When Catastrophe Hits You

Sometimes we just have to take the bad with the good. The reality is that nothing is so bad that it can’t be good for something. If we can only wrap our heads around and see the misfortune—whatever it might be—in the right perspective.

I know, it’s easy to get discouraged when bad things happen to us. Right in the middle of it all, it’s hard to encourage positive thoughts. But however hard it is, if we can slowly drag ourselves out of the miserable feeling, we stand to win more than we might have lost.

I am in such a place right now. The last couple of weeks have been hard. My work has been slowing down more than I like to admit. The reality is, I have hardly gotten any new assignments over last the fortnight or so. What more is, I believe I won’t get more work for the rest of December.

Of course, it has to do with the industry I am working in. As you probably know, the media businesses have been struggling for years already. The disruption of the digital era has come down hard on the media, as it has for instance on the music industry as well as other branches. For most media companies it’s been hard to make a profit these days and keep a sustainable business, and for one who delivers to those businesses, of course I would have to expect to get hurt, too.

So far, I have managed fairly well, though. Yes, it’s been harder to get assignment at times, but I have just pushed harder, and gotten what I needed to survive. Now in the end of November, it seems to have come to a standstill, though.

I don’t expect it to stay like this forever. As a matter of fact, I believe I will be in full business come January as all the companies I am working for will start on a new budget year. However, the present standstill has gotten me thinking. I need to diversify and I need to find more legs to stand on. What happens now have giving me an opportunity to reflect on my own situation.

It’s by far a new thought for me. For years, I have been thinking about other areas I can expand into. The problem is finding time to develop new business areas, when you are so busy with the work you already have. I have—slowly and discontinuously—done various attempts but nothing that is ready to take over the loss of business during this time of standstill.

But alas. Suddenly I do have time. Moreover, that’s what I am going to do the rest of this month. Start working on my new ideas and develop those business areas. My hope is I will get far enough to be able to put them into action already in the beginning of next year. It was about time I got going. I knew I was playing with fire when I year after year postponed getting into new areas. Time to expand and find myself again. I hope…

I will end with a quote by Becca Fitzpatrick, an American author, best known for having written the New York Times bestseller, Hush, Hush: «Sometimes bad things have to happen before good things can.».

Facts about the photo: The photo was taken with a Canon Eos 5D with a 24-104 mm lens and the zoom set at 105 mm. Shutter speed: 1/30 of a second. Aperture: f/4.0. The photo was processed in Lightroom and Photoshop.


130 thoughts on “When Catastrophe Hits You

  1. Thank you for your honesty. Too often, I think everyone just puts out the image they fantasize themselves to be, and I don’t think a false image teaches anyone anything. Our struggles are part of showing the path. The photo speaks to me because I’ve been going through my own version of this. Here’s to hoping better days are ahead for both of us!

  2. Great post and very brave of you to write it Otto – echoing what Linda said this digital life can indeed be full of our best face so well done in going against that and putting your real self out there. Believe me we’ve all been in the same position! Best wishes with your business, I’m sure you will be absolutely fine. In the meantime enjoy these quieter days – and don’t be too hard on yourself!

  3. This is so true, and I think it’s especially true for people who run their own businesses. There are ebbs and flows in my business, too, and I’m learning to make sure I do something to attract new business every day, while taking care of what I have on my plate already. And then using those slower periods to develop skills or get organized. It can be a complicated dance! I’m sure you will come out better than ever!

  4. As the saying goes, “every cloud has a silver lining” – you just have to look for it. Yes, the media has been hit hard, and many photographers are losing their jobs and businesses. But you seem to have a knack of “thinking outside the box”, so I suspect that you will manage to do that now.

    Good Luck!

  5. Otto, you are brilliantly gifted and highly motivated, you will come out on the other side of this slump in short order.

