Everyone Has a Story: Blake Johnson

Today’s mini-interview is with Blake Johnson, who describes himself as a “PhotoSapien and TV Picture Optimizer” on Twitter. Below, Blake shares about making the jump to self-employment, the thing he really wants to photograph, and the conversation that reminded him that he was more capable than he thought he was.

Photo provided by Blake Johnson – Used with permission

Photo provided by Blake Johnson – Used with permission

What is one of your dreams for your life?
To be working for myself doing things I enjoy.  To be more specific, lately I have branched out away from a day job to give myself a real chance.  I actually realized today I am finally starting to live this dream that I’ve had for many many moons.  I saved up and waited until a good time to jump.  I am taking as many jobs as I can which covers a wide variety of things, but I feel like I need to at this point.   I am taking photos,  fixing computers (and other tech support type things), calibrating TVs, website updates, helping with social media marketing, and loving every minute of it.  Coming home as the sun goes down energized instead of worn out and stressed is SUCH a game changer.  I highly recommend it.

What is something on your bucket list?
I really want to shoot products like TAG watches at least once.  It’s one of those things that I knew I wanted from the day I picked up a camera.

What is the best advice you ever received?
I was a teenager working for my dad’s business.  I think it was summer time.  I was having a conversation with the lady in charge of the ice-cream parlor where we sold our own homemade goodness.  I can’t remember the entire conversation, but somewhere in there she told me… “You’re one of those people that does whatever you set your mind to.”  That has always been in the back of my mind.  I guess she saw something in me.  I don’t think I saw it back then, but others have since said something similar.  It wasn’t so much advice as it was guidance or enlightenment.  I feel like most people need that outside force to show them a mirror.  Otherwise we end up like that mammoth in Ice Age thinking we are just a rat.  The truth is we are more capable than that.  We can build and create greatness in our lives.  It just takes knowing.

Thanks for sharing your time and dreams with us, Blake!

Readers: Do you want to be interviewed, or do you know someone I should ask for an interview? Let me know.

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Scott Wyden Kivowitz Interview – “I don’t want to box myself into a niche corner”

Photo provided by Scott Wyden Kivowitz, used with permission - Photo by Emily Feinsod

Photo provided by Scott Wyden Kivowitz, used with permission – Photo by Emily Feinsod

On his website, Scott Wyden Kivowitz calls himself “a photographer, blogger and educator in New Jersey.” He’s also an author, father, and former band member who got to go on tour with his band. Today Scott shares about his commitment to always speak the truth when blogging, his tattoos, and the thing his music professor told him that affects everything he does.

Name and blog: Scott Wyden Kivowitz

Fun fact about you:
I love komodo dragons. I’ve only seen them behind glass, but they’re underappreciated and an endangered species, even though they’re one of the oldest living species on the planet.

Funner fact:
I have multiple tattoos including a komodo dragon, a few Shel Silverstein drawings, a satellite from the band Cave In, and my father’s initials.

Funnest fact:
I love talking geek with other geeks.

What do you think has been essential to your success so far as a photographer?
Being myself and not worrying about “making it big” has been my key for success. From day one I pledged to always speak the truth. To always keep things simple (KISS if you will) and to get my work out there, and my education out there as easily and straightforward as possible. I also decided to not hold back any “secrets” that others might have decided to try and hide. Things like how I processed a photo, or where a photo was captured.

What was something that surprised you about photography?
I knew that digital photography was going to make a big splash, but I honestly didn’t expect the drastic shift in the industry like what happened. I would say the point when Nikon released the D70 camera in 2004, everything changed into a rapid speed towards pure digital. The industry has never looked back. Yes, film is still made and many photographers still use it. But majority of clients across the spectrum of photographic niches request digital.

If you had to describe your blog in 6 words or less, what would you say?
Oddly enough I already do this: Simple, Creative, Professional, The Everyday Photographer. I use the term The Everyday Photographer because I don’t want to box myself into a niche corner. I like to try new techniques and niches and not limit myself.

Who or what inspires you? 
First, my daughter. At the time of this interview she’s just a few days shy of 9 months old. Every day she learns something new and the expressions and challenges and achievements she goes through are just inspirational. They make me want to keep doing more.

