What Real Passion Often Looks Like for Entrepreneurs

Passion manifests in many ways.

Many people equate passion with a feeling.

This is a mistake.

You won't always feel your passion, but that doesn't mean it's gone. Passion manifests itself in many ways: sometimes loud and outgoing, sometimes quiet and cautious, sometimes optimistic and relaxed, sometimes skeptical and stressed.

Passion is what makes you get out of bed in the morning. Passion makes your eyes light up about a topic, it makes your brain turn with new ideas. Some days it includes all things new and exciting. Other days it includes nothing more than the mundane routine of responsibility. It won't always mean going full speed as if you had just downed a case of Red Bull.

A car gets the best mileage not when it's accelerating, but when it is driving at a steady pace. Don't worry if you're not fired up or feeling like a cheerleader all the time. It doesn't mean your passion has fizzled, it just means you're focused on the long road ahead.

Originally published March 2010

The One Habit Every Wedding Pro Needs To Develop

In order to truly succeed.

Photo by    Cameron Clark

Photo by Cameron Clark

My first job was in high school as a receptionist and shampoo girl at a hair salon. I learned many important skills while working there but the most valuable was learning how to listen to people on a deep level.

It's a universal law that hair salons are a mysterious safe zone where people open up about their most vulnerable feelings while reading gossip magazines. As the professional, you're suddenly entrusted with a piece of their heart, whether you asked to be or not.

It's like this in weddings, too.

If you expect everyone to be rational, logical, and approach decisions with level-headed analysis, the wedding industry is not for you. Every engaged couple and every wedding brings with it a lifetime of family dynamics and subtext that you must learn to navigate almost immediately.

Some of it you'll recognize right away: the emotional loss of identity when two financially independent people are looking at merging bank accounts, a mom who can't seem to cut the apron strings even though her son hasn't lived at home in fifteen years, divorced parents who will be in the same room for the first time in decades, crazy Aunt Mary who doesn't fall off the wagon but jumps every chance she gets.

Then there's the stuff that's less obvious: the sibling rivalry only heightened as adults because of differing life choices, the unspoken social expectations passed down through generations, the years of dinner table conversations and the perspectives they shaped, the hours of therapy the bride or groom has sat through as an adult because of family circumstances.

Sometimes I'll assist a colleague on an event in order to observe the behavioral dynamics behind the scenes. At one wedding in Chicago several ago, the mother of the bride made a tear-filled comment to me about how frumpy her arms looked in her sleeveless dress. On the surface this seems like a common insecurity every woman has had at some point in her life.

What mattered, though, was that the mom wasn't looking at me while she was talking. She was looking across the room at her ex-husband's much younger (read: bride's age) new wife, whose arms could have given Michelle Obama's a run for their money.

There, in the middle of photographs and makeup and hair styling and laughing over champagne, was a woman who was simultaneously excited for her daughter's wedding and grieving afresh her own shattered dreams. She wasn't interested in hearing that her arms looked fine and she looked beautiful, she wanted to know that she was still lovable and worthy of being pursued.

These are tricky waters to navigate and require the ability to listen and pay attention on a level most jobs do not.

They require building a team that practices empathy and isn't solely concerned with their own art, fame, Instagram updates, or checkmarks on a timeline. They require a thick-skin, grit, and a willingness to forgive and forget when people's emotions prevail against their better judgment.

They require consistently paying attention to a world beyond ourselves.

Originally published January 2011

When Business Isn't Fair

It's rarely talent alone that lands the job.

Photo at Bridal Fashion Week by    Cameron Clark

Photo at Bridal Fashion Week by Cameron Clark

If I ever write a memoir, I'm going to call it, "My Baggage Comes As a Matching Set and My Pity Parties Are Catered." While I have a dream job, I've definitely cracked open the Ben & Jerry's on more than one occasion. Sometimes it's been because of my own mistakes or errors in judgment. Other times it was because of decisions that were completely out of my hands.

I know I'm not the only one who's faced situations like this.

Not all planners, venue coordinators, retailers, magazine and blog editors, or conference producers have good taste. And some simply just don't know what they don't know. Sad, but true.

If you are counting on someone in a "gatekeeper" role to always see that your photographs/films/cakes/designs/insights/products are legitimately better in technical quality/taste/actual facts/materials, you will, at times, wind up disappointed and mystified.

Talent still matters in the long run, obviously. Never stop learning and pushing yourself to be better. But also, marketing matters. Networking matters. Being a team player matters. Being pleasant to be around for 8-18 hours a day matters.

You can be all these things, and sometimes you will still lose a wedding to a photographer with 100k Instagram followers who is charging twice what you are because of their popularity but whose photos are just plain bad. The saying "everybody wants what everybody wants" is true and sometimes that includes the wedding industry pros who are supposed to have better taste as well as advanced knowledge and insight into what you do.

It's rarely talent alone that lands the job, as seemingly unfair as that may be. Don't allow that to make you cynical. Throw yourself a pity party for 20 minutes and then get back to work.

Originally published September 2018