Why I had to cancel speaking at WPPI 2016, and the reason I don’t feel bad about it
You love photography, and you have many reasons for becoming a photographer. But why did you become an entrepreneur?
I'll bet you didn't become an entrepreneur so you could spend more time behind your computer than you do your camera. I'll bet you didn't become an entrepreneur because you wanted to feel like a slave to your business. I'll bet you didn't become an entrepreneur because you wanted to have no work-life balance.
A photographer friend of mine once joked that he “left his 9-5 for a 9-9”.
I left my 9-5 for a 9-9
Maybe you can relate. Maybe you, too, work way more than you expected. Maybe you don't have the balance you once thought you could achieve. Maybe you're overworked, overwhelmed and stressed out.
I wrote the Redefine Busy series to help you with this.
I wrote it to help you gain control of your life and take ownership of the way you spend your time. I wrote it to help you get more done in less time. I wrote it to help you find balance and spend more time doing the things you love to do, with the people you want to spend time with.
I wrote it for you, but I also wrote it for me. In fact, I started it for me. I'll tell you more about that shortly.
The lie of busy
My research into our relationship with time and the way we equate success with being busy started in 2009 when Sprout co-content creator Robert Nowell and I gave a presentation called the Lie of Busy. In researching for the presentation, we interviewed a group of individuals we deemed to be the “experts” in life about their perspective on our busy culture.
Here is that video:
Since 2009, the problem with “busy” in our society has only gotten worse. My Redefine Busy series was perfectly timed to help thousands of photographers who are not able to gain control and balance in their life.
What does “redefining busy” look like?
For me, personally, the idea of redefining busy means achieving a healthy, sustainable balance between work-life and home-life.
My wife and I met at a very young age. We were high school sweethearts, and in fact, we just celebrated 12 years together. This photo below is one of the first photos we have together. Embarrassing, I know. Gosh, look at that hair! And let's not talk about the shirt.
We married in July of 2010, and in March of 2013, we were blessed with our daughter Ava. These girls mean everything to me; they're the reason why I do what I do. This is a photo of Ava from back around Christmas time:
In late 2013, on top of running my full-time photography business, I founded Sprout Studio and SproutingPhotographer.com with ambitions to inspire change in our industry. At the time I had no idea what I was about to get in to.
Since then, we have reached over 150,000 photographers with our education. We've been named “Best of iTunes” by Apple, were featured in Inc Magazine as well as almost every other mainstream photography industry blog and magazine. I've also had the pleasure of speaking across North America at conferences and conventions like WPPI, Shutterfest and Canada Photo Convention all about the business of being creative.
Sprout Studio – our flagship product – has taken me on a journey unto itself. It's been equally rewarding and challenging.
Initially, there was the challenge of inventing and conceptualizing a software that was a complete innovation in our industry. Sprout Studio really is an innovation in every sense, and it required thinking about things in a completely new way.
After the “idea” stage, there were the stresses of partnerships (and the legal battles that come with it), managing contractors (the developers who were building the software) and pitching investors (how we were going to pay for things). This is all what happened behind-the-scenes before anyone in the industry even knew we were building Sprout Studio.
I feel like the last 2 and a half years looks like something like a combination of an episode of Suits and a pitch from Dragon's Den. Multiplied by 100. I could write a book about the journey.
The saying “nothing in life comes easy” is ever prevalent in our story here.
The one thing required for success that hurts the most
It's been struggle after struggle for the past 2 and a half years and I have often said “most people would give up right about now”. But not me. I kept pushing through, because to me, success requires hard work, determination and perseverance.
But, do you know what else is required for success? Sacrifice.
Achieving the successes I mentioned earlier and in launching Sprout Studio, I have sacrificed a lot. One of the sacrifices that has hurt the most is time with my family; the people who mean the most to me in this entire world and the people for whom I do this all for.
For a while, the 80-hour workweeks seemed to never end, and the stresses of dealing with partnerships, programmers, contractors, investors and users weighed on me heavily. At times, I felt as though I was carrying the weight of the whole world on my shoulders, and that I was walking the path alone. After all, I'm the CEO and the Founder. No one cares about this like I do. No ones wants this as much as I do.
The best time, then the worst time
In September of 2014, my wife and I found out that we were expecting our 2nd child. We were ecstatic. We had been trying for a few months, and were excited to grow our family and give Ava a sibling. A short while later, however, we found out that we had lost our baby. My wife had miscarried.
I remember that very moment like it was yesterday. Time stood still. What seemed like one of the most exciting moments of our lives had suddenly come crashing down right at our feet. My wife had to go through surgery because of it all, so in addition to the emotional defeat and devastation, there was also a very difficult physical recovery.
Through all this personal devastation, I was trying to stay strong for Sprout. I kept working hard, pushed the emotions and feelings aside, and did what I do best – hustle. Sprout kept going and we kept growing.
During this, I flew down in New York for PhotoPlusExpo where we spent the entire week networking, brainstorming and building great relationships with some of the industry's top leaders. We were staying at the Hyatt Grand Central with our good friend Skip Cohen, and I remember a phone call one night from Al, who was back home. She was in tears, telling me how difficult it was for her to recover (emotionally and physically) while she was home by herself as the sole caregiver to Ava while I was away.
It killed me.
A few months went by, and we slowly recovered. But it wasn't without any scars.
Let's try again …
In early 2015, we found out we were pregnant again. It was bitter-sweet and marked the closing of a very difficult chapter in our lives. For the first ultrasound, we were brought back to the same room where we had received the bad news the first time.
We both had a knot in our stomach.
