Ep. 18- How Do You Handle The Truth?

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Here is the transcript to Ep. 18- How Do You Handle The Truth?

I just want to start by thanking so many of you for the amount of reviews that have come in for the Total Life Freedom podcast. It’s really humbling. It shows the generosity of the character of those of you that are listening that to take the time and go do that and how much it helps support the show. So I just really appreciate that. And I got a review from a friend, whom I hadn’t spoken to in awhile and he had texted me and told me how much he’s enjoying the show. We texted back and forth and he wound up leaving a review on iTunes and I read it and I chuckled. His name is Dan Speicher and he’s a photographer here in Pittsburgh and I won’t leave the whole review, but a little part of it was this, and this is what the podcast is going to be about today. 

“One of our early conversations seven years ago was a gut punch portfolio review that was dead on accurate and helped me to really focus on what I was saying.” Now Dan’s a highly accomplished and successful photographer. But at that point he was really kind of starting out. He had been shooting for a while and he came to me for a review of his portfolio and I think he wanted something different than what I gave him. And I still remember that day. It was me, him and our friend David Burke, and we were at Panera Bread here in the South Hills of Pittsburgh. And I went through his portfolio and I, and I gave him a really harsh critique. And I don’t think I was mean, but I was tough and I truly believe I was being accurate. I was showing him things that I had learned through my career. 

You know, at that point I had been shooting for 15 years or more than that, and I was trying to bring to him what had been brought to me and what he didn’t need was another fluffy critique. It wasn’t another, you know, your mom patting you on the back saying, Oh, you’re great sweetie. This is just keep doing what you’re doing. I saw so many holes in what he was doing. I saw so many things with his vision and the way he was shooting that really could be improved upon and by them being improved upon his opportunities and his chances and his skills would increase. But a lot of times people don’t want to hear it. And I can tell that day that it really hit him hard. I can tell in his confidence, I can see it in his face, but I knew that if he took this to heart and he actually made the improvements that we’re talking about, he was going to come out stronger and healthier and better because of it. 

And that podcast review really encouraged me because it wasn’t about the review, it was about the fact that he listened to what I said. He was tough and he challenged himself and he got better. And you’ll be amazed by how many times that type of a critique, even though somebody asked for it, they don’t really want it. They really just want you to tell them what they want to hear. And when you give them what the truth is, they crumble. And Dan didn’t crumble. And the only reason why I was able to do that was because that had been done to me and not only done to me once, but more than once. And that’s what I want to talk about today. When I was a student at Ohio University and I was building my portfolio, I went to a photography conference with our classmates and all the big wigs of the industry, we’re going to be there. 

So I brought my portfolio and way back then in photography it was slides. So you literally had a plastic sheet of 20 slides and when you’re looking for a newspaper job or magazine job, those 20 slides had to be filled in with news, sports, portraits, features, and a picture story and that they would have to be filled into those 20 spots. So five pictures of picture story, you know, a couple of sports pictures, a couple of spot news, all the things that you’d see in the newspaper. So I had mine, I meticulously put this portfolio together for this conference. I mean literally getting the copy slides printed, having it all edited, having it ready. So when I presented that I was ready, this wasn’t a mishmash, throwing some pictures together. I had put a lot of time into this portfolio and there were a handful of photographers giving critiques, but there was only one that I really wanted. 

His name is Joe Elbert, and he was the director of photography at the Washington Post. At that point was the gold standard for photojournalism. It was the top place to go. This was probably around there in 1999 or 2000 and it was the place to be. All of the Pulitzer winners were there. Carol Guzy, all these people you go, you probably wouldn’t recognize their names, but they were household names in the journalism world and this was the guy that assigned them and edited their work, and he was about to look at my work. There was no holding back. It was ready to go. And I stood in line and I remember clearly the guy in front of me gave Joe Elbert his portfolio and Joe just tore him apart. It was all sports pictures shot with a long lens. 

He didn’t get close to his subjects. There was no intimacy, there was no heart in the photographs. It was all just somebody from afar shooting with no interaction and no emotion and he tore them apart to where the guy just, I remember him taking his portfolio head down. I don’t know whatever happened to that guy, but I wouldn’t be surprised if that was the last time he ever even opened up that portfolio or picked up a camera. And I was next. So now I get in the line and I’m like, I felt confident in my portfolio, but I felt a little bit less confident at there seeing that I knew I wasn’t going to get what he got because I knew the work that I put into it, but I still wasn’t sure. And he went through it and he took the loop and he looked at each slide meticulously, carefully. 

