Being Generous, A Learned Habit

Pelicans Working Together Searching For Food
Pelicans Working Together Searching For Food

Thursday the 22nd of October, I professionally photographed any unemployed person (at the offices of Women At Work), who signed up for a ten minute session with me. By any measure it was a successful day for all involved: my subjects, the Women At Work organization and myself. Interestingly there were several people photographed during this free day who might not otherwise have ever had a professional headshot. I am especially glad for this particular metric; they had a positive experience being in front of a professionals camera for the first time. I always work to put my subjects at ease by being pleasant, polite, professional and responsive to their personality quirks. Part of my job is coaching and guiding them to an emotional spot where they become comfortable with themselves, which I then translate into their photograph. I’m successful with this approach to professional headshots and I needed all the tricks in my valise to perform this free service non-stop for six hours, with very little down time in between sessions, not even a lunch break, there just wasn’t time. And I loved every minute of it. When all is said and done, and all of my subjects has received their photograph, I may opt to do this again. I always want to help. I feel better when I am in the service of others. I like being a guide and teacher. But this wasn’t always the case…..

At some point in my life I began to view myself as not being a very generous person. The genesis of this attitude was running a commercial photography studio (for profit). I certainly wasn’t going to give away my talent, if you wanted it you were going to pay for it. And I was going to charge as much as I possibly could. This developed into a fairly aggressive pricing schedule, no job was too small, no profit was too large. My family and I enjoyed the rewards of this attitude but it always gnawed at me. My parents modeled volunteer behaviors to their children. But they both had steady paying jobs so volunteering was no big deal for them, it wasn’t taking away from a potential profit-making day of business. I made myself a slave to the profit motive. After all that’s what any solidly successful businessperson did. And so I went on for years this way even though that little birdie in the back of my mind kept tweeting something was amiss.

After my son Nat popped out, we had diapers to change, play dates to arrange and involvement (volunteerism) at his various schools was a requirement. This was something I resisted and pawned off onto my wife. I was busy making money, I couldn’t volunteer. I had a family responsibility to provide MONEY. What a great excuse. After many years of this (Nat is going on ten) I have now embraced volunteerism as a way to generate good karma for me and others in my circle. Money issues aside, why wouldn’t you take advantage of the opportunity to go camping with the kids at school, helping older folks with house chores, photographing school events for the school archives? Money ain’t the only thing and if you have managed your profitable years correctly, then you will have the time to put your self in the service of others and not concern your self with something as trivial as payment. You actually get paid as soon as you volunteer. As the saying goes, “Try it, you’ll like it!”

Be well.

Michael Stern

My work depicts, appreciates and honors the people who build. Their specialized equipment and stunning challenges are marvels I behold and get paid to interpret. Hope you enjoy this site.

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