Whatever Makes You Nervous

dash by martin gisborneWhenever Michael Jordan gets on the golf course and his friends ask the stakes of the game–how much money they’re betting against one another–rumor has it that his stock response is: “Whatever makes you nervous.”

That’s what you should bet on yourself, every time. Not what makes you comfortable, but what makes you nervous.

Your muscles get stronger by running, jumping, lifting weights, by stressing them out, by pushing them, not by sitting on the couch.

Mario Andretti said famously: “If everything seems under control, you’re not going fast enough”.

And the one-liners could go on and on… Point being that you’ve got to push your comfort level to grow. That goes for your photography, your filmmaking, your art, your vision, your business, your whatever.

You will not succeed if you do not take risks.

[thx for the flying shot martin gisborne!]

112 Responses to Whatever Makes You Nervous

  1. Tyler December 1, 2010 at 9:35 am #

    so good. great reminder to continually be pushing yourself.

  2. Juan Gracias December 1, 2010 at 9:40 am #

    Very true. Muchas gracias. this is not easy though, but im on my path discovering and enjoying it. Its not what you do, its what you deal with.

  3. abdessamed azarfane December 1, 2010 at 9:44 am #

    Hi Chase!

    That’s so true! I’m an architectural student and partime photographer! When i design something that’s confortable for me, it usually isn’t good enough for the teachers! But whenever i’m uncomfourtable en having doubt about my work, they seem to be loving it because it’s a whole other level! So TRUE!

    Abdessamed Azarfane

  4. Travis Neely December 1, 2010 at 9:45 am #

    This is a great mantra for everything in life… to much comfort = stagnation… stagnation in the creative business = eating rice and beans every night :-)

  5. Micah Kvidt December 1, 2010 at 9:46 am #

    Great post Chase! Your blogs are always good for a boost of motivation!

  6. Amy December 1, 2010 at 9:48 am #

    Not succeeding at my photography business makes me nervous for sure. But I like what you said and I probably do need to “take more risk.” I know it’s in me somewhere – I just have to tap into that power.

    | Amy |
    http://www.amymooreportraitsblog.com/
    http://www.facebook.com/amymooreportraits

  7. Nick Swenson December 1, 2010 at 9:48 am #

    Another inspiring post, Thanks Chase!!

  8. Zak Shelhamer December 1, 2010 at 9:49 am #

    Thanking about making the switch from Nikon to Canon… RISKY

    • Anonymous December 1, 2010 at 3:35 pm #

      Bad bet

    • Paul Mulligan December 25, 2010 at 1:34 am #

      Stay with the Nikons
      Switching from Canon to Nikon was the best thing I ever did

  9. Stuart Bailey December 1, 2010 at 9:52 am #

    A short and punchy post! Great reminder for us to get out of our comfort zone and push our photography to different degrees. Thanks Chase :-)

  10. Thom Gourley December 1, 2010 at 9:59 am #

    Great timing on this, Chase. I was just contemplating this very point yesterday. On a similar note, Jay Maisel likes to quote Woody Allen:

    “If you’re not failing, you’re not trying hard enough!”

  11. Jeremy December 1, 2010 at 9:59 am #

    I’m scared of flying. Just think of all I could do were that not the case…

  12. Toni Johnson December 1, 2010 at 10:04 am #

    This is groovy! I’ve always known the philosophy in pool (I play competitively) and know I have to apply it to my photography career as well… Thanks for the reminder! : )

  13. David Dvir December 1, 2010 at 10:12 am #

    It seems that no matter which way we look at things, we’ve always go to be taking chances and embracing a bit of the uncontrolled.

  14. Luke V December 1, 2010 at 10:16 am #

    Damn.. That came at just the right time.

    Thank you!

  15. Tucker Jones December 1, 2010 at 10:22 am #

    I absolutely agree. I push myself every chance I can to do better or do something to further my goals. Thanks for sharing Chase!

  16. Wilf Feder December 1, 2010 at 10:22 am #

    you said it man. i embrace your views =)

  17. Dan Achhatz December 1, 2010 at 10:22 am #

    This has always been my business philosophy, and it works. I reinvented myself as a photographer at age 50, and now at 57, I continue to go for jobs that are a bit over my head whenever I see them. There are two things you can do in life. Dig in, or reach for the stars.

