With alot of my photography being Mixed Martial Arts specific, I've been lucky enough to get a window into the fighters day to day world. Whilst fighting for your keep and freelance photography are worlds apart physically, I feel they share similarities in terms of the mindset needed to succeed.
1- Resilience is key
As a freelance photographer, disappointment is part of the job. Positive meetings turn out to be dead ends and sure fire yes's can evolve into sure fire no's. When these responses can be the difference between paying the bills and not, resilience is the one skill that can pull you through the tough times. MMA fighting is no different in terms of dealing with knockbacks. Injuries, losses and opponents pulling out of fights all can serve to chip away at a fighter. What separates the fighter that quits before success hits and the fighter who continues to chase the dream? I would argue that the most important factor is resilience.
2- Focussing on the process
The photography market is a very competitive place to operate in. Other photographers charging very little and organisations having limited budgets can both apply pressure. Despite what some say, whining and complaining isn't the answer. The answer is to grind and hussle everyday looking for opportunities to build your business. A photographer has to believe in his or her process and cannot become preoccupied by short term results. An MMA fighters life is no different. Putting your body on the line 7 days a week despite niggles, aches and pains would be hard enough when you're focussed on a fight. However, fighters can go months without bouts.To keep ticking over and improving your skills with no guarantee of your next big pay day is where believing in the process comes in. It's my observation that this attribute separates the successful fighters ready to pounce on an opportunity and the ones who let things slip by.
3-1% improvement everyday
Photography is evolving at a fast rate so a photographer needs to stay ahead of the curve. MMA is relatively young sport therefore there is consistently huge developments in technique and styles. Staying stagnant in your photography business and failing to evolve as a fighter have the same consequences- you fail. Learning your craft as an artist is a moving target. If you want to succeed, I'm not sure you can ever think there is nothing to learn. Reinforcing this- a famous martial arts mantra says a person needs to adopt a 'white belt mentality' in life.
4- No shortcuts to success
Strangely, society seems to portray talent as the determining factor for success. Of course there are a few outliers that pick up skills quicker than others, but the 'over night' successes that rise to the very top are so rare, it's almost not worth mentioning. For the other 99.9% of us, sustained practice, perseverance and hard work is the key to success. Whether it's working on new lighting techniques or drilling choke holds, freelance photographers and MMA fighters realise that Rome wasn't built in a day. Business man and podcast host, Andy Frisella says that to be successful 'aggressive patience' needs to be implemented. Paraphrasing, aggressive patience dictates that you've got to put the work in aggressively but be patient about how long succeeding takes.
As I said above, photography and MMA share very little in terms of the physical toll it takes (although you should see my heels after a wedding!!!), but the mindset needed to be a professional success is similar. Resilience, hussle, perseverance, patience and focus are the universal skills that will get you to where you want to be. Without these attributes the photography and fight game will chew you up and spit you out. That I suppose is the main takeaway from this. Whatever your profession there is always overlaps and skills that you can use to help you improve and grow as a person and in turn, as an artist.