It’s Guest Blog Wednesday featuring A.J. Wood!

Greetings & Salutations!!!

Scott’s blog is a great repository of inspiring stories written by creative professionals, and I’m honored to be here on guest blog Wednesday. Thank you to Brad for inviting me, and thank you Scott for letting me share with your readers.

A few months ago I attended Photoshop World in Washington DC. It was great to have so many folks approach me, tell me how much they enjoyed my workshops, and that they appreciated my style as an instructor. It’s crazy the things people wanted to talk about such as why I go by my initials instead of my name, or how I shot a particular photo of my daughter. People seemed excited that I brought my family to PSW, and it was shortly after introducing folks to my wife that they would stop me and say, “Wait! You mean you’re not RC?”

Nope. Just another Photoshop guy with dark hair, a goatee, two letters for a name, and much love for his only daughter & beautiful wife. *chuckle*

He’s RC, you can call me AJ

But enough about me. Let’s talk about you. How are you? Are you having a good morning? Did you tell someone you loved them in the past 24 hours? Did ya throw it out there like a hi-five or did you reflect on it for just a moment? Have you been productive this week? Why or why not? Did you take five minutes selfishly for yourself today?

A while back I read somewhere that “Success = Happiness”. I think the writer had the equation reversed. I say work on being happy, and you’ll redefine your vision of success. Happiness should be easy, and maybe it is for some people, but I’ve found plenty of folks–myself included–could use more joy. Hopefully, if you can find some inspiration, motivation, and put in a little work, you’ll find the happy more often.

Inspiration is a wonderful feeling. It’s the spark that kicks off a creative idea, or a smile that leads to a beautiful photograph. It’s a good cry at the end of the movie Rudy when the football team hoists him up on their shoulders after that last play⦠uhm⦠not that I cry at movies. Hopefully, there are people you come across who leave a lasting impression you keep with you. Two people that inspire me daily are Joe & Heidi Hendricks. Imagine your wife coming down with Stage 2 Breast Cancer, undergoing two lumpectomies, then radiation & chemotherapy; treatments that continue for roughly a year. Life goes on and three years later a new diagnosis of Stage 4 Metastatic Breast Cancer has found its way into the bones & lungs. You would probably do all you could to support your wife, and be there for her, even after you discover you also have cancer. In 2004, they were told they would only have a short time with each other, and eight years later Joe & Heidi Hendricks through their faith in God are still fighting cancer together, one day at a time.

What inspires me are not the facts of their circumstances, but how they’ve shared their experience with family & friends on Facebook.

In Joe’s images I see the beauty of the world, the challenges in the moment, and a peace I hope to one-day find. Do they have bad days? Yes. Do they have doubts, anger & frustration? They’re human, how could they not? But they have the conviction of their faith in the Lord, which grants them courage beyond my comprehension, and a passion for living life that’s demonstrated every day–even the bad ones.

The key takeaway from Joe & Heidi’s experience is they’re not waiting for inspiration to come to them. They actively seek it. It’s not uncommon to see an image from the day’s hiking adventure after hospital treatment, or a post that talks openly about the challenges they’re experiencing. When most people are still in bed, or lounging on the couch, Joe & Heidi are living in the moment and growing closer to God.

If inspiration is the spark, then motivation is the call to action. The trouble with motivation is for many of us it’s temporary, a fleeting moment. You might be inspired by an infomercial to purchase that $99 set of fitness tapes, but once they arrive the motivation wears off after the first video workout. It requires an inherent primal dissatisfaction with current conditions to truly change. Just ask Justin Seeley. At his heaviest he weighed close to 420lbs–at 27yrs old. A fellow Photoshop guy, Justin is no stranger to blogs & the Internet. As someone who makes his living training & speaking in front of people he shared his weight loss experience online. Over a year later, he has gone through an amazing transformation to better health, and reached a reasonable weight around 185lbs.

The key takeaway from Justin’s experience should be it took over a year. He didn’t find a quick fix, despite opting for a surgical procedure. The changes to his diet, the foods he can no longer eat, the daily exercise, and this new discipline he’ll carry with him for the rest of his life. I’ve known quite a few people who tried to “cheat” diet & exercise by surgical procedures and failed. It’s because they weren’t truly motivated to get healthy.

Once you’ve been inspired, and you’re motivated to act, you best be prepared to put in the work. My sister Lesli Wood knows something about perseverance. She wrote the following years ago, “i live by the concept that i can live my life exactly the way i want and i believe everyone else has this superpower, too. i have no patience for naysayers or those that settle for less than they deserve. doing what i want has led me into some really great adventures.”