  6. Hello, Otto. I know too well that feeling of ‘career retreat’. I’ve just been exploring the Sedona technique as a means of releasing any obstacles conscious and subconscious to my own future progress. It is very simple. But deep too. So just in case it might help as you formulate fresh creative strategies, here’s a link: http://www.sedona.com/How-It-Works.asp

  7. You have such a good attitude, and that should get you through the worst of times. Yes, use this time to grow. I love the quote at the end of your post. We have to clear the decks so as to make room for the new things waiting for us.

  8. People like to quote that old saying, “when one door closes, another opens”…but I recently came across a clever postscript to the saying: “it’s the dark hallways that scare us”. So, light up the hallway and find the door at the other end!

  9. I understand your predicament, Otto, and I’m sorry to hear it has happened to you. Whatever ideas you may have I hope will enable you to get back onto your feet. Persistence and determination is the winning formula. You have that. 👌🎈✨

  10. I’m glad that you view this period as an opportunity. I hope that in six months you will understand that sometimes standing still and ruminating brings such glorious possibilities–possibilities that move you forward. Your positive attitude will be quite helpful.

  11. What a beautiful heartfelt post. I always remind myself that life is a journey of ups and downs. Sometimes when the going gets tough it is hard to motivate yourself. But I just push myself to do it and write out goal lists that I cross off. I even try to do the things I like least first. I also count my blessing and am grateful for all the wonderful things I have. You have a tremendous amount of talent and I’m certain you will find some new exciting opportunities that perhaps you never imagined trying. 😊

      1. That is what I do. Sometimes I get really stuck in a rut and don’t want to do anything! But then I make my list and it feels amazing to cross off each goal. 🙂 keep up the amazing work of inspiring us all with your wonderful photography!

  12. Another option, perhaps, is to accept that December will always be a slow month within your current business platform – and, accepting that, set aside income each of the 11 other months to float you through December. If that’s possible, it would give you one month each year to rest, relax and be creative while free from obligations and deadlines. It might be a year-end gift to yourself that brings growth in your skill that ultimately leads to a healthier income platform. Just a thought…

    1. Of course you are right and I have done so, more or less, that is. But I still have a structural challenge to face, and that’s the fact that I am in a business that don’t seem to be sustainable in the long run. Thank your for poignant thought, Mary.

  13. Otto, we create from our thoughts, love what you do and others will feel it too!
    Work comes from our feeling, not our doing 😉 do less feel more.
    There’s plenty of opportunity for you, focus on the good stuff.

  14. One can procrastinate and fiddle around with new ideas for just so long and all they really need is to take just one step in the right direction and the path becomes clear.

    But those new ideas need to be sustainable.

    I guess the important thing is not to start too many projects and then languish in a heap when the new budgetary year begins and you suddenly get a heap of new assignments from tried and tested sources that provide a regular income. On the other hand if those regular sources don’t have the funding, there needs to be a Plan B (or even Plan C and Plan D).

    One of my favourite quotes is ‘Man cannot discover new oceans unless he has the courage to lose sight of the shore’

  15. You have inspired and informed us via a natural teaching ability that few equal. You have shared writings by other photographers/artists and nudged us to those books. You have an abundance of amazing material via this blog—- and have already done the hard part (writing) to compile in book form….. now just organize the best of the best!

    there is another equally-interesting book angle, and that’s sharing your journalism/work stories…

    december is going to be great for incubation, and you’re going to look back and see it was exactly what you needed…. hang in there! 2017 is not far away!

  16. Otto, I do totally feel with you, as I am experiencing the same situation right now. Yet I try to take it lightly, as I am working on new projects as well, having more time on my hand. Just looking forward to a new year with new perspectives and hopes for fresh inspirations in our work and the world as well.

      1. Hi Otto, I cant’ find your comment about the wedding anymore, you had send me yesterday, so I’m responding here. Photographing a wedding is a great honor to me, sharing that most important moment in a couple’s life. Actually I’ll be heading out to Germany in week, for another wedding in my family, a winter wedding on december 31st. Wish you good luck and a great new year in creativity and inspiration.

  17. You have received so much good feedback on your heartfelt post, that there is not much to add. I just want to say that I have finally learned to trust that everything happens for a reason, although it is often not immediately clear to us. Just keep an open mind and relax in the knowledge that you will see where to go from here. Hugs and best wishes.

