Failure is Up To You

Your job security relies on one thing, your ability to go out, kill it and drag it home.” – Dave Ramsey

“Failure is not falling down but refusing to get up.” – Anonymous

The first quote is a powerful statement by an undeniable force in the small business community. Dave Ramsey has inspired millions with his no-nonsense approach to money and is one of our biggest influences when it comes to how we think about our business.

This post doesn’t have any flashy pictures or sweet technical photography tricks but will be just as beneficial if you grab your coffee and hunker down for a few minutes and begin to read on :)

I (Zach) was reading the USA Today this evening here in London to catch up on some US news, and an article caught my attention which led to a discussion by Jody and I and thus, resulting in this blog post. A topic that comes up often, not only the minds of Americans but the news as well, is those facing hard times due to losing their jobs and being out of work. Even more close to home – we are sure that is also on the minds of many of you photographers out there who are just starting out, and many who have been shooting for years and may be having a tough time paying the bills and wondering if they should change their course. We both want to address that topic in this post and we wanted to share our heart on this with you, and hopefully encourage many of you that you CAN do exactly what you want to do and be secure in it.

The USA Today Article: “Who are America’s Jobless?” shares the stats and mindsets of those who are out of work. On page 4, there was a short story told about Mellisa Wallace and her 16 year old daughter who are from Middletown, Ohio. This part of the article depicts how people looking for (what they think is) security are seeking jobs with a higher pay grade with greater priority over finding (or creating) a job that they truly love and enjoy doing. It goes on to share how parents are pushing this mentality on their children to help them avoid what they, the parents are now going through. Melissa (the mother) wants her daughter who is a sophomore in High School, to consider getting training after she graduates as a medical technician because it pays well.

“My daughter says she would like to be a wedding planner,” Wallace says with a mother’s exasperated sigh. “I told that’s a really great idea, but where we live, they’re not in demand. So what I did with her, I pulled out the PHONE BOOK [emphasis added], and we looked up ‘wedding planner.’ And there was one listed, in a different county. She was persuaded.”

A few things that immediately stuck out:

1 – The mom is validating her point by “researching” in a PHONE BOOK. The last time that I (Jody) remember coming in contact with a phone book was when I was too short to reach my food at the table and needed some extra height in my chair…

2- Talk about looking at the glass being half empty. If the phone book was an accurate depiction of the market in that area (which it’s not) then we would have looked at that as an OPPORTUNITY!! Only one planner in the area? Awesome! Less competition!

But, we are not going to entirely focus on those points… :) The excerpt from the paper was absolutely mind blowing! This poor mom, who is a 3 year out of work nurse’s aid (and only 34 years old), thinks that her daughter would be more secure being a medical technician (something she is not interested in doing), because there is only one wedding planner in the area, so therefore, not a demand for the job, and therefore her daughter shouldn’t go after what she’s passionate about doing.

Many people and photographers alike fall trap to this mentality. 1) They are either afraid to go after what they truly love because they think working for the big man is more secure (where in actuality you can get fired at any time, which unfortunately, many people have found themselves in that situation with all the cutbacks and downsizing). Or 2) they start doing something they don’t particularly enjoy doing… We’ll pick on photographers here for this example :) Say our photographer friend Harry starts shooting weddings (which he doesn’t like) instead of shooting dogs (which he LOVES) because he thinks there is better pay in weddings. Even though Harry love dogs, he feels more secure doing something that he is not passionate or excited about. In our experience and talking with other people, we have found that passion and the pursuit of doing something you absolutely love will make you more money, bring you more peace and fulfillment and way more security in the long run. Because we have been excited about our business and what we do, we never would have gotten it to where it is today if it was something that made us groan when we woke up every morning. We would have certainly given up a long time ago if it was something that we were not passionate about. Outside of our relationship with each other and the Lord, we have never been more motivated on anything than our business.

