Do you remember the first time you heard the word “no?” I doubt it. I certainly don’t. It’s a word we here often, daily perhaps, even more. Especially as children, we learn the word “no” almost immediately. “No” is a word we will hear for the rest of our lives. But very rarely is “no” truly finite.

I’m reminded of this word, this strong and intimidating word, by watching American Idol tonight. I know, cheesy, but as an entrepreneur often does, I tend to put lots of everyday observations into the context of entrepreneurship so bear with me. One of the contestants on tonight’s episode was pleading and begging with the judges (Simon, Randy, Kara, and guest judge Ellen Degeneres). The judges were resolute in their decision, there was no chance in hell she was going to beg a “yes” from them, yet she continued until it got a bit pathetic. Ellen was quite clear and concise in the way she explained to the contestant that this “no” was not the end of her life, nor was it the last “no” she’ll ever hear, rather this moment is something that she’ll look back on as just another “no” that made her stronger. That kind of wisdom, that Ellen applied, is only gained after overcoming the word “no” and having something to really show for it. Most successful people, no matter what kind of success they’ve had – be it artistic success, professional success, financial success, success through freedom – have overcome this word and made it an opportunity, not an obstacle.

I’m reminded of how many times I heard the word “no” as a teenager when asking a girl out (I did hear “yes” from time to time!). I’m reminded of how many times I heard the word “no” when I didn’t make the team, when job hunting, when selling something, or when pitching venture capitalists.

The word “no” is rarely the end of the road, more often it’s an opportunity. Hearing the word “no” automatically prompts a follow-up question that you can hear from children more often than adults, and it’s “but why not?” or “how come?” That question, that follow-up to the “no”, is the opportunity to learn more, to understand why you aren’t getting what you want.

That’s what “no” is – an opportunity to learn, to improve, to achieve wisdom. Next time you may still get a “no” but perhaps a little later in the conversation.

Being able to overcome the word “no” is a defining characteristic for optimists or idealists. On the flip-side, not being able to overcome this word is a often a defining characteristic of the unambitious, or of pessimists.

Being able to deal with this word is also a defining characteristic for entrepreneurs. I’ve heard this word the first time I hit the streets to sell a CitySquares product, and I learned from it. I bettered the product, or the pitch, and heard it again, and again, until finally I heard Yes once, then twice, then again. I heard the word “no” when raising money for CitySquares, when we weren’t ready. I heard it when I thought we were ready and thought the prospective investors were crazy or foolish. I heard it when I tried to close our first really big sale, or when I tried to establish a big partnership. Yet never has “no” been finite for me.

The word “yes” is an exciting word, it means you got something right, or got what you wanted but the word “no” can oftentimes be more valuable.

Project 365: As it Happens

If you’re following along with my Project 365, I’m including the pics below. I upload each picture every day when possible. Here’s an update on the project after my first month at it.

You can see the all photos of the project below. If you click on the pics they’ll open up in a lightbox and you can browse the gallery one at a time. These pics are all stored up on my flickr page in the Project 365 set.

I’m having a ton of fun and finding new ways of challenging myself and creating more interesting photos(I should say photos that I find interesting). Some are lame and mundane too, but hey, what can you take a picture of when you in bed with the flu? Don’t answer that.

[flickr-gallery mode=”photoset” photoset=”72157623117114636″ flickr size=”medium”]

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Project 365: Lessons Learned

I’m one month into Project 365, where I take a picture every single day this year. At the bottom of this post are the pics from all 31 pictures taken in January 2010. Most I like, some I hate, a few I love. But I’ve learned a few lessons learned thus far in Project 365, and here they are…

  1. Taking a picture every day is hard. No shocker there. It can lead to mundain photos of just daily life, things that are quite boring. And when I’m inconvenienced by something that takes my attention away from taking a photo, or keeping my eyes peeled for something photo worthy, I find myself struggling at the end of the day to take a photo and that usually leads to something really lame or boring. Lesson learned: No matter how hard it is, I must strive to take a photo either earlier in the day or if I can’t I must take a photo that is not as boring as convenience might lend.
  2. It’s hard to be creative when you’re not feelin’ it. Forcing creativity usually results in really lame pictures, forced. However, I do find myself spotting moments of humanity’s sadness in daily life, in the world around me, moments of humanity that I want to capture, someone pushing a shopping cart of cans up a hill, and I want to take a photo of that, but there are so many reasons why I don’t, mainly that it seems degrading to the subject. Lesson learned: Find something beautiful, no matter my own definition of beauty. What I think is beautiful could be something quite sad, quite cold, but yet beautiful. Like that stupid plastic bag dancing in the breeze in American Beauty. Sorry for the lame example, but it makes the point.
  3. The iPhone camera is simply not good enough for this project, not even close. I’ve been using the free Adobe Photoshop app to tweak the photos, but the original photo leaves much to be desired. Lesson learned: bring my point-and-shoot with me wherever I go, at the minimum. If I can, bring my Canon EOS 40D.
  4. I’ve been doing Project 365 with Ali and that helps a lot. Doing it together really helps each of us remember, and it’s a lot fun too. We’re experimenting a bit, and challenging each other and having a lot of fun. I’m helping her learn her Nikon D40 and learn more about digital photography, and doing this project together everyday helps both of learn from each other and inspire each other.
  5. Be spontaneous. I’m just getting the grasp on this now. Wednesday evening I got home from a doctor appointment around 8pm and there was a possum in my driveway. Most people would say “big deal.” But I immediately reached for the camera. Why? Well it’s a quick pic for my daily quota, but also it’s something different and unique – something I don’t experience every day. Taking pictures of my dog Elmer, while he’s cute and all that, is just kinda routine, expected. A possum in my driveway, a little different. Lesson: have a camera with me and be ready to take a picture of those moments that pass as quickly as the come. Be quick, be spontaneous, be confident.
  6. Raise the bar. Over the last few days of January I’ve been trying to take pictures that I’ve always wanted to take. A picture of a droplet, intervals of the moon (or sun), star trails. There are many more pictures I just want to take to cut notches in my belt, if you will, and to prove to myself that I can do it. It’s easier to take these kinds of photos that take a lot of time when, well, when I have the time. But the more I cut my teeth on these kinds of challenging pictures, the easier it becomes to take them. Key lesson here to just keep raising the bar for myself, don’t be afraid to take pictures I may think I’m not good enough for; I just may surprise myself.

So far what I’m really enjoying about this project is how it demands my attention and a commitment. I love that I must dedicate a little time every day to being creative, and taking a break from everything else. I love that the pictures also show me where I’ve been, or what was on my mind, or a mood I may been in, or a circumstance, the weather and seasons, or even a new idea I’m toying with. I’m using a variety of lenses, from my Canon EF-S 70-200 f/2.8 to my 60mm macro lens or 15mm Tokina fisheye. I’m using them to help guide me as much as I’m choosing them for certain subjects. That’s a cool record of daily life that I can look back on. Also, the pictures that I’m choosing for Project 365 each day are just one photo among many others. I am taking other photos of other things, or of the same subject. So I have a record of that in Adobe Lightroom too, and all tagged properly so I can look back at my library. Very cool indeed.

I’m looking forward to more! I think getting through the first month was the toughest, making it a habit and routine is the hardest part. Now it’s part of my daily routine.

OK, onto February!

[flickr-gallery mode=”tag” tags=”project365,january,2010″ tag_mode=”all”]

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