We are living in strange, strange times. If you don't agree with that statement, you might be strange as well. In which case, please feel free to reach out! I'd love to learn to have such peace of mind. Personally, I tend to get a little overwhelmed every now and then and busy myself with too many peripheral matters. Though I must also say this is often fueled by taking an interest in something and getting excited about the possibilities. Not a bad thing at all.
Nevertheless, it also leads to spreading myself too thin and losing focus on what I like to call my 'core activities'. Which is probably my most important realization of the past month. If you want to know how I got there, I suggest you continue reading.
My elevator pitch sucks
I'm standing in a corner with my camera around my neck, observing the crowd slowly entering the building. I like having a wall in my back. It assures me I have full vision of the entire scene so nobody can unexpectedly sneak up on me. Thinking about it, perhaps this is a remnant of evolution. The most suspicious people are the most likely to survive the longest, aren't they? In which case, blessed are my wary ancestors.
The event is about to start in about thirty minutes, which leaves the perfect amount of time to grab a drink and have a quick chat with the fellow attendees. I shake some hands and exchange some head nods but mostly avoid longer conversations. They'll take me out of my rhythm and by extension hinder my photography.
Now being on the move through the room, I'm surprised by a tap on my shoulder. I knew I should've stuck to the walls. I turn around, and am greeted by the smile of a person I haven't talked to for quite a while. I linger a little too long and forego the opportunity to keep it moving. Before I know it, I'm asking about their new life-developments, current aspirations and what type of wave they're on these days. We exchange pleasantries and have a nice chat but they then asks how I'm doing and what I currently spend my days on. A difficult question, I find out immediately.
I stumble over my words, as I don't quite know where to start. This is the moment I can spark their interest about my work, like my recent photography walks, this newsletter, my YouTube channel, and possibly grab their attention for the long run. That is, if I can clearly explain it to them. So where I should've said 'I write a photography-focussen monthly newsletter in which I document my photo-walks, sometimes supported by videos I upload on YouTube', I start a ramble on how I didn't feel like doing freelance work anymore and how I chose to work a regular job instead for a couple of hours a week to allow for more freedom to explore. Obviously, the next question is then about my day job because that's a thing most people are familiar with and have an easier time maintaining small talk about. It's also the least interesting part of my life and the one I don't really enjoy talking about. Despite that, the rest of the conversation is focussed on exactly this. Opportunity to pitch myself: missed.
The exchange ends amicably but unfulfilling at my end. Why did I choke like that? Do I not believe enough in the things I do, to stick my chest out and proudly declare my accomplishments? After giving it some more thought, I found it’s difficult to focus my pitch on a single thing when it’s the combination of my activities that should make for an interesting whole. Being a photographer, writing a newsletter, and making YouTube videos are all not that special on their own. It’s the angle at which you approach and combine those things, that sets you apart. But how do you fit that into a couple of sentences to quickly let somebody know all that?
Let’s sit with that thought for a while first. Why do I even feel the need to squeeze all this info in as little time as possible? Perhaps I'm not comfortable talking about myself for too long? Am I afraid I bore my conversation partner with my boring work and loose their attention (and possibly respect?) for good? Maybe I'm overthinking this all a little too much? Deep down I know the answers to all these questions but I'm asking them here anyway, as I know I'm probably not alone in this.
A thing I'm sure of though, is that we're moving through life faster than we should and we're all screaming for attention while doing that. But here's a secret: you won't necessarily get people's attention just because you make something. Asking for less of their time makes it easier to get some, but it doesn't guarantee the results you're after. You'll have to provide your audience with some sort of value before they'll ever bat an eye. That's what I should center my elevator pitch around. Noted, and working on it.
Refocussing my efforts
The event ends a little past 11 PM, which is a lot later than I anticipated but I don't mind it. It's pleasantly quiet on the street when I cycle back home and the aftermath of a warm summer-day has thrown a comfortable blanket over the world. The combination of the soothing atmosphere and the ride around the city puts me in a contemplative mood. I might've gotten carried away a little lately, gettin excited about new endeavors that should not take up so much of my time. If there's one thing I've learned in my thirty years here, is that time is our most valuable asset. That might sound like a cliche to some, but one I found to be very true and have no shame repeating here.
I stop at a red light and wait for traffic to pass. A monotonous stream of metal and glass boxes whizzes by, drowning out any sound nature produces on its own. If I don't want to fall to the same faith of simply being part of traffic, I think to myself, I have to divert from the known roads and create my own lane. Or maybe not necessarily my own lane, but at least take the one less traveled. The one not clogged with traffic.
The only way to do that, I think, is to get focussed and stop spreading myself too thin. Stop taking on projects that dilute my efforts and reduce them to average work as a result. I have taken some steps in the right direction a few months back, when swearing off freelance work but so far this has only been applied to external requests. Perhaps I should be equally picky with my own projects and be a little more strict with the things I allow myself to investigate. That sounds like a good intention.
The road noise almost starts to act like white noise when the light turns green again and I wake from my daydream. I set my foot on the pedal and push it down. Then the other pedal, the first one again, left, right, left, right. And I have been pushing ever since, keeping my eyes on the road right in front of me.