Why Are You Here?..

"WHY AM I HERE?" is the very question that saved my life. I thought I was alone on all of those lengthy bike rides as a teen. My frustrations turned to yelling at some invisible Force that I had yet to understand. "If you're really Omnipotent, then why can't you just reveal yourself to me?"

Harsh words from a 14 year old, directed at what I now recognize as my Creator, or better - Divine Choreographer. As if it was yesterday, I still feel the convictions that I felt as I expected to see an apparition of the real brown Jesus appear on behalf of God.

I just wanted to see behind the proverbial curtain. I knew that this crazy stuff I was manifesting in my life MUST have an Oz-like Wizard operating some over-the-top calculator to create an experience that was equally surreal to the others involved with my experience.

Stewing in my frustration over what felt like fruitless prayers to the "gray-haired man in the sky", as my Spiritual naivete would have illustrated It. Religions fight over "His name", but I knew that this Omnipotent one was not restricted to "my brand of Christianity".

People around me were suffering, and bringing their problems to me because I always seemed to say the right thing at the right time. I claim no human credit for tapping into exactly what they needed to hear or feel. I retreated to my pen and camera for escapism and understanding. I was equally bewildered by the insights that would escape my mouth, concluding that God's voice is our voice. That we pray on our feet, with our actions more effectively than on our knees in hope for things to fall from the sky.

I just wanted some Miraculous Illusion to appear to say "Yes, there is a Wizard behind the curtain of your world". Instead - NOTHING! 

I spent my spare time venting on paper, going for long bike rides to yell at the sky, and using my camera to crop out anything man-made.  I just wanted to understand why any of us were even here. What on Earth is this?.. What am I supposed to do while I am here? What will I be when I grow up?..

 

At 15 I received some really crappy advice. "Never turn your hobby into a career, because then you'll have to do it and hate it." While defiant in my Spiritual quests, I was too insecure to ward off this toxic mind virus.

It took me until I was 30 years old, pushed by enough pain to tap into my vision of becoming a photographer. My desire to obsess over human behavior observations was convenient in retail until I was promoted to manager. The money paid for my gear, as was originally intended, but it forced me to do things I never wanted to do. Budgets, scheduling, hiring, discipline, firing, P&L and other sales reports...

I hated my life enough to say F$%@ that advice. I am an entrepreneur. I've taken on countless "Opportunity stores" (the politically correct name for stores in red ink) and moved them to black, all for the annual "your next on my list for promotions". Money would have talked, but Brian walked... I cashed in my 401K to open Prints Charming Photography.

I poured my entire BEing into converting my retirement money to build my studio. Through career-building guides like "What Color is Your Parachute" and various workshops, I remembered my desires to be a psychologist, teacher, photographer, architect (like I'd somehow have a Brady Bunch life in doing so) and ultimately - a writer!

For years I had the vision, but I was too afraid of the risk it would take to leave a regular paycheck and benefits to "endeavor to live the life..." as stated by Thoreau.

After 20+ years as "Prints Charming", I added a new DBA to concentrate on commercial photography. About 65% of my income via Photo Media Productions has been derived from Headshots.

I share this to say that I broke a code that has been defined for centuries. Drawing knowledge from brilliant teachers (many since gone), my understandings have been validated.

On return from a shoot in Kenya, I created this 36" print to hang over my desk as a reminder.

1 - We are ALL here for an Ultimate Purpose. (UP)

2 - We are all afflicted by some form of fear or suffering.

3 - While we are generally our own worst enemies, the tools we came in with allow us to fulfill ANYTHING!

I have struggled financially as an entrepreneur, but only when I subscribed to the paradigm I embraced the very year I opened in 1996. An industry statistic that showed "Mom & Pop" portrait studios to be the 2nd highest failure rate business. To hear that I just cashed in my $23,000 savings (and every bit of plastic credit in my name) on a business that is destined to out-fail restaurants?..

What in the hell did I just do?..

As I look back on my financial roller-coaster, I discovered that it was ONLY when I spewed this script from my excuse generating mouth, that I had the experience to reflect such a horrid and stupid statistic. 

Sure, you can't ignore facts, so let's break that down. Who considers themselves to be photographers? Today - pretty much everyone that pushes that little red/white button on a piece of glass used to text or tweet! Sure, some may by the same gear as a professional, and appease their dissatisfaction as a weekday cubicle occupant, but there it is... A statistic that includes dabblers is not a statistic that I can afford to consider.

