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How Your Thoughts Will Impact Your Business In 2012

While interning at a psychiatric clinic in Germany, I was tasked with teaching a class on recognizing symptoms of depression.  This kind of nip-it-in-the-bud, knowledge-is-power prevention education is right up my alley, and I was stoked.  Except for one thing.

It being Germany and all, I had to teach the class – surprise! – IN GERMAN.

I love German.  But it’s one thing to shoot the breeze over schnitzel, and quite another to hold people’s attention for an hour.   I. Was. Terrified.

The day of the class came, and I told my nerves to take a hike (they ignored me).  There was nothing to do but get up there and start teaching.  As I did, I noticed a middle-aged man in the front row starting to lean forward, inclining his ear toward me and squinting.  Whooooop, whooooop, my “FAILURE!!” alarm starts going off.  He can’t understand a word I’m saying!  I knew I should have paid more attention in grammar class when we learned the subjunctive!  Rattled, but still talking, I went on with the lesson.  Meanwhile, the man was inching forward in his seat, still straining to understand me.  Flustered, I bumbled through the rest and sat down to scattered applause.

My coworker leaned over – “Nice job,” he whispered.  “Yeah right!”  I said, “the guy in the front row couldn’t understand a word I was saying!  My German is terrible.”  The coworker looked confused for a second, then grinned.  “Oh, Mr. X?  Nah, he is just hard of hearing, and you were speaking quietly.”

Friends, this is what we might call a self-fulfilling prophesy.

Because I was convinced my German wasn’t up to the task,  I interpreted everything the audience did as further evidence that my German wasn’t good enough.  This decreased my confidence, causing me to talk more softly, causing Mr. X to keep leaning forward, causing me to become more convinced I wasn’t doing well, and it all spiraled downward from there.  I fulfilled my own expectation.

Now, imagine:  What if I had gone in feeling confident that I would excel, believing that this presentation would really help people?  I would have spoken up and commanded more attention, as confidence always does.  Mr. X wouldn’t have had so much trouble hearing me, and I would have focused on the task instead of what everyone was thinking.  I would have breezed by mistakes instead of tripping over them.  The presentation would have been smoother, stronger, and just as inspiring as I’d hoped it would be.  Again, I would have fulfilled my own expectation.

This post is not about German.  It’s about business. 

And in business, self-fulfilling prophesies don’t just bruise your pride, they can break your bank.  Consider:

If you think “I am not good at marketing,”

Then you’ll be less enthusiastic to launch marketing campaigns.  The fewer you launch, the less practice you have, so the less you learn about it.  Less practice and less enthusiasm directly impact the quality of what you do.  You’ll push your campaign more timidly because you won’t be sure that it’s good, and you don’t want people to see your incompetence.  You’ll HIDE it as much as you push it out there.  Fewer people will see it, even fewer clients will come in, and the campaign will find less success.

What’s worse, you’ll chalk the whole thing up as another reason you’re not good at marketing.  When really, it all started with a thought.

It is no different with sales, off-camera lighting, handling difficult clients, or anything else you’re trying to master.

I’m not suggesting that we become arrogant and pump ourselves up with a lot of false bravado.  That’s as dangerous as negative thinking.  But as you wade into the many areas of running a photography business, your confidence will be shaky at times.  The best way to fight the uncertainty and difficulty is to change your thoughts.

Take a second to compare these pairs of thoughts.  What would the outcome of each one be?

“I’m not good at marketing” –>
“I’m learning to market my business!”

“I hate sales and asking people for money”  –>
“I’m excited to show people how they can use these images in their homes!”

“My pictures using off-camera flash are awful.”  –>
“I am going to get out my flash today and practice so I can do better than I did yesterday.”

“Designing a website terrifies me”  –>
“What a cool chance to show people how much I can do for them!”

“I’ll never get any clients”  –>
“I give myself permission to take some time to find the right clients in the right places, and not cheapen my work in the meantime.”

“My calendar is dead, and it’s going to stay that way.”  –>
“It’s early February.  People are still recovering financially from the holidays, plus it’s cold outside.  I’m going to use this time to revamp my client approach and put together some hot marketing for March!”

Same situations.  Different interpretations.  Different results.

This year, do your business a favor.  When the negative thoughts start swarming, write them down, just like I did here.  Then see what else you can change them into. 

Changing thoughts will eventually change your outcomes.

It’s the best return on a business investment you’ll ever get.


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  1. Michelle Kirnan on February 14, 2012 at 2:55 am

    AWESOME post! This is so very true but still something we all need reminded of from time to time. Thank you!

    • Jenika on February 14, 2012 at 3:33 am

      😀 Thanks Michelle!

  2. Kelley on February 14, 2012 at 3:12 am

    Woo Hoo! Just what I needed to hear! I’m going forward in my business with a can-do attitude, but I must admit… it’s still scary! Cheers!

    • Jenika on February 14, 2012 at 3:33 am

      Scary indeed!!! But that’s how you know you’re getting to the good stuff 🙂 Good luck!

  3. Allison on February 14, 2012 at 3:33 am

    The last two were written for me. And while I’m working on things for March (including a whole new -higher- price set), and remembering that it’s still winter, your encouragement verifies my optimism and crowds out the doubts. Nailed it again. 🙂

  4. Unkle Buck on February 14, 2012 at 4:35 pm

    That which we persist in doing becomes easier for us. Not that the nature of the task has changed, but, rather, our ability to do it has increased.

  5. Unkle Buck on February 14, 2012 at 4:39 pm

    More accurately quoted:
    That which we persist in doing becomes easier – not that the nature of the task has changed, but our ability to do has increased. – Ralph Waldo Emerson

    • Jenika on February 14, 2012 at 4:41 pm

      Amen Emerson. 🙂

  6. Melinda on February 14, 2012 at 8:47 pm

    As always, great simple advice. I needed to hear this as my calendar is looking bleak and marketing is not my strong suit. Out with the negative, in with the positive!!! Thank you 🙂

  7. Monica on February 16, 2012 at 1:25 am

    Great words of wisdom 🙂 Thank you!

  8. Martin on February 16, 2012 at 3:17 pm

    Excelent article, i agree with your point of view and find you did manage to express it in a simple and easy to understand way. Positivity in our thoughts is the first important step to success, we shall never forget it! Thumbs up for your inspiring articles!

  9. Peggy/ on February 16, 2012 at 4:33 pm

    Thank you for this post! I am a huge believer in the power of words. One of the things that I abhor hearing is something I hear every week from my photography friends … “I can’t make a living doing this!”. I swear, the next time I hear that (if it’s really someone I know well) I’ll tell them “Then don’t even try. Sell me your equipment and get a corporate job somewhere.” Of course, if it’s REALLY someone I know, I’ll tell them to just give me their equipment – grin.

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