I didn't know much back then so I went to a bunch of our clients and asked what people thought. The predominant reaction that I received was that this person was out of touch, a has been. "We'd listen to him if he was still a photographer but he's really not. He just wants our money." I went back and told him no. Not surprisingly, within a few weeks he had moved on, endorsed a "competitor's" products and was on a speaking tour for the competitor. I never regretted the decision. He still speaks, though I note that he no longer gets an endorsement from the "competitor."
This isn't about who this person is. Who he is doesn't matter. He could be anyone. (Frankly, He could be She and may be because I am the master of concealing identities). It is about what he represents. His story applies to a great many people I know and what is most interesting to me is that a lot of the people who told me they didn't think he was relevant then are now on the same path. I often wonder, what makes them different? How will they stay relevant. In my short time in this industry I've seen the complete cycle. Do and find success. Teach because you can. Die because you stopped doing.
Of course, it's not quite that easy, right? Do and find success, but realize that even success is marginal. It's hard too. In a generation that likes its "things," its travel and its flexibility it is surprising how money is so often an afterthought. How do we think we're going to pay for all of that stuff? So when we are finding success on a path but we are also finding that path to restrict our time and not necessarily let us buy the things we want it is natural to look to supplement our income. The slippery slope comes when we start to believe our own press.
People tell us we're smart and we should speak more. Companies offer semi lucrative arrangements for endorsing their products. Conventions offer platforms. And a year later our business is dead and no one wants to hear what we have to say anymore.
Obviously it's not quite that fast and a few have bucked the trend, figuring out how to have a vibrant business even while they derive a supplementary income on the teaching circuit. I've found that one common trait is true among all of these people. They each understand that they have much to learn. They each understand that their relevance relates directly to their business success. They each understand that what they do is their core business and what they teach is the supplement and they each pursue the success of the core first, teaching from what they're continuing to learn along the way.
After all ... These people seem to understand that what's next is what's important.