What I Learned About Being a Photographer by Reading Quitter

It must be difficult to find work that you actually love because the amount of stories you overhear about people who settle for dead-end jobs and shattered hopes is far greater than the ones who’ve managed to find satisfaction in doing something they have a genuine passion for.

Last night I finished reading Jon Acuff’s Quitter which came recommended to me via the Kindle. Immediately from the title, you’d think it’s just another motivational book which offers you the finest tips for quitting your day job and acquiring your dream one. It does offer you that but not in the way you would expect.

Right off the bat, Jon says that “the goal of this book is to get you to do what you love, with the life you already have” without feeling that you need to quit the job you dread driving to every Monday morning.

Up to this point, you haven’t heard anything about f/stops, ISO, Aperture or expensive gear equipment so you’re probably wondering what this book has to do with photography.

I’m really never afraid to read anything that’s not related to the craft because deep down I’m convinced that regardless of the content, I always managed to associate something back to the concept of taking photos. Whether it’s the business end of it, the creative aspect or just reading up on a place that would lend itself great to a photo essay.

 Quitter by Jon Acuff

In this case, the book may not pertain to anything that would help you become a better photographer per say but it would hopefully rekindle your dreams and provide you with some perspective on how you can still become a great one and make a living out of it regardless of the type of work you’re doing now.

I’ll admit there’s been a couple nights I’ve laid in bed surrounded by darkness unmindful to the pesky noise our fan makes thinking about this photography thing I do and how much it’s evolved from being something you know you love doing yet don’t having any direction as to what you want to accomplish with it because 40hrs out of the week you’re occupied doing something totally polar opposite.

So What Exactly Is the Book About Jorge?

Let me say that I would find it difficult to write or photograph anything that I’ve yet to experience but once you have, there will undoubtedly be more credibility to anything you say. In the book, Jon talks about his personal struggles of realizing his dreams and how he was able to turn his dream job into his day job while working as a tech writer for Auto Trader.

He performed what his job description dictated because that’s the work that brought food to the table and paid the mortgage but he used every ounce of free time to write for his blog with the hopes that it would open the opportunity to become a published author.

He provides specific example about how he accomplished his goal while feeling he lived a Clark Kent existence yet he still managed to get through it without destroying his life. I love photography and I love to travel but unless I hit the jackpot, I don’t foresee ever telling my wife that I’m quitting my job so that I can board a flight to Cusco Peru to photograph Machu Picchu and hope the images I take would produce some monetary returns. That’s not entirely a smart thing to do.

It would be different if we planned a vacation to visit the ruins, took some photographs and if something developed out of that or not, it wouldn’t matter because I would still have a day job to come back to and that’s exactly what Jon refers to in his book. My all time favorite chapter in the book is where he drives home the idea that “we need to learn to fall in like with a job we don’t love because it’s actually the best way to set up your dream for success.”

What If I Don’t Like What I Do For a Living Now?

Rather than thinking your job sucks and that it’s doing nothing but draining the opportunity for you to do what you really want, why not view your day job as a launching pad instead? We all love the option of saying no to the things that don’t coincide with our dreams but if you quit the job you currently hate, you instantly relinquish the ability to say no to things you truly loathe because at that point, you would probably need the money.

As much as I’ve been ask by friends to shoot weddings, I respectfully decline the offer because it’s not an area of photography I have interest in regardless of how lucrative the genre may be. If I were to quit my job perhaps I would consider weddings because I would be desperate for the money but that choice could lead me to taking on gigs that I wouldn’t necessarily have a passion for. Creative freedom doesn’t pay the bills. Having a job that you may not like while hustling on the side working on your dream job does.

The book is littered with nuggets of valuable advice that forces you to make a like vs. love list of what is important in your life and what you want to accomplish with it. Jon states that “whenever possible, before you quit a job, make a point of practicing what you want to do with your life.”

I’m not saying at all that I’m discontent with what I do for a living but seeing how completely unrelated my job is to photography, it’s at least given me the needed freedom to book a flight with my wife, to follow my passion towards travel and photograph the type of places that people only say they’ll visit one day but never really do.

“Have you ever felt caught between the tension of a day job and a dream job? That gap between what you have to do and what you’d love to do?” Ask yourself that question because Jon will at the beginning of the book and before you know it, you’ll have devoured it in 3 days like I did.

Should I Read The Book Too?

I don’t think the book is just limited to folks who hate their current job because there’s people like Shawn Blanc or Chris Bowler who enjoyed their previous occupation put deep down they had a strong desire to pursue something they’ve been cultivating on the side.

For Chris, it was the decision to leave an IT profession in the healthcare industry so that he can dedicate himself full-time to expanding Fusion Ads to what it is now. For Shawn, it was about parting ways from being the Marketing Director at IHOP for 10 years so that he can write full-time for the design-centric and self-titled website he’s been producing during his spare time.

They both did what they loved on the side and like Jon, they managed transition from having a full-time day job to having a full-time dream job. According to Jon, working on something that you love on the side is “more than enough to begin doing something truly meaningful. Do it wisely and it will grow from there.”

Aside from the book, I didn’t realized there was so much great content on this topic. I’m a huge fan of Paul Graham’s writing and coincidently he had written a cogent essay on this same subject. I’ll leave you with his thoughts on what he calls The Two-Job Route which is “to work at things you don’t like to get money to work on things you do.”

So what exactly has the book taught me about being a photographer? That if you’re not yet doing it professionally but have life-long dreams to, we need to stop rejecting the compliments people give us for doing what we love by responding “Oh, it’s just something I like to do on my spare time” and recognize that it may not be too late to make a dramatic occupational shift so that you can chase a known dream.

Notes: I wanted a photograph to accompany this post so I had to bribe my wife with an ice-coffee from Starbucks so that she would agree to accompany me after she had no desire to going out at all.