A Passion Driven Life
You cannot change what you are, only what you do. – Philip Pullman, The Golden Compass
In a commencement address to the graduating students of Stanford University in 2005, Steve Jobs recalled a quote he first read when he was 17.
“If you live each day as if it was your last, someday you’ll most certainly be right.”
He went on to say that the quote stuck with him though most of his adult life and that he would look himself in the mirror each morning and ask himself, “If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?”
If the answer was “no” for too many consecutive days, he knew it was time for a change.
So after waking up too many mornings with a resounding “no” reverberating through my own weary head, I drove to the office and promptly terminated a successful corporate career. My own. I fired myself on January 14, 2003 which also happened to be my birthday.
Photography was a serious hobby at the time with occasional financial rewards, but not nearly rewarding enough to pay for my lifestyle. It wasn’t even close. Photography and travel were excellent ways to spend money, not make it (that’s still mostly true, by the way). Still, I was determined to give it a go, even if I really had no idea how to get there exactly. The one thing I knew for certain was that my talent and energy were being atrophied as I counted down the days to each bimonthly paycheck.
This was a new way of thinking to me. I was a rationally thinking corporate manager with an economics degree who always made decisions with cold, hard logic and yet there was nothing rational about this line of thought. In return for a six-figure salary, benefits, and financial security, I was getting what exactly? Let’s count the ways; no salary; no plan for earning any income in the near future; no benefits; no financial security. On its face, the choice was a no-brainer, yet my intuition and heart told me otherwise.
Wild places, wildlife, and exotic travel were my passions in life. Capturing and sharing my experiences in these places were what inspired me to get up each morning, not my 9-to-5. It was the first thing I thought about each morning and the last thing each night before drifting off to sleep. If I were going to evangelize to others that you should love what you do in order to truly be successful in life – as was my mantra to my employees and anyone who would listen – I would have to commit to it myself lest I be a hypocrite. I was only willing to accept happiness and excellence for myself and I could only achieve it by doing what I loved and was passionate about.
Throughout the transition, I received a tremendous amount of emotional support from family and close friends. I’ll always be grateful for that. Some were genuinely concerned and that was certainly understandable. Others thought it was only a phase I was going through – a mid-life crisis, perhaps – that I would eventually outgrow before crawling back to the real world again. But hey, at least no one told me to grow up and get a haircut.
“But taking pictures isn’t real work,” many would say. “You’re just running off to pretty places and having a good time.”
“Right,” I would answer. “So what exactly is your point?”
You see, I never considered photography as an occupation. The word occupation is derived from the same Latin word that spawned the word occupy, essentially meaning, “to take up space.” That little phrase should paint a vivid enough word picture to illustrate precisely what I’m trying to say here.
Vocation, on the other hand, comes from the Latin word, vocare or “a calling.” If throwing away a “successful” career and financial security – not to mention mere rationality – in order to chase down one’s dream and passion in life isn’t a calling, then I’m not sure what is. Being a photographer is my vocation. It’s not what I do; it’s what I am. There aren’t very many people who can say the same about their occupation.
So after many years now of traveling the world, chasing down magical light, and capturing as many unrepeatable moments in the wild on film and digital media as possible, I’d like to think that I’ve achieved a modest amount of success as a professional photographer. But what is a “success” anyway? By one yardstick, I already was a success many years ago in a corporate job.
If living an inspired, passion driven life doing exactly what I feel I was meant to do – while managing to live financially comfortable as well – is another yardstick with which to measure success, well then I guess I’ve achieved something after all. It’s also the greatest birthday gift I could have ever given myself.
Inspiring Always! I never tire of hearing this story.
Your work is always a joy to me and I can say a reminder of my 1st official job at photo blowup in the old Kreesge store at our mall. Thank you for sharing your gifts.
I admire your decision, it’s not easy , but you were young , and you want to do something you enjoy, so you did it, and now you have so many followers who appreciate your photos, congratulations and Happy Birthday.
An inspiring story, Richard. You have done what I too dream of doing; however, with a young family I just haven’t mustered the nerve to step off the cliff. Kudos and respect to you, and keep the fabulous photographs coming!
Thank you for sharing your story with us..I so appreciate your transparency and passion behind the call you felt led to all those many years ago. I love that you pursued your dream and pushed through even though the details of what might actually happen leaving the corporate world presented to you- I love that you were brave enough to go after it..