Going back to Melissa Wallace and her daughter, for curiosity’s sake we wanted to check some stats on the two jobs mentioned in the article on a nation-wide spectrum. Not that it matters in the least, but we were compelled to :) (income statistics from

The average female medical technician in America makes approximately 26k to 41k averaging somewhere around 34k. That is somewhere between $11 and $16 an hour.

The average female wedding planner in America who works for someone else with 5 years experience makes an average of 51k. If they work for themselves, that number does not have a cap, because self-employed wedding planners can make anywhere between $500 and $5,000 per gig or more (with some high-end planners making serious 6 figure incomes)! Working as a medical tech has its limits because you are working for someone else. Working for yourself is only limited by your ability to make your career happen the way you want it to.

We also did a little research of our own, by not using the Yellow Pages (since no one we know on the planet under the age of 50 uses that for anything) and we found exactly 63 wedding planners who serve the Middletown, Ohio area on Wedding Wire alone! Those are the ones who have either paid, or taken the time to register with that ONE online source. If there is anything that is not going out of business, it’s weddings. But that is not even the point of this post.

Here is the point: Job security does not lie in the field your going into, the stats of how a certain company has performed for a certain amount of quarters, or how much demand there is for that type of job. Your job security only lies in your ability, your zeal and YOUR determination to make your career work for you! Now we’re not talking about some hocus-pocus “think happy thoughts and it will happen” sort of thing. We truly believe that our success has ultimately come from the Lord, but it also goes to say that “A man reaps what we sows” (Gal 6:7b). You will get in return what you have put in. If you put in hard work you’ll reap the benefits of that. If you put in little labor and deceit, the fruits of that will show as well.

We were determined to not be average with our photography business and worked harder than we ever have for anything, and our career is thriving and we seem to have limitless possibilities. We learned how NOT to do lots of things with marketing and branding (as those who have been to our IN-CAMERA: Business & Marketing class know all too well :) and by trial and error figured out how to make our job work. Even though the average wedding photographer in America makes approximately 22-31k a year (almost half the national average household income) and about $1,372 per wedding, we were determined to do better and we did because we believed we could and worked hard until it did. We didn’t just open the Yellow Pages, see one shooter (or hundreds or maybe even thousands as there are in Nashville) and give up on our dream.

In sort of the same way, Dave Ramsey knew he could do something he loved AND make lots of money doing it. However his first time around he went completely bankrupt. So, he did it all over again and re-started his business on a fold-up coffee table in his living room with the passion and determination to never feel again what he felt in his bankruptcy days. Today he has made millions, and has done it all with ZERO debt. Now he has helped thousands of families pay off millions of dollars (including helping us get out of debt and inspiring us to have a debt-free business too).

Are you starting to see how important optimism, zeal and determination are?

So, if you are stressed, worried that your photography business won’t work, won’t make money, won’t bless your family and help you pay your bills, just know that it CAN if you work at it and work hard. You need to go out and make this job work for you and when something does not work, know that you just figured out one more way to not do things. Don’t let nay-sayers and doubt destroy you and NEVER do something because someone else thinks it would be in your best interests. Do what you love, work hard at it, have integrity, and you will begin to reap your harvest.

Thomas Edison was one of the most brilliant inventors of the 19th century, but he failed more times than most men could ever dream. In 1883 and 1884, while beating a path from his research lab to the patent office, he introduced the world’s first economically viable system of centrally generating and distributing electric light, heat, and power which took him thousands of tries to perfect.

We want to close this simple post with some of our favorite quotes from Mr. Edison in honor of the Melissa Wallaces who find yourselves scared to take a leap of faith and are wanting to play it safe… or what you think is safe. Listen to the brilliance of this man and we hope that he inspires you as much as he has us.

“I am not discouraged, because every wrong attempt discarded is another step forward.”

“Many of life’s failures are men who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up.”

“Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work.”

“Show me a thoroughly satisfied man, and I will show you a failure.”

  • Anouschka

    Absolutely love this post!!

