I woke up this morning and I could feel the weight of the world like a hangover. Every part of me hurts today and instead of being honest I tried to will it to be different with positivity. That’s what I am told to do when I am glum. I am told that I should focus on all the good, on being more positive, and if I still can not find joy I should do something that I enjoy.
I enjoy writing more than any of my gifts, and yet I could not find a word that wasn’t tearful today, until I could not write for fear of the message. I was in despair so forlorn that I could not hold hope and so I waited. I waited until I found the source, so that I can better describe my pain. Why? Why did I wake up feeling this way when I went to bed the night before happy?
I wasn’t exactly happy yesterday either. Yesterday I was fit to be tied over laundry. I was angry at the laundry because it needed to be washed, dried, and put away, and to me it was the emotional equivalent of asking me to wash each article by hand for the duration of ten years with no breaks in between. I was in agony and I made sure my entire family knew it.
I am thinking of my Brazilian friend who says, “Americans cry even with full bellies.” In her country if you are hungry you are hungry. There is no line to stand in for food. She described a place where babies are abandoned in the streets, and she told me in such a way as to imply that as an American I could not possibly know true suffering. Not on the scale as to look out and see only those in poverty, truly destitute from any hope or possibility.
“At least in America there is somewhere to go to ask for help Amber. In my country there is nowhere to go and if you tell someone you need help, they won’t care because they need help too.”
Indeed, she is not the only one to describe their home that way. Another good friend from India talked to me of his life-long struggle with alcohol. He started drinking when he was seven because there was nothing else to do but drink. “My country is not like America. Where I come from if you have idea it goes no farther than here,” he said pointing to my head in broken English. “Smart.. it doesn’t matter. Nothing to do but drink.”
I was born in America. I cannot possibly know what it means to have been born in another part of the world, but I do know what it means to be born into life already losing and sick. I was hospitalized for the first time at seven months and I wheezed through the remainder of my formative years feeling completely unwanted and unloved. I would tell you the things that happened to me as a baby and as a child except I don’t want to tarnish my own name. I don’t believe that people are the existence of what they are born into. I believe that many people become enslaved by what they see around them because they do not have the vision to imagine the exact same place differently. This is the same reason I may not again address the atrocities of where I began myself. It was a most bountiful beginning and I will not, nor would I, change any of it.
I am proud to be an American because we are a symbol of a greater ideal. I want you to think about that for a moment and while you are chewing on it I am going to digress with a short story about Patriotism. Most recently there has been huge controversy over an image of a newborn baby being cradled in the American flag. The argument being that it is defamation. Our nation is reverent to our flag much the same way Catholics are strict about that stale cracker you are only supposed to eat if you are Catholic and know procedure. I only know this because I wanted to eat the cracker anyway and I thought it would be super keen to bring it back to my pew so that I could nibble on it during the remainder of mass. This was a great idea until a nun came flying in after yelling, “EAT THE SACRAMENT!!! EAT IT NOW!!!!! IT IS THE BODY OF CHRIST!!! YOU CAN NOT LET EVEN A CRUMB FALL!!!
The sacrament (it’s not a cracker), is meant to be ritualistically consumed by tradition. Our American flag is that same consumption, or then it used to be. I do believe the offense with the newborn photography was there, except that Americans are not really holding onto tradition the way that we used to. Are we? It doesn’t seem to me like we are. I think we are living in a progressive culture of excessive pleasure seeking. Let’s all pursue our own happiness as a right and liberty. How happy are you with that? I will tell you that I would probably be happy if I knew that everyone I love and care for is happy, but I love and care for a whole lot of people and most of them are struggling in ways I can not help.
This brings me back to the title of this blog. “What customer problem do you solve?” The best part, is my part, and this is what I wish to share. I read an article today that spelled out my future clearly.
“I don’t care how much you love doing something
or how passionate you are about doing it,
if you don’t come up with a big problem
that customers will pay to have solved,
your entrepreneurial career will be short lived.”
I have been a professional photographer for ten years now. I want you to look at the market for my product as you see it, and while you do I want you to ask yourself how many photographers you know of. How many people do you know who are photographers just like me? Do you know how their businesses are doing? Are they making a decent living? Do they have enough revenue to call it a career, or is it something they are just doing on the side? Are they award-winning photographer and would it really matter to you? Do they have a degree or other merit? Are they members of the PPA and if they are doing business did they get their license first? Are they paying taxes and do you care if it means that you won’t need to pay tax either? Off the books and for the record… How do you think you would fare if you were a professional photographer like me? If there is a problem within the industry of your own livelihood what would you pay? What would you pay to have it fixed? If, and only if, you can identify a problem?
Today I woke up heavy because I know that there are problems, much bigger problems than my own business. The challenge then for me, the entrepreneur, then becomes how I can use my available resource, my business, to help the greater good. I am committed to that anchor and this morning it felt like a need to save the world. This afternoon feels the exact same way. What problem can my business solve? I am available to contribute to our world, my life. My business is the best of every good thing I have to offer and I own it so I can do more than hope. It is my right to create a brighter future.