Jump In and Enjoy

Are you successful as a photographer—or in any other creative arts? Wait a minute, you may say; before you can answer the question, I will have to define what I mean by success. And why is success even important?

Of course, you are right. Success in a traditional sense isn’t important at all for our creativity and shouldn’t be for ourselves either. The problem is that we almost always use some kind of yardstick to measure what is good or bad in life, included our creative endeavours. In many ways, the business world has defined and hijacked the term success—and it bothers me. Success isn’t just power and wealth. Success isn’t just something you can measure, particularly when we look at our creative undertakings.

Do you remember the post The Joy of Water, which I wrote about a month ago? In the post, I compared the creative life with the playfulness we all enjoyed in and with water when we were kids. For some this joy continues into adult life—just as creativity does for many others. When we were kids, we never asked if we had success with our encounter with water. It wasn’t about swimming as far as possible or as fast as possible, like traditional measures of success will have it to be. So why do we start doing so when we get older? Our joy cannot be measure in seconds or meters or how much. Neither can the real value of creative endeavours.

To use the water analogue for creativity: success isn’t reaching as many beaches as possible, or to brag about all the islands we have been able to swim to. Success is embracing the challenge and enjoying the interaction with water. Success isn’t only external results but more importantly an internal reward.

The way the world defines success doesn’t work for our creative life. It’s time we who live a creative life take this term back. Success is more than a list of accomplishments. Success is leading a fulfilling life—swim in the ocean and enjoy the moment, or do the same when you photograph. It’s spending time with family and connecting with friends. To be successful we have to fight, but we have to fight the right way. Success isn’t just calling attention to yourself. Jump in the water and swim, so you can discover the world, not so the world can discover you.

The biggest success isn’t about you, but about accomplishing dreams and inspiring others to do the same. True success is a reciprocal force. Use it. Jump in water and enjoy. Forget everything else.

Facts about the photo: The photo was taken with a Panasonic Lumix LX7 with the zoom set 4.7 mm, equally to 24 mm for a full frame camera. Shutter speed: 1/1600 of a second. Aperture: f/3.2. The photo was processed in Lightroom and Photoshop.

72 thoughts on “Jump In and Enjoy

  1. Wise words to remember. We get so caught up in being successful, which by many definitions is monetary, that we need to just embrace the fun of it all. I have a blast with my photography. I really get in “The Zone” while out shooting. But at the same time, I need to make a living and sell a photo or two. I have noticed the more fun it is, the better my photos are, so that hopefully leads full circle.

    1. It’s a fine balance when you need to make money of your creative work. But it’s like you say, the more true to yourself you are able to be, the better the work will be and hopefully then also the monetary outcome.

  2. Success is leading a fulfilling life, I couldn’t agree more, Otto! And we will all have our own definitions of fulfilling, as it apples to us….

  3. I agree, Otto. But I’m in the wonderfully unique position of not having to earn a living from my creativity. I think for those who must sustain themselves, success may be defined less altruistically. Photographic success for me comes in small increments: a new skill discovered, a new skill mastered, a new skill improved, and always the opening of my eyes to endless possibilities of wonder and beauty.

    1. In some ways it’s true that you may have to be less altruistic when you make a living of your creative work. But as I just wrote to Mary, your professional work will also stand out when you are able to be true to your heart. I think your definition of success is something that most creatives could adhere to.

  4. What a wise and insightful post, Otto. In a culture that values wealth and fame, it’s easy to forget that there are more simple and rewarding definitions of success. Thank you for reminding me to be true to MINE: To always keep learning, and to never lose my sense of wonder and curiosity.

  5. I so appreciate this post Otto! One of my favorite creative activities is taking photos of my dog at the park. These photos aren’t for public consumption – they are simply tools for me to revel in the moment: in my dog’s unfettered joy, in the texture of trees and rocks, in the patterns of sunlight. Taking photos helps me notice. Success in this endeavor is being present to the moment. Your analogy of playing in water made me think of this simple delight.

    1. Personally I think the simplest delights are the most profound. Like photographing your dog at the park. Since it’s “only” for you, there is no pressure or any need to perform. Thank you for sharing your way, Colleen.

  6. I have just finished reading “Die grosse Liebe” von Franz Josef Ortheil and towards the end of it two man meet and start talking about swimming. One said that he had only recently realized how tight the contact with the water was when simming or diving, so that it suppresses all the rest and after a while one just concentrates on this contact and the best possible adaptation to the element is looked for. The writer then writes that a swimmer is alone in the moment of practising this sport, which makes him feel alive and that people who can not be alone with themselves don’t like swimming but go for morning gym in a group. Frankly speaking, I felt inspired by this conversation! Thank you very much Otto, for having given me courage to fullfil my dreams.

    1. That is a great conversation you are quoting. I like the thought of being alone with the water element when submerging yourself into it. I guess I’ll have to read Die grosse Liebe—if I can find a translation of it. Thanks for sharing, Martina.

