But, since attending this conference and specifically Ben Hartley’s “Work Hard on Your Business, Make a Salary. Work Hard on Yourself, Make a Fortune” lecture, there’s been one piece of advice that I can’t stop thinking about, and that’s Ben’s recommendation to “have high standards but low expectations.”
Ben Hartley is a photographer, a photography business coach, the creator of the Booked Solid Course, and the host of the Six Figure Photography Podcast. Personally, I really enjoy the content he puts out, because he offers tactical advice while encouraging photographers to assess and often change their mindsets.
Photographer friends, if you aren’t familiar with Ben, I highly recommend listening to his podcast and checking out his other resources.
In his “Work Hard on Your Business, Make a Salary. Work Hard on Yourself, Make a Fortune” lecture, Ben covered several business, money, and mindset tidbits. But, like I said, I haven’t been able to stop thinking about his advice to “have high standards and low expectations.”
Essentially, Ben argues—and I couldn’t agree more—that creatives as a whole have a tendency to look at their results or to look at their results compared to others’ in their industry and feel dissatisfied because their results aren’t meeting their expectations, because—more often than not—their expectations aren’t realistic for the quality or the amount of work that they’re currently doing.
We all want our businesses to be five steps ahead of where they are, but the fact of the matter is, being frustrated with your results doesn’t do any good and doesn’t help you get any further along.
So, to combat this tendency, Ben contends that it’s important for creatives to have high standards for their work and low expectations for the results. Because, when you have high expectations for the work you’re producing and the way you’re serving your customers, the results you truly want to see will naturally come because you’re putting in the work—not wasting your energy being disappointed.
In the meantime, when you have low expectations, you’ll be able to better appreciate every win—big or small—in your business. And, this gratitude mindset will certainly help improve your outlook and perhaps even your mental health.
Now, the beautiful thing about running a business is the fact that you get to decide how it works and what your standards are.
In case this helps, here are just a few standards you might want to set for your business:
Again, you get to decide what your standards are. But, Ben contends that the higher you set your standards and the more accountable you remain to those standards, the more likely you are to see big results.
Now, what does it mean to have low expectations? Because, I promise having low expectations isn’t nearly as depressing as it sounds!
Having low expectations simply means that (1) you don’t waste your energy being frustrated when something doesn’t play out exactly as you’d hoped and (2) you take the time to acknowledge and celebrate even the smallest wins.
For example, in his lecture, Ben mentioned that when creative entrepreneurs receive an inquiry that doesn’t end up booking, creative entrepreneurs tend to be frustrated and even angry. This is a normal and typical response.
However, when you have low expectations, you leave less room for anger and more room for appreciation. For example, in this situation, Ben recommends taking some time to think about and be thankful that the inquiry took the time to contact you or consider you at all.
Your products or services might not be the right fit for that inquiry for one reason or another, but perhaps your work was strong enough or your website was clear enough that that particular inquiry took time out of their day to ask for more information about what you offer.
This is no small thing and is certainly something to be grateful for!
However, since hearing his lecture at WPPI, I’ve been doing my best to adopt this mindset, and I can already see a difference for myself. I feel both more appreciative and focused.
So, friend, will you adopt this mindset too? Honestly, I hope you do!
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