I continue to consume and absorb personal development teachings, which led me to understand exactly why it is that I continued to reassess, rebuild and rebrand my dharma into my work. IT IS WHY I AM HERE!

Not to be a photographer. Anyone can "take pictures". My work with high school seniors often turned into career counseling sessions. "Do you know what you want to do yet?.." To hear - "...well, my parents what me to... but I'd really like to..." My work with self-deprecating adult clients - "I hate my nose. My hair is too thick. I don't like my puffy eyes. Extra chins. Puffy cheeks. 

SHUT UP ALREADY!!! I seriously made this a fun part of my sales presentations. "Okay, before we review your headshots, I've got one rule. You can say anything you want about my photography, my lighting, my posing etc. But if you say one negative thing about yourself, the price is double!"

 

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Brian Geraths

Passionate for nature, life, writing and sharing, this site is mutually dedicated to my three favorite vehicles through life - Photography, Writing and Speaking. As professional photographer I was (and still am) in my favored "Observer" mode. As writer, these observations exposed a deeper understanding into ethics, authenticity and leadership. As speaker, I get to be selfish. In giving we gain - big! By helping you to discover your own authenticity, passion and where you too are a leader, I get a huge pang of fulfillment. Yes, I am a giver - the most selfish sort of person that ever was. (that is, once you realize how great the results of giving truly are)

The ROI of Gratitude

It all sounds like fluffy woo-woo crap, right? To give what you most desire to receive?.. It seems to be completely void of logic.

I want more money, so give it?… Where is the math in that?  It’s just “one of those things” that defies “man’s law“ and clearly illustrates the Greater laws of our Universe. 

Giving is gaining.

I was feeling a lack of appreciation. Sales have been up,  and that is good, but money is only to fuel man’s systems.

What truly motivates me, is to feel that I’ve done something great for others, and that it is appreciated. 

Earlier this month, as I was wallowing in the wonder of receiving gratitude from others, I turned it back on me! Have I become complacent with my giving?

I subscribe to a custom thank you card service, (SendOutCards - ask me for dealer info) and my dealer was reminding me that I had so many points that the old points would start lapsing. Sure enough... Money spent, Money forgotten.

  The whole reason that I signed up for this service, is that I love to write thank you cards! Why, because I know how great it feels to be appreciated. 

So there it is, the “Gratitudaholic“ required a Money-loss to realize he wasn’t giving what he desired.

  I decided that day, that I needed to either close my account, or remember why I got it to begin with. 

 My 5-week trim (pre-gel) 

My 5-week trim (pre-gel) 

 While cruising through my Facebook feed, I discovered that my former high school senior, turned studio-stylist, turned wedding client, turned commercial client, turned INTERNATIONAL rock-star stylist @SarahAdams had been awarded “Best Hair Stylist in Portland”.

Like everyone else, I “liked” the post and said something nice.  “nice”, Doesn’t that sound as blah as “good”. I just spent four days in New York with Tony Robbins to be reminded that “Good is the enemy of GREAT!”  Similarly, I feel like nice is just watered-down Gratitude, and I wanted to highlight her wow moment! (Sweetened the deal with the amazing brownies that SOC has on their gift list)

  I knew when I met her 20 years ago, that good would be her enemy as well… I saw this greatness in her that I don’t believe I ever shared with her. In my Brianesque way, I literally told her that she effing ROCKS!

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This morning, I found her reply online. Did she say “oh, that was nice”?.. in her equally passionate way, I think she out-thanked me with this nice little montage of Gratitude... 

The four images of this post in the form of her Instagram “Story”. 

Who do you love and appreciate for what they have been to and for you? Send them a card, a brownie, or WOW them to tears with a public montage.

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Needless to say, the money is still appreciated, but today I have been truly paid. #showyourgratitude

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Brian Geraths

Passionate for nature, life, writing and sharing, this site is mutually dedicated to my three favorite vehicles through life - Photography, Writing and Speaking. As professional photographer I was (and still am) in my favored "Observer" mode. As writer, these observations exposed a deeper understanding into ethics, authenticity and leadership. As speaker, I get to be selfish. In giving we gain - big! By helping you to discover your own authenticity, passion and where you too are a leader, I get a huge pang of fulfillment. Yes, I am a giver - the most selfish sort of person that ever was. (that is, once you realize how great the results of giving truly are)

In Tears at The Checkout

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This morning A cashier caused me tears with the interaction I witnessed at her check out.