  7. I agree, Otto. This struck me: “Jump in the water and swim, so you can discover the world, not so the world can discover you.” Yesterday I happened across a comment I’d left on a friend’s blog a couple of years ago, in which I had said that “discovery” was the purpose of my photography. That’s still true. I love your water/swimming analogy! When I think of the way my brother and I played in the lake for hours as kids, the comparison with enjoying creativity the same way really hits home.

  8. Success for me is one of two things: either the end result makes me really amazed and happy that I managed to accomplish it or, it makes somebody else really amazed and happy that I accomplished it for them. That’s about as basic and simple as I can state it.

  9. I liked the analogy between playing in the water and swimming … and the creative process… very accurate thoughts concerning what the creative process means and how we might feel a little bit restricted in terms of what “Success” entails nowadays— great post dear Otto. Happy week to you. Regards. Aquileana 🙂

  10. So very true.

    Success in life, to me is doing what I love and feel passionate about and finding joy in the moment. Success is being there and doing it (whatever it may be). Even starting something (and in you own mind failing), IS success, because at least you’ve been successful in actually doing it (whatever the result).

    Failure is not attempting (anything).

  11. Well said and this is an excellent message. You hit me on the “Success isn’t only external results but more importantly an internal reward.”. The internal one is what most skip and it should not mean the reward as the consequence of the external results.

  12. Thank you so much for sharing this thought provoking post, dear Otto 🙂

    The topic is all the more important for me, as I am pretty confused on this term ‘success’ in life…

    I left a very successful career in IT and returned to my native, and now in a community based tourism programme.

    My current work, gives me lot of satisfaction in what I does but I earn only a fraction of what I used to be, that creates some kind of stress for sure …

    But, as you mentioned about swimming, photography is something, which calms me down, soothes me and inspires me to appreciate the life and beauty around me…

    I am not, sure, whether I am successful in a conventional sense, but, I feel successful 🙂

    1. Then why care if it’s not success in a conventional sense? Only you know what is important for you. As for making less after having jump the IT-train, for me at least, it’s always been important to do whatever I want as long as I can survive. I have never searched for money and gold in itself. 🙂

  13. Agreed! I once confronted my father and asked him whether he felt my eldest brother and I had been ‘successful’ in his eyes – he confirmed what I knew- that we had not fulfilled our potential as had our other brother , who had reached a senior posititon at work, whereas we were more pedestrian. I corrected him, and explained our measures were alternative ones to his — we had both created families and had purposefully put our time and energy into that domestic endeavour, eschewing the trappings of climbing corporate ladders. As children of ambitious parents, we had felt a lack of parental warmth and engagement, and we chose a different path. Where we choose to put our energies becomes who we are. Sometimes forgotten.

    1. I think what you write is something many of us have experience. Ambitious parents only see the monetary or corporate success for the children, instead of letting them grow to whatever feels right for them. Thank you for sharing this touching experience.

  14. There’s something else. If we’re willing to jump in and enjoy, we may find that others will be willing to join us, or even to help us along the way. Here’s the bare bones of an experience from yesterday. I was trying to photograph distant bison, standing on the car frame with one foot and propping myself against the open door with the other. The next thing I knew, a fellow in a battered pickup had pulled up and was asking, “You want a closeup of those critters? C/mon. I’ll take you out to the pasture.”

    Well, you can only imagine the quality of photos I got, bumping along a rutted pasture lane at five miles at hour. Still, the experience was wonderful, the photos are good enough, and both the fellow and I had a great time. The best part? I’d already been to that particular pasture, and only on impulse had stopped again while on my way out of town. One last swim never hurts!

  15. What a wonderful post Otto and one I agree with wholeheartedly. Success is about effort and fulfilment and being true to ourselves in all we do. Love the analogy you used with the water.

  16. Hi Otto — I’ve missed your wonderful posts. This one rang so true, and I am so glad to be here to read it. You have such a unique way of looking at the world, and by your own definition, “The biggest success isn’t about you, but about accomplishing dreams and inspiring others to do the same,” you, my friend, are a success indeed.

  17. I also define my personal success by the measure to which I feel fulfilled. I think that’s one of the things that defines my interest in people. What is it that makes each person feel successful. Each needs to know it for themselves. Your photograph is inspiring, Otto. The colors are so pure and the action caught perfectly.

  18. That’s a really nice vision of life! And I completely agree with you, I believe the success to be an inner one. That’s pleasant to read thoughts like yours. You also have a great talent for photography. I thought you may like the blogger challenge 3Days, 3Quotes where you can share your inspirations. I nominated you today (https://whynothappyblog.wordpress.com/2016/10/29/3-days-3-quotes-challenge-day-3/) I hope you will find it interesting. Look forward to read your quotes

  19. I like the notion of needing to reclaim success….and of discovering your surroundings rather than wanting your surroundings to discover you. A good reminder, thanks for that!

  20. I agree that success is often (mostly?) measured against exterior criteria such as monetary worth or educational qualifications. But sometimes the concept of ‘achievement’ is more appropriate. Achievement is a personal assessment and identifies the extent to which the quality of ‘the work’ we have produced matches or surpasses our personal hopes and expectations

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