January 25, 2018

The ABC’s of How NOT to Be Successful

Recently I was having this conversation with some good friends, and it rang so true for all of us that I thought it was something we probably ALL need to hear.

What I was telling them was this. It’s really easy to look around and see all of the amazing things other people are doing, and then start to assign them an empty box on your own checklist. Like a blank space in your life or a blinking cursor in your own story, it becomes just one more step between where you are and where you think you have to be in order to call yourself successful. Until it starts to go a little something like this. You see one friend on Instagram do A, let’s say host a workshop. Then you see another person you follow do B, maybe it’s book their 40th wedding for the year or put together an amazing styled shoot that just got them featured. Then you see that photographer or business owner you’ve looked up to for years blog about doing C, maybe it’s speaking at a brand new conference. And then our brains do this really tricky slight of hand.


Even though we saw that person do A, that person do B, and that person do C…somewhere in our heads it becomes “well, successful people must do all three A, B & C.” In other words, like a monster we build up in our own heads, we assemble those three separate mere mortals into some sort of Megatron of business owners that none of us could ever live up to because we’re giving them credit for three things when they have really only done one. And we don’t stop at A, B & C either. We keep adding, heaping on to the list, until we make it all the way to Z and have ourselves convinced that the only way we can be successful is if we tie ourselves in knots trying to juggle all 26 of these things at once.

We tell ourselves that unless we’re globe trotting Europe while hosting a workshop while putting on a styled shoot while redecorating our Pinterest worthy home while writing amazing blog posts that go viral while growing a super huge Instagram following while spending quality time with family while hosting life-changing mentoring sessions while speaking at (or launching) the new conference on the scene while growing a huge newsletter list while shooting 40 weddings a year while bringing on associates while attending that exclusive industry event while starting a side business while having our editing caught up the day we do our shoots while looking super stylish…..then we’re not successful.

And it’s exhausting. It’s exhausting just reading that list. But here’s the really scary part…that’s how we’re living our lives. And the truth is, we’re just setting ourselves up for failure because we’re starting with a list that NO human is actually accomplishing. It’s just a greatest hits compilation we’ve created in our own heads that we’re giving them all credit for.

If there is one thing that we have learned in our nine years of being full time in this business it’s this: If you waste all of your energy running left and running right just trying to keep up with what everyone else is doing, all you end up is really tired and never once moving forward. I think the word “frenetic energy” comes into play here. The word itself is a derivative of frenzied or frantic. But in science terms we use it to describe an entity that is exerting a ton of vibrations of energy….just to stay in one spot. Aren’t you tired of being frenetic, frenzied & frantic?

Today, I want you to recognize your success meter for what it is: the checklist of somebody else’s dream. Now take a deep breath and ask yourself…what does success actually look like for me? Now let’s go do that.

Go rock it out friends!

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  1. Urška Majer

    I couldn’t agree more with your post, Mary! And it’s totally what i needed to hear! Success is different for each one of us, which i what we usually forget when making a “dream” success list. Thank you, Mary, for such a great post :)

  2. Mary Marantz

    You are SO welcome Urska! Thank you so much for taking the time to read! We appreciate you so much!

  3. Laura Matthews

    Did you write this for me, Mary? :) Over the years, I’ve become better at doing this my way but sometimes the sting of the success of others does creep in. I start asking myself, “Am I doing this right?” I needed this reminder that my success is totally different than that of others. Thank you! :)

  4. Jacinthe

    This is such a great read. I had to share it with my followers on FB! Will need to read it times and times again, I am sure, but still, what a good reminder to start the week with! Mary – thank you. :)

  5. Danielle Blocker

    Amen! Love this Mary!!!

  6. Maylin

    I love this and what a great reminder to define your own success.

  7. Amanda Roth

    So, SO perfectly TRUE! Thanks for sharing!

  8. Jen

    Ahh, I love this! As a blogger I’m always unintentionally comparing myself to other more established bloggers. Thank you for this reminder today. :)

  9. Jillian Tree

    Wow, so very true!! I’m always trying to add more and must be on double letters (AA, BB, CC) by now…thanks for the reminder! :)

  10. Kelly

    You nailed it with this post. I love your advice and photography. Keep up the great work. Thanks for the blog posts!!!

  11. Tori

    You always hit the nail right on the head! Thanks so much, Mary. Needed to hear this today!

  12. Suzy VanDyke

    I love this so much! Thank you for sharing. I always appreciate your open heart and the wisdom that comes with it. I’m excited to share your post today with Chasing Lockets for our Tuesday Tips!!

  13. Stephanie Stewart

    Oh, Mary! I’ve needed to read this! I’m coming back after maternity leave with an even longer to do list than before and it becomes so easy to get overwhelmed by that, plus seeing what everyone else is accomplishing while I’m still getting my wings back! Thank you for this much needed reminder! Xoxo

  14. Nicole Flores

    Gosh, Mary, thank you so much for taking the time to post this. This is exactly what I’m going through as a young photographer in the industry. I’ve felt paralyzed by everything I think I’m supposed to be one day and it hasn’t helped me to just move forward with where I am. Thank you! Can’t wait to read the book you write one day!

  15. Carmela Blackwell

    Wonderful post! This is actually why I don’t spend as much time in the photography FB forums as I once did. They were taking up too much of my time in comparison and leaving me no time to run my own life and business. have a beautiful day & God Bless!

  16. Geert Peeters

    So true. I can totally relate…

  17. Jenny

    I love this, and it has inspired me to make a NOT To Do list!! I’m going to make a list of those dreams that belong to other people, but not to me. I feel a huge sense of relief just thinking about it, so THANK YOU!

  18. Jaye Kogut

    Great post Mary. I’m sure a lot of us can relate, myself included. I recently came across a book that can probably tie into this post – its called Singletasking by Devora Zack. It mainly talks about focusing on one task, one thought at a time. I found it great to relate to photography because I find my mind rushing through all these things I need to do through out the day to get to my success. Check it out! Thanks -J

  19. Nelly Antic

    What I REALLY like about this article is that it applies to our lives as well as to our business.

  20. sidra

    I just heard you speak on Jenna’s podcast and I am so glad I found what you said in print. It really resonates. Thank you!

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