It Ain’t All About You

Whenever us creative types get together, or–come to think of it–even when we’re alone, it’s usually all about “me”, “my”, or “we” or “I”. What is MY next gig, what am I doing to improve MY portfolio, MY solo exhibition, MY client list, MY ad campaign, MY blog, MY bank account, gear locker, self-promo mailer, vision… You get the point. Don’t deny it.

As a result, we can be overly paranoid, competitive, frustrated, cocky, going for broke, indulgent, critical, self-absorbed, self-loathing, self aggrandizing and overly analytical. We spend a lot of time living in our own heads.

But the truth is, we’re way better creatives when we’re better people. Better to ourselves, better to others, better to the world.

I just bumped into a close friend on the way back from my morning coffee. He shook my tree a little bit and told me a quick story in realizing this about himself. The story ended with his re-framing his self-focus into a simple plan to motivate a change. At the wrap up of each day he’s asking himself “what are 3 things I did to make somebody else’s life better today?”

I like that. Perhaps you should too.

104 Responses to It Ain’t All About You

  1. Nick March 1, 2011 at 10:03 am #

    Short and Sweet… I love it. Trying to get more involved with Cowart’s Help-Portrait movement.

  2. Mike Folden March 1, 2011 at 10:13 am #

    Great little verse. I think it’s a very good point and something I will definitely be working on.



  3. Will McGregor March 1, 2011 at 10:14 am #

    We can be really selfish, thats why i love collaboration.
    Loads of photographers/creatives where i’m from (Glasgow,Scotland) are so competitive, constantly bringing each other down to other people and saying how bad each other are.

    We should be all helping each other bring our amazing art from forward.

    Your close friends is one smart cooke :)

  4. Ashley March 1, 2011 at 10:22 am #

    yes. Yes I should. Thank you for the reminder.

  5. Maarten March 1, 2011 at 10:27 am #

    so, YOU like this and YOU are telling US that YOU are going to do that?
    that truly is a big change!

    • Chase Jarvis March 1, 2011 at 10:58 am #

      just sharing a meaningful reminder that happened to me today. take it or leave it.

    • diala chinedu March 2, 2011 at 8:11 am #

      I really hope this was meant to be a joke

  6. Sweetandcoolval March 1, 2011 at 10:33 am #

    So far i have only donated blood, but it is still early in the day. I agree wholeheartedly believe that it is important to work outside yourself creatively and otherwise.

  7. Rich Park March 1, 2011 at 10:35 am #

    SO TRUE.

    this post just might be the exact opposite of what charlie sheen has been saying recently…

  8. Normand Desjardins March 1, 2011 at 10:38 am #

    If you start by taking pictures by giving every client the “stars” treatment and giving every person you shoot the chance to make her feel beautiful, you are up to a very good start. I want my clients to realize that they could do magazine covers too. Business, portfolio, branding is then a second thought. Boosting clients ego and confidence through photography is a really good job I think. :-)

  9. Andrew Lipsett March 1, 2011 at 10:45 am #

    A great thing to live by! And throughout the day, a pleasant Hi! to the checkout person at the grocery store, at the gas station, the person who makes your coffee. Every person you interact with day to day has feelings and things going on in their life just like you do. Tons of opportunities to make another great first impression:)

  10. DanielKphoto March 1, 2011 at 11:00 am #

    “what are 3 things I did to make somebody else’s life better today?” That’s great!! I love making people happy, so this is definitely something I should ask myself daily :)

  11. ediheld March 1, 2011 at 11:03 am #


  12. Gary Young March 1, 2011 at 11:03 am #

    I love that you always put something up on your blog that not only makes me want to be a better photographer, but a better person.
    Every night when you go to bed and ask yourself that question just know that just by putting stuff like this on the web, or “IN THE CLOUD” for people to see you are helping alot and inspiring alot, and for that


    • bimal nair March 3, 2011 at 3:40 am #

      You echoed my feelings Gary!
      Thank you Chase! for making us realize the things that are important to fulfill as a person more than as a photographer/artist.

