The Boss of Me

I’ve had my share of both great and not-so-great bosses/coaches. My university track coach was outstanding. Despite the fact that I was the slowest runner on the team, never qualifying at the provincial level, he took my development seriously. My personal development was just as important to him as my running. Coaching track was a vehicle for much bigger life lessons, which led to him coaching several Olympic athletes.

On the opposite end of the spectrum was my first boss in photography. In retrospect, I learned a lot from her, albeit mostly what not to do. I shot weddings for her. Despite being a WAY better photographer than I was a runner, no matter what photos I delivered to her, she was unhappy with the results. She defined my value solely on the photos I produced. She didn’t see me as a whole human. I remember at the end of one wedding, in particular, the words she said to me:

“These photos are shit.”
“You are not working hard enough.”
“You are lazy.”
“If you work harder, you will produce better work.”
“You’re too much of a wimp to work as hard as you need to.”  

But, the worst was when I started to get emotional and she hit me with these zingers: “You’re weak. Suck it up. This is what it takes to get good at something.”

When I was happy, she barked that I should focus more. When I was mad, she said to stop blaming the circumstances. When I was content, she snapped to not to get too comfortable.

She dismissed all of my emotions — positive or negative — as irrelevant and weak. Very much a school of hard knocks boss. Working for her was very unpleasant and unenjoyable. Nevertheless, I stuck through it with this horrid boss for much longer than I should have.

You don’t have to be a rocket scientist (but cool if you are!) to know under which circumstances humans perform at their best or their worst. But, for you geeky types, here are some stats for you:

Most of the people on this mailing list are entrepreneurs, meaning you work for yourself. You are your own boss. After reading those two examples above, are you the coach or the boss? Most likely, you’re a mix of the two. Regardless, it’s something we don’t think is important as self-employed individuals.

When we work for ourselves, we often forget about the importance of good leadership. But, how are you to work for? Not for others who work for you. How are you to work for, yourself as the employee? Seriously, stop reading and ask yourself this question: How are you to work for?

Are you the type of boss that sees and treats your art as one small part of your much bigger story? Or do you equate your photography to your value as a human? Do you give yourself the grace to make mistakes and learn from them? Or do you chastise yourself and call yourself names? Do you let yourself feel disappointment and sadness? Or do you view those feelings as a weakness?

In the words of Brené Brown, courageous leaders attend to fears and feelings. This is just as important — even more important — when we lead ourselves. My first photography boss was not some awful human being I will never work for again. She was me. And she’s always ready to come and be my boss again if I let her.

Take a breath. Check-in with yourself as an employee of You, Inc. Check-in again. The best way to be your absolute best boss is by becoming aware of the kind of boss you are and choosing to be the best one.

Love, Erika

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