Episode 23- I’ve Been To The Top


The transcript for Ep.23- I’ve Been To The Top

One of the fun parts of my career has been the ability to meet, to photograph, to interact with and get to know some really influential and oftentimes famous people. And it’s pretty cool sometimes, especially when there’s somebody that you grew up either listening to or watching or being influenced by in some way or the other. I’m an eighties kid, you know, I grew up in the 80s, I came of age in the eighties in terms of music, in terms of sports. So people from that era hold a special place within me because they, cause they shaped a lot of what I learned and thought and kind of just listened to and it was influenced by, so when you get to meet those people, it’s really quite bizarre, especially when you get to sit down and talk to them and get to know a little bit more of the stories. 

And I was fortunate enough that years back, it was probably, you know, early 2000s, I got to photograph a concert by John Mellencamp. Back when I was growing up was John Cougar, John Cougar Mellencamp and he came to Indiana where we worked. And lived and he came and did a concert there and only that I get to photograph, but I got to be there for an interview that the reporter was giving with Mellencamp and just to kind of hang out and just observe and I wish I could remember who the reporter was and I hate to do that. I hate to mention somebody and not mention their name and give them credit, but I just don’t remember this moment. And we’re backstage, I think it was the day before the concert and he was interviewing Mellencamp and he was asking some pointed questions, you know, camp being from Bloomington, Indiana is not far from Evansville where we worked. 

So we had very, very close ties to the area. I think it was kicking off his tour at that point. Melloncamp is a really honest guy, he just tells you what he’s thinking. He’s a down to earth, outspoken Midwesterner who just believes in what he believes. I love that there’s no holds barred when it comes to just the conversations that he was having and the reporter was pressing him on, you know, his career now and touring. I mean, the arena was sold out so you still have big enough name to do it, but he wasn’t doing what he did back in the eighties in the eighties it seemed like everything you put out was a major hit. Pink houses and Jack and Diane and all the songs that while on MTV and they became number one. He was just top of the world. And the reporter asked him, he like, do you miss that? 

Do you miss those days? Do you miss being on top as opposed to now where you’re not on top, you’re still doing well? And I think he, I was, I was impressed because it wasn’t like kissing up to them. It was just a really honest conversation. But Mellencamp gave a response that it was the only thing I can remember after the show. And then even now, all these years later, I think about it and I think about it even in terms of the quest for success and the quest for glory and the quest for more in the quest for bigger. He laughed when the question was asked and he said, he said, man, he goes, I’ve been to the top and there ain’t nothing up there. So I’m cool right where I’m at. And that’s honestly not even a question that many people can answer because many people have not been to the top. 

Many people don’t have any idea of what it’s like. Most people don’t know what comes with it. Those people see the glory of it and don’t see the other side of it. And I can tell you from photographing and meeting so many professional athletes, so many musicians, so many people, you know, business people at the top, often it’s not always what it’s cracked up to be. It’s often not what it was cracked up to be at all. But to us it’s all just special. It’s all just awesome. It’s money and it’s fame and it’s notoriety and it’s all those things. And what we don’t know on the outside is what it’s really like in there. And for him to give that answer. There wasn’t one hint of him BS’ing on that. There wasn’t one hint of somebody who’s not doing as well as they used to and him just justifying that he doesn’t want to be there. 

It was the sense of wisdom. It was a sense of understanding of like, I know what that world is. I’ve been there. I have no need to strive to be there again. I want to do my thing and I want to do my thing the way that I want to do it because when you’re at the top, you don’t know who’s got their hand in the pie. You don’t know what it’s like in terms of people controlling your art and when you talk to artists, and a lot of us in the freelance world are artists. A lot of times the bigger you get, the more you have to sacrifice the quality of your art and that’s why you see people like Sting. You see musicians who made it to the top, made the money, and then you don’t hear from as much anymore. They’re still doing their thing. 

They’re not doing it for the pop culture way. They’re doing it their way. This is the thing about financial freedom. We talk so much here in terms of that becoming financially free because financial freedom gave Sting or John Mellencamp or anybody, the ability to be able to do what they want to do and not have to do it for quote on quote the man anymore. So maybe they’re selling less albums, maybe they’re making less money, maybe less people are going to the show, but they’re doing the work that they love to do. Whether it’s 8,000 people or 23,000 people showing up, they would feel better with less people doing the work that they want to do then more people doing the work that they don’t want to do. And I think that’s really hard for somebody that’s not there to understand. And it’s really hard. It’s very easy to like, yeah, I like to find out what that’s like. 

And of course we would, but I like to go by the wisdom of people who’ve already done it, the people who already mentally know what it’s like and learn from them. So when he said, I’ve been to the top and there’s nothing up there. Not that it reduced my desire for success, it didn’t, but it reduced my desire to have to be at the top. It reduced my desire to have to say, oh, we have to be the ones that are known. We have to be the ones that are, we have to be the ones that are judged and and are put up at the top of the pedestal in terms of the top of our field. So even with our photography business, even what we’re doing right now in terms of coaching, in terms of masterminds, in terms of the book, none of it was about being at the top because I heard from way too many people that said that the top is not what you think it is. 

So that’s not where you think it is. What am I striving for that for? What I want to strive for is to do the work that is most authentic to me and to the people that follow what we do and want this message. And it’s not about being at the top, the top off. It might mean you might actually have to sacrifice all the things that really matter to you for success and notoriety. So to hear that way back in 2002 before we even started our first business was a huge boost for me to say, do what it is that you truly want to do and the way that you want to do it, and don’t worry about the crowds or the adoration or the notoriety or the numbers of it. And that one interview had a big impact on the way that we went about building our business.

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