    • Alatta Space December 1, 2010 at 3:37 pm #

      Your post inspires me….could your reinvention have been from film to digital?

  18. John R December 1, 2010 at 10:38 am #

    Came across this quote the other day. Same sentiment:
          
    “To love is to risk not being loved in return. To hope is to risk pain. To try is to risk failure, but risk must be taken because the greatest hazard in life is to risk nothing.”

  19. David December 1, 2010 at 11:00 am #

    This is kind of what my whole next year is about. Working with models and business, both things I have no experience with and fear I will be bad at. haha.

  20. Randy December 1, 2010 at 11:08 am #

    Great post. This becomes even more relevant as you get older and become less likely to take risks. At age 53, I am still trying to move my photography to new heights. Thanks for all you put out Chase you are a great inspiration.

  21. Brian December 1, 2010 at 11:09 am #

    Crap! I didn’t want to hear this today! I guess I will have to take on this project I was hesitant over…..screw you Chase

  22. dmkellman December 1, 2010 at 11:14 am #

    Very true. A few years ago I was taking photo classes and the thought of shooting portraits scared the bejesus out of me. But I knew that if I really wanted to go somewhere with my photography, I had to be able to do portraits. So I took a deep breath and took some portrait classes. If it weren’t for me pushing myself, overcoming that fear of photographing people, I wouldn’t be working at a portrait studio right now.

  23. Mike December 1, 2010 at 11:21 am #

    I agree with your overall point but I think the real reason Jordan wanted to bet at the level of nervousness was because he wanted an edge. Especially in sports people fail all of the time when they hit the big stage. They think too much.

  24. Alison December 1, 2010 at 11:39 am #

    So totally true, it’s something I have to remind myself of everyday, to not just stay in my comfort zone.
    Recently I applied to be part of a fan-based project for a CGI team. I didn’t expect to be accepted an when I was my first thought was ‘AHH!’. It scares the hell out of me to be relied on an to have my work analysed for if it’s good enough. The other half of me though reminds myself that by doing this I’ll learn to be less afriad and that if I do this properly an put the time in it’ll put me in good standing and make me more confident for when I apply for a paid job.
    Rarely does something get better by ignoring it and rarely can you improve in yourself by not being creative an pushing the boundaries.

  25. Meredith Phillips December 1, 2010 at 1:48 pm #

    The anxious “oh hey, I’m about to make a really big risk” is my favorite feeling in the world. You know what I’m talking about, that constant volley of right and wrong, that fluttery, gutsy feeling. Thankfully so far I haven’t taken any risks that went the wrong way thus far.

    This reminded me about that video you posted of the woman who was a glass blower and she talked about risk.

    Really cool.
    Thanks Chase!

  26. Pilot December 1, 2010 at 2:28 pm #

    Thanks for the reminder! New month, clean slate. Let’s shoot for the stars.
    BTW, nice shot of the classic 172SP, M. Gisborne. – Is that the ILS of the airport you were approaching in the bokeh?

    • Martin December 8, 2010 at 6:01 pm #

      Pilot, no… just an easy cruise along the northern Cal coast :-) Thanks for the comment.

  27. Cole B December 1, 2010 at 2:40 pm #

    Wow. A friend just sent me this link, based on a conversation we had yesterday. Can’t say how well timed it is. Thanks!

  28. anabelle December 1, 2010 at 3:14 pm #

    I think Kennedy said ‘it is only those that dare to fail greatly that can achieve greatly’ or words to that effect and meaning. This is of course true, the bigger the prize the bigger the risk to obtain it. One has to be careful in a culture like ours as everyone seems to forget the basic requirement of talent. There are very few Michael Jordans in the world. Certainly one can keep improving at what makes them happy (key word) and hard work will take you further than no work at all but it doesn’t matter how much work or effort you put in on your journey or how much you believe, if you keep walking East to see a sunset you aren’t going to see one. Talent gets you nowhere without application but equally application won’t make you naturally talented either so you may end up after all your hard work in a better place, but equally you may end up unhappy as you realise you are never going to be good enough at the thing you love the most.