  • Mike Hansen

    Shoot. Good timing! I’d love to attend your IN-CAMERA workshops. When is your next Business & Marketing session?

    • Jody Gray

      @Mike – we will be announcing our next workshop dates & Locations by the end of the month at the latest! Stay tuned :)

  • Noelle Bell

    Thank you so much Zach and Jody for a true and very inspiring look at living the dream and pushing beyond the fear! There will always be fear and there will always be obstacles, but we can suceed if indeed we learn from our mistakes and press forward armed with how to do it better the next time. I love that your solid relationship with the Lord is also a building block to your lives and work! May I have the strength and courage to walk into my dream and give it my all and see what amazing things the Lord has in store for me. I look forward to meeting up with you face to face someday to thank you for your inspiration!!

    • Jody Gray

      @Noelle – we look forward to meeting you as well!!! Blessings!

  • Kayla Hoffsommer

    Brilliant! Great Tuesday Post!

  • Kerrie Mitchell

    Thank you for this post. I’m really struggling to get a “day job” in photography to help me pay the bills, but after reading this i’m inspired to go forward and work at getting my own clients and working for myself.

  • Casie

    Mickey mantle Struck out 1710 times in 8102 at bats…but we know him as the man — the LEGEND — who was the only player to whack a home run out of Yankee Stadium. He eventually would hit 536 home runs. So…the long of the short of it? He struck out a heck of a lot more than he sent that baseball over the walls…but he still got up to bat every time. Babe Ruth said, “Don’t let the fear of striking out hold you back…”

    Whether you’re a Yankee fan or not (okay, okay, and *I* obviously am, lol) — it makes sense that it’s going to be difficult. That you aren’t going to hit a home run EVERY time. It’s not intended to be easy — because if it WERE? Well, we’d ALL be in the Major League. It takes hard work, dedication, passion, and the courage to show up — every time — to be a legend.

    Awesome post as always, Grays!! :) Safe Travels back to The States! ♥

    • Jody Gray

      @Casie – that’s so good and so true! Thanks for sharing.

  • Lindsay

    Always an inspiration! Your drive and passion is so cantagious! As someone who is in the beginning stages I sometimes hunker down when listening to “nay-sayers”. I feel like I can conquer the world when you both constantly share your insight and optimism. Your hard work not only has paid off in your own lives but it has also blessed thousands. Thanks always!

  • Jamilah

    LOVED this post! Thank you for the continuous (&ever helpful)tips and tricks… and for the encouragement! I’m taking a leap of faith and will be quitting my teaching job when school ends this year and going full time with my photography!! (but shh nobody knows yet!) Hoping to make it to one of your workshops this year!!

  • Jessi D

    One of my favorite T3 posts!! I am on the edge of my seat waiting for 2011 IN-CAMERA dates :)

  • Kristin Nicole

    Great post. Just what I needed.

  • Daniel Caro

    Wow… thanks. You guys… I’d really love to meet you. If you ever come to Chile, “mi casa es su casa”.

  • Heidi

    Thank you so much for these amazing pearls of wisdom. You will never know how much I needed to read this. You two are such an inspiration – may God continue to bless you ~

  • JC Ruiz

    Fantastic post. It’s true if you have a dream follow it whether you want to be a photographer or a wedding planner

  • Shannon Rosan

    Thank you for an inspiring and very true post! We only have ourselves to blame for attaining the life of our dreams.

  • Lane Photography | Nashville Wedding Photographers

    Great post you guys. I am so proud of you all for admitting that God is the one who is responsible for your thriving business!!! One really good verse come to mind, Psalm 5:12- “For surely, O Lord, you bless the righteous; you surround them with your favor as with a shield.”

    Gotta love the brothers and sister in Christ. :-)

  • Jennifer

    Thanks for sharing this with us – I could find myself in this post (did the study my parents want – got fired because “the big boss” wanted to source out the company to singapore – because of nice weather – and doing things I didn’t love). Now I love love love my job and and it seems that everything is just coming to the right place now. Thanks for this post and everything you teached us in the In-Camera workshop !

