When we were teachers, one of our favorite days of the year was Field Day. We didn’t actually have a field at our school, so it would’ve been better named Parking Lot Skinned Knees the Nurse is Gonna Quit on the Spot Day, but for all intents and purposes, let’s call it Field Day. One of the most popular games the kids competed in was the water bucket relay. Two teams lined ups single file, side-by-side, with a trough of cold water and an empty bucket. At the other end, there was another empty bucket. The goal?
1. Fill your bucket with water
2. Race to the end with it (trying not to spill)
3. Pour your bucket into the empty one at the end
4. Race back
5. Pass off your empty bucket to the next person in line
6. Repeat until the bucket at the end is full.
The kids loved it. The whole thing was a hit. They loved every part of the process – the filling, the running, and the pouring – equally. It wouldn’t have been fun for them if their buckets were full to begin with, or if they didn’t have to run and keep the water in, or if the buckets were there to pour into at the end. They needed all three parts for it to be a truly great game. All. Three. Parts.
And that got us thinking, friends, about you. About us. About the three things that, just like the Field Day game, every photographer needs (heck! every person needs!) to get the most satisfaction in this industry and out of life, and since we’re already talking about the water bucket relay, let’s make that our metaphor and (dare we say) run with it…
(Someone Who’s Where You Want to Be)
In the beginning of our race, we need to find someone on our team who can fill up our bucket. A bucket-filler knows what it takes to run the race, because they’ve played the game before, and they’re ready and willing to pour into you. Our bucket filler is a mentor. You can have one mentor or several, but the important thing is to have someone speaking into your life who’s where you want to be two years from now, five years from now, ten years from now, or beyond. Really listen to them, too. Take their feedback with open minds and try not to get your feelings hurt. They’ve got your best interests at heart and want you to succeed, or they wouldn’t have bothered filling up your bucket in the first place. But since these bucket fillers have been in the game longer than you, their perspective is different than yours. A good mentor wants you to avoid the land minds they hit along the way. So, if it seems like they’re sending you a different way than you expected, or on a detour from the exact path they chose, or maybe simply saying something that is hard to hear, we have to know that it comes from a place of love. Listening is hard because pride is real, but humble yourself. We’ve had to. We all have to. Because that’s when the good growth happens.
(Someone Who’s Where You Were)
We believe that because we’ve been poured into, we have a responsibility to pour into others. It’s that simple, really. Pay it forward. Repay what was done for you. This doesn’t mean you have to give, give, give all the time, but when you’re seeking out opportunities to serve with a selfless heart, incredible things happen. When you decide to pick a bucket to fill, you should try to pick someone who can’t do anything for you in return. No quid-pro-quos here. Think about it, you had nothing to offer your mentor when they came alongside you, so don’t expect anything from the people you are coaching either. Plus, there’s nothing like giving to someone who can’t repay you. We’ve been on the receiving end of that – and still are – and there’s nothing quite like it. The cool thing is we learn more about ourselves by teaching others than we ever could without this part of the game. So, once someone’s filled your bucket, fill someone else’s bucket with what you got filled with. That’s how we keep this relay going.
(Someone Who’s Right Where You Are)
While we all need a mentor and a student, we also need someone who is right there in the trenches running the race alongside you. They didn’t just begin the relay, and they aren’t hovering near the finish line, they are running at the same pace as you. They get you. Like, really get you. They’re the ones who are in the same unique position in life that you’re in. They know what it’s like, because it’s happening to them, too, maybe right there and then. This is a peer relationship, and those are important, because for as much as we need to be poured into and pour into others, we also need someone right where we are. We need friends. We need our people. Find your people and hold them tight. They’re the ones you want with you at the end of the race.
Where are you right now in your water bucket relay? Do you have one of these relationships? Do you have all three? Our challenge to you this week is to pray for opportunities to fill the missing piece of your relay team and start taking proactive steps to make it happen. You might not find an answer overnight, but when you are intentionally putting in the work, seeking the right relationships, and you work on making sure you are someone who other people would want on their team, someone who adds value, brings joy and fulfillment and someone who tackles the hard stuff with grace and humility, the pieces to the puzzle will come together. And trust us, it won’t just make the game more fun, it will make the whole race worth running.
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