  29. Ian December 1, 2010 at 3:47 pm #

    i keep this quote around me; in my sketch books, my desk, on my laptop. it’s by minimalist artists Richard Serra.
    “If you are not uncomfortable with your work, it is because you haven’t begun yet.”

  30. Tyler Larson December 1, 2010 at 4:01 pm #

    Haha, this fits so well with my last few days. I just spent more money on a project than ever before to shoot an action sequence for the first time. Not to mention it was in powder snow 3 feet deep and three vehicles of people and a trailer full of gear. I hardly slept for two days before the shoot and there were more hurdles than I could have anticipated, but it was an amazing experience. Now let’s hope it turns a profit:D

  31. Alex December 1, 2010 at 5:13 pm #

    Amazing post, Chase. I love your message. Thanks for sharing.

  32. Justin McEdward December 1, 2010 at 5:39 pm #

    Feeling super motivated after reading your message. It is currently pouring outside but I am looking at my camera bag with an uncontrollable amount of excitement. Where’s that rain gear?

  33. Lori Nicoli December 1, 2010 at 6:05 pm #

    I have been shooting nature scenes for the past few years and I am just beginning to shoot portraits for clients. So much to learn about starting a business and delivering consistent results. It makes me nervous. But I’m doing it anyway. “Damn the torpedoes. Full speed ahead!”…well, maybe not “full speed”, but moving forward nonetheless! :-)

    btw – Not sure I would be pursuing this path if not for all I have been learning through your creativeLIVE productions. Thank you ~ from the bottom of my heart for all that you do and for your wonderful, generous guests!

  34. Paul December 1, 2010 at 6:13 pm #

    Well timed. This is why this ex 300lb guy will be running the Tough Mudder next May. Oh, my photography will get better too :p

  35. Brian Wilson December 1, 2010 at 7:23 pm #

    So true. Almost every major creative triumph I’ve had was when I didn’t want to do it in the first place– take the ENTIRE rig to London, shoot in freezing weather, don’t just pull over but stomp through the cactus to get the shot… But like paddling upstream, the moment you stop paddling, you head the other direction. Effort always wins.

  36. jonathan December 1, 2010 at 8:36 pm #

    Thank you for my daily injection off inspiration dr jarvis.

  37. WillSalomon December 1, 2010 at 11:09 pm #

    In honoring what you have put out Chase, I wanted to share this poem by Anonymous:

    To laugh is to risk appearing the fool.
    To weep is to risk appearing sentimental.
    To reach for another is to risk involvement.
    To expose your ideas, your dreams,
    before a crowd is to risk their loss.
    To love is to risk not being loved in return.
    To live is to risk dying.
    To believe is to risk despair.
    To try is to risk failure.
    But risks must be taken, because the
    greatest hazard in life is to risk nothing.
    The people who risk nothing, do nothing,
    have nothing, are nothing.
    They may avoid suffering and sorrow,
    but they cannot learn, feel, change,
    grow, love, live.
    Chained by their attitudes they are slaves;
    they have forfeited their freedom.
    Only a person who risks is free.

    Peace,

    Will

  38. Scott Stufflebeam December 2, 2010 at 12:58 am #

    Like everyone else is saying, great timing! I have been wanting to improve my work for a while so I decided to do something big, which is to get out of my comfort zone and I have been having better pictures because of it.

  39. Melissa December 2, 2010 at 8:46 am #

    Wise words Chase! Stepping out in good faith can be scary, but nothing will happen if you don’t at least try! A wise man on an inflight entertainment commercial said, “I’d rather regret what I’ve done, than regret what I didn’t do.”

  40. Scott W Baker December 2, 2010 at 7:49 pm #

    I love the shot but also the challenge of pushing yourself.I was involved in a photo shoot where I was photographing out of a helicopter over Central Park in NYC with both doors off and in Cold windy March wind, and leaning out to capture the scene.RESULT! was great because I pushed myself to get the shot.

    NO GUTS NO GLORY!

  41. Corbin Crimmins December 2, 2010 at 9:59 pm #

    Chase,

    Your post have quite the way of really touching on what is stirring around in my head. I’m taking off to Revelstoke B.C. on Sunday to start in on shooting the stills for a documentary ski movie. I’m so in over my head on this on the photography side, but my background of patrolling and guiding got me the job! I really cannot believe this is happening!