He went through it and I’m just like, my heart’s racing as he’s going through this. And then he takes my slide portfolio and he pulls out two slides and he puts them in a little two slide pile and then he pushed the slides over to me. I said, okay, good. 18 out of 20 pictures, two of them didn’t work. He pulled two pictures out of my portfolio that I need to replace. 18 of them are good enough. Instead of sliding the plastic slide with 18 pictures over to me, he slid the two pictures over to me and he just looked over at me and he said, that’s your portfolio right there. Those two pictures. And I remember my heart going up in my throat, just like a big lump in my throat, like oh my goodness, to get rid of the rest of the pictures and start over. 

And he could have shushed me away. But he said one more thing. He said, those two pictures have everything that a great photograph needs in it. You just need 18 more of those. And I was just crest fallen. I was like, oh my goodness. And I took it and I walked away and I remember I had a chance at that point to figure out what I was going to do and what I was going to think. Was I going to get mad at him? Was he, you know, was he a big jerk for doing that? Good. He crushed me. I remember going to sit on one of the chairs in the hotel away from everybody and I thought about it and instead of getting upset that he rejected the majority of my portfolio, the best photo editor in the country just confirmed that I made two pictures, two pictures that stood up to their standards. 

So it proved to me that I had what it takes to make it. I just didn’t make it enough. So I have that. So I went back to my hotel room. I pulled all those slides out of the portfolio and I put those other two back in there and I said to myself, now you need to do this type of work with the rest of the work that you do. In that portfolio review from Joe Elbert was one of the moments that jumped me up to a higher level. I didn’t get angry at him. I was actually really grateful to him for doing that because he could have said, yeah, everything’s great. Just like I would’ve done to Dan. Everything’s great. Just do what you’re doing. He set a higher standard for me and he eliminated all the hard work. All the hard work that I put into those 18 photographs all the nights, the weekends, the money that I’d spent, the time, all that stuff that I put into that, that emotionally I felt needed to be in the portfolio. 

He got past that emotionally and said, it’s not good enough. That’s not good enough. If you ever want to work somewhere like here is what he’s basically saying to me. But if you do follow your example, these two photographs use all the layers and the light and the emotion and the moments. Put that into your photographs for the other ones and you will have it. That alone helped me set a standard that I hadn’t set for myself, so that’s what I wanted to do for Dan. When we did our critique seven years ago, I wanted him to walk away from there and realize most of this stuff is not going to work if I ever want to get to where I want to get to, but these ones over here, these work and keep doing what you’re doing here to get there and to get that podcast review from Dan the see what he’s done with it and to see how he’s progressed just made me think. The toughest critiques when they come from the heart and they come from well-meaning, as difficult as they are or the most important ones that we’re ever going to get.

Ep. 17- Read Between The Lines

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Here is the transcript for Ep. 17- Read Between The Lines

If you haven’t been able to tell, I get a tremendous amount of inspiration from music, especially the lyrics of music. To me it’s not just a song, I am really listening to the lyrics. A lot of these musicians, they’ve put in a tremendous amount of thought and effort into the words that they use and there’s a lot of meaning to a lot of them. Some of them mean absolutely nothing, right, and they’ve said that, but some songs, I mean even if it just is not meant that way you can take it as something personal to you. I’m not sure if you’ve ever heard lyrics and you go, that really relates to me- and when I’m on road trips it gives me more information for content even for this podcast or for writing. When I wrote the book, or for future projects that I’m working on, I get a ton of inspiration and content from it. 

I know people tell me like, oh you go on an eight hour drive. That sounds so awful. Like when I went to Connecticut to speak to a group of photographers about business and, no you don’t get it. It is quiet time for me and I will just think and then I’ll voice record an idea that I have. And when I came back from Connecticut, I think I got 15 ideas for podcasts alone just in the drive back just because I was in the right mental space. And occasionally I’ll listen to certain things where I’ll have silence for a couple of hours and then I’ll put on the music. And a lot of times it comes from older songs I’ve listened to my whole life, but it has more meaning now than it ever did then. Because you’re a different person. And one of them I just heard on the way back for the last trip, I think it was Cleveland were coming back from and it was Foreigner and it was the song
“I Want To Know What Love Is”.

