Jen Sulak of Weirdo Weddings + Pink Light Images On Becoming Free From The Fear Of Failure
An Interview With Savio P. Clemente
Go get your paper right now, and a pen and jot down your fears of life, business, and dreams. Detail out the “failures” you think are worst-case scenarios! Then, truly look at them — are they really that scary? If they are, ask yourself why until you get to the answer of why you are scared and fearful.
The Fear of Failure is one of the most common restraints that holds people back from pursuing great ideas. Imagine if we could become totally free from the fear of failure. Imagine what we could then manifest and create. In this interview series, we are talking to leaders who can share stories and insights from their experience about “Becoming Free From the Fear of Failure.” As a part of this series, I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Jen Sulak.
Jen is a Wedding Photographer, Inspirational Speaker and Conceptual Portrait Artist. She embraces the weird, celebrates creativity and brings an atmosphere of love wherever she goes.
Thank you so much for joining us! Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’?
Thank you so much for having me! I have been a creative my entire life. Art has followed with me like a close friend while moving from city to city and state to state. Creativity was always a lifeline that felt like a natural outlet to put pen to paper, or in some cases, eye to lens to capture what I was feeling or seeing. I’ve been heavily into the photography medium since around 2006 and having a great time exploring it all! As the years went on, I found my niche within the niches of photography and have narrowed it down to Wedding Photography and Conceptual Portraits! My newest wedding brand Weirdo Weddings embraces all the weird ideas and celebrates imagination! My conceptual work has recently been featured on Sony’s “Facing Creativity” with Brooke Shaden, where we explore fear itself.
When not working on my passions, I’m a mom to a lovely miracle and wife to the love of my life! Plus, you might see me doing a tiny bit of strength training, seeing Blue Man Group, or traveling as often as I can for business (destination weddings) and pleasure! (I’m a beach & movie location fanatic.)
Can you share with us the most interesting story from your career? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘take aways’ you learned from that?
One of the most interesting and newest stories is starting a new brand after years of being under one umbrella of a brand. During 2020, I really had to do some searching within myself and ask the hard questions about my photography business & career. When summer came around, I started a new brand which has been the best adventure I’ve ever had, but also the most AUTHENTIC. Weirdo Weddings came from years and years of weird ideas, meeting other weirdos and finding community. It was the biggest leap I’ve taken yet in my creative career. The lessons I specifically took away is that hiding your true self only stops you from connecting with the other people you are supposed to connect to. We’ve all been given the joy of a sphere of people that enter our lives, where we connect on many levels, but connecting and loving yourself first leads you to your people/community.
You are a successful leader. Which three character traits do you think were most instrumental to your success? Can you please share a story or example for each?
Authenticity! While this may be an over-shared term, it is important to note that when you dig into the deepest parts of yourself, ask the hard questions and realize that you are not for everyone (meaning, not everyone is your client) — it is a freedom that cannot be contained. This spills over into your business life as you navigate your marketing, content and how you serve others. I often ask myself quite recently, is this authentic to me? It is a trait I’m holding dear since I have Pink Hair and people will often wonder why or pass early judgment on me.
2 other traits I have found helpful are passion and perseverance. When these 2 traits work together whole-heartedly you can overcome many fears and doubts that come your way as a creator, business owner, and human. Passion is a wonderful fuel that feels like it burns inside of you, and you have to pursue what is inside. Perseverance is when you have to be your own cheerleader, fight through emotional breakdowns or barriers, and walk through this path called life.
Ok, thank you for all that. Now let’s shift to the main focus of this interview. We would like to explore and flesh out the concept of becoming free from failure. Let’s zoom in a bit. From your experience, why exactly are people so afraid of failure? Why is failure so frightening to us?
I’d like to think one viewpoint of the aspects of failure is how people view us when we “fail”. Somehow, there always seems to be an unspoken expectation by ourselves and our sphere to NEVER fail or see failure as a negative. Maybe we are afraid of how we look? Afraid of not being taken seriously because of failure? Some of us get caught in the “people pleasing” so that we always try to keep a façade of successes more than failures. Failure feels frightening because we don’t want to admit we are flawed, imperfect and capable of mistakes. The sooner you embrace the humanity of all of those things, the better you can see failure as a positive aspect of this life.
What are the downsides of being afraid of failure? How can it limit people?
I see endless people in this lifetime holding back because of this fear. They never try anything new and always stay in a comfort zone. Additionally, they never find their truest self or purpose in their lifetime and their deepest passions remain hidden and untapped. Compromise because of fear is just stalling for your deepest dreams to come to life. So many of us (myself included years ago) don’t see these things about ourselves! I didn’t see potential in myself, and I certainly didn’t see how I could do anything in the arts realm that would actually be fulfilling! Yet, here I am — fully embracing how my life led me here.
In contrast, can you help articulate a few ways how becoming free from the free of failure can help improve our lives?
Becoming free from this fear of failure adds so much to enhance your life! Failures and mistakes are great teachers if we are willing students. I have learned how to create better, communicate more efficiently, and have a true feeling of success from within instead of always seeking something outside of myself. One step you can take right away is to journal something that scares you! How and why does it scare you? What do you really have to lose if you don’t try this thing? I think when we ask ourselves the questions and even answer them — you may find the fear was an illusion all along and you can take that leap and just say you tried it. Then, come back to that experience and share it with others. Become vulnerable in sharing the human side of your life & business!