But also photographers like Zack Arias and Chase Jarvis are inspirational. In a very different way than my daughter, of course. Zack because he went through some extremely tough financial times, learned valuable lessons and came back in the industry with a vengeance. He’s now very successful and teaches other photographers to not make the mistakes he made. And Chase because he built an empire between his photography and CreativeLive by doing what he loves and in a similar way as me, not holding back.

What is your all-time favorite bucket list item (of yours or someone else’s)?
Growing up I never wanted to go to Israel. I had many opportunities and always passed on it. Maybe it was fear of how the news portrays what’s happening there. I don’t know. But now I regret it and am determined to get there. My wife had her Bat Mitzvah in Israel and is always talking about how great it was and sharing stories from the trip.

If you aren’t doing anything related to your photography, what are you doing in your free time?
Photography isn’t my full-time job, so I’m typically doing my daily activities for Photocrati. When not working or doing photography I am usually hanging out with my family, at the park with my daughter, or doing other activities that she can be involved in.

What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
Before changing my college major to photography I was a music major. One music professor said to me something super epic that has always stuck with me within everything I do.

“Practice makes permanence.”

He says that because practice does not make anything perfect. Because nothing is perfect. But practice will help to make whatever the task is permanent. Think about it and you will understand just how true that is.

Readers: Join me in thanking Scott for sharing his time, stories, and advice with us! If you want to learn more about him, check out his website, which also has his links to the usual social media sites.

Want more interviews like this? Leave a comment and let me know who you would like to see featured, and be sure to sign up to stay updated on all the latest posts!

Fall bucket list ideas

Wondering what to do this fall? I can help you with that! Fall makes me happy – I love the way the leaves change colors, the air gets sharper, and the excitement of the upcoming holidays grows. Here are several fall activity ideas to make the most out of the season.

pumpkin patch - Photo Credit: liz west via Flickr, used unmodified under CC BY 2.0 license

Photo Credit: liz west via Flickr, used unmodified under CC BY 2.0 license

Pumpkin patch – It’s remarkable how something as simple as picking your own pumpkin can be so fun. I remember going to pumpkin patches when I was a kid and getting to choose my own pumpkin to take home, and it’s hard to outgrow it – it was just as fun when I went a two years ago.

Corn maze – I’m super directionally challenged, but I still like corn mazes (and they usually have maps just in case you want to keep it in your back pocket to peek at when you start feeling lost).

My Totoro pumpkin carving from Halloween 2014 modified from a free template from Fantasy Pumpkins (http://fantasypumpkins.com/free-patterns.htm)

My Totoro pumpkin carving from Halloween 2014 modified from a free template from Fantasy Pumpkins

Carve a jack-o-lantern – In the past, I’ve gone the classic route and carved a face, but last year I got more creative and did a cartoon character (Totoro) modified from a template I found online. Some of my friends made a full Halloween scene complete with cat, hanging stars, and trees. Tip: If you’re going to do more than simple faces, it might be worth it to get a pumpkin carving kit (affiliate link*) – I used one last year and it was easier than using knives, especially for the smaller details on my Totoro pumpkin. I also really like saving the seeds for toasting and eating!

Go to a costume party – There’s something so fun about dressing up in costume. Maybe it’s because it’s one of the few times people think it’s acceptable to pretend we’re someone else the way we used to when we were kids. Whatever it is, wearing a costume for Halloween is one of my favorite parts of the season. If I don’t go anywhere, then I try to at least dress up to hand out candy for the trick-or-treaters.

Go stargazing – This activity doesn’t have to be limited to summer. It gets dark early in the fall, so if you’re a morning person like me, you don’t have to stay up as late to see the constellations, but it is much colder, so be sure to bundle up!

Public Domain photo via Pixabay.com

Public Domain photo via Pixabay

Take a walk and crunch in the leaves – One of my favorite fall activities is to go on “Crunchy Leaf Walks” where I step on as many dry leaves as I can, just for the satisfyingly crispy sound. I usually also pick up a few of the more vibrantly colored leaves to dry and put around the house as decoration.

Pop popcorn and enjoy some family time – Some of my favorite family memories are the simple ones where we’re eating popcorn and watching a movie, seeing the fire dance in the fireplace, or playing Pictionary.

Write a big list of reasons you’re thankful – I do this every year around Thanksgiving, and it always amazes me how much it changes my attitude and reminds me of what’s important.

