Posts tagged inspiration

Adjust Your Hustle

Tech Worker

We hear so much these days about the ‘pivot’. Faced with unprecedented health and economic crises, small businesses and freelancers are hunkering down to weather the storm. Many are panicking, understandably. Those who can are using the opportunity to shift their focus to the things they can do: becoming more useful, more disciplined and more prepared to safely get back to work when it’s time to do so.

I’m most grateful that I’m healthy and that my very large, far-flung family is as well. Number one priority for me has been to stay healthy and to keep my business healthy as possible.

I’ve had more family time than I’m used to, and it’s been both challenging and rewarding. My daughter Maggie is 13 and in seventh grade. She’s not the World’s Biggest Fan of online learning and misses her friends, but by now she’s turned into a bit of a corporate lawyer: from waking up at 5:30 to get work done before her school day starts, to pausing her earbuds, forefinger raised, to tell her parents that “I’ve got back to back Zooms from 9:30 to noon; I’ll catch up with you for lunch before my 1 o’clock.”

I’ve been using my time to brush up on skills—taking a handwriting course, of all things, and studying Russian again—and to work on new ones, like shooting video and editing in Premiere Pro.  That’s been fun and I’ll have more work to show soon.

It’s also been a welcome opportunity to re-edit my work and website. I’m embarrassed to say how long it’s been since my last major website portfolio update, but it’s not for lack of new work.  Finally I’m incorporating personal and client images from the past couple of years and can’t wait to reveal those soon. As I refocus my marketing and other business systems, I’m streamlining things to make my workflows easier and my client experience better.

My studio is clean, organized and prepped for reopening. I’ve even done a few no-contact and social-distancing client shoots this week, following the state guidelines as service businesses like mine reopen.

In this time of social distancing, the most surprising and unexpected benefit has been connecting (and reconnecting) with friends and family sadly too long neglected (by me, usually, not by them): a high school friend now serving in the Navy in Spain (a nurse, no less); my octogenarian Uncle Michael in Washington State who proudly wears a ponytail; former newspaper colleagues around the country.  I love Virtual Happy Hours….a bit too much. I’ve learned not to schedule more than two of these in a weekend.

In April, I helped to form a group of fellow creatives located around the world. We meet weekly to discuss marketing, how to elevate our work and our value, and to hold each other accountable. The group includes a photographer from Montreal; a Florida filmmaker; a podcaster and a designer, both from Portugal; a Budapest furniture designer and a German copywriter. After just one month, it’s become a hugely valuable part of my week and one positive outcome of this strange time that I plan to continue long after the pandemic ends.


I’ve realized that just because the world slows down, there is work to be done: maintaining health, relationships, and working hard to pivot your business, your career and your skills.  I’m adjusting my hustle, though more work needs to be done.  

Now if I can just wean myself off of these happy hours, I think I’ll be in good shape.


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This is Our Moment

Charles Norman Shay
Charles Norman Shay, © Brian Fitzgerald

My grandfather, Gordon Clark, died at the age of 95 in 1991. A soft-spoken man with a great sense of humor and a fondness for Irish Whiskey, “Pappy” also survived many trying times in his long and extraordinary life. I still have the German flare gun he brought home from WWI as a member of the Battery B, 12th Artillery, 2nd Division of the US Army in France. He lost his fortune in the Great Depression, and rebuilt his life and family in the years to come.

Raymond Gordon Clark
Raymond Gordon Clark, c.1917

Closer to home, I photographed Charles Norman Shay, 96, of Indian Island, Maine.   A decorated Army veteran and Penobscot elder, Shay was a combat medic in WWII, was taken prisoner of war in Germany, and then served again as a medic in the Korean War. Along the way he was awarded a Bronze Star, Silver Star, and the Legion d’Honneur, meaning that Shay is, quite literally, a French knight.

Many of us haven’t literally fought in the trenches, but we’ve all lived through trying times.  

If you’re in your 30s, you’ll remember living through the Great Recession, the War on Terror and 9/11. If you’re a Gen-Xer, you remember the gas crisis, the stock market crash of 1986 (plus one in 1992), Desert Storm, the Iran hostage crisis, and the fall of the Soviet Union. A bit older and you remember the throes of the Cold War, the assassinations of MLK, RFK, JFK; the Cuban Missile Crisis, the resignation of Nixon and Vietnam. Before that, there was the 1957 influenza A (H2N2) virus pandemic that killed 1.1 million worldwide (116,000 in the US), the Korean War, “duck and cover” drills, and the McCarthy Hearings. The Greatest Generation fought WWII and endured hardships and deprivation that we’d find hard to imagine today.

We’ve been through tough times before.

At times like these—of great uncertainty and great fear—it’s easy to get overwhelmed and to think that nothing can be done.  But that’s not entirely true.

It’s important to remember that we as a society will make it through the Covid-19 pandemic, and chances are, you will too.  Yes, the world will change.  Yes, this virus and the resulting economic impact will have far-reaching and for many, devastating effects. Yes, much remains unclear.

But what is clear? What was important one short month ago no longer seems so significant. Instead of doing lots of busywork, most of us are at home, connecting with loved ones. Or perhaps we’re at a critical job, doing essential work to care for, feed or provide for others. What we are doing now matters.

This isn’t a time for selling, or for expansion, but it can be a time for growth. It’s a time for doing what’s essential, taking care of yourself and others, and for growing in whatever ways you can. These weeks and months of forced downtime are an opportunity to slow down, reflect, live simply and plan for what is to come.

I’m taking classes to learn new skills that I’ve long wanted to develop. I’m editing my portfolio and trying to stay healthy (thanks, Arnold Schwarzenegger!). My hope is that I’ll look back in a couple of months, as the world is getting back to work, and I know I’ll be grateful if I spent my time well; happy that if I couldn’t control the situation or the outcome, I could at least control my response.

Here’s to surviving—and thriving—in this moment where it matters most.

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