I write about integrity, honor, and ethics all relating to business – specifically the photography business and how photography helps my clients. But what about me, Michael the man and Michael the Photographer: do I live these principles in my life?
I like to think that I do and that these characteristics in business come from the personal side of me. I want to always do the right thing; to stick to my principles. I have a way of trying to do that every day and that is by doing the next right thing. Doing the next right thing is not an easy task sometimes. In fact doing the next right thing means that I have to be paying attention, for starters. How else am I going to even recognize it?
Not all that long ago I worked in the corporate world at a Fortune 500 company and I made a rather good salary. Life was financially comfortable and all the bills were paid. I maintained a basement studio in my home and I did my photography as a part time business. My goal was to learn and grow as a photographer so that someday the photography would overcome the corporate income and I could branch out on my own and leave that rat race.
Life has a tendency to force your hand at times and that is what happened to me. Due to corporate politics I was forced out before “I was ready.” To make a very long story short, I had the opportunity to let a situation pass and go seemingly unnoticed or I could report it to the chain of command. Reporting it to my higher-ups meant that there was a good chance someone was going to lose their job. That someone turned out to be me. But it was the right thing to do and it is was in line with the ethics the company felt was one of their core values.
I could have fairly easily gotten another position in the corporate world and it very likely would have paid a similarly salary and my photography business was nowhere near fully supporting me and my (now) wife. Yet deep inside myself I knew that if any situation that came up like the last one it would cost me my job again. Even though I was doing the next right thing I was the one paying the price and the corporations were sacrificing something for profits. That ‘something’ was not something I was willing to sacrifice, at least not sacrifice and have an easy time sleeping at night.
So what to do: go back into another position that will cost me my honor, which I place higher than anything else, or take the difficult route of building my own business doing what I love anyway? As you can see by reading this I chose the latter. I preserved my principles and my ethics but I lost my house and studio. I lost many of my material possessions, my 401k and most of my savings too. Now every day I work to better myself, my skills and my business; I compromise nothing and I stand tall knowing that though it is a difficult path full of uncertainty and financial doubt, I am doing the next right thing.
Making this choice was both the hardest thing and the easiest thing I have ever done. On the one hand I am my own boss; I get to work with wonderful people like the woman in the images above. On the other I never know where the next job is coming from or the next month’s rent, I went from 8 hours a day, 40 hours per week to an average day of 15 hours and a 100 hour work week. But I know that what I do for my clients is the right thing to do. They get the work they need, they get the value I promise and they will rarely have someone work as hard for them as I will. And when I lay down at night next to that wonderful woman who supports me in all that I do, I know that I will rest well because I will continue tomorrow doing the same thing I did today. I will do the next right thing.