What’s missing from this list? What are your favorite things to do in the fall?

*Affiliate link = Amazon pays me a small portion of the sale price, at no extra cost to you. I only recommend things that I think are worth buying.

Everyone Has a Story: Amber McCoy

Photo provided by Amber McCoy (amberdawnconsulting.weebly.com/) - Used with permission

Photo provided by and used with permission from Amber McCoy

On her website, Amber McCoy describes herself as “Content Strategist. Social Media Specialist. Music Addict. Travel Junkie. Wine Taster. Life Lover. Art Collector. Foodie. Daughter. Aunt. Sister. Friend. Then Ohioan. Now Seattleite.” She grew up in a family of farmers and says, “I work hard, dream big and do not pretend that everything is perfect, but […] I still continue to smile each day and be ecstatic that I am alive to live each day.”

Today, as part of this mini-interview series, Amber shares one of the places she’d like to visit, and the advice that has helped her make every decision in her life.

(If you’re interested in being interviewed for this blog or have someone in mind for me to ask, please let me know or leave a note in the comments section.)

What is one of your dreams for your life?
Travel to different countries, graduate and receive my MBA, own my own company one day and become a wife and a mother

What is something on your bucket list?
To visit Rome and see all the architecture and artwork I studied while doing my undergrad.

What is the best advice you ever received?
My Dad gave me the best advice – “Never forget where you came from, never forget how you were raised, never forget who you are and always be grateful for everything and everyone in your life”. This advice has helped me throughout every decision I have made in life, both personal and professional. It always helps me to remain focused.

Thanks for sharing your time and dreams with us, Amber!

Readers: Do you want to be interviewed, or do you know someone I should ask for an interview? Let me know.

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Everyone Has a Story: Dariko

Photo provided by Daria (www.dariko.net) and used with permission

Dariko, on “a wonderful trip to the Georgian Caucasus mountains, and Blue Abudelauri Lake impressed me a lot. I really enjoy spending time in the nature, so usually my weekend relaxing is happening somewhere outside of the city” – Photo provided by Dariko – Used with permission

Today’s mini-interview subject is Dariko, who was born in Ukraine and moved to Georgia. Dariko decided to move after she developed a deep interest in the Georgian culture during her time working in the German Parliament in Berlin, where she made friends with many Georgians. Below, she shares her project about urban pedestrian safety, her experience learning to run, and her advice on conquering the habit of overthinking.

(If you’re interested in being interviewed for this blog or have someone in mind for me to ask, please let me know or leave a note in the comments section.)

What is one of your dreams for your life?
One of my dreams is to step on zebra crossing in Georgia, the country I live in, the country I love… To step on, and not to be angry with the drivers. Currently they are not super respectful to pedestrians. The situation is improving slowly, but still the driving culture is like in many Southern countries. But as I want to spend my life in Georgia, I wish this could be better! For raising awareness about the problem, my friends and me launched a small project called “This Is Zebra” (“Es Aris Zebra” in Georgian). We want this problem to be finally solved, so we speak up about this.

What is something on your bucket list?
I would love to participate in Tbilisi Marathon 2015. I could never run or jog even 2 minutes long. Never ever. Always had an excuse for not going to jog – even though it seemed attractive for me. My health was not perfect, I’ve been bad at running and jogging at school, people will watch me, the weather is bad, I don’t have good shoes… But finally I just went out of my house and started. It takes time to learn, but it’s worth it. Nobody is watching me, nobody forces me to run a marathon distance, nobody expects from me the results of Usain Bolt, nobody gives an ef! It was me who didn’t want the truth: I was just lazy and scared.

So, during this marathon, there will be also a track for beginners. I think I will try to do it this fall!

What is the best advice you ever received?
Well, it was not an advice to me personally, but it was the advice of a life coach I really respect (Olesya Novikova). As she was talking about barriers which prevent us from developing and moving forward, she said that the majority of things we “know” about ourselves is the mixture of what the others were telling us, and our overthinking.

“Start a Big Cleaning”, she said. “Get rid of this mental garbage. As long as you keep your old beliefs, you keep getting what are you getting now, and not something new. It’s impossible to change your life without changing your old beliefs and habits.”

