Climbing the mountain of success – Part I

by Outlaw Photographer James Michael Taylor on September 20, 2015

in This is Art,This is Business,This is Life

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Image courtesy of Matthew Griggy, CCBY2.0

“The man on top of the mountain didn’t fall there.” – Vince Lombardi

That mountain is going to kick your ass, and you’re gonna hate it…and you’re gonna love it.

Looking at the mountain from a distance, it’s beautiful, majestic, grand.

You can see the peak, the snow, the forest, maybe some notable cliffs and plateaus – but not a lot of detail.

And certainly no clear path to the top. There’s no ski lift on this mother.

In admiring this wondrous sight, you ponder: “Do believe I’d like to climb that one.”

So you prepare.

(Which in this age means reading blog posts, asking friends on social, e-mailing some apparent experts, ordering books you’ll read three chapters of, buying on credit lots of gear you think you need, suffering buyer’s remorse, sending most of the gear back, figuring for sure beyond a shadow of a doubt you’ll never be good enough, saying this to everyone who will listen so that everyone can tell you you’re wrong, accepting the possibility you won’t completely embarrass yourself, taking a deep breath, gathering every ounce of bravery and adventurous spirit you have, and taking the first step.)

The closer you get to the mountain, the less you can see of its totality, but the more you can see of its finer details.

You reach the first swell, the tree line. As you’re close enough to the mountain to be standing at its edge, the forest casting its shadow upon you, you’re overwhelmed.

You can’t see the mountain anymore.

You can’t see the peak you’re striving for.

You can’t even see the sun – just speckles and streaks of light through the canopy.

All of a sudden, your dream of climbing this mountain is a lot more real. As reality sinks in, every fear and warning your lizard brain can muster comes rushing in.

“What if I fail?”

“Oh this is going to hurt…a lot.”

“If I don’t succeed at this, I’ll be so embarrassed. Everyone will laugh at me.”

“I’m so unprepared for this. I should have read another tutorial.”

You stop. The easy wins are behind you – all the dreaming, talking, buying, reading, list making.

Now there’s just you and the mountain.

You look back. You can always go back, right? Going home and kicking back on the couch with your iPhone seems mighty appealing right now. If you don’t start, nobody will know. You’ve got other things to do anyway – laundry, house cleaning, video games, the whole last season of Walking Dead on Netflix. Who are you to take this kind of risk anyway? Mom always said you should be more practical. Maybe she’s right. Maybe those pros on the net who said you shouldn’t even try this until you’ve had years of practice were right. Maybe you were never going to be good enough anyway.

Yeah. Going home looks safe. Comfortable. Easy. Normal.

Oh. Oh man, that one hurts.

You’re standing at the edge of one of the biggest adventures of your life, and the thought of normal is like a punch to your gut.

You’re sick of normal.

You’ve been playing small doing normal things in your normal life with normal people for so long that you have a physical, sickening reaction to anything normal.

You feel like throwing up. Because you’re scared of stepping forward… But more so because you’re scared of stepping back. Back into the normalcy that depresses and bores your soul. What soul? You haven’t felt it in years.

What soul…what soul…

You turn back toward the forest.

What soul…

Now you’re exhilarated. Now you’re pissed off. Now your heart’s pounding in your chest. You’re light-headed, but clear-eyed. Your senses turn up to 10. You can hear every cricket, smell every plant, see every leaf, feel every wisp of wind, taste pollen on the air.

What soul…

You’re awake now. You’re alive now. That feeling of breath in your lungs and blood pumping in your veins and the tension of every muscle in your body ready to break free of normal.

Your soul is stirred.

And it feels incredible.

And you can’t go back. You know you’d die inside if you quit now, before you even start this journey.

You have to try. You have to be free. You have to choose you. You have to leave it all on the mountain.

You hold your breath.

Your heart pounds.

Slow motion now.

You lift your foot…

All the perfectionism and procrastination and paralysis in the world can’t stop you now.

You move your foot forward…

This is stupid. You’re stupid. You’re going to fail like the idiot everyone knows you are and everyone will laugh at you and never forget stupid little you pretending you could ever climb any mountain. You never did it before, you can’t do it now, and you’ll never be able to do it.

The Resistance makes one more, desperate attempt to stop you.

But you can’t be stopped.

Your foot falls.

Then the next.

And the next.

And you’re moving forward toward destiny. Your legs are at the same time weak and strong, pressing forward on pure adrenaline.

One step after the other. Over and over again.

The obstacle is the way. The mountain is your journey. The forest is your path. The only way is up.

And, step by step by step, summiting the mountain is inevitable.

Only you can stop you. And you won’t. Because deep down inside, you need this. You’ve needed this for too long.

And you’re hungry. Hungry for more – from life, and from yourself.

Reaching success – however you uniquely define it – is like climbing a mountain.

It’s exciting from a distance, scary up close, incredibly hard work to conquer, and life-changing to summit.

