Hard Work; Working Hard in Photography

“Hard work never killed anybody.”— advice often offered by one’s parents

Joe with custom Tiltall tripodMy own parents never gave me that one particular piece of advice, probably because they knew better. My Dad worked in a steel mill, particularly an open hearth furnace. A hell-like inferno that often brought him home covered in burns most days but he was somehow expected to keep on working. One day, an explosive charge that’s supposed to open the furnace and allow molten steel to pour into a huge bucket, failed to go off. As Second Helper he was sent to investigate, as he got near the charge it exploded, leaving him partially deaf but glad to be alive. Later he was forced into early retirement because of emphysema. No, he didn’t smoke; he just breathed the air in his workplace.

Most photographers don’t face those kinds of hazards but they do face another one that can easily wreck havoc upon them and their loved ones. I’m talking about that same “hard work,” not counting heart attacks, that can not only kill you but can hurt the ones you love. I have heard far to many stories of small studio owners who worked every weekend to get their struggling business to survive, only to miss their children growing up before them. Believe me, once you’ve lost their childhood, it’s gone and I suspect that may one of the reasons many older man re-marry younger woman is so that they can recapture this time they lost with their first family. Wouldn’t it be easier and much better to do it right the first time?

I’m not Dr. Laura or Anne Landers but there are signs you can watch out for to see if you’re becoming a workaholic. These came to my attention from the Colorado Statue University Cooperative Extension and I’d like to share some of them with you along with some of my own thoughts.

  • Do you think that it’s OK to work long hours if you love what you’re doing? If so, you may be a workaholic. A corollary to this is telling yourself that you’re “doing this for the family.” This may really be lying to yourself, because if after all the hard work is done and you’ve lost your family, what was the point of working in the first place.
  • You may experience headaches, insomnia, shortness of breath, racing heartbeat, muscle tension or ulcers. There’s another cliché that says “life’s too short,” and if these symptoms aren’t enough to convince you that you need to make some changes, maybe this next story will.
  •  You can’t wait to get off the phone with friends when they call and they call less often than they once did. I find this particular symptom poignant, because of an incident that happened several years ago when I still owned a photo studio. I was working hard during our “busy season” when a friend called while I was out of the office. My wife gave me the message but I told her I didn’t want to call him back, because I was too busy. She urged me to call, because Ernie was concerned about how I was feeling. So I called him and we talked about how I was feeling (better, I was glad to report) and what projects we were both working on. When I got off the phone, I thanked Mary for urging me to call. When I got home that night, Ernie’s wife called to say he had died from a massive heart attack two hours after we spoke. He was worried about how I was feeling and I almost didn’t take the time to talk with him one last time. Don’t miss the time to talk to the people you care about, and care about you

Author: Joe Farace

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