Ecosystems 101: Play the Long Game

Every day when I sit down to eat, there is a choice. I can eat clean protein, and fruits and veggies. Or I can have a some pizza and maybe a shot of Mountain Dew.

What do I want? I want the pizza. Because that is what I want right now, and it is delicious and an easy choice. That's my 'now' perspective.

A better way is probably to consider my future perspective of 20 years from now. As in, what do I wish I had been eating 20 years ago?

That's easy: clean proteins, with lots of fruits and veggies. Plus, if I opt for the pizza and Dew enough, there might not even be a 20 years from now. Problem solved!

What I am trying to say is that shooting whatever you want on a day-to-day basis (assuming you have control of that decision) is fun and easy. But how much cooler to be working with a long-term compass point?

For one thing, it guides your decision making in a logical way, narrowing your creative field and eliminating the paralysis of too many choices.

Second, you have a chance to create something valuable and meaningful over the log term.

It may seem relatively selfish to opt for the instant gratification of shooting whatever you want whenever you want it. But actually, it is even more so to shape your photography in a way that will give you a better shot at a rewarding and fulfilled life.

It's pretty obvious that if you are on a journey you should have a destination, and thus a compass point.

For a while, my compass point was to optimize for happiness. Lately, it has morphed to be, 'optimize for long term happiness.'

Is it selfish? Yep. By definition it is just about as selfish as you can possibly be. But it is also pure and transparent and very quickly gets rid of a lot of crap and paralyzing indecision. And in that way, it is a powerful thing.

And with that thought, we end the first installment of Ecosystems 101. It's a work-in-progress, and will be evolved and appended in the future. (Seriously, you shoulda seen the first pass of Lighting 101. I wrote it with the flu. Not pretty.)

In the coming months, look for follow-ups that will focus on the specifics of what some photographers (both myself and others) are trying to accomplish with this school of thinking.

But for the moment, I hope the above posts are food for thought. And if you do have thoughts, please join the discussion via Twitter.

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