  18. good luck otto.. i’m sure so many doors will open up next year.. now that you have more time, i do hope you’ll also find time to relax, recharge and enjoy the view (with your camera of course).. it’s december and the month of merrymaking and gift giving.. i wish you well 🙂

  19. Otto, what an opportunity to gather your thoughts and play with new ideas. Not only will this help you to develop new ventures, but you will go back to your assignments with renewed enthusiasm and vigour. Stay strong.

  20. I’m sorry to hear of your present difficulties Otto. I’m sure you will use this slack time as an opportunity to seriously shape and develop a productive response. You are a creative man; ideas are not the problem. Structuring to provide a productive outcome is more difficult. The next few weeks will be an important phase in your life, not a disaster. Good wishes!

  21. Thank you Otto for your openness. Most of us with a few years on us shared this experience at some time in our life. When I think of your beautiful photojournalism, I looked on Amazon to see if you’ve published a collection. I learn so much when I visit your blog, it seems like the perfect marriage for a book aimed at learners like myself.

  22. I have learnt more from you about the concept of cultivating the Art of Seeing, and Creativity in general, than from any other source, Otto. You have a talent for writing about this – I think a book that brings together your thinking would sell well. Worth a thought?

  23. Such is the life of an entrepreneur. Years ago, I watched my poor self-employed husband go through these horrendous swings of feast/famine. When business was rocking, there was no time to think ahead, to stratagize, to market the business. Then once the projects were out the door and there was time…it loomed. First there was the exhaustion and the need to clean house, do the paperwork, check the numbers. But with those tasks out of the way, where were the phone calls? With nothing coming in, depression lurks, ready to cut the legs out from under and artist. I would tell him, “Don’t sweat it. This is when you need to refine your marketing tools.” But those are empty words. It is really difficult to find the right balance, the right energy, and the right karma to explore new avenues. I wish you luck and firmly believe that just as you begin retooling, you’ll find yourself swamped once again. So it goes.

    1. You are very well describing how it is. There is indeed a swing between feast and famine when you are self-employed. Still, I wouldn’t want it in any other way. Not even now when I face the famine. Hopefully I will get around and start floating again. Thank for the kind words, Linda.

  24. Ja du Otto, livet är hårt ibland, eller nästan alltid kanske man kan säga? Visst känner man för att dra något över huvudet ibland…och bara försvinna, vänta ut tiden och vändningen på någon undangömd och isolerad plats. Att vara beroende av andra, att vara kreatör och bildförmedlare är väl bland det hårdaste och svåraste man kan syssla med när det är down…och det roligaste, mest underbara när vindarna blåser i rätt riktning?
    Att vindarna vänder, det vet vi, eller hur…frågan är bara när och om vi orkar härda ut tills dess? Jag är helt övertygad om att du orkar och jag hoppas och önskar att det vänder snarast möjligt. Du har drivet och förmågan…du kommer alltid att klara dig!!
    Känner så väl igen mig när jag läser dina ord…jag har för första gången i mitt liv “gått in i väggen”…flytt och allt annat därtill har satt sina tydliga spår i min kreativa förmåga…orkar ingenting.
    Tog en liten snabbis till GC för att “vila”…men jag blir bara ännu mer nervös av att “vila”…så det blev och blir utforskning av ön i stället:) Långt från pooler och charter…en fantastiskt vacker ö, en överraskning och livsandarna börjar faktiskt återvända så smått.
    På väg till “ditt Cuba”…men problem med att boka hotell?…problem som vi snart löser:)
    Än en gång Otto…du orkar, du överlever och du blir ännu starkare!
    Världen behöver dig!

    1. Livet går så visst opp og ned. Eller som du sier, vindene vender. Men som du også sier, det å kunne få love til å leve av sin kreativitet er fantastisk – når det lykkes i hvert fall. Men så noen ganger løper en på en vegg. Da gjelder det selvsagt bare om ikke å gi opp. Takk for oppmuntrende og fantastiske ord, Gertie. Og så må du ha en flott tur til Cuba (og jeg regner med at du/dere har funnet tak over hodet).