  13. James Hancox March 1, 2011 at 11:04 am #

    Something I’ve been working on growing for last couple of years from lil’ ol’ NZ… Photographers for Charity :)

    So… if you’ve taken CJ’s post to heart, and you should, feel free to go help a local charity or cause with some updated shots for their website/next donation mailer/press release/whatever you can to help raise their profile in their community.

    It’s a great feeling… you get to help out (thinking of others) AND think of yourself (Getting to take photos!).

    More than happy to publish an article/images on the PfC site/FB Page/Twitter etc if it would help. And yes, local co-ordinator offers gladly accepted :)

    Be well folks!

    • James Hancox March 1, 2011 at 11:05 am #

      Sorry, I thought the site link would show if I entered it in the above field…

  14. Michael J Leather March 1, 2011 at 11:06 am #

    Sometimes we have to all step back and realise what is important in life. This I love

  15. BLK PXLS March 1, 2011 at 11:12 am #

    Thats what the world SHOULD be all about. Thats why dig you Chase. Its the little things we do in this world that make the biggest change. When you shared your entire workflow I was amazed. You where willing to share a critical piece of how you run your studio. You either changed peoples work flow or like me validated my meticulous backup routine to my friends. “See he has backups off site too” ..So it doesnt matter what you do just remember it only take a little effort to make the biggest change!

    Word! BLKPXLS

  16. Albert March 1, 2011 at 11:20 am #

    You’re totally right Chase! It’s not always about boasting your own fame or making yourself look better than others – It’s about helping others!

    I’ve found that if you share one piece of knowledge to other people, they have a tendency to share back with their own ideas. Let’s take that, and magnify it! Let’s say we share that same piece of knowledge with 100 other people, and assuming they share something in return, that’s 100 new bits of info you didn’t have before. Sharing is caring! :-)

    Great article Chase! Keep it up!

  17. Blake Murphy March 1, 2011 at 11:21 am #

    Thank you for the reminder Chase :D

  18. Jeremy March 1, 2011 at 11:30 am #

    Damn straight. Great to see this coming from one in the industry who has a broad and potent influence. Thanks Case.

  19. Greg March 1, 2011 at 11:31 am #

    Its a fine idea, I work retail, my job at work is to help people, I Can tell you it takes a special person to do that everyday, and take the good and bad of it all the while not destroying themselves “helping” others. I want to pose the idea that “making somebody else’s life better today” can be as detrimental as living inside your own head.

  20. Shivakumar March 1, 2011 at 11:35 am #

    Yup i know how much of a difference it makes.
    Spoke to a friend this evening and helped him out with one of his issue and felt really nice when he said “Thankyou” from the bottom of his heart.
    But on other hand .. should we call it selfish if we at times when low feel left out and nobody to cater and address our needs and make us smile ?

    Anyways like this post a lot :)


  21. Elis W. Alves March 1, 2011 at 11:57 am #

    So true! It’s too easy to get entangled in our own selves, affairs and our sense of greatness and forget there’s a whole world around us and we’re all somehow connected. Thanks for the reminder, Chase! :c) Great post!

  22. Capturesque March 1, 2011 at 11:58 am #

    Excellent point, I try do do this in life and not with just my photography. It’s a good practice, if you’re not making someone else’s life better your isn’t.

  23. Kim March 1, 2011 at 12:02 pm #

    I’d like to think I could come up with an answer for that every day but if I was totally honest with myself, I think a lot of days go by that I couldn’t. Great reminder of something to work toward.

  24. Andy March 1, 2011 at 12:09 pm #

    I will take this to heart…

    Thanks for sharing!

  25. nodderwaak March 1, 2011 at 12:13 pm #

    praise the lord.

  26. Ted McAusher March 1, 2011 at 12:20 pm #

    A great point, the simplicity of your post represents the simplicity of the idea, yet we all seem to miss it.

  27. michael murphy March 1, 2011 at 12:22 pm #

    F@#$ YOU!!!

    kidding of course.

    I think that is an awesome goal. There should be more people like that.

  28. Jean-Pierre March 1, 2011 at 12:31 pm #

    Taking time out for others is as important as taking out time for yourself. When doing something for others is what makes your day… well, that’s a mighty fine way to live your life. Hopefully this post will have more people making that effort.