It’s true. Lesli is one of those individuals who knew from birth who she was, and what she wanted to do. Music. No doubt about it. That was the easy part. The hard part was getting through Ms. Hunt who told my sister at the ripe age of five that before she could take piano lessons she would have to learn to read. It was in that moment Lesli grabbed our family Bible and as I recall read something along the lines of Psalms 98:4 “Make a joyful noise unto the LORD, all the earth: make a loud noise, and rejoice, and sing praise.” Did I mention the part where she has an Einstein IQ?

I envy her focus. How she interacts with the world, every decision she’s made is thoughtful & deliberate. Sure, you might not know who she is, you may have never heard her music, but she’s been a working musician who's played for audiences all over the world for over 25 years. To look at Lesli is to see someone who has everything they want, because they’ve made it that way. To see her perform, you would never know she’s battled multiple sclerosis for almost ten years.

But enough about them. Let’s talk about you. I hope as a photographer, designer or other creative professional you actively seek out people, places, ideas that inspire you. I hope when you doubt your gifts, and your motivation wanes you’ll remember that at this moment there is someone smarter, more talented & better than you. However, in this very same moment, you are smarter, more talented & better, than someone else. It’s easy to envy the results and ignore the drive & dedication necessary to produce them. The people you admire? They’re fallible, they have problems, and they're human. They just show the world their best side.

Be Ambitious. Be Humble.

Call him a creative generalist or digital artisan, A.J. Wood talked so much about Adobe products they had no choice, but to hire him and put his big mouth to use. Catch his videos on AJWOOD.COM, find him on Facebook, or chat on Twitter

  1. Inspirational on several levels. I unfortunately missed you at PSW but i agree that people tend to get caught up in the minutiae…

    I think we are all innocent and self absorbed (myself included) until you start losing a few very close loved ones. Your whole work and perspective changes very quickly. And the sad part is, you cannot truly convince someone of this until they have it happen to them. Which sucks.

    In addition to all that, we all have our personal hurdles, both personally and professionally. Personally, i’d love to drop 30 lbs. That 30 lbs might as well be 300 lbs. It’s something i still strive for.

    Professionally, i wish i could pose on a whim, but i still have to give it thought each and every time.

    All we can do is hope to get better and truly strive to better ourselves and yes, it’s a cliche but AA has it right…..

    Just take things one day at a time. :)

  2. Great words AJ. Regretfully it sometimes takes us to have shared or been part of a difficult experience to appreciate just what we do have in life and/or re-assess what’s important to us and focus on that.
    It was great to meet you and the family at PSW in DC earlier this year and spend some time chatting over a beer or two – good ‘craic’ as we say in Northern Ireland.

  3. Wow, what a story.  I really believe this is one of the best Guest Blogs ever.  The one thing I really appreciated was the way you mirrored different “Life Changing Event’s” to photography and creativity. 
    I knew you were special when you beat me in Midnight Madness after I had my hand in the Mystery Bucket. :)
    Thanks AJ for starting my Wednesday off really nicely.

  4. ” It’s easy to envy the results and ignore the drive & dedication necessary to produce them. The people you admire? They’re fallible, they have problems, and they’re human. They just show the world their best side.”Loved these words and this blog. Great post. Thanks A.J. :)

  5. I love that you bolded the line “It requires an inherent primal dissatisfaction with current conditions to truly change.” I’ve seen for a long time the detrimental effects of “comfort” with people I love. They get comfortable in their current lousy situation and have no reason to move up with their lives. It doesn’t take much for people to change their direction, they just have to get pissed off first, and that’s the hardest part!!  Thanks again for this inspiring post ;)

  6. Wow! AJ Wood is on Scott Kelby’s blog! Congrats and fantastic article AJ. You are like a Photoshop god, dude. When I first met you DFWAUG you were a Photoshop god.

    So essentially, nothing’s changed. You’re actually pretty damned predictable.

    All the best.

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  8. Wow AJ, that was awersome. I never knew you had that type of writing skills. I guess I should have expected it, knowing your skills and expertise in the training world. I am so glad I had a chance to work with you. You are a totally awesome person. Keep posting those pictures on FB. Your daughter is just beautiful and I can tell you are a proud father… Mike

  9. I don’t comment on posts. Usually. But you nailed it, A.J. We’re all out there trying to capture life through our photography, but we should never forget to LIVE life to its fullest at the same time. Great post and what the world needs now…

    The only problem is that I don’t know whether I like you or your sister better!  

  10. Thanks everyone for the comments. I want to thank Brad & Scott again for allowing me to share with you today. It was truly an honor to be a part of the Guest Blog series. Cheers!

  11. Thanks for the inspirational post, AJ! When I see what these folks have accomplished in spite of huge challenges I realize I have no excuses.

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