    Your shit is RAD!

    Cheers!

    Corbin

  42. JINDA Photography - Jin December 3, 2010 at 11:27 am #

    Chase your msg was so appropriate for my girlfriend and I yesterday. We got thrown into a last minute (first time) shoot for a local hip-hop/funk group Theoretics yesterday evening at Chop Suey before they went on live and we were so nervous! We took a shot of something to calm the nerves and to toast a first of it and did what we came to do to the best of our abilities applying all the practice shoots we’ve been doing her and there (usually of each others) during our free time. I loved every minute of those butterflies flying around. Feeling nervous like this makes me feel I’m pushing myself forward and most importantly, it makes me feel so alive. Like your msg, we’re constantly looking to put ourselves in this state of mind as we chase our dream because it feels so good afterwords just like after a good workout at the gym. You’re awesome and an inspiration…keep it real! Jin

    Here’s one of the shots we got downloaded, touched up and delivered as soon as we got home way past our bedtime on a work night! I’m so proud of my girl…she took this one!

    http://jinda.smugmug.com/Music/Theoretics/20101202-Theoretics-1/1113283761_etVLi-O.jpg

  43. Gavin Anderson December 3, 2010 at 12:46 pm #

    Yeah definitely. Got to go out on a limb to get the fruit!

  44. Sammy December 3, 2010 at 8:56 pm #

    I needed this … right now. Thanks Chase! <3

  45. Thomas Frank December 3, 2010 at 11:22 pm #

    Keep on Keeping on Chase, thanks for your continuous encouragement!

  46. few words December 4, 2010 at 9:49 pm #

    Amazing to see how few people challenge you. Taking risks tends to take many forms, from physical safety to artistic license. Finding the balance, rather than going to extremes, is mastery.

    • chase Jarvis December 4, 2010 at 11:29 pm #

      Indeed balance is mastery, but doesn’t mastery come from first finding the edges of where your balance fails and then backing off? It’s unrealistic IMHO to think that you’ll find balance by immediately walking to the perfect point on the seesaw the very first time. Instead, i offer that t’s a series of over corrections that ultimately get you to where you need to be…

    • Catherine December 5, 2010 at 1:59 pm #

      Buddha’s discourse on finding balance in the middle way using the tuning of a guitar as the metaphor is awesome
      “if the string is too taught, it will snap, if too loose, it will not play”.

      The point though is that one will not find or know balance if one does not pick up the guitar in the first place and attempt to tune it and probably break many strings in the process.
      Taking a leap, with utmost faith in one’s higher purpose (or power) is also a form of mastery.

  47. Christian December 5, 2010 at 6:31 am #

    Hey Chase I think you are talking about pushing your boundaries for getting the shot. For me that would be photographing jumping out of a plane or climbing the tallest hotel in Dubai like Joe McNallymdid with the Empire State Building.

    You annoying some adrenaline charged work in the future?

    Cheers
    Christian

  48. R. J. Kern December 6, 2010 at 10:50 pm #

    Holy Shiznit. I couldn’t agree more. Going through a divorce, i’ve taken more chances on shoots and they have paid off in spades. Going to the dentist used to make me nervous. I’ve conquered that fear becoming friends and shooting their portraits. Now, they are good friends and they help me teeth. And my work with my weddings and portraits hasn’t looked back.. only become stronger by taking risks. Many thanks, Chase!

  49. Jesus Hidalgo December 8, 2010 at 5:47 pm #

    Word.

    • Todd Norris December 9, 2010 at 7:56 am #

      This is my first post here. It was quite serendipitous for me to come across your post as I’ve just made a big career-changing decision. I’m leaving my comfy corporate TV job and jumping into the freelance world of cinematography. Your words are inspiring. I’d only qualify them by saying that, while risk-taking is good and necessary for success and creativity, do not forget to occasionally look around and appreciate how good your life is in the present. If one is always risk-taking and living on the edge, there’s a tendency to not appreciate the simple pleasures right here “in the moment”. It’s a question of balance.
      So, as I plunge into this new unknown territory, which is a little spooky but ultimately exhilarating, I won’t forget, at those moments where things feel stable and secure, to look around and appreciate that the risk paid off.