I had just attended a large multi-chamber networking event, and left it realizing I hadn't even noticed if there was food. 

I was hungry, so I bypassed the studio and stopped at Trader Joe's to grab a few Cliff Bars to replenish my office stash. (Never mind, to revive my blood sugar)

Before I got out of the car, I scanned my email to make sure I wasn't missing anything urgent.  

I found a message from a friend in Canada who was recovering from serious heart surgery, as she received a serious diagnosis for her son.

During my work hours, dare I say, it becomes too easy to just see stuff like this as words on a page, thinking I will come back to it later when I can be more present.

Today was different. I paused before entering the store to connect her with a resource I knew for his condition.

These "words on the page" we're coming from one of the most radiant and smiley people that I know on the planet. I say this with no exaggeration, since she was one of my subjects during photo assignments in several countries as well as US states over a 12 year span.

After sending a "digital handshake" email I proceeded at a faster pace to make up for using "work time."

There was only one customer in front of me, at the checkout I approached. The cashier paused during that order to engage in brief conversation, then intercepting the customer on completion for a hug.

More than the quick hug to a friend, this was full-on, heartfelt glom that stopped me from approaching too quickly.

I could see the cashiers face with a warm expression as her eyes were watering. "You have a great day now"  she said while wiping her eyes and turning to face me.

"How are you doing this morning?" Having done her job for several years, I wasn't going to allow her the "business as usual" small talk at the register.

I replied "not as great as you are". My curious undertone was enough for her to share a bit more. Information that dispelled my idea that she knew that person as something more than a customer.

 "It always tears me up to see a customer in tears. I couldn't resist giving her a hug, she was having a bad day. "

I said "great, thank you for sharing the tears" as I tried to smile away my own. I let her know what a great thing that was before I left.

As I walked away, two things occurred to me.

1 - Who is the manager so that I can praise this person, not just for what she did for that customer, but what she did for me in that moment!  

2 – would I have noticed that as deeply if I hadn't opened up my own heart to my friend before walking in? 

A dear friend and amazing teacher has engrained this statement in me. A teaching that far-transcends it's obvious meaning.

"Notice what you're noticing." 

Having photographed and worked with Mary Morrissey for the past 16 years, those words go with me everywhere. 

I am noticing that since I deleted the Associated Press app from my phone, and started listening to more Wayne Dyer in my car instead of the news, that I'm seeing more of the things in life that I absolutely appreciate! Giving, sharing, compassion, people playing "pay it forward" at parking meters...

Thank you Shelley, for causing me pause to reach out, and thank you "J., Jennifer" for showing me what you showed me in your line today.

 It took everything I had to not title this post "Clef Notes" as play. It all happened over my Cliff Bar fix... 

It took everything I had to not title this post "Clef Notes" as play. It all happened over my Cliff Bar fix... 

You just added more Purpose to my work as a teaching writer as well as Entrepreneur! 

You are the epitome of my belief that business is ALL about relationships, and Trader Joe is as fortunate to have you as that customer is.

I hope that this message touches others that begin to notice the Jennifers in their own paths. 

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Brian Geraths

Passionate for nature, life, writing and sharing, this site is mutually dedicated to my three favorite vehicles through life - Photography, Writing and Speaking. As professional photographer I was (and still am) in my favored "Observer" mode. As writer, these observations exposed a deeper understanding into ethics, authenticity and leadership. As speaker, I get to be selfish. In giving we gain - big! By helping you to discover your own authenticity, passion and where you too are a leader, I get a huge pang of fulfillment. Yes, I am a giver - the most selfish sort of person that ever was. (that is, once you realize how great the results of giving truly are)

Integrity, Patience and Profits!

Integrity, Patience and Profits!

Have you ever made a difficult decision, to maintain your integrity, that cost you money in the short-run?

I’ve done this enough to qualify myself as “the victim” more than once. Despite the friendships or great paying jobs I took “the High road”.
I’ve had multiple experiences, where declining opportunity (for ethics) delivered PRICELESS gains, including an amazing wife (Imported from New Zealand) In a nutshell, here is my favorite evidence.

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