And I remember that song, you know, since I was a kid, I remember the video, I must’ve been 12 or 13 years old. That video came out and I heard the lyrics over and over and over again. But there’s a line in the song that when I heard it this time, I heard it completely different than I ever have before and I kind of get the same thing from reading a book. That’s why I read great books over and over again because I always pull out information that I didn’t pull out before because you’re in a different frame of mind or a different stage of life than you were when you read the first time. If you’re financially struggling, when you read a book about abundance, it’s really difficult. But if you get to a point of abundance then you get it and you can implement it. 

But I couldn’t do it when I was struggling and we’ve learned that in all different phases of our life. But this Foreigner song hit me and I just stared into the road for about two minutes after I heard it and like how have I never heard that before? And the line is very simple. It said, “I better read between the lines in case I need it when I’m older”. You know I must’ve heard that line a thousand times on the radio, on MTV, whatever, but this was the first time it really hit me as a warning as opposed to just a song. And this is something where I think as we grow as individuals, as business owners, as parents, reading between the lines is essential to success. Because I can tell you I have people in our lives or have been in our lives that don’t know how to read between the lines. 

They never see the nuances. It’s black and white. It’s right or wrong. It’s yes or no and there’s no gray and reading between the lines is the gray area. It is being able to read people. It’s being able to understand what people are thinking without them having to say it. For me it’s being able to be on a call and have 10 faces in front of me and know when somebody’s uncomfortable with something that that just happened without them saying it. Knowing that somebody excited to say something because I can see them leaning a certain way knowing that somebody wants to say something but they’re hesitant because their mouth kind of opens up a bit. They back up a little bit. That is reading between the lines and reading between the lines and everything you do. It really helps you when you’re older and that’s the whole line. 

I better read between the lines in case I need it when I’m older. That is life to me, like that line means so much in terms of growth, in terms of how you’re figuring things out. Because I can tell you, and you might have these people in your lives, your life, like I’m 47 I’ve got friends that I grew up with that are 47 and they’ve never been able to or tried or developed a skill to read between the lines and they still do the same things and expect the same results and don’t get those results. And they get angry. And it’s one thing to be angry about it when you’re 22, it’s a different thing to be angry about when you’re 47 because that turns into bitterness and that turns into regret. And that turns into, well, I’m never going to be there again. 

I see this a lot and I see it in conversations that I have with people that we used to be at school with. And I see the look, like we just met with a friend from college and she was talking about somebody that we had went to school with and kind of the head shake she gave like they never get it. This person’s never gotten it and that eventually those people will end up blaming society or their spouse or their parents or whatever. So it’s never them. They never read between the lines and develop the ability to read between the lines to be able to see the nuances, to be able to see what other people are thinking and doing and wondering and being curious about that and being sharp enough to look at the little nuances that go on are the people’s lives will be such a great advantage for you as you go forward in this. 

Reading between the lines has been something that has been, it has turned into an asset for me in a lot of ways now. In some ways I’m clueless. There’s no doubt about it. But in areas that we’ve developed and gotten better at reading between the lines in case I need it when I’m older. I think the only thing I would change differently in that is I better read between the lines because I’m going to need it when I’m older because we all do. We all need to be able to do that. So if there’s something there, I’m not sure if this resonates with you today that it resonates with me as I’m, as I’m saying this because I could see it more and more, but developing that ability to read between the lines, that’s going to be a giant asset for you for next year and going forward. Now some of you might have that song stuck in your head for the rest of the day. It’s a great song. If you don’t know it, go download it. You’ll find it on youtube. It’s called, “I Want To Know What Love Is” by Foreigner. Great Song, great band, and I will be back with you tomorrow.

Ep. 16- Fool Me Twice (The Goldust Sequel)

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Here is the transcript for Ep. 16- Fool Me Twice (The Goldust Sequel)

So if you read my book Freelance to Freedom, which if you haven’t, go to our website and get the audio version for free. I recorded it and made it free to anybody that wants it. So go to totallifefreedom.com/f2fbook. Just go to the website, top right hand corner, download it. You can get the book for free. I mean who doesn’t like free stuff, but you’ve got to listen to my voice for five hours. So that’s the downside of it. But in there, in the book, I told the story of Golddust, who’s a professional wrestler who when I worked for the World Wrestling Federation for a couple of years back in the, uh, late nineties, early two thousands who gave me a run for my money, scared the crap out of me for a couple of years. And that whole story is in there so you can listen to it in the audio book or buy the physical book if you wanted to. 

