Rediscovering My Purpose

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, function, and company. That 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.

Shot on May 24, 1985 while working at The Hickory Daily Record.

In life, we put a lot of emphasis on dates, periods, and 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 included learning to listen to people and hear their stories firsthand and then helping to tell those stories using impactful visuals with words.

Philip Newberry almost died of meningitis just before his second birthday. As the missionary child recovered, his hands and feet were amputated because of gangrene. An antibiotic after surgery caused 70 percent of his skin to slough off, but he was recovering two weeks later. Philip with his mother, Jan, and with his sister Amy.

I quickly turned my storytelling to my faith. I worked on the church’s most successful magazine 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.

Microneedles give painless shots. The smaller the hypodermic needle, the less it hurts when it pierces the skin. Researchers from the Georgia Institute of Technology have developed ways to manufacture solid and hollow metal, silicon, plastic, and glass microneedles that range in size from one millimeter to one-thousandth of a millimeter.

I went back to school for my master’s 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.

This was one of the few advantage points to capturing divers and the Olympic Logo for the Centennial Games in Atlanta.

I told the stories of researchers, athletes, administrators, and more for ten years at Georgia Tech. I lost that job.

There were seasons when I was helping a particular genre of people’s stories. It helped me develop skills such as lighting, cross-cultural understanding, and learning to listen better and better. I am still learning how to listen even better. I think that will be a lifetime lesson.

Surgeon Danny Crawley is in theatre doing a hernia operation, and Comfort Bawa, the theatre assistant, helps him at the Baptist Medical Centre in Nalerigu, Ghana.

I never stopped telling missionary stories, which morphed into telling humanitarian stories. Humanitarian work promotes human welfare and social reforms. The goal is to save lives, relieve suffering, and maintain human dignity.

Just Coffee and Frontera de Cristo [NIKON D3S, 24.0-120.0 mm f/3.5-5.6, Mode = Aperture Priority, ISO 4000, 1/1000, ƒ/6.3, (35mm = 62)]

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.

The President of Honduras, Juan Orlando Hernández, meets with President Jimmy Carter at the Carter Center in Atlanta.

I was trying to survive by shooting anything, covering the Peach Bowl in 2008. Greg Thompson met my wife Dorie in the press box during that game. He was shooting the game with his son. My wife gave him my card and told him to look me up on the sidelines. He didn’t meet me then, but he went to my website and shortly after asked me to help him as a consultant with Chick-fil-A’s corporate communications team.

Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl 2019 [NIKON D5, 120.0-300.0 mm f/2.8, Mode = Aperture Priority, ISO 11400, 1/4000, ƒ/4, (35mm = 195)]

For the next twelve years, I worked on that team and worked a great deal with the family.

Video Shoot for home office Tour Truett Cathy, Dan Cathy, Trudy Cathy, Bubba Cathy

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 in the past.

I believe God gave me the gift to help tell people’s stories better than they could without my help.

[DJI Air 2S, Mode = Manual, ISO 100, 1/1000, ƒ/2.8, (35mm = 22)]

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 many counselors.

Dubbed “the new handshake,” professional headshots are now the first introduction to you, your business, and your 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 sit 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 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 say to them what I thought was their story. Often they commented how much this process was helping them.

All this time, I thought I was 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 genuinely listening to a person; you will need to ask qualifying questions.

Verify that story when you think you got that person’s story, just like a journalist will do. Tell the person their story as you understand it and ask if you missed anything.

When you listen, you will awaken your own story and learn to connect in new ways with people.