  50. Spencer Blackwood December 9, 2010 at 7:47 pm #

    Thanks for this post!

    I’m doing my first model shoot next week to jump start my portfolio (for university) and I’ve been feeling a bit nervous how it’ll all turn out. Reading this makes me feel like the nerves are only going to push me to get better now :)

    P.S. you’re pretty awesome Chase :)

  51. Nigel Simpson December 14, 2010 at 9:10 am #

    I would have liked a more-developed story here, rather than an idea that can be expressed on a bumpersticker.

    Such a story, off the top of my head, might include some of the following:

    Interviews with creative people who work on the edge of their ability. For example, filmmakers who stretch themselves with each new project, like Jane Campion, Julie Taymor, Steven Soderberg. I realize that these are celebrities, so an original interview would be difficult to arrange (would that make you nervous to try to set that up?), but these people have given interviews in the past from which a writer could cull some good quotations. There’s also a small field in psychology of studying “flow” states: the state of mind that artists (esp. performers) as well as athletes go into when they’re working at their edges. That’s when brilliance happens, and records are shattered. Perhaps the author would like to dig deeper and write a followup?

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Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Jeff Mesnil — Michael Jordan: “Whatever Makes You Nervous” - December 1, 2010

    [...] (via Chase Jarvis) [...]

  2. Jay Scott Photography » In the Coming Days - December 2, 2010

    [...] will be one of my longest days shooting ever but, as Chase Jarvis’ blog post from yesterday said, “If you aren’t nervous you aren’t going to grow.” All I know is that [...]

  3. News – 12/2/2010Brooklyn Art Project | Brooklyn Art Project - December 2, 2010

    [...] Yesterday, on Chase Jarvis’s blog, a pithy reminder… Whatever Makes You Nervous. [...]

  4. Weekly Links for 12/03/2010 | Steven Joerger - December 4, 2010

    [...] Whatever Makes You Nervous thoughts by Chase Jarvis [...]

  5. Casey, Part 2 | YOTO FOTO - December 10, 2010

    [...] what fun would it be if everything went the way you wanted it to? Here’s a quote I read on Chase Jarvis’ blog – “[do] whatever makes you [...]

  6. links for 2010-12-13 « Unjustly - December 13, 2010

    [...] Whatever Makes You Nervous | Chase Jarvis Blog Whenever Michael Jordan gets on the golf course and his friends ask the stakes of the game–how much money they’re betting against one another–rumor has it that his stock response is: “Whatever makes you nervous.” That’s what you should bet on yourself, every time. Not what makes you comfortable, but what makes you nervous. (tags: art performance sports fear success) [...]

  7. BLOG HIGHLIGHTS : Top Blogs from the week that was. | Dancing Stapler - December 18, 2010

    [...] http://blog.chasejarvis.com/blog/2010/12/whatever-makes-you-nervous/ [...]

  8. Whatever Makes You Nervous | Peter Carroll’s photography blog - December 21, 2010

    [...] especially in this the season of giving, that sometimes the best gifts come in small packages. The post was short and sweet. The point was you’ve got to push your comfort level to grow. We humans [...]

  9. Uncomfortable is good « pandawithacamera - January 4, 2011

    [...] Blogged the post after reading this blog post by Chase Jarvis. [...]

  10. Chase Jarvis – Whatever Makes You Nervous | Rob Oresteen Photography - January 10, 2011

    [...] great piece of advice from ace photographer, Chase Jarvis. Whatever Makes You Nervous This entry was posted in Uncategorized and tagged chase jarvis, comfort zone, [...]

  11. christof.de.com - ich fotografiere und blogge -viel spass damit =) - May 8, 2011

    [...] You will not succeed if you do not take risks. (via chasejarvis) [...]

  12. December daily 8 - August 17, 2014

    [...] share a bit on Spiritual inspiration. (Usually the Message translation). And then i just pasted piece that Chase Jarvis wrote on his blog a while ago that i want to remind myself about. The stamp is from Making Memories. And of course I [...]

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