062: What I Learned From Uploading Everyday on Instagram for 365 Days In A Row.
Learn. Create. Move Forward.
One year ago I launched a podcast, started a live Ask Mike Anything weekly show on Blab and unconsciously started a 365 Day Photo Challenge on Instagram. I did not plan on this challenge, but after posting daily for a week or so, I casually adopted the challenge and never missed a day. Every single day for one year I made a photo, video or illustration to upload to Instagram.
This challenge was about me, not about making great art.
I teach people how to podcast and learn the tools of creating content. So I just started taking photos of my gear and equipment. I am not a professional photographer but I work as a photo studio manager and have loved photography since Mr. Killmore’s 9th grade class that I eventually stopped taking because photo paper and film was so expensive. I spend 8 hours a day in Photoshop and all of the Adobe products, and spend all my free time learning about creativity and design. I’m also trying to build an online brand. I think I have a good eye for nice photography and design, but I accept I am not the artist I wish I was. But I love to create and make things and figure out little tricks and hacks that serve no purpose other than to make me smile and keep my creative mind and energy fresh.
I don’t stress about personal challenges or goals as I usually don’t follow through on them. I only take commitments I make to others seriously. I have accountability issues and have been working really hard on self-awareness and self-respect. I’m tricking myself into believing that I am worthy of success and happiness. No really, I mean it. I tend to quit things when I see the light at the end of the tunnel. Not sure why, but I genuinely lose interest in things whenever the possibility of it working surfaces. It never upsets me either, I completely disregard the ‘thing’ and look for something else to spark my interest. Weird, I know. Working on the whole package.
The Instagram project was different. It just sort of happened and for the first time in my life I realized if I could figure out a way to get paid for this, I’d do it forever. It wasn’t just the photography, it was the being outside and tinkering with tools and gear and just being happy. It’s the same feeling I get when traveling. When I go anywhere, I’m happy. I’m trying to make a living like that. I’m not there yet, but I never will be if I don’t try.
I’ve been trying to figure out ‘my thing’ for ever. I’m a chronic jack of all trader, but I never stop learning and creating and pushing myself to be better at everything that interests me. The Instagram 365 was right up my alley, but I admit it was not always a walk in the park. It wasn’t always pretty, but I made it happen, day after day. My love for this challenge was not only photography, it was the combination of all of my interests rolled into one place and that felt good.
Challenge: I do not own 365 days worth of podcast equipment and gear.
Lesson Learned: I was forced to stretch my creative process in a way that I knew would make me a better version of myself in many areas of my personal and business life. I am a problem solver and this challenge was practice. I live in a 500 sq. foot cottage with not that much stuff and I would look around and think, hmmm, what should I make today. I had to figure out something to do every single day. Rain or shine. Happy or sad. My Instagram challenge was a priority and it made me a better creator and producer and it gave me confidence to be me.
Challenge: Hitting Upload when I know the photo stinks.
Lesson Learned: I’m trying to be less self-critical, so I actually started having fun uploading what I thought was no good and watching it get more likes than the photo I loved and got crickets. You never know. Share everything.
Lesson Learned: I learned that I am creative in my own unique way. I am creative in how I figure things out and how I approach problems. I start at the end and work backwards. This challenge had nothing to do with photography. I saw it as a way to push myself in a way that I knew I would enjoy and that I knew would keep the momentum of my online business and brand moving forward. Similar to my podcast, I knew this challenge would be a lot of commitment and work, but showing up everyday would pay off one way or another. Maybe I inspired one person to not be afraid to share their artwork or to work hard or to do what you love or to just be yourself. There are so many amazing Instragrammers out there and I am so respectful of talented creators, but everything I made was all me. I just did it. I made a photo everyday and usually pretty quickly. I didn’t obsess over every detail, I just took a photo or picked on from the day before, ran it through Lightroom and up up and away. I never cared about how many likes or followers I got, but I did respond to every single comment. Even the BS ones.
Challenge: Hard work
Lesson Learned: I worked my butt off in this little endeavor. I got up at sunrise many mornings with a backpack weighed down with gear and rode my bike all around looking for someplace new or different. I had fun, but I showed up everyday even when I didn’t feel like it. I have always been the hardest worker at all my jobs, but the biggest difference was it was one of the first things I ever worked as hard for myself to reap the benefits. For that I am proud of myself. I invested in myself and I completed the project, because I want to create the life I want for once. I have never had anyone stopping me other than myself and this challenge was a big step to pushing through to me.
Lesson Learned: I have really thick skin and I really only fear self-criticism. I can be pretty tough on myself.
One person told me I was boring and to go F$@! myself. I laughed and showed all my friends and family and then took a screenshot because they say you haven’t made it until the hates come out. I thanked him and told him I was glad I made someone’s day. I also realized that I value kindness and just being respectful of others as I would never write something like that to anyone.
I also had an 80 year old shuffleboarder from Naples approach me in one of my favorite beach spots and say, you now I’ve seen you out here for months and I finally have to ask you, just what in the hell are you doing with all this crap? I replied that I am trying get paid to do what I love. He said, fair enough and that he would check me out on Instagram.
My Instagram challenge became a habit. Like brushing my teeth, but it still makes me happy doing it and it keeps my creative juices flowing. I have no goal in place of doing it again in Year 2, but also have no intention of stopping. I’ll need some new gear to make it another year, but I’m a problem solver; I’ll figure something out.
Was it a success? Absolutely. I have been on a mission to create a business around doing what inspires me and what helps others. This challenge made me realize that while I still don’t have all the answers, I am headed in the right direction and I am believing in myself. I became a better teacher and communicator as I did a lot of Snapchatting and Instagram Stories, which I never would have done a couple of years ago. I made connections with some great folks, I got a new podcast listeners, I think I inspired a few, a couple of my favorite brands like Shure and Rode Microphones gave me personal kudos, which impressed me. Adam Carolla gave me a thumbs up or his social media team did, but cool either way. I met a lot of millionaire 21 year olds who own Bentleys and live in Monaco and and on the beaches of Thailand that seem really nice.
I will continue be me and create, teach and share what I know and maybe somebody will like what I’m doing and open a door that will lead me on a new leg of my journey or maybe someone will thank me for inspiring them to do something they want to do. Until then I will keep working on my business, me and helping others by sharing what I know.