Photo of me with my daughter Chelle and her cat Salem. Chelle took this with her phone on a timer.
So much of our identity is fused with our jobs, our function, our company. That actually isn’t all that bad.
Ephesians 2:10, NIV: "For we are God's handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do."
Early in my career I was paying the dues working at The Hickory Daily Record honing my craft of visual storytelling through the skill of photojournalism.
In life, we put a lot of emphasis on dates, on periods of time, and on milestone anniversaries. We often tell our stories as a timeline. After a while you will learn to see a theme in those milestones. For me those milestones were me learning to listen to people and hear their stories first hand and then helping to tell those stories using impactful visuals with words.
I quickly turned my storytelling to my faith. I was working on the most successful magazine for the church during the 1980s The Commission Magazine. It told the story of international missionaries for the Baptist. However, by the end of that decade controversy in the denomination impacted giving and I lost my job through a layoff.
I went back to school for my masters in communication from a seminary. I believed that this would help me become a specialist in humanitarian work. Well I graduated and the only job I could find was to work at Georgia Tech.
I told the stories of researchers, athletes, administrators and more for ten years at Georgia Tech. I lost that job.
You see there were seasons of where I was helping a particular genre of people’s stories. It helped me to develop skills such as lighting, cross cultural understanding and most of all learning to listen better and better. I am still learning how to listen even better. I think that will be a lifetime lesson.
I never stopped telling missionary stories and this morphed into telling humanitarian stories. Humanitarian work is promoting human welfare and social reforms. The goal is to save lives, relieve suffering, and maintain human dignity.
I was helping tell the story of migrant workers who wanted to stay in Mexico. They could if only they could cut out the middle man [the roaster] and form a cooperative of coffee growers. That story helped the cooperative grow and more coffee growers to join and change their community.
The president of Honduras came to the US to thank the organization and all they have done to improve their country.
I was just trying to survive by shooting anything, I was covering the Peach Bowl in 2008. During that game Greg Thompson met my wife Dorie in the press box. He was shooting the game with his son. My wife gave him my card and told him to look me up on the sidelines. Well he didn’t meet me then, but went to my website and shortly after that asked me to help him as a consultant with Chcik-fil-A’s corporate communications team.
For the next twelve years I worked on that team and working a great deal with the family as well.
In March of 2020 I found myself sitting at home was needless to say, a very unusual feeling. The pandemic had shifted my career as much as any other job change had done so in the past.
I believe that God gave me the gift to help tell people’s stories better than they could without my help.
I studied and got my FAA Part 107 Certified Commercial Drone Pilot license. I started helping Chick-fil-A, real estate people and businesses use this new perspective to engage their audience. It was another arrow in my quiver.
I have always done headshots for actors, business people and a good number for counselors.
Dubbed “the new handshake,” professional headshots are now the first introduction to you, your business and your personal brand—shouldn’t that intro be the best it can be? With 93% of HR professionals and recruiters tapping into LinkedIn to find quality candidates—plus candidates—plus 2 in 3 on Facebook and more than half utilizing Twitter—that headshot has countless applications in your professional life.
What have I discovered?
The issue was that I needed to sitt with myself. With my thoughts. My emotions. My feelings. I had to do “the work.”
“The Work,” was to understand how I truly feel. To do this justice you need time. This past year–I had plenty of time. I created a Zoom call group on every Friday for the past year. It was due to no longer getting the FOCUS group together in person, why not do it online. [FOCUS – Fellowship of Communicators Uniting Socially]
I learned that I thrived at helping people have the space to share their stories. I found myself coaching people before they were to share. “People want to hear your story,” is what I was telling them over and over. Then I would tell them what I thought was their story. Often they commented how much this process was helping them.
All this time I thought I was just learning how to listen and help people tell their stories, so that the audience’s lives would be impacted. Little did I know that this process was cathartic for so many.
My purpose is still to help people and organizations tell their stories in an impactful way. While the audience will be impacted, it is often the subject that is transformed the most.
Tip for You!
Everyone will be enriched by doing the same thing I do. Take the time to listen to a person. Listening is active. You will need to ask questions. You don’t have a list of questions as much as through truly listening to a person, you will need to ask qualifying questions.
When you think you got that person’s story, just like a journalist will do, verify that story. Just tell the person their story as you understand it and asked if you missed anything.
It is when you listen that you will awaken your own story and learn to connect in new ways to people.