If you pay close attention, you can learn lessons that will significantly impact your life in the least likely places.
One of those places for me was during the series of photography classes I had to take in college.
At that time, I only thought I would learn how to take terrific pictures and develop them.
But I got so much more than that.
Those classes taught me some of the best business lessons that have helped me and my business grow.
Here are seven of them:
Business Lesson #1: You Can’t Rush the Process
Success is not just the destination; it’s the entire journey, every bit of it. It’s not just the outcome rather it’s the entire process. – @MohsinAliShokat #successquote #qotd #businesstip Click To Tweet
Back then, we didn’t use digital SLR cameras during our photography classes. Instead, we had to complete our coursework using old-fashioned film SLR cameras.
Because of that, we had to learn several different processes to ensure that the pictures we took came out all right.
As our photography professor was teaching us all these steps, she said something to us that made a significant impact on me:
“Don’t skip any of these steps I’m teaching you,” she said. “If you do, you’ll ruin the photos or film negatives. Either way, you’ll need to start over.”
I hate to admit it, but as she was going through all the steps we had to do to develop the photos we’ll be submitting for our weekly coursework, I was thinking of ways how I could shortcut the entire process.
After all, I had no intention of becoming a professional photographer after graduating from college. Plus, I was taking other classes, and I could allocate the time I saved from my photography class towards completing the coursework in my other classes.
Well, I quickly learned that my professor was right.
Although several stores near my school offered film photo development services, they didn’t include black and white photo development (which was the type of photographs we had to submit).
The only way to pass this course is by doing the work myself.
The same thing is true with your business.
Coming up with a brilliant business idea isn’t enough. You need to research and get objective feedback from others to determine if there’s a market for the product or service you intend to offer.
You also need to be willing to do the work at the beginning.
One reason is that it’s the most cost-effective way to see if your business idea will be lucrative.
More importantly, it’ll help you determine whether or not this is something you want to do long-term.
Business Lesson #2: There’s No Such Thing as an Overnight Success
If you sat in during the first half of our class each week, you’d think: Wow! They accomplished all of that in just one week. That’s amazing!
But you didn’t see the number of times we would groan out of frustration and the number of photos we threw away because they didn’t come out right. I could quickly go through ten sheets of photo paper just to develop one decent picture.
Nor did you see us trading our Saturdays and free periods for hours in the darkroom working on the photos.
You also didn’t see us spending hours underneath the hot sun, rain, or in a congested street during rush hour just to get the shot right.
It wasn’t uncommon for us to find only one good photo to develop in a roll of film with 24 shots.
All you see is the finished product.
And if we were honest with ourselves, that’s how many of us approach the idea of starting and growing a business.
The success stories we see and read about online, combined with living in a world where nearly everything can be done instantly, have created this false assumption that we can quickly build an incredibly successful business. It’s no surprise that many aspiring entrepreneurs give up after they don’t see the results they expect after a few short months.
You need to understand that what you see being celebrated is the end of a journey that took these successful entrepreneurs months, even years, to reach through hard work, dedication, and sacrifice.
Business Lesson #3: How You View Mistakes Affects Your Growth
I’d like to say that my classmates and I fought through the frustrations and mishaps to complete the class.
That wasn’t the case.
As the term progressed, a few of my classmates decided to drop out of the class because it was just too frustrating for them.
What’s ironic is that some of them submitted what I considered to be amazing pictures.
The thing is that everyone makes mistakes, even the most talented ones. It’s part of life and business.
But what separates successful business owners from everyone else is how they view their mistakes.
Most people embrace their mistakes and begin to use them to define who they are. Over time, they use these events to justify why they don’t pursue their dreams. As a result, many of them end up feeling frustrated and stuck.
On the other hand, successful business owners embrace these mistakes as learning opportunities.
Sure, they felt frustrated and discouraged as they went through those events. They also weren’t immune from thinking about giving up.
But they didn’t.
Instead, they focused on the lessons that mistakes can teach them. That way, they can continue their journey while ensuring they don’t repeat the same mistake.
Thomas Edison is perhaps the best example of someone who embraced his mistakes as learning opportunities.
It took Edison 10,000 failed attempts before he finally got the incandescent light bulb to work. When a reporter asked about these mistakes, he told the reporter: “I’ve not failed 10,000 times. I successfully found 10,000 ways that it will not work.”
Business Lesson #4: Balance Is Key
Getting in balance is not so much about adopting new strategies to change your behaviors, as it is about realigning yourself in all of your thoughts so as to create a balance between what you desire and how you conduct your life on a… Click To Tweet
One huge challenge I faced while taking my photography class was that there were more students than black and white developing machines in our photography lab. Because of that, all students were required to book a schedule in advance.