  25. I was just about to say what Jeremy (above) has articulated so well. In addition, I’ve found that it’s the need to shake up one’s practice that results in ultimate satisfaction. Painful, but worthwhile. But you already knew that:)

  26. Given tne nature of my work, I’ve experienced some of the same slack times. Occasionally, the weather puts a crimp in things. I always joke that when the rain flows, the cash doesn’t — but it’s no joke, and it can be a real problem. Beyond that, there are times when I’ve lost customers. If three or four people sell boats at the same time, those jobs have to be replaced, and it isn’t always easy.
    Finding people who want varnish work done on a boat may be akin to finding someone who wants a professional photographer rather than a computer-based graphic artist.

    Suggestions based on your creativity and skills, like writing a book, are fine, but when cash flow’s the issue, creativity doesn’t always do the trick. I’m sure you must know of Chase Jarvis. He’s not only a crack photographer, he’s one of the best, reality-based entrepreneurial minds I know. His blog is a must-read for me: it’s bracing, and purely positive. He clearly understands the challenges every artist faces, and he just as clearly believes that problems have solutions. If nothing else, he might provide a breath of fresh air for you.

    1. The way you describe your own reality is pretty much how it is for me—and I would believe for any self-employed person. I did not know about Chase Jarvis so thank you for the tip and the link.

  27. There’s not much I can say that others haven’t already expressed here. I just want to add my encouragement to their voices, and my hope that the new avenues you are exploring prove fruitful. And, while I know it won’t solve the immediate problem, the idea of your publishing a book came to my mind also. You have much wisdom and experience to share, and it would be wonderful to have it gathered into a volume. I would buy that book!

  28. I was listening to a song entitled “Sleepsong” as I began reading your post. Somehow the words of the song fit so perfectly together with your blog post. Perhaps you know the song. If not, I hope you will look for it and listen. It is by Secret Garden. All the best to you, blogger friend.

  29. You are wise to make your preparations for your next adventure before you actually need it. I wish I had had some warning to prepare. When they started slashing the media budgets it seemed that myself and several of my TV colleagues where just cut off at the legs. Unfortunately, we were just the first wave of lay offs. It carried on and continues to carry on in TV, Newspapers, Magazines, etc. It has changed the way the world receives its news and the quality of information they are getting. We are not a better people for it.

    1. No doubt the “brave new world” has disrupted the media business. The big question is of course how they can survive and still be an important pillar of democracy. The more the media become entertainment the more they lose the role of being gatekeepers of democracy. The media have suffered severely, as has those who work in the media business.

  30. I really do hope this down time will pass soon. I also hope you find your alternative to expand your business. I believe these days the business world of any forms seem to change so quickly. It is hard to grasp what would be next and how much the new things impact the current things. Very best wishes.

  31. So many platitudes I could use here, but you have heard or thought of them all, I’m sure. Just a sure as I am you will prevail and that purpose (perhaps) that has eluded you until now will surface. It is impossible for me to digest or imagine someone of your talent and insight will not be given a gift soon. I wish you well and look forward to your next conquest.

  32. This is brilliant! I’m very impressed with your posts: they are thoughtful, skilled and demonstrate both foresight and reflection well. You now have an avid follower. Michael ☺

  33. Hut ab!! I take my hat off to you, Otto. Your words go right to the heart and your approach is most commendable. I see you as an author of a bestselling book. Not on photography but on an image of life itself, reaching a big audience.I suppose you’ll have to wait until the end of January to discuss it with a publisher …;-)
    All the very best!

  34. I really liked your post on challenging yourself I too am having a rough time of things lately. Thank you for liking my post-maybe we can keep in touch.

    As it turned out I found out yesterday that I am going to be able to stay in my apt. I went thru 2 weeks of agonizing about not having a place to live. I find I am still stressed out from the whole affair.

    Your post inspired me and I feel more positive.

    Thank you for your kind thoughts.


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