  29. Lucy March 1, 2011 at 1:26 pm #

    Thanks for calling it out.

  30. Michael March 1, 2011 at 1:37 pm #

    This is so true. However the real situation differs much in different countries. While in US or countries where one has plenty of opportunities as a photographer, much more companies, more bands, more people, weddings, etc., in small countries, like the one I live in (Slovakia), the atmosphere of competition is much stronger I think.

    Some people here think it’s because of mentality of nation or something like that. But no, It’s all about the fact, that people, who would love to live their life as photographers feel the shortage, because they have to try so hard just to earn their living and many times even that is not possible.

    Because people are not willing to pay for photography as in the past, everyone has a DSLR and everyone thinks he’s a photographer. I don’t say it’s bad that everyone can be cerative. Hell no, everyone should be creative. But this is possible only when no one has to care about money in terms of daily bread and roof over head.

    Then it’s possible to live in atmosphere of sharing and cooperation. People rival, because they feel the shortage. Not because they naturally want to fight each other.

    Shure, in everyday life, what you write is so true. It’s so true also in photography. But there, if someone wants to do photography as his only work, the first thing he has to do is to think about HIS problems, solutions, ideas. Then, when he can pay for everything he needs, he can start thinking about being creative in terms of cooperation or volunteering.

    I am a student and I didn’t leave my home yet, so I don’t have to worry about these things. I can slowly build my career without having to think about these things.

    But I know there are many people who don’t start to fulfill their dreams because they have a family or just themselves and they have to earn money every month. They don’t want to take the risk of their family starving.

    Sure, you have to risk when starting new things, then the returns are much higher. That’s why some people are more succesfull than others. But wouldn’t it be beautifull If everyone could pursue their dream without those problems?

  31. Nicolae Cioloca March 1, 2011 at 1:47 pm #

    Great point, yes we`re all so self centered, or is it just me :-)

    Thanks for the reminder, gonna think about it, too.


  32. Ken Savage March 1, 2011 at 2:23 pm #

    or Customer Service for others and not just your business

  33. Will March 1, 2011 at 2:30 pm #

    Chase, I agree with your friend 100 grand. As artist we may constantly look to become masters within our artistic discipline and may neglect to become masters in becoming fully human. That is finding the holistic balance that is innate in us: Balance in Mind, Body and Spirt. In that balance we develop a mastery in the movement that grounds us and allow us to leverage ourselves and be connected to others in this world.

  34. Sara March 1, 2011 at 4:56 pm #

    In the last months I moved to a different country.
    New life, new people, new job.
    Worse part of my everyday: realizing I wasn’t able to help anybody or do anything useful, for the people I meet, for my family, for the people I work for.
    This situation is really depressing me.
    I work for a design studio and spend 9 hours per day in front of a computer, trying to “create” fashionable and expensive furniture and other things, listening to my boss telling me I’m a complete disaster, too slow and not good enough for her standards. It’s probably true, because I feel awful not being helpful and I don’t really understand what the sense of this is. Well, actually I know: make mooney and be up there with the “best ones”. Unfortunatelly that is not my goal.
    So I decided that tommorrow is going to be my last day there. I’ll go broke, and have to start all over again. But I think it’s the right choice.
    What I need in life is to make people smile and be happy, even for just one second during their day. Because that is what makes my day when I’m sad or stressed, somebody who tries to help me out and gives me a smile. So why not do the same for others.
    Being a “creative” person kind of stresses me out, because I always have to deal with people that search absolute perfection, give too much thought to appearance and loose contact with the real world. I think that the “vision” of things is always personal, you can have an idea and create your vision of it, but that doesn’t mean that others can or will have your same exact vision, it is always personal somehow. Otherwise everything would be very boring and flat, and it wouldn’t be possible to reinvent anything. So why should people constantly blame others if their imagination draws a different vision? Can’t it just be an occasion to communicate, exchange ideas and work together to create something good for people? It seams very arrogant to me that people always complain, are never sadisfied with what they have and what they do, and aren’t able to smile about the simple things of life. They find sadisfaction in teasing and laughing about people, “the others”.
    I’m really tired of this. And purhaps, if this is how I should be to have a successful carrier, then I think I might go for a simple life.
    Perfection doesn’t exist. People should just stop, think about their day, and be grateful to be leaving in this beautyful world. Stop and listen to the world’s voice, and answer to its call. Give it something to smile and be happy for.