We would love to hear your story about your experience dealing with failure. Would you be able to share a story about that with us?
One of my biggest failures was naming my creative company from the beginning. I had made it so artistic and so unrelatable that I was “hidden” from most of my potential clients and people getting to know me properly! It took many years before I made some decisions on re-naming and accepting myself as I was with “pink hair, don’t care” kind of thinking.
How did you rebound and recover after that? What did you learn from this whole episode? What advice would you give to others based on that story?
My process started from within! I was learning to accept who I was as a photographer and artist, but also be OK with being known for my pink hair when re-naming my company to Pink Light Images. It took a solid week of soul-searching, asking questions about what I truly wanted to offer and then coming up with a solid marketing idea plan. If you find yourself in a place where people aren’t finding you, you might want to look at how you have named yourself! I know it sounds very simple, but if your ways of communicating are hard to understand — people will forget you quickly. Take some time if you feel the need to re-address your business to sit alone in a room or a space where you can write out thoughts, brainstorm ideas and literally pull out your dreams in your heart. I’ve done this countless times over 15+ years and each time, I have gotten closer and closer to where I want to go. This also made growing into Weirdo Weddings (the new brand) much easier, but still had some effort to it!
Fantastic. Here is the main question of our interview. In your opinion, what are 5 steps that everyone can take to become free from the fear of failure”? Please share a story or an example for each.
#1 — Go get your paper right now, and a pen and jot down your fears of life, business, and dreams. Detail out the “failures” you think are worst-case scenarios! Then, truly look at them — are they really that scary? If they are, ask yourself why until you get to the answer of why you are scared and fearful.
#2 — Pick one thing off of your list to tackle. Break it down into actionable steps so that you can conquer it bit by bit. Smaller pieces of a large item are easier to work through than taking on a giant monster of a project!
#3 — Find an accountability partner or coach immediately! If this is truly something you want to accomplish or make happen, your best bet is to ask for help and clearly outline what it is, and where you want to go with it!
#4 — Never stop asking questions! Questioning your intentions leads you to answers that can push your forward while also realistically having fears and doubts in the car with you. I loved what a friend said once about Fear and Doubt being screaming toddlers in the back seat, we just don’t let them drive the car! They will probably always be there; recognize it and your excuses will fall to the side.
#5 — Encourage yourself! Make notes, signs, and special messages to yourself regarding what you are in the process of doing or overcoming. We all have days where get are caught in a brain fog of anxiety, doubts, fears, and actual failures. Know that these will happen and prepare ahead of time to sit with those feelings, but also prepare for ways to move through those feelings. I decorate my office and home environment with many words, phrases, inspirational calendars, and music playlists that keep me going!
The famous Greek philosopher Aristotle once said, “It is possible to fail in many ways…while to succeed is possible only in one way.” Based on your experience, have you found this quote to be true? What do you think Aristotle really meant?
I do believe there is some truth in this statement! What I’m gathering from Aristotle is we will always have so many things come across our path that are failures. Ideas fail. Communication fails. Our need to get a yes, with a lot of no’s kinds of things. I do believe there will be many rejections, no’s, and more before we have what we define as “success”. When we have defined “success” I also believe we can define the failures that came with it. Any great dream, idea or passion will come with obstacles — that is the beauty of it all.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the greatest amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)
Continuing the spread of the good news of how art and the arts can be healing, expressive, vocal and therapy to those in need of connecting with themselves and others. I truly think we need to start experiencing self-awareness and connection with our communities!
We are blessed that some very prominent leaders read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US, with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them :-)
Drew Barrymore! I find her resilience, creativity, and relatability to be endearing! What a fun brunch or “breakfast all day” that would be! Hey Drew, I love coming to NYC — let’s do this (and go see Blue Man Group off-Broadway)!
How can our readers further follow your work online?
You can find my “mothership” to all information at my website
On Instagram you will see current updates and all things Weddings & Art — @weirdoweddings @pinklightweddings and @pinklightimagesofficial
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for the time you spent on this. We wish you only continued success.
About The Interviewer: Savio P. Clemente coaches cancer survivors to overcome the confusion and gain the clarity needed to get busy living in mind, body, and spirit. He inspires health and wellness seekers to find meaning in the “why” and to cultivate resilience in their mindset. Savio is a Board Certified wellness coach (NBC-HWC, ACC), stage 3 cancer survivor, podcaster, writer, and founder of The Human Resolve LLC.
Savio pens a weekly newsletter at thehumanresolve.com where he delves into secrets from living smarter to feeding your “three brains” — head 🧠, heart 💓, and gut 🤰 — in hopes of connecting the dots to those sticky parts in our nature that matter.
He has been featured on Fox News, and has collaborated with Authority Magazine, Thrive Global, Food Network, WW, and Bloomberg. His mission is to offer clients, listeners, and viewers alike tangible takeaways in living a truly healthy, wealthy, and wise lifestyle.
Savio lives in the suburbs of Westchester County, New York and continues to follow his boundless curiosity. He hopes to one day live out a childhood fantasy and explore outer space.