I believe God places those desires deep within us and though at times we resist the pull ..it usually is our fears that paralyzes us to hold back .. But if that desire seems to linger and not leave us..we can step out in faith and give it our all …knowing we at least tried. Thank you for such an inspiring testimony that it can be achieved if you’re willing to push through those tough beginnings and not give up.. the rewards for following through are even sweeter knowing you were honest with the call upon your heart!
Wow Karen – I 100% agree with this – inspiring!
Great story. Having just turned 30 and in a corporate career I hate, many of your points resonated with me. Having recently discovered my passion for photography I have made it my personal mission to change my life and become a pro photographer by the time i’m 40 (I know I am not good enough yet and need to put in the graft).
Your story is exactly what I needed to hear as all the doubts arise in my mind trying to tell me I can’t do this, but I will certainly try.
Keep up the great work, live a life of passion always.
Very well done! Your work is inspiring and your words make perfect sense. Of note, my Bday is tomorrow 1/15.
Richard, this is so true and inspiring. Imagine for a moment a word full of people actually pursuing their passion instead of living somebody else’s life: spiritual and economic gains for humanity would be exponential.. Unfortunately, few individuals and schools include in their educational programmes that higher goal of finding our Mission (which probably requires a fair amount of learning, practice and self-reflection). Thank you for sharing your story and being a changemaker.
Richard, “Coincidence” is when God performs a miracle,
and remains anonymous!
Came onto 1 of Ur Save the African elephant photos.
Then got, somehow, into this Passion Driven Life blog of Urs.
It’s the #SEEES* LIFE story of many of us,
who Dare to Dream BIG – And step into our Dream daily.
God has blessed me to now live it over 25 years in the USA and Canada.
Keep on Dreaming + Doing Ur Passionate #SEEES LIFE!
It’s #GbG = Guaranteed by God
Ur new-found friend, hendrickus
*#SEEES LIFE = a life lived daily
Simple + Elegant + Excellent + Easy + Spiritually peaceful
P. S. If Ur ever in the Toronto, Canada area drop me an email.
We’ll share freely with U whatever we have that day
Richard thank you for sharing your inspirational story. Exceptionally written, with words echoing your passion.
I believe success and passion is a reflection of your heart. Everyday, is a gift and a miracle for me, and grateful to awake to sunshine rays each morning. This knowledge inspires my passion to inspire, love and as a writer, write words that will last an eternity.
Your inspirational words, thoughts and photographs will be embraced by the world for an eternity.
Keep inspiring Richard
Inspiring story! Thanks for sharing.
The calling to live your life is always a gift to nuture. Richard’s eternal quest to find, reflect and share the earths soul is a gift to us all. A mighty decision followed through with great respect: thank you for being the best version of yourself.
Tanta stima per la tua decisione difficile ma fatta consapevolmente. “quando il gioco si fa duro i duri iniziano a giocare”…. A volte non basta il coraggio se non sei affiancato da una fiducia determinata. E spesso non basta nemmeno questo. La tua vita passata ti ha aiutato a trovare la strada della verità…e della realizzazione. In tutto questo c è forse anche un pizzico di fortuna?
Hai fatto quello che dico sempre a mia figlia: ascolta il tuo cuore e seguilo con la testa.
Loved reading your story. You deared to make your dream a reality and it’s paid off. Well done!
Exciting, inspiring and motivational.
Thank you so much for sharing your story. It’s that call for adventure that makes you happy and in good time you have made a decision! And happy anniversary Richard,
Wonderful article! We are linking to this particularly
great content on our site. Keep up the good
So you say it’s your birthday, so happy to ya!
You are inspiring. And your artwork brings joy to us all.
Well said, I Love your photos! Your work is an inspiration, and having the courage to follow your dreams is something that not many of us are brave enough doing!
Your work displays the love, time and effort you invest, and we see nothing less than exceptional results.
I always say that if an artist inspires another artist to produce a different idea out of his art, then he has done twice as much as expected and that leads to a legacy.
We don’t want to be different, because everything was created before us under the Sun, but what we want to do is what we Love doing! And you are doing outstanding…Thank you for what you do!
I love your story, admire your courage/tenacity/integrity and respect your work sir. You inspire me to be a better human…better photographer. Other than my family n friends, getting out n capturing the ‘earthly gifts’ among us, is my favorite thing…I enjoy looking at try to capture common things in an uncommon way…bc of gifted professionals such as yourself. My story won’t allow me to travel the world physically n so I truly appreciate ‘being brought along virtually with you (n others like you)’ every day. Thank you.