It was such a useful advice! Helped me a lot. “I can’t,” “I am not able,” “I have a difficult character,” “I am too strong, nobody can handle me,” “I am stupid,” “All the guys/girls are mean/lame/taken,” “It’s impossible to start your own business,” “It is impossible to lose weight,” “I am as I am, I am not flexible, I was born this way” – the majority of those statements we believe in are based on bad experiences of people we know, or our failings we don’t want to accept. After I started revising all this, life became much better. A truly amusing process!

Thanks for sharing your time and dreams with us, Dariko!

Readers: Do you want to be interviewed, or do you know someone I should ask for an interview? Let me know.

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The Goal List: where it’s been, and where it’s headed

When you’re surrounded by people who share a passionate commitment around a common purpose, anything is possible. —Howard Schultz

[[This is a different type of post than usual, more about the process of blogging and the history of this blog than any type of goal list activity. I’d like to know what you think – please share your thoughts in the comments section.]]

I’ve struggled over the past year to really clarify for myself why I write this blog, but recently it’s come down to this:

  • I’m passionate about my bucket list, and more broadly than that, goal-setting and accomplishment, and it makes me really happy when I see other people making and achieving goals of their own
  • I’m already in the habit of writing in my goal list journals about the moment/process of accomplishing each goal, and I talk about it a lot in person, so it’s a very natural transition for me to write about it online
  • I love writing in all forms, but blogging is special because it allows me to connect with people who understand this aspect of my life that I’ve had few people in real life “get” (see quote above). I want to create a place where other people are able to feel that same sense of understanding and encouragement
  • Sharing resources and amplifying/spreading enthusiasm about goal achievement are two things that I automatically do and make me happy

My original inspiration for starting the blog was a mix of wanting attention, an unquenchable desire to write, and my friends saying “You should start a blog.” My focus has expanded over the past year and a half, from only posting my stories of accomplishing goal list items (mostly poorly-written boring depictions of facts), to including a few resources, quotes, and stories of other inspiring bucket listers.

After six months of blogging, I started doing interviews with other bucket list bloggers and soon also added the mini-interview series called Everyone Has a Story. Both interview series grew, and I’ve been able to interview entrepreneurs, bloggers, an author, a photographer, an artist, and many other people who consider themselves “normal” or “boring” people but are actually very interesting and inspiring. (Shameless plug: everyone really does have a story – if you’re willing to be interviewed, please let me know!) Three months after that, I added a travel section (pretty fun to write). I also took two different month-long breaks this year, as I tried to get focused, manage stress, and renew my enthusiasm for blogging in general.

After a lot of reflection, I realize that I like blogging too much to let it go, so you’ll continue seeing posts from me. :) But I also know that there are a lot of things I’d like to see happen in the next few months, so expect some minor (and maybe some major) changes. As always, I appreciate your feedback. If you really enjoy a certain part of this blog and want to see it stay, let me know. And if something here really bothers you, let me know that too. I’m not going to promise to make everyone happy but I do take feedback into consideration.

For now, here are some of my dreams for this blog:

  • More interviews – I hit a little bit of a dry spell finding interviewees! If you’ve been inspired by someone and want to see them featured on this site, nominate them to be interviewed
  • More “Goal Accomplished” posts – because I like sharing the things I’ve done, since I know many of us have goals in common. I will continue to share resources specific to these goals to help you get your list done also, and I’m working on writing the posts in a more interesting way ;P
  • More travel – travelling is on so many people’s bucket lists, and I want to share stories, resources, tips, and must-see/do lists of places I (or other people) have visited
  • Increased Facebook community – it’s a poorly-kept secret! The Goal List is on Facebook. I didn’t widely announce it yet because I wanted to figure out what I was doing with it first, but I’m sharing it now, and if you want to head over there and let me know what you’d want to see out of a bucket list-focused Facebook page, that would really help me figure out which direction to take it.The Goal List: where it’s been, and where’s it headed
  • Retrospective bucket list – inspired by Wise Monkeys Abroad, I’m creating a list of things that would have gone on my list had I not done them already

What have you enjoyed so far about this blog? How has it helped you reach your goals?

This post is a result of my participation in Daily Post’s Blogging 101 course, which I’m taking to improve my skills, reach my blogging goals, and bring you a better blog! Stay tuned for more posts and changes