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The Art of "The Start"

Updated: Jan 28

To start being good at anything - we need to be bad at it first. Plain and simple.

When I got my first "content" assignment with Spartan race back in 2019, I showed up in Tahoe only knowing how to use a GoPro. In the time they asked me to join them at the World Championship, I hastily bought a DSLR and tried to teach myself the basics of video in the three days before I was to be there. I genuinely had no idea what I was doing.

What's and ND filter? How do I get the skin tones correct? What's the 50-50 rule?

The morning of my first day, I wouldn't be covering athletes. I was tasked with being the shadow of CEO, Joe De Sena, capturing content like DRock did for Gary V in his early days of content.

In Tahoe, every day was a 4:30am link up each morning in the lobby with Joe, planning the days content. Then as the day unfolds it begins: interviewing athletes, addressing media, getting out press releases, transcribing content into other languages and running around Squaw Valley Olympic Village like a chicken with my head cut off. It was scary, I was nervous- I never felt more alive.

Each night there I would organize the clips and pinch myself. Is this really happening? I Guess so, so let's roll with it!

That content from the trip was all over the place. The exposure and white balance mixed, shotty audio and unstable footage. I was hard on myself on the return home. I wasn't good. I didn't have a basic understanding of how a DSLR works. I needed to get better. I WANTED to be better.

Over the years, Spartan would continue to have me back for big events and content creation. My skillset developed along with my relationship with the race brand. I did wonder how they felt about my content; but it must have been good enough to keep getting asked back - covering events like The Trifecta World Championship in Sparta, Greece and Kyle Dake's lead up to the Olympics as he trained at Cornell in Ithaca, NY. Both life changing experiences.

You see, what I didn't realize at the time is Spartan cared more about my willingness in wanting to be there and contribute to the team and the mission of the brand more than my skillset. They cared more about my attitude and how I showed up vs hard technical skills. Those can be learned.

I can remember being in podcasts rooms filled with Sony film cameras and G Master lenses and I had a little crop sensor Lumix and a hand me down mic trying to capture the same content. I know I didn't have the same gear. I'm sure the other creators might have giggled a little bit at mine, but that's all I had and I had to make do.

Being bad at something doesn't have to suck. You just have to change your perspective a little. It's the first step to being good.

In hind site there are a few factors that really helped fast tracked my knowledge and confidence as a content creator.

  1. Show up. This goes without saying. You can't contribute if you don't know how to. Being in the spaces you want to impact and create for is crucial to having an understanding of how you can help others and at the very least allow you to meet and develop relationships with people you want to work with.

  2. Unwavering support - when you have someone or a community that wants to see you be successful, they will put you in positions to be successful. Period.

  3. Focus - It could have been easy to get sidetracked on what others have or how skilled they are editing. That matters a lot less when you can capture good footage and show up with a good attitude vs being super skilled and have a shitty attitude. Most people just want to work with others who make the job easy.

  4. Understand EXACTLY what the client wants - no no no we aren't going to be filming the whole day of a live and just "pick out the good stuff" later. If client's don't understand what they want or don't have a strategy, heir on the side of caution if they ask for ideas--- that is what a social media manager/producer/content creators get paid for. By having a deliberate and tactful conversation about EXACTLY what a customer needs you can better deliver that end result, instead of throwing the preverbal spaghetti at the wall/ You're almost never going to satisfy a person that tells you to "capture whatever you want".

  5. Stop giving a f*ck about what others think. I know this sounds simple, but it is often times the biggest indicator of if someone is going to be successful. What other's think about me is none of my business anyways, so why waste time thinking about it? I know that's easier said than done, but trust me, once you get over this hurdle a new kind of self confidence will take over. A new reality exposes itself when e stop looking for the validation of others and start doing things because we simply enjoy them.

  6. Work hard! Fail fast and fail often! This is probably the most important factor so I saved it for last. 1-5 listed above aren't necessary but are absolute cheat codes when trying to learn faster. A safe space, caring people and good communication are the foundation of a healthy individual - however, I recognize not everyone has access to these spaces. For the person who continues to pursue betterment without the most ideal of circumstances, you are already more successful than you think. If you can grow in the dark without the nourishment of a community, imagine what will happen as you being to find yourself in one. Keep working, create and work hard to continue to pursue whatever it is that you want to put into the world and those whoa re meant to find you, will. Keep going!

In short. It can suck to suck at something at first - but if you remain focused and put your authentic energy into the universe, people will begin to notice. Sometimes you even get lucky enough to be rewarded.

Remember: Luck is when preparation meets opportunity. Show up, create and take opportunities when they come. My first opportunity was Spartan and I'm so grateful to have had the opportunity to work with them so many times. I was offered a job in Boston but I decided that staying home here in Cleveland with family was the right move. No regrets.

Whatever you are waiting for. Stop. Get started today. Get started now. Put good into the world and the right people will find you.


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