But the story was so much fun and so many people loved it so much that I decided to put that in the book. Thanks to my friend John Giamundo pushing me on it. Who is the WWE lead photographer. He’s been that way for 18 years now I think. And so he pushed me to, to put that in the book, which I did, which the response was great. So when the book was released last January, we went on what we called a “Thank You Tour” and I’ll do another podcast about this. But what we did was instead of doing a book tour, we as a family decided to do a three month road trip and go around the country. And essentially instead of doing book signings or book sellings, we went around and our goal was to give the book away to the people that helped us, the people that endorsed the book, the people that were either in the book, people that helped us, you know, get the word out of the book. 

So we just said, let’s do a Thank You Tour. And we wound up going to I think 23 different states. We were on the road for three months as a family, but one of the stops, we were in Oceanside, California for a month and the WWE was doing live shows in Anaheim. Whenever they’re in town where I am, whether they come to Pittsburgh or if I’m out in different city and they’re there, I’ll message John, I’ll say, hey, you want me to come by and hang out and they always have a backstage pass waiting for me and I’ll come around. I’ll hang out with everybody. And Rich Freeda and Craig and Heather and the whole crew. We get to tell stories for a couple hours. I feel bad for them because it might be the same stories over and over again that that we bring up. 

But this time I wanted to go and I wanted to actually give Golddust a signed copy of the book. His name is Dustin Runnels. He’s been around forever. He, uh, his dad was Dusty Rhodes became one of the most famous wrestlers of all time. And so Golddust, Dustin has been in the, been in the big show for a really long time. So I came by to give him a book. So I gave everybody in the photo crew copy of the book as well. And then John went to go get Dustin. So I’m sitting there and we’re just talking, you know, in this dimly lit area. They’ve got the studio set up right next to us- they set up a studio backstage to do the portraits of the different wrestlers, either for promotion or for magazines or for cards or whatever it’s for. So all of a sudden, you know, I said, I’ve seen Dustin, you know, probably every time he’s in Pittsburgh, we’ll hang out. 

We took pictures together, this and that. We’ll tell stories together. So all of a sudden I’m hanging out with everybody and John and Dustin walked through the curtain and he’s got this really, he’s got this look on his face. He’s just like, he’s pissed off. And he comes right up to my face and he’s a big guy, you know, he’s like 6-5, 241 and if you listen to the story of my book, he basically threatened me at a show. He basically said, if he sees me around anymore, he’s going to kill me. And this went on for awhile. I thought this guy wanted to really hurt me. He didn’t like the way I did things. And it turned out that it was a big hoax. It was a big joke that was on me that I didn’t learn. That was a joke for a couple of years. 

They forgot to let me know there was a joke. So it went on. Unbeknownst to everybody that I was still scared out of my mind for two years. So he comes out to meet me, and he looks annoyed and he goes, “I didn’t tell you can write my story in the book.” And I’m just kind of like, surprisingly, I, you know, I don’t have to get permission for people to write in in a book. It wasn’t libel- libel or slander, it was just a story. And he’s looking at me, he’s like, I never gave you permission. “Who gave you permission to tell my story in your book?” And he’s like, waving the book in my face at this point. Now literally there’s, there’s 20 people around us and I am standing there and I could feel the sweat just like dripping down my back. And I’m thinking, oh my goodness. 

Last time it was a joke. But this time he’s really, he’s serious. And I mean is, he’s right in my face and his 20 years later and I’m feeling the same fear that I felt way back there and Rockford, Illinois or did to me the first time. So it’s a stare down now and I don’t know what to say. And he’s any repeats himself again, like who told you you can write about me in your book? So now it’s in this book, this is like published and he’s yelling at me and I just stare at him and I, I’m, I’m, I’m rarely at a loss for words in my life, but I’m literally at a loss for words for this. And then as his eyes get smaller, I see a big grin come on his face and he goes, “I got you again.”

And he put his arms around me and gave me a big hug. He put me in a headlock and I was like, you’ve gotta be kidding me. I cannot believe he got me again. And everybody-the whole crew knew. And then I look at John, who, I’m so angry at, because he set me up again. So John wasn’t there the first time. It was, it was Rich Freeda the last time that he set me up. But John totally set me up. He went back there and it had it all planned. They knew I was coming. And here’s the deal, fool me once. Shame on you, fool me twice. Shame on me. Well this is fool me twice. Shame on me. So I fell for it. But I mean, honestly, what if he really was mad? I’m going to joke around, I’m gonna be like, you’re just kidding. But what if he really was mad that I wrote about him in the book? So I was scared out of my mind and all I know is I am done being frightened by professional wrestlers cause my heart just can’t handle it. I hope you had an awesome weekend and I’ll talk to you tomorrow.