I may have been a nerd back in college, but that didn’t mean that I didn’t have a social life. Plus, I live in a country where the weather can get crazy. I needed to reschedule my booking because of a typhoon, or I got sick.
As a result, I learned early on that I needed to plan my schedule and choose my priorities very carefully to ensure that I met my requirements and still enjoyed college life.
Learning to prioritize things is crucial if you want to grow your business and still enjoy a healthy work-life balance.
You can never be in two places at once. So, each time you say “yes” to one thing, you inevitably say “no” to everything else.
When you’re clear about your priorities, you can say “no” without feeling guilty about your decision.
In the same way, you’ll find yourself making tough decisions when starting and growing your business. Sometimes, making that decision can be tricky because both appear essential.
These are the times when you’ll need to go beyond face value and dig into what you consider your top priorities and non-negotiables.
Remember: work-life balance isn’t about being able to do everything. It’s being able to devote your time and attention to the essential things when they matter the most.
Business Lesson #5: There’s a Price to Pay
Aside from my tuition and laboratory fees, I needed to buy the film and photo paper I needed to complete my coursework. Thankfully, my dad had a film SLR camera, so I didn’t need to buy or rent one.
Plus, I needed to allocate time to shoot and develop my photos.
All so that I can pass the class and the requirements to graduate.
Starting a business is no different.
Yes, there are some businesses that you can start with little to no money. Your business may be one of those.
But you still need to invest your time, knowledge and skills.
As your business grows, that won’t be enough. You’ll also need to invest some of the money you earned at the start for more robust tools and apps. You may even need to hire people to help you complete the tasks you used to do.
Think about it: If you’re not willing to invest a lot in your business, how can you expect others to do the same?
Business Lesson #6: You Can’t Please Everyone
Of the different business lessons photography class taught me, this is the hardest for me to learn. In fact, I’m still in the process of learning this to this day.
After all, nothing can be more heartbreaking and discouraging than putting so much into getting something done, only for someone else to tell you that it’s no good.
That was precisely how I felt when a friend saw the photos I submitted for my final project.
“You probably could have gotten a better grade if you chose a better subject,” she casually commented.
Despite getting a high score from my professor and hearing from my other classmates how much they liked it, that one comment crushed me and affected me so much that when I started doing the coursework for the second photography class I had to take, I could hear her comment ringing in my ear each time I’d take shot or develop a photo.
Thankfully, I had the same photography professor for that class.
She noticed the drastic difference in the quality of the photos I submitted because she talked to me after one of my classes.
“You’re overthinking your shots,” she told me. “Take them like you used to. Those were much better.”
I’d like to say that got me out of the rut. But it didn’t. Not completely.
My mistake there was that I wanted so hard to please everyone, especially my friend.
But the reality is that you can never please everyone, including your customers and clients.
You may have all the knowledge, skills, and experience. But the fact is that some people are either hard to please or don’t want to be pleased.
That doesn’t mean that they’re mean, evil, or want to turn your life into a living nightmare.
For all you know, there may be many reasons behind this.
Perhaps that person representing the company you’re servicing has the same skills and is resentful that the project was outsourced to you instead.
Or maybe that friend had that same business idea as yours, but never followed through as you did.
It could also be that your family members mean well because they don’t want to see you get hurt if things don’t work out.
Whatever the reason, take every experience—good or bad—as a learning experience. Only then can you take steps to improve yourself and how you relate to future customers and clients.
Business Lesson #7: There’s Always Something to Be Thankful For
I couldn’t take any shortcuts in the process of developing my photographs. But eventually, I ended up enjoying the process.
I had to say “no” to a lot of social events. But the skill I learned allowed me to give one of my close friends a photo of us I developed myself, which she still keeps to this day.
I had to spend a considerable chunk of cash on my supplies. But that sparked my entrepreneurial spirit, and I ended up earning money selling these to my classmates and other students.
The path to growing your own business is filled with ups and downs. At times, it can feel like there are more downs than ups.
Still, there’s always something that you can be thankful for.
That attitude of gratitude is what can help keep you going during the challenges that come with running your own business.
On the surface, the photography classes I took were designed to teach me basic and intermediate photography skills.
But as you’ve seen in this blog post, they taught me more than that.
They taught me patience, planning, prioritizing, seeing business opportunities, and being grateful.
I still don’t have any dreams of being a professional photographer. I may never will.
But the lessons I learned here have helped me become the business owner and person I am now. And for that, I’m immensely grateful.
What’s one lesson you’ve learned from an expected place and now applying to your business? Share them in the comments below.