that kills me will be a sign of how I lived my life.

What matters, in the end, is what we did with the time we had. Bronnie Ware, an Australian nurse who wrote a book called “The Top Five Regrets of the Dying”, summed up what many of her patients were telling her as they gained clarity near the end, in priority:

  1. I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me
  2. I wish I hadn’t worked so hard
  3. I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings
  4. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends
  5. I wish I had let myself be happier

I’m not here today to talk about the detail behind the regrets (there’s a whole book you can read!), but I do want to talk about the first one in particular: I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me. I recently saw a presentation where I believe the presenter was showing courage to live a life that was true to himself. In the process, I got a life lesson when I least expected it. (Not sure why we’re talking life lessons on a business blog? Click here1)

The Lesson

For some context, I’m a board member at Youth in Focus, a Seattle area non-profit that empowers urban youth, through photography, to experience their world in new ways and to make positive choices for their lives. Many of the youth who join the program come from challenging backgrounds. Nearly 81% of the students qualify for free/reduced lunch, 88% are students of color, 78% live with a single parent or have other living arrangements, and 28% identify as LGBTQ. In short, Youth in Focus reaches a lot of at-risk youth at a critical time – at or before the 9th grade – when 90% of school dropouts occur.

The reason I bring Youth in Focus up at all, and why today’s post exists, is because I got a life lesson from a student at Youth in Focus that inspired me. At the end of each quarter, students gather to present their work to the other students and their families. As a board member, we are privileged to also attend to see how the program impacts the lives of the youth involved. One student, Isaac, presented the following photo and read out his inspiration for the photo.

“When I first started out at Youth in Focus, I doubted I could create amazing photos, however the photo here, in my personal honest opinion, looks intricate and beautiful. I was riding on the road while taking this photo, on my way to see family. You could say it looks as if the background is peaceful, while the road I’m currently on is fast paced and controlled. Getting out of the pathway to whatever the road is taking me to however seems impossible. The fence is moving far too fast to even consider jumping over. But, as pointed out by the class I took, you can change your speed – your shutter speed. From there on out, you can literally alter the road, background, or even fence. Making everything into focus immediately, including the fence. This photo illustrates the beauty of self-discovery where if you simply wander past your limitations after removing them, you can truly inspire yourself and others.” Isaac B., Youth in Focus student

When he read his photo inspiration out loud, I got goosebumps. You could tell he understood that the road wasn’t just a road and that changing your shutter speed wasn’t just a camera feature. To be at that age, to recognize that you have control over your life’s shutter speed, that you can alter your path, that you can have clarity to see the big picture, that your past doesn’t mean your future is limited…that is inspiring. We all have that power. I dream that Isaac continues down a path that is beyond his imagination, yet one that he imagines for himself.

That lesson, that we can change our shutter speed, that’s what I learned from Isaac.

Are you being true to yourself?

Which brings me back to the top regret of the dying: I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me. What are you doing in your work life (or personal life) to be true to yourself? What does that look like? Are you changing your shutter speed so you can “wander past your limitations”?

There’s no right or wrong way to tackle these questions, but here are a few suggestions to start:

  • Reflect. Think about what you wanted to be when you were younger. As a child or teenager, we were more in tune with what we did or did not like to do. I liked to build dams on creeks. I liked to plan out dirt cities for my Tonka Trucks. I obviously like to build things, still do. Apply that process to yourself. Are you doing work that excites you the way building a dam on a creek excited me?
  • Start meditating. I know everyone says this, but really do it. It’s easy, and you’ll start looking forward to it. You can spare 10 minutes in your day. There are countless apps out there you can use, or the timer on your phone will work. Meditating helps clear your mind so that you more easily realize what’s important and what is just noise. 2)
  • Write. Whether handwriting in a journal or typing on a computer, write for 5 minutes every day (or as often as possible). Write about whatever you are thinking. I’ve literally written about how I can’t think of anything to write. But eventually something comes to mind, and I write about it. Reflect on your day, your life, a problem at work, a problem at home, a happy moment, whatever. Just write. You can’t be true to yourself if you aren’t able to reflect. How often do you stop to think for you? I’m guessing you don’t. I know I didn’t.
  • Be Thankful. What are you thankful for? Every day, write down one thing you are thankful for. Make that what you write about in #3, if you can’t think of anything. You are perfectly imperfect. Be thankful for that even. You can “wander past your limitations” on your timeline, at your shutter speed. Just be yourself. There is nothing wrong with you. That’s the best way to live Isaac’s lesson.

As for me, being true to yourself means you operate with integrity, compassion, and commitment. I know what inspires me to live my true life: being myself. I’m restless, I’m curious, I’m reasonable, I’m optimistic. I love to discover. I love to help. I’m inspired to help others realize their own significance, including myself. Because of the things that I am and love, I know I have more to do in this life. I know I’ll make mistakes. I’m perfectly imperfect like the rest of us. Bu that also means I’m complete. So are you. I’d ask that you try to keep all of this in mind whether at work, out with friends at night, or with family on a vacation. We all have that power.

What are some life lessons you discovered in unlikely places? Leave your feedback in the comments!

Out of the Weeds Consulting’s mission is to provide immediate operational support, while getting you out of the daily minutiae to focus on what is important. Contact us here for a free session to find out how we can help.

1 I want to give a brief justification why this is still a business article, not a rumination on death and life. Most people take their knowledge and combined experiences from how many years they’ve been alive and apply it to every situation they encounter. When you decide whether to add an outside sales team to your business, I am 100% sure that decision will include aspects of your education along with related experiences outside of your education. For example, when I was a kid, I used to go around the neighborhood selling Christmas cards out of a catalog to make money to buy a computer (and let’s be honest, candy). It was a big process for me where I decided where I would walk around to, what time of day to walk around to get the most people, what I needed to bring so I could easily complete the sale (pen, order form, catalog), and when I would be back to deliver the cards in person. I even had to learn how to receive checks and deposit them, which forced me to open a bank account with my mother’s help. I learned at a young age (by my estimate, 8 years old), how to make money and that it required planning and some hustle. You can be sure that those foundational lessons apply to how I work now. My point here is simple: your collective life experiences absolutely impact your decisions at home and at work.
2 I’m not getting paid for this. I use Calm for my meditation sessions. They have some free sessions to teach you the basics. Then you can either pay for a subscription or use use what you’ve learned and the free sounds they provide.

Jim Ransier

Author Jim Ransier

I think Mary Poppins is an excellent role model. I'm restless, reasonable, optimistic, and always curious. I have 15+ years of creating and leading departments ranging from Operations to Creative Services, with a focus on start-ups and eCommerce. I started my own independent consulting services company so I could keep doing what I do best: help people develop and deliver on their vision. For me personally, the most interesting and fun people to work with are the ones who don't have it all figured out. I don't have it all figured out, I love traveling and problem solving in equal measure and not at the same time, and I think that "being happy" is unrealistic. I aim for being content as a more realistic goal, but who knows? I like that I don't know the answer. I'm restless and I'm always pushing forward. I try to be a good friend. I love animals, even ones that scare me.

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