Strong is the new pretty notebooks

Something happened over the last few nights of Netflix and I wanted to share it with you here.

Raffi has been allowing me to share my love of musicals with him by watching several movie musicals with me. In an effort to get him up to speed with all the musical references that fly around our house every day, we have now watched Hairspray, Chicago, The Greatest Showman, Little Shop, Moulin Rouge, Into the Woods, and most recently, Les Miserables. I saved Les Mis for a later date since it’s more intense, while Hairspray might have been a better starter musical. Trust me, I’ve put a lot of thought into getting people into musicals.

Les Miserables has one of my all time favorite characters in a musical and her name is Eponine. I started listening to this musical when I was three years old (no joke) and I loved Eponine because I was a dramatic child and Eponine was the unloved ingenue. Not only was she a great character, but she also got to belt out some awesome songs through the show. In Junior High I used to sit in my bedroom and sing On My Own with all the emotion my little thirteen year old heart could muster. And my thirteen year old heart could muster A LOT of emotion.

About halfway through watching the movie Les Mis, I turned to Raffi and said “Taylor Swift was almost going to play the role of Eponine.” Fun movie fact, right?

But then I thought about it. I thought about Samantha Barks (the girl who landed the role of Eponine). I thought about her showing up to audition and hearing that Taylor Swift, the Queen of everything, was also going out for the role. I’d imagine she assumed Taylor would get the role. I mean, why wouldn’t she?? It’s Taylor Swift! So Samantha auditions…the slays it…and still believes TS will get it because…well…it’s TS…and days later, she gets the call that they’ve casted her. Can you imagine that feeling?

I mean, I don’t know the reason Taylor Swift didn’t land the role or how the actual events unfolded … maybe Taylor decided she didn’t want it. Maybe it wasn’t in the budget. Maybe the producers thought it would take away from the reality of the movie. Whatever the reason, most hopeful Eponines would have not even tried once they saw Taylor Swift was also going out for the role… and yet Samantha did, AND ended up getting it.

A few days later, we turned on the Reputation Stadium Tour on Netflix, low key hoping we might see ourselves screaming in the audience. About twenty minutes in, Taylor introduced her backup dancers & singers… and I noticed, they were not all size two gymnasts with perfect wavy hair, long legs and big boobs. They looked like you, they looked like me. They were REAL, amazing, talented, gorgeous women. And my thoughts went back to Samantha & Taylor. Can you imagine being a hopeful Taylor Swift backup dancer, Standing in line to audition and thinking, “I won’t get it. Look at all these perfect dancers. My thighs touch, I don’t have a six pack, they won’t like my tattoos,  they won’t like my nose ring, these other girls are all super hot professional dancers,” and then, nose rings, tattoos, and curvy booty, THEY LANDED THE GIG.

Inspired to show up

Way too often I think, “I won’t go visit that venue because they already have [this or that] superstar photographer on their vendor list, I don’t have a shot in hell.” But what if they’re not looking for Taylor Swift?
What if they’re not looking for the sexiest backup dancer?
What if they’re looking for real?
What if they’re looking for new?
What if they’re looking for different?
What if they’re looking for exactly you? Or exactly me? And I’m not there. Because I didn’t have the guts to show up and try because the fact that Taylor Swift was also up for the role scared me away.

Does this resonate with you? Have you felt these exact same things? Believing you’re out of your league when you’re actually hands down, exactly, perfectly what the world needs?

So do me a favor. Get out a notebook and write down ten goals that make you nervous AF. Write down the ten things you’d totally do if you didn’t think someone bigger than you wanted it too. Then go after them without thinking about what people will think or say or whisper. Without thinking about the Taylor’s of the world who are also going after it. The time for the unknown with the nose ring has come….we just have to show up.

For more on goal setting and making stuff happen, check out day 80 in my 100 day series right here!

Denise Karis is an Arizona wedding photographer who enjoys musicals, Doctor Who and breakfast burritos. IG @denisekaris

These are roads I’ve never walked before. I feel like I keep stopping to look around and ask myself “Is this the right way? You’re not too far, you can turn back. Is this normal? Are you staying true to yourself? Are you walking a path that’s going to lead you to fulfillment and happiness and serve others on the way?”

It’s a lonely road, there aren’t many people here, and I’m learning why. In the meantime, I am depending on my own self and my own knowledge to lead the way. And it feels incredibly dangerous.

Yesterday I was reading my notes from Showit United, a photography conference here in Arizona and circled ten times, written in all caps was a line from Ben Hartley’s keynote that said:

Most meaningful things are dangerous.

I remember sitting in the audience in complete awe that someone could stand up on a stage in front of 400 of their peers and shed their skin. To stand there and say “Here’s where I fall short. Here’s my ugly truth. Here are the things I hate most about myself.” That IS dangerous! He had no safeguard, no guarantee people wouldn’t respond poorly … but it was meaningful. Because it’s what’s going to get me through to month six.

