Total Reading Time: 5 minutes
I first met James Law in May of 2010 at the top of a mountain. No, seriously.
I was back in San Diego, visiting my old friends and college town.
At the time I was working for 3M and had a great job coming out of school. I was living in Manhattan, had a company car, expense account — the works.
That weekend we went out drinking on a Saturday night, SDSU style. A friend decided to wake everyone up at 9 AM on Sunday morning and told us we we should go for a run. We were going to run up Cowles mountain and sweat out the hangover.
James was also there for the run, and even brought along his camera. He casually took some photos of our “victory” at the top of the mountain. Then we got to talking.
He was at a crossroads in his career. I’m sure you’ve been there too. Remember the feeling?
A lot of us think we’re pursuing a noble career that’s meant for us (like my jobs at 3M and Google) and that we should be thankful for. We’re trying to do something that makes us happy, keeps us motivated, and helps us live the lifestyle we want.
Unfortunately, all too often we’re compartmentalized and boxed into a certain job, with specific things we can and can’t do. A lot of times, even these jobs that provide lots of “freedom” are really just shadow careers — a parallel of what we really should be doing. The problem is many of us haven’t quite seen or realized this yet.
Later on James followed up with me through email to do a little networking and…
“…get some advice on breaking into the next step in my sales and marketing career and am ready to grow”.
Clearly, he was simply looking to do anything else. So I gave him the standard reply. Told him about 3M. Described the job opportunities.
But then I asked him — “what actually interests you most?”
So James decided to open up and explain his situation.
“I’m really having a hard time with my job and I know that I’m not growing or learning anymore and its taking a toll on my psyche.”
How many times have you heard someone say that, or even felt it yourself? How unfortunate is it that this is happening to bright, talented, motivated men and women all around the world? Fortunately, there’s a revolution coming.
James also followed up with…
“I’d love to work as a sales/biz dev guy for an MMA or marketing company and do some photography on the side.”
Hmm..MMA? Photography? Little did he know the tiny seed he had planted in his mind was already in the works.
The rest is history.
Fast forward three years and James is not only living his dream, but doing it in style. He’s an incredibly successful and well-known professional photographer, currently Chief Photographer and Photo Director at UFC Magazine, and also has his own freelance photography business.
His interest all started when a neighbor down the hall showed him how to use a Nikon D50. He started shooting photos at gyms, and then of friends.
After a little online exposure…
“a new sports website called me and said ‘Hey James, want to come shoot Strike Force?’ (which is like the baby UFC). I took the day off work, drove up to LA to shoot. I totally thought I was going to get cage side but they put me way up in the rafters and didn’t have the right lenses for it so I was out of luck.
I ended up making my way down to cage side for the last fight and manual focused with my D700 and nailed almost every epic shot. Since that day, I put my day job aside and have shot about 50 UFC’s all over the world. [original source]”
I’ve been watching James’ progress through social media and keeping my eye on his website. Truly incredible stuff.
One day I had a sudden impulse to reach out and congratulate him. Then I remembered the initial email exchange with James three years earlier. So—I went back to that exact email and replied to it so he could see the progress and dramatic change in his life.
James did it. He did exactly what he wanted to do. He was clear about his outcome and powerfully focused on it enough to make it happen. Now he’s doing what he loves, has become very popular (as a result of his passion for what he does), and travels around the world meeting amazing people and enjoying new experiences.
Just in the next two months James will be in: New York City, Tokyo, Basel, Stockholm and a few other cities.
This article is a lesson on understanding what we want is not given to us by asking how. It’s given to us by asking why.
Know and understand your why’s. What is your true inner core? Who is the real you? What does that person want to experience during this lifetime? Why?
Don’t say you want to travel the world because it’s fun. Go deeper. You want it because it makes you feel alive. It educates you and enriches your experiences. The why has to be strong, and at the true root level.
Then — after you have a strong why — ask how. How will this feed your purpose, or help you live the life you’ve always wanted?
This article is also a lesson on a simple truth that we’re all incredibly disconnected from: Anything is possible.
We tend to separate ourselves from these success stories. We read them and think, “well good for James, but that’s not me. He probably got lucky”. Then start listing all these bullshit reasons and limiting beliefs about why life is the way it is.
Rewire your beliefs. Start believing that you’re not limited to what life has given you in the past. Know clearly what you want and why.
Then take immediate action toward it. If we simply hold onto some dream of working with UFC fighters and doing photography, but never buy a camera and never put ourselves out there — how can we possibly ever make that dream come true?
James did. And I challenge you to do the same. One day you’ll wake up and realize you’re living your dream. And that’s worth all the pain and effort in the world.
P.S. James is truly an amazing photographer. As a bonus, below are some of my favorite pictures he’s taken. James also has his own photography business and is available for projects in advertising, portraits, lifestyle, and sports. Head to his website to get more details.