Author Stephen King tells a great story about a chance to meet his idol, science fiction writer Isaac Asimov. The teenaged King hitchhiked to a college in Maine and talked his way into a reception honoring Asimov. Summoning his courage, he walked up to the legendary author and introduced himself. “Mr. Asimov, you’ve always been a hero of mine and I’ve always wanted to write,” King said. Asimov looked at the young man with disdain.

Author Stephen King tells a great story about a chance to meet his idol, science fiction writer Isaac Asimov. The teenaged King hitchhiked to a college in Maine and talked his way into a reception honoring Asimov. Summoning his courage, he walked up to the legendary author and introduced himself.

“Mr. Asimov, you’ve always been a hero of mine and I’ve always wanted to write,” King said.

Asimov looked at the young man with disdain.

“Bullshit kid,” he said. “If you really wanted to write you’d be home writing and not here bothering me.” Then he walked away, leaving the star struck teenager devastated.

King went home, got over the hurt and started writing, becoming one of the country’s most prolific and successful authors. Asimov’s rudeness, he would later say, “was just the kick the ass I needed.”

I think about the King story whenever I run across someone who frets over what to do with his or her life. A lot of second-guessers out there. Too much timidity. Too much indecision on “should I or shouldn’t I” take a specific step, make a career change, or finally do something that they’ve claimed they’ve always wanted to do.

People wander into my studio every week and talk about how “they’ve always wanted to be a photographer.” When I asked about the last time they picked up a camera, they will either claim it has been a while or say something like “well, I don’t have nice equipment like you so I can’t take good pictures.”

That’s a crock. The only tool a real photographer needs is his or her eyes and a willingness to look for good pictures and shoot them. Seventy-seven of the Pulitzer Prizes awarded for photography over the years have gone to people who used equipment that the photo magazines call “amateur” or “prosumer” gear.

A woman with a young boy approached Alfred Eisenstaedt while the famous Life photographer shot an assignment in Times Square.

“Mr. Eisenstaedt,” she asked, “if I buy my son a camera like yours can he take wonderful photographs like you?”

Eisenstaedt didn’t even look up from his viewfinder as he replied: “If you buy him a Steinway can he play like Van Cliburn?”

Wannabe photographers use lack of equipment as an excuse. Excuses come into play often for those who talk about what they “always wanted to do” but always find some reason not to do it.

“God I envy you,” an email said the other day. “I wish I had the guts to bag everything and move to the country.”

My response? “Don’t talk about it. Don’t think about it. Don’t dwell on whether or not you should do it. Just do it.”

The same goes for any lifestyle decision. Don’t waste everyone’s time fretting over whether or not to do it. Life’s too short for hesitation. Those who spend their time analyzing and “considering their options” will always find an excuse for not doing what they claim they always wanted to do.

Just do it.

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7 Responses

  1. Excellent advice. However, from someone who is in “analysis paralysis”, the difficulty is the bills have to be paid. So, I have to find a “what I want to do” that will continue to pay those bills. Not as easy as “just do it”……

  2. I have been reading up on photographers lives over the years and you are so right. The good ones don’t depend on their equipment. They depend on their eyes and good hard work being out there and understanding the subject. That is what gave me the courage to keep taking pictures and even post some on my site!

  3. You hit the nail on the head. I think the second mantra should be Just Keep At It 🙂 I’ve known many people who fully immerse themselves in Just Do It-Ness but never seem to keep at it over the long haul. When I was 15 I dropped out of school, and in an attempt to rescue me my mom bought me a cheap radio shack computer. I started programming as a hobby and it pretty quickly evolved into small contract gigs. Yes the equipment was sub-par but you compensate in a situation like that in a trade if you have a natural talent for it. As the years passed by I leveraged myself into ever more capable tools of the trade. Now that 15 year old urban trailer trash high school dropout is 32 year old internet development entrepreneur who owns a 40 acre equestrian estate.

    Life is too short. If you’re unhappy doing what you’re doing but can’t switch because you have bills that need to be paid, then you’re just a cog in someone else’s machine. Downsize, get over the hurt of losing some material things, and get working on your dream job. Later when you’re upsized with a career that is emotionally rewarding it will be all the sweeter for your sacrifices.

    Sean

  4. The “we” in the previous post refers to my wife and myself. Guess I need more coffee before I try to “go public”.

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