    How do you manage wih your everyday work and stress of being a “creative” professional?

  35. Scott March 1, 2011 at 5:46 pm #

    simple + brilliant. I’m asking myself this question right now.

  36. Sergey March 1, 2011 at 8:58 pm #

    Thank you for shaking my tree. I’ll be sure to shake others :)

  37. jetgreen1 March 1, 2011 at 9:13 pm #

    Did they ever get the Hopper photo back?

  38. Shawn March 1, 2011 at 10:25 pm #

    A quick story from the other day that i think displys the nature of giving back and how it can cause others to do the same.

    I went to get my haircut and upon leaving I saw a man with a sign stating he was homeless because of the economy and he worked for 30 years to provide for his family and he needed help. He was waiting by the stop light as you exit the parking lot. I saw a row of cars infront of me not really paying any attention to the guy. He wasnt coming up to people’s windows or being aggressive or anything. As i approached i though to myself he I am in a nice car just got my haircut cleaned my car at the car wash just an hour before and he is this guy down on his luck. I felt bad so i put down my window and gave the guy a few dollars. The look on his face of genuine appreciation made me feel good. As i was leaving i looked at the cars behind me and noticed that the next car gave him money and the next and the next.

    Just one act of kindness i believe caused a chain reaction to the people behind me. I did not see anyone in the line before me give him anything at the time i was in the line.

    Moral of the story kindness is addicting when someone see’s you being kind they want to do the same. I didn’t improve three people’s life but i may have caused three people to help one person’s life. Felt good. Nice pose Chaser.

  39. Aputure March 1, 2011 at 11:16 pm #

    Agreed. Something we should be asking ourselves more often.

  40. Tomasz Mumot March 2, 2011 at 4:34 am #

    So true ! I completly agree :)

  41. Dan Kaufman March 2, 2011 at 6:58 am #

    My mother raised me with The Golden Rule–do unto others as you would have them do unto you. So simple. I take it to the simply courtesy level of holding a door for someone/anyone. Their smile and often a simple Thanks always makes my day!

  42. diala chinedu March 2, 2011 at 8:16 am #

    Great post…I have been following this model for as long as i can remember…maybe its the part of me thats a nurse and wants to care about people…but I derive joy in teaching and guiding people to better paths…for example, on my facebook fanpage, when people ask questions on how i took a photo, i just spill the beans cos everything i know was taught to me, online, for FREE by people like you and zack arias…so it has always been my model to pass on the knowledge and help anytime i can…

    Last weekend, i went to a location to meet a fellow local photographer who wanted to learn how to light. I brought my gear so she could play around with it and she brought a model to practice on. At the end of the session, I could tell she was happy about the experience and I got the joy of teaching her about compensation and how to get great photos using off-camera lighting…its one feeling i wont trade for anything…

    Thanks for all your inspiration and as always KEEP THEM COMING :-)

  43. Thomas Frank March 2, 2011 at 9:20 am #

    This is TRUTH! I’m on it!

  44. eddie March 2, 2011 at 4:24 pm #

    Good post, some people need to hear this, especially those self-loathers who try to shit on you and your post for wanting to improve yourself in a way that benefits others, not just yourself.

  45. bimal nair March 3, 2011 at 3:41 am #

    you somehow always come up with suggestions to work on matters that exactly bugs me during the days when you post that!
    thanks a ton for being such a great mentor Chase!

  46. Emma Godfrey March 7, 2011 at 4:24 am #

    I like that idea, it keeps things in perspective ;-)

  47. motzo March 11, 2011 at 1:40 pm #

    Yeah man, taking self out of the equation is the key, but you need to have strong hold on the ground to be able to help people to the fullest.

    As many of us know I bet “you give em a finger they take the arm and etc”.
    So choose wisely to whom you help. Be humble grateful and respectful, for the ones with no respect I just give a middle finger.

    Just sayin

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