  • Allison Davis

    Great post! You guys do have a great passion for your work and I’m thankful you help to light other people with that same passion. I love my job and I’m so blessed to do this for a living. It was a random dream one day and now I just don’t even know what else I would be doing. I was made to be a wedding photographer. LOL. Thank you God for the dreams you give us to pursue.

  • allison

    Hi Zach and Jody!

    God is so good! This post was written for me today. As a wedding planner, I truly blessed and encouraged. I hope that you are enjoying your travels. Jody, I would love to catch up with you when your return home. Love, Allison

  • Donna

    With God all things are possible. You two inspire and
    motivate in the best way possible – bible-based faith. Thank you
    for blogging – thanking God for allowing our paths to cross just as
    I am beginning to market myself as a photographer – to Him the
    glory. Bless you.

  • Jennifer

    Thanks so much for this post today. I’ve been an aspiring
    photog trying to hone some skills to eventually turn my hobby into
    a day job and have been struggling to find my niche. From books
    like A Purpose Driven Life and 48 Days to the Work You Love you
    written by a friend of Dave Ramsey’s it sounds as though you know
    of this and are living out exactly what I have been reading. It
    gives me a great feeling to know your faith has played such a big
    part of your successes. I look so forward to a workshop in
    Nashville soon since I missed the last one I can’t let that happen

  • Michelle

    Amen! Thanks for reminding me. ;-)

  • Isaac

    Thank you! From the bottom of my heart…THANK YOU! It is just absolutely blowing me away how amazing God is and how He can speak to me from anywhere that I am willing to listen. It is safe to say I have been hearing this same message on repeat since about November of last year and it is finally starting to sink in. I am so excited for what the Lord has in store for my wife and I. Thank you so much for being bold enough to speak the truth in a world where that isn’t always popular. Kind of a funny side note, my wife absolutely loves you two (no joke, your even 101 things in 1001 days list) but this is my first time here and its safe to say I can see why she is such a big fan.

  • Jennifer Milam

    Sublime! I loved this post and the inspiration it has infused! The Lord blessed so many of us with talents and part of that is paying it forward which you guys do on a daily basis! It is also comforting to be surrounded by faithful vendors which are priceless! Go forward and be grand!

  • Sherita Leslie

    Thanks for such a great post! This is exactly what I needed to hear today. You two are amazing and deserve all of your success.

  • Elaine Roberts

    This is a great article. You guys rock! I know that you pointed out in the article that the girl could make as much or more as a wedding planner, but there is no price on happiness. I have made many choices in my life based on what brings me the most happiness not the most money. I know that life is short and not guaranteed. Always choose happiness.

    • Jody Gray

      @Elaine – Fantastic point. You definitely cannot put a price on happiness!

  • James Prudente

    Anything. Which is why we strive to constantly push ourselves. :)

  • Amy Jo

    THANK YOU! I am so thrilled with this post today because for the first time in my entire business I said “No” to a potential client. You might ask why that matters, but it does because I am trying to move forward and find/focus on the aspect of my photography business that I love. Weddings and Portraits are what I feel right now that I love. Eventually it may just end up weddings. I suffered through child picture, animal picture, crazy family picture, etc.. last year, and my new goal this year is to focus on what I love, and pass up the rest. I know I am continually learning and moving forward after making mistakes. I can be great.

  • Aaron Betts

    I LOVE IT! This has been my “motto” on all my social media sites for YEARS! Glad to see someone else appreciates it too!

  • Lanikaiography

    Thank you Zach & Jody, for this word of encouragement. We are in the process of launching our photography business as we ‘speak’ and stepping out and trusting God for the results! We thank you both for being open and sharing such wealth of knowledge to all of us! May God go before your plans too! If we don’t meet here on earth then we’ll see you in heaven! Aloha and God bless!