It’s been pretty quiet around here the last couple of months hasn’t it? I’ve been kind of missing in action because I have been creating and teaching my very first online class “Your Creative Photography Roadmap” and for me it has been anything but quiet.
I’ve learned a lot from the experience and I want to share my biggest lesson learnt with you, because a series of unfortunate events all conspired to make these past couple of months both the toughest and most rewarding of my business life so far. And my biggest lesson?
You can do more than you think you can.
The events of these past months forced me to try things I didn’t know that I could do. They forced me to give it a go. They forced me to the edge and made me see that the edge was nowhere near where I thought it was.
So, what happened?
It all started 18 months ago when I taught my first in person class at Squam Art Workshops in the US. I really enjoyed the process of teaching that class, which was all about how to discover your inner muse, using the things you love and weaving them into an image that really says something about you.
When I got back home I decided to revise and expand that content into a six week online class that would teach people how to make images that were more expressive, more personal and more creative, and I’d use that process of sorting through the things that attract you to help them develop an idea for a personal project. There’d be exercises to help them develop a mindset of using what they love to guide them through to what they wanted to share with the world.
It was a slightly overwhelming prospect to begin your first teaching experience not with how to do something…but rather with how to be something. I was up for the challenge but didn’t have a clear plan about how to get it done, which is a real recipe for disaster when trying something new. Almost a year of procrastination later, I finally decided to do something about it.
Then the technical issues hit. I spent six months trying to find a piece of software that I could afford, and that could also help to deliver all of this content to people in an easy to understand format. The first four attempts ran into technical issues that I couldn’t solve on my own and couldn’t afford to hire someone to help with. I would build almost the whole site and then find a technical glitch that couldn’t be fixed without more tech knowledge than I had and I would have to tear the whole thing down and start again. I was devastated and it happened FOUR TIMES.
On the verge of giving up, I found one last possibility. And it worked. But it was a much less complete solution, one that required me to do a lot more technical work than I had been expecting. On top of that I had to make graphics, find a video hosting service (went through three of those too), make it look decent on mobile, and complete a million other tasks as well as simply creating the content.
For a few days my head spun. I freaked out. I didn’t know if I could do it.
I wanted to back out but I had started talking about the class with some of my followers and customers. I knew I had to give it a shot so I tried to calm myself down by writing a list. I wrote down every task that needed to be accomplished in order to create the class. Every single one. And then I took all of those tasks and I entered them into a task management app I use called Asana and I gave each one a due date.
It was October and I wanted to have the class ready by December. It was going to be tough but I felt better now that I had everything scheduled. I just needed to show up at my desk each day and do the things on the list. If I kept doing that, then I would be ready in time.
I made great progress for about a month and then everything got derailed again. Two members of my family were diagnosed with cancer within two weeks of each other. Their treatment was scheduled for December, right about the time I was supposed to be launching my class.
I didn’t want to do it anymore. I wanted to be with them. I wanted to help. I didn’t want to be recording videos and writing classes and wrangling with CSS and email marketing. In another tailspin, my timeline for my class went out of the window.
Early December came and went and I had virtually none of the content written.
There was no way I was going to be able to release the class in mid December, unless I launched and sold the class before I finished creating it.
This was never the way I had wanted to create my class. I knew that the pressure would be huge and that I’d have to ignore the screams of my inner perfectionist. But I had a choice to make. Let it go and give up, or hang on and have a go.
I don’t like giving up so I decided to have a go anyway. Trying to distract myself from the pressure, I consoled myself with the idea that, if no one wanted to take the class it was probably better to find out before I spent so much time on it.
Mid December arrived and, having done far less than I was comfortable with, and having no time for the big launch I had planned, I put my class out into the world. My goal was to get 10 signups and I wouldn’t do the class if there were any less than 5. I got more than my goal of 10 signups in the first day and by the time registration closed, I had 24 people in the class.
I was thrilled. But also a little freaked out. Now there was no choice. People were counting on me and I had to get it done. I reworked all of the due dates for the tasks I still had to do and I made a new plan to get the class ready before it began at the end of January.
I got back to work. The derailments came again and again and again. There were three surgeries over Christmas and New Year for my two relatives battling cancer. There was a Christmas lunch to plan and make with my mother who was doing it solo for the first time. Each time I reworked my due dates for the remaining tasks and each time it took less time to get back on track.
And I started to believe that, if I could get through this, I would have to change my assumptions about what I could handle. I started to understand that most of what pushes us off course is our own thoughts about how overwhelmed we are. Each time I was able to simply look at what needed to be done and adapt the timeline, I grew stronger. Each time I bounced back I knew that I could do more. Each time I didn’t give up I knew that I didn’t have to.
The limit of what we can do is nowhere near where we think it is. In fact, we don’t have a clue.
If we go to the edge and just calmly look around, sometimes we realise we can take another step, and another, and another.
There’s a reason that so many people want to create an online class but never finish it. It is hard. It is overwhelming. It is all consuming, sometimes at times when we can’t afford to be consumed. But it is possible.
In late January “Your Creative Photography Roadmap” began. And the challenges didn’t stop there. Every day I faced something new. Every day I learned something new. There were more tailspins, when I had to learn how to host a webinar, or when I had a crisis of confidence in my ability to edit an image while being recorded.
But through all of this, I have learned a new skill. I’m sure I’ve learned many but one in particular stands out. I have learned how to break something down into manageable pieces and somehow find the time to complete each one. I’ve learned how to stop the spinning and focus on what needs to be done. I’ve learned that I can do more than I think I can. I don’t know where the line is, I don’t know where the limit is. Maybe there aren’t any.