In month one, I learned that everything is a trade off
Month two I learned I am more than what I thought I was
Month three I learned that my legs are sore
Month four I learned that it’s 100 little things
And month five, I learned the importance of having a strong Why.

Have we all hopped on that bandwagon yet?

About ten years ago, Simon Sinek gave a Ted Talk that became one of the most viewed Ted Talks of all time. He outlined the importance of defining your “Why.” Why do you do what you do? What’s the underlying purpose? That when you’re building a business, potential customers and followers won’t buy into what you do, rather they will buy why you do it. That making your beliefs known and acting in a way that reflects those beliefs is what truly builds a lasting brand.

So you create a Why and people tell you “You’re going to need a strong WHY statement for those times when you face adversity in your business. It is what will keep you going.” And you think “Yeah, okay, cool” and then one day, maybe, I don’t know, in month five, it all makes sense.

Because this IS dangerous. When you decide to be a full time artist, you understand the term “Starving Artist” didn’t stem from nothing. You understand you will be putting a piece of your heart, your blood, your sweat, your tears, and your creative soul out there for judgment. You accept not everyone will love you. And sometimes, you learn that people might even believe the worst of you.

On this road, I’ve felt scrutinized, misunderstood, and judged. I’ve also felt accepted, loved and appreciated. But somehow, those negative experiences carry more weight and are brought to the forefront of my mind…. somehow they cast a shadow on the good, even if they are outnumbered 100 to 1. So I pause, I look around the road I’m on and I think “Is this the right way? You’re not too far, you can turn back. Is this normal? Are you staying true to yourself? Are you walking a path that’s going to lead you to fulfillment and happiness and serve others along the way?”

As if it were a lifeline, I ripped through my box of half written journals and notebooks in search of my Why statement. I wanted to see it, written in my own handwriting from a time that my feet were firmly planted.

“To create beautiful windows into the past to as proof of all the love that exists in the world.
To give to people something I don’t have and desperately want.
I believe photos are one of the few things we ever own that can achieve a priceless status.
I believe every love story deserves to be told.”

So when I pause on this road, when I look around, when I doubt, when I wonder if the people who think the worst of me are right, I can read this statement. And if it’s still true for me, I keep going.

Having said all that, you will definitely see me for month six!

Denise Karis is an Arizona wedding photographer who enjoys musicals, Doctor Who and breakfast burritos. IG @denisekaris

Going full time Month 5 Denise Karis Photography Blog

So often I get my business advice from things I’ve learned through Weight Loss and Candy Crush Saga.

Candy Crush Saga is a bit unexpected but really, the longer you play, the more boosters you accumulate and it’s easier to win. If boosters are seen as Networks, Experience, Momentum, Google Reviews, Blog Numbers, using all those resources that you didn’t have when you first started makes it almost hard to lose. The list goes on on that one but that’s a post for another day.

Over the last ten years, I have learned SO much about weight loss. I’ve struggled in this area for a really long time so naturally, I’ve scoured books and articles looking for that one game changer and in the meantime, I’ve learned a lot about health and fitness. But I wanted to share with you the best advice on weight loss I ever received. And it was from the guy who sat next to me while working my office job.

He said, “Weight loss isn’t one big thing. It’s a thousand tiny decisions and they all count equally.”

The idea hit me like a ton of bricks. It’s not JUST eating a protein filled breakfast. It’s not JUST getting enough water. It’s not JUST cutting snacks after dinner. It’s that AND.  We spend all this time looking for that ONE game changer and we never stop to realize, it’s a hundred tiny things, not just one thing.

The same is true of our businesses. It’s not JUST fantastic client experience. It’s not JUST quick delivery time on photos. It’s not JUST showing up on Social Media.It’s not JUST a killer website. It’s all of it and they all count equally. It’s knowing each and every interaction builds or chips away at your reputation. It’s knowing that how you respect and treat your industry peers is just as important as how you treat your clients. It’s ALWAYS bringing it.

It’s making sure your business is insured and operating legally
It’s building on your craft and delivering amazing work
Replying to emails quickly and enthusiastically
Being reliable
Being punctual
Treating everyone with respect and kindness
Curating a client experience
Keeping your website and blog updated
Keeping your gear clean and maintained
Treating your employees well
Showing up to networking events
Being active in the community
Giving back to the industry
Having a solid marketing strategy

So often we go to workshops and conferences and invest in online courses looking for that ONE thing. That one thing that will change everything and propel us into the next level of awesome and I’m here to tell you: It’s not just one thing. It’s tons of little things. And they all count equally.

Denise Karis is an Arizona wedding photographer who enjoys musicals, Doctor Who and breakfast burritos. IG @denisekaris