Part III: 2019

The momentum from 2018 launched me into the new year with a whole new level of stoke. On the 4th day of the year I found myself on another paid travel project in Jackson Hole with Big Bill. Big Bill is an obscure cold-weather apparel company based in Canada, and they agreed to pay us $5,000 for one video + 10 images of our snowmobiling and skiing trip to Jackson Hole. What a way to start the year!

I squeezed that trip in right before the Charleston Marathon, for which I had been training during the last 6 months. And I mean right before. I got back to Charleston at 9 pm, and the next morning at 7 am I was standing at the starting line getting ready to punish my already-sore legs for an entire morning. I set a PR marathon time of 4:15, which is average at best, but I was happy to beat my first time of 5 hours.

Work was ramping up. I cracked my first $10,000 month in March, and I was in the middle of some really fun and challenging client projects. I was growing busy quickly, and I needed help. After spending years with not enough work, all the sudden I had more work than I could handle. I hired 3 part-time people during the first half of the year: one producer, one editor, and one executive assistant. Out of necessity, I shifted my focus from booking more work to putting systems in place to improve my efficiency and remove myself from some repetitive and lower-value tasks.

Growth is messy. Some days I felt like I was running through a house filled with fine china, breaking things left and right. It was hard to get a handle on all that was going on, and the OCD in me cried for respite from the madness. My new part-timers helped massively, even though I still faced the challenge of wanting to do everything myself. This mad-rush at the beginning of the year came to an abrupt stop in May when I took a much-needed 10-day vacation to Brazil. I decided to shut my email off for my trip and give myself a true, calm breath of fresh air.

I spent the first 4 months in what felt like a perpetual forward fall, borne out of head-down hustle. When I stopped moving for 10 days in Brazil, I got the chance to look around at where all that motion had brought me. Over the years I’ve developed a sense of my true self, and a gut feeling that points me towards that direction. If I get too far away from that thin line, something doesn’t feel right inside. While I was in Brazil, the halt in motion helped me notice that all my blind hustle was veering me off my path. I wasn’t in a bad place, but I felt I might be heading that way if I didn’t make a change.

Upon my return to the States I was met with a new demon. A demon called Post-Brazil Syndrome. Post-Brazil Syndrome is a mental disorder that develops upon returning to “normal life” after a relaxing, inspiring, and eye-opening experience in Brazil. Maybe it was experiencing a new culture so foreign to what I’ve always known. Maybe it was being humbled by my inability to understand the fast-talking Portuguese speakers of southern Brazil. Maybe it was sinking into a new place with nothing to do that opened me up to being more receptive. Maybe it was something about Jess, the girl I traveled south to visit, and the mirror she held up in front of me. Whatever caused it, my attention was drawn to some important questions that I had neglected for just a bit too long.

Do I care about any of this client work? Do I want to live in Charleston? Am I creating an entrapment or something that will increase my freedom? Am I working towards what I really want, or just taking every opportunity that comes my way for the sake of “growth”? Can I do better for myself?

It’s a beautiful thing to bury our heads into our work. We get into a zone, pour our soul into a project, and come out a better person on the other side. But if that hustle isn’t balanced with a healthy amount of reflection and recalibration, life will pass us by without warning, and when we lift our heads up, we won’t be sure where we are anymore.

Work was still plowing forward with great momentum, and with a new team around me, I wasn’t as inundated with work as I was used to. I decided to focus my newly available energy on more travel and passion projects, chasing after a better understanding of where I wanted to take my life and career next. In July I went to Costa Rica for a surf trip and camped in California’s Yosemite National Park. In August I went on a dirt bike and timelapse adventure in Ecuador. In September I visited Brazil for a second time and attempted to climb Mount Rainier in Washington State. In October I went on a climbing trip to Moab, Utah. In November I went to Asheville and van life’d the California coast, visiting Yosemite Valley once more.

Looking back, it’s kind of funny how I went from focusing all my energy on work to flipping it and spending most of my time traveling. I guess it shows that I was lacking balance.

After all that eye-opening travel, spending the end of the year in Charleston made it abundantly clear to me that I was ready for a change. One of my big realizations that year was that I had already proven I could shape my own destiny. I was proud of what I accomplished in business, just as I was proud of the freedom to travel I had created for myself. With that proof, I snuffed out all the things I wasn’t happy with in my current situation and started planning my next chapter.

So this brings me to January 2020, the month I packed up my things and drove 30+ hours to my new home in Salt Lake City, Utah. The question might be: Why?

The short answer is this: mountains. The more full answer has two parts, though they are two sides of the same thing for me: lifestyle and work. I want to be closer to those places and activities that have always captivated most of my attention, like climbing, skiing, hiking, and spending time in the fresh mountain air. Charleston is pretty flat, so it takes a lot of effort to find those things. As for work, I want to be in a bigger city with a bigger outdoor industry, and Salt lake City seems to be the right place to find the clients, mentors, and colleagues I want to work with most.

The beautiful thing about working with a camera is that it can be used to enhance any skill, hobby, or interest by telling stories and creating content around what makes that thing special or unique.

I’m determined to break my way into the outdoor film industry and make a living combining my biggest interests with my ability to tell stories through a lens.

So there you have it. As the conclusion of the final part of this story ensues, I realize that the story has only just begun.

It means a lot to me that you read this story of mine, so thank you. Comments or questions? I’d love to hear from you. Just hit reply and let’s talk! My inbox is always open.

Click here for Part I

Click here for Part II

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