But it’s in your reach.

You’re alive, talented, capable, and blessed.

Launch, and share these blessings with your community and the world.

In Part 2 of this four-part series, you’re deep in The Dip. You can’t see the forest for the trees, you can’t tell if you’re making any progress, you don’t know which path leads to the top, and every decision feels equally pointless and crucial. The only way to the top? Perseverance and tenacity.

Next Steps

  • Freedom: You are free of the bondage of indecision. You are in control. And you are capable. What are you going to do now? Tell me what your Next Step is:
  • Brainstorm Session: Get out your pen and paper. What are you so scared of? You know you’re holding yourself back. It’s five years in the future: write yourself a letter titled, “What I wish I knew five years ago.” Put yourself in the role of your older, wiser self. What would you say? What advice would you give? What greater wisdom would you share? What would you tell yourself about your art, about fear, and about launching your business? What are the life decisions you’d wish you had made? What brave choices will you wish you had made? What regrets would you have if you didn’t make those choices? File this away in your Brainstorms folder.
  • Subscribe Today: It’s my calling to help you earn your first $5,000 to $50,000 as a part time professional photographer. I am truly grateful for your readership, and encourage you to subscribe to my e-mail newsletter at the top of any page of this site.
  • Do This Now: What’s the biggest struggle holding you back right now? E-mail me your answer (yes, right now!), and let’s make a breakthrough today.
  • Start The Conversation: If anything in this post has spoken to and inspired you, please comment below or drop me an e-mail. I’d love to hear how you’re hustling to better your art, life, and business!

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{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

Aimee Valencour September 21, 2015 at 8:55 am

This absolutely resonated with me: And you can’t go back. You know you’d die inside if you quit now, before you even start this journey.

I’m sure it’s normal but it’s always two steps forward, one step back. Slowing inching forward. I can take the photos, I can edit as needed but launching a business and actually putting myself out there ‘for real’ is terrifying because, yes, someone could then see me fail. I want this, badly, and I’m not willing to give up even though on the bad days that seems easiest.

So glad I came across your site/newsletters!


Outlaw Photographer James Michael Taylor September 23, 2015 at 5:48 pm

Thank you for your kind words and readership Aimee! I’m so glad this piece connected with you!

Quitting is easy. But dealing with the regret isn’t. If I’m going to be challenged, I’d rather it be in the pursuit of my dreams than in a race to mediocrity and a life of fear, cowardice, and regrets.

You’re better than you think, more capable than you know, and more a blessing to your clients than you could ever imagine. Put yourself out there so you can begin to reach Your People with your art and experience. They’re just waiting for you to take those first steps and commit to the dream.

Do you have any questions I can answer? Is there any other way I can help in your journey?

Thank you again for your readership! Please do keep me posted on your successes and adventures.


Yuliya September 25, 2015 at 10:24 am

This post is dead on. Love your blog. Read it , feel inspired, then get scared again:-) The more I look around, the more I get confused and I am so confused lately. Yes, time to pull out the pencil and the paper.


Outlaw Photographer James Michael Taylor September 28, 2015 at 9:30 am

Thank you so much Yuliya! Truly appreciate your kind words and having you as a reader.

Strive to serve your clients with love and compassion, be humble but fair, and know that your art and the experience you craft for your clients is as much a blessing to them as their patronage is a blessing to you.

Please do keep me posted on your successes and adventures!


Yuliya October 7, 2015 at 9:27 am

thank you! The problem is, I am too scared to get the clients:-)


Outlaw Photographer James Michael Taylor October 12, 2015 at 9:54 pm

Yuliya, drop me an e-mail ( – I’m working on something that may be just what you need. I’m in need of a beta tester. 🙂


Yuliya October 15, 2015 at 7:38 pm

Sent. Thank you!

Tamia October 13, 2015 at 10:02 am

This is definitely spot-on. Can’t do nothing, but the something part is terrifying.

What if I never get that first client?

What if my skills are just too rusty?

Where will I truly end up if I fall, and is it any worse than where I currently am?

Thanks so much for this series, James. It is such an accurate picture of those inner demons that are trying to keep us down.


Outlaw Photographer James Michael Taylor October 26, 2015 at 9:20 am

Thank you so much for your readership and kind words, Tamia! I’m so glad you’re enjoying PTP!

It’s amazing how much our lizard brains scream at us “Stop! Risk! Danger!” when we think about launching our art and business into the world. Our hearts race and we sweat like a tiger is about to leap out of the shadows and bite our heads off. It’s the boogeyman of The Resistance trying to hold us back from our dreams.

But we’re wiser. We’re stronger. We’re driven. We have purpose. We have blessings to bring to the world, and we’ll not let The Resistance (ourselves and our fears) hold us back.

Tamia, e-mail me soon at and let me know how I can help in your journey – any questions you need answered, or just conversation that you need to get out there.

Thank you again for your readership! Please do keep me posted on your successes and adventures!


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