I had to sit in the waiting room for what seemed like hours while they took the initial measurements of my wife for the ultrasound. When they finally called me, I raced in, and was relieved to hear a little beating heart coming out of the machine. I also got to see the fuzzy black-and-white image of our baby on the screen.
We spent the next few weeks on pins and needles, knowing that we still weren't out of the clear, but hopeful that everything would continue in the right direction. At the next ultrasound – the 12-week one – we held hands in the waiting room as we impatiently listened for them to call our name. Our palms were sweaty and our hearts were racing.
We went in, and the the lady performing the ultrasound told us that the “doctor will have to give us the results”, but we knew what that meant. When baby is healthy, they flip around the screen and show you. When things are not good, the doctor has to be the one to break the news. We had been through this before.
The news of our 2nd miscarriage was like salt on the wound.
Along with the compounded devastation, it made us question all kinds of things, asking ourselves “is there something wrong with us?” or “why did this happen to us?”.
Depression is not something I have struggled with, but the darkness that overcame us at that time in our lives was overwhelming.
Through all this, I kept a face on for Sprout. I didn't even really take any time off. Quite the opposite, in fact. I coped with it all by keeping myself buried in work. At the office, to our investors, to the partners, to our employees, and to our users, everything was status-quo.
You may have heard or seen me use the duck swimming on the water analogy, but perhaps you weren't aware (until now) that I have been that duck – seemingly gliding along, all the while furiously kicking beneath the surface.
The tipping point
Sprout kept moving, and I kept hustling. In November of 2015, after months and months of delays, we launched Sprout Studio. It was incredibly rewarding. After all we'd been through, and the struggles I'd fought, we were finally moving in the right direction.
Shortly thereafter, we went through some rough waters with our partners and investors. I reminded myself, again, that success doesn't come easily. I kept hustling. After a few incredibly stressful weeks, things settled but I had hit a tipping point.
I felt as though I was a shell of the person I once was not that long ago. I had gained 60 pounds, I was unhealthy, felt aches and pains constantly, I wasn't sleeping and was stressed to the max.
I said to myself that 2015 was the most difficult year of my life in every way possible, and that 2016 would be different. This would be my year. This would be our year. This would be the year that things turned around. This would be the year I re-gained control, took ownership of my life and found balance.
I started the Redefine Busy series as a means of self-medication. I went back to the Lie of Busy. As I rediscovered a passion for topics such as mindset, awareness, habits, balance and time, I was inspired to help other photographers find their path, too.
Through the process of writing the Redefine Busy series and helping other photographers, I helped myself. I started to re-gain control and take ownership. I was the teacher and the student.
I needed to become the Bryan I once was. After all, the people I was doing this all for – my family – needed me. They needed me more than ever before. Because in March, my wife will give birth to our 2nd child. Our rainbow baby (x2).
After the 2 miscarriages, we were understandably incredibly nervous, but this pregnancy has gone off without a hitch. Our baby is healthy, and we have come to peace with what has happened. This is the baby we were meant to have.
My Master Class at WPPI 2016 is titled “Stop Being So Busy — Take Back Your Time!”, and I had chosen the topic and title early on in 2015, not knowing how close I would be to all this. I didn't know how personal this would become. What I also didn't expect though, was that my wife would end up getting scheduled for a c-section on March 7th.
You see, it all comes around full-circle.
Why did I become an entrepreneur? To support my family. To do something I love. To make a difference. To enjoy a home-life that is balanced with my work-life. But throughout these past couple of years, it seems as though my work-life has always taken priority, even through some of the most difficult times of my home-life.
I'm still working hard. I'm still hustling. I'm more passionate than ever about what we're doing with Sprout. None of that has changed.
Do you know what has changed, though? Now, I'm doing it with intent. I'm doing it smarter. And I'm doing it while I'm in control.
On March 7th, I could be in the operating room with my wife, delivering the baby that we have been waiting over 2 years for, after what has been the most difficult journey of our 12 years together. Or I could be on stage at WPPI speaking about the importance of work-life balance and teaching you how to gain control of your life.
Do you see the irony?
All this being said, I will not be at WPPI this year. I am taking my own advice. Family first. I'd be teaching you at WPPI to find balance in your life, it's only right that I do the same.
Spreading the message
Now … this isn't to say that the message won't be spread. Quite the opposite, actually.
First, I am hoping that you would share this article. I'm hoping that together we can inspire photographers to take a real hard look at their lives and finally take ownership and gain control. Perhaps you'd be inclined to share our Redefine Busy series, where I teach photographers how to do just that.
Second, I spoke earlier about the fact that when I first started researching the topic of “busy”, that it was with Sprout co-content creator Robert Nowell. Well, it just so happens that Rob is an excellent teacher, too. In fact, he's a professor of photography at Mohawk College, and has been a constant source of inspiration and education to me personally for almost 10 years now.
Rob will be taking my place in speaking about the Lie of Busy at WPPI this year, and I am so excited for him. I'm equally excited that you'll have the opportunity to learn from him (and our research) about how to gain control of your life and take ownership of your time.
In addition to him speaking in my place at WPPI this year, he'll also be there representing Sprout Studio. Along with Justin (one of our support reps) and Sandra (our CFO and office manager), they will be manning our WPPI booth.
That's right, Sprout Studio is exhibiting at WPPI, and we couldn't be more excited! Come see them in the Marquee Ballroom at booth 1129.
All the while, I'll be at home, snuggling with our new baby. And while I will wish I was down in Vegas with you at WPPI, I know that I'll be in the place I need to be with the people I need to be with. Because ultimately, I believe that if we don't have the freedom and flexibility in our lives to focus on the things that matter most, why did we become entrepreneurs in the first place?