I was once told that true creatives are always learning something new. Last night, I met a man who is a photographer, and even though it isn't his primary line of work or source of income, he told me that he is frequently learning new things about it - and about life - through books, podcasts, and blogs.
We've built a society for ourselves that keeps us in a state of stagnancy... in this state, we can be told anything, sold anything, and given exactly the opposite of what we actually want, while thinking we're getting exactly what we need. We're trying to eradicate adversity from our life story, but unfortunately, that is the very thing that makes us grow.
After going through my first heartbreak and experiencing the pain and discomfort that came along with it, I tried to convince myself that it was unnecessary for anyone to have to go through something like that in order to grow... despite the fact that the most significant stretch of incredibly fast and impactful interpersonal growth seems to occur for most young people around the time of the first break up.
The way I see it, there's a balance in the world. Without darkness, we would never know the light. Without decay, we would never know growth. We are knowledgable in adversity, but we don't even recognize it and in our own lives, and how it could impact us on a great and beautiful scale to propel us forward.
So I tried harder and harder to become this ever-happy, always-beaming ball of sunshine. During this time, I had a sociology professor assess my day-to-day interactions to determine his take on my persona. The result was what he described as "manufactured happiness." It's stuck with me, only because I know that during that time in my life I was in one of the darkest places I had been. I tried, just like society does so well, to hide the pain and put on a smile, because that's what we're constructed around.
We want comfort, but we're never happy with the things we have.
We want health, but the pharmaceuticals make us feel better.
We want life, but we want to sit on the couch and drain the rods and cones from our eyeballs in front of a television set.
We've become too comfortable, and therefore, adversity - and the seed of growth that comes with it - are a dynamic duo that many of us never meet.
So how do we change the story for ourselves and those around us?
I think it's two things: emotional awareness + emotional control. EQ, or your emotional quotient, is EVERYTHING. And in my opinion, IQ means very, very little. One of the best things I've learned in my life is emotional intelligence. Not necessarily control, but the ability to understand my emotional state, assess it and the meaning behind it if there is one, and take actionable steps to use the emotion that I feel in a positive way.
emotional awareness + emotional control.
A few years ago, I had all of my camera gear, computer, hard drives, and client work stolen from the trunk of a car in San Fransisco. When it happened, something washed over me - in a good way. An emotion I hadn't yet experienced. I thought about what was occurring, and recognized that there would be a way out of it. I could either choose to rage quit, break down and resign as an artist, or I could use the adversity presented to me to change the story and inspire others and start something bigger than myself.
So I sat on my train ride home with nothing but a journal and a pen, and I made something called Concept Collaboration - a way for photographers to have access to gear, models, props, and community, even if they had nothing or if they couldn't afford certain things. It was born out of the desire to help people who, like me, in that moment, had nothing, but still wanted to create. We ended up running it for almost the entire year, and took it up and down the U.S., through the U.K. and even went to a couple places in Europe. It helped people. I still see beautiful friendships from that event being lived out, and it's now two years since that event occurred.
All because I recognized that there was the opportunity for something good, even among all the bad. I think it's just something my generation has lost and that our society has tried to erase. BAD THINGS CAN ACTUALLY BE REALLY GOOD. That is, if you're willing to let them be. There is a way to grow through every situation of life, and it all comes down to emotional awareness and emotional control.
With emotional awareness, you recognize and are aware of your emotional state at any given time. This means that you take time to learn your emotional patterns, responses, and inner feelings in any given situation. You know how you will respond to certain things. My wife, Kiara, has one of the most incredible senses of emotional awareness, and I'm stunned by it in the best way whenever I meet it. To know your emotional response cycle is to know yourself.
If emotions are the motivators of souls, then emotions, and the control of them, have the ability to help us grow through life towards a beautiful, incredible place. When you know your emotional response system and how you react in a variety of situations, you can use that knowledge to help you control your emotions in real-time and see through them to the possible seed of opportunity in each. By controlling your emotions, adversity can be turned around and looked at as the opportunity to change the world around you for the better.
I'm on a mission to show that the light will always pierce through the darkness.