Expectations vs Reality (and a little office tour)

On Wednesday night last week, an ice storm hit the wider Denver area. It was a small potatoes storm when compared to what you might see in the northeastern part of the U.S., but it was enough to glaze over the sidewalks, cars, windshields and—this will be important to our story—the roads with a slick sheet of icy chaos.

I had two assignments lined up for the following day. Both for the same publication, but different in nature and location. One was at a school in Longmont (about an hour north of Denver), the other at a government facility in Aurora (thirty minutes due east). I was expected in Longmont at 9:15 in the morning. Which, given the road conditions and the distance to be traveled, meant I had to allow for a good 90 minutes of road time to get there. Just to be safe.

Disclaimer: This story will not involve my car being wrecked in any manner. If you know us and our cursed 2011 Prius, then you might have read this far and be expecting that we are heading toward a heartbreaking vehicular breakdown. I assure you, tis safe to proceed.

Before the day was through, both of my assignments would be cancelled literally as I parked at each respective location. (The first assignment fell through because the school at which I would be photographing cancelled classes for the day due to the icy roads. Unfortunately, the message announcing said cancellation didn’t reach me until I arrived. The second was just one of those things where the assignment came together late the evening before, and the pieces didn’t quite align as we had hoped. It happens.) It was an 0-for-2 kind of day in the small business boss life I now lead. And it got me thinking about expectations vs the reality of running a small business.

I entered this new gig with a whole slew of ideas of how it would go. I also entered this new gig with a lot of questions that I couldn’t possibly begin to imagine answers. And as with all matters in life, I had a fair share of expectations.


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The Doldrums of January

A snowstorm in Denver in January 2016

You all feel that right? The subtle, yet quite noticeable presence of the doldrums of January. It’s an affliction that arrives somewhere in between the packing up of holiday decorations and the realization that the new year ahead very much exists in uncharted territory. Here be dragons, as it were.

January, February, March, these first few months always throw me for a loop. I find myself rather torn wanting to be both optimistic—resolute you might say—toward making the new year a smashing success, and experiencing the often more present feelings of overwhelm, ennui, and indecisiveness. Your 2017 planner is shiny, new, unfilled and demanding; your to-do list is staring at you waiting to be filled with brilliance; your ambitious, entrepreneurial mind is begging for new goals to be conquered like so many summits. Make every day count, they tell you. Live in the moment. Visit any social media platform in this season and you’ll find such platitudes flying at you in droves.

So what do we do to conquer our dragons?

  1. Give yourself permission to ease into it. Don’t feel like you have to do ALL THE THINGS by the time January 15 rolls around.
  2. Keep it real. Instead of creating a 26-page itemized list on Google docs of everything you want to accomplish this year, take it in chunks. What are your top five, big picture priorities for this first quarter? For each of those priorities, what are three bite-sized goals you want to work on that will help you craft that bigger picture?
  3. Seek out inspiration. Maybe you should read a book from a genre you usually skip over. Visit an art exhibit you haven’t viewed yet. Pull out an old hobby you gave up on in years past. Find a new hobby. Invest your time and some funds in a language class. Commit to joining a new work group or professional organization of your peers. Network.
  4. Use your time wisely. Get a sufficient amount of rest every night and hit the ground running every morning with a rested and eager mind. This is something with which I very much struggle. I’m a night owl by nature which means late nights and ignored alarm clocks. Now and then, I say go ahead and indulge. But for the most part, take care of yourself, and take advantage of each day fully.
  5. Have a dance party. No really. Turn on your preferred tunes and dance around your living room. (The kitchen will also do.) If you’re like me, you’re working alone from home, so what do you have to lose? Let go of those inhibitions that say I can’t dance, or I feel ridiculous and truly go for it.
  6. Cross something off your weekly to-do list every single dayFight through the overwhelm and start achieving your goals. It feels gratifying and empowering to check off even the smallest of items, so get to it.

In a lot of ways I wrote this list with my small business in mind, but I think these tips can apply to personal, life goals as well. There isn’t a single one of us who is just one thing, whether that be an entrepreneur, a wife, an employee working from a cubicle, a part-time retail associate, an aspiring painter/writer/baker. And I truly believe that the less we compartmentalize ourselves into those descriptive boxes, the more likely we are to hit the personal and business goals our hearts and minds desire.

So now I’m going to quote Ferris Bueller. Are you ready?

“Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”

Look around. See this new year with eyes full of potential and get going in spite of the doldrums. Don’t miss it.


SIGNED, anya elise

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Video: Farewell to the newsroom

Today I’m going to tell you a small story. It involves my photography career to this point. And spoiler alert, it ends with me leaving my job.

I was only 22 years old when I walked into The Denver Post newsroom on my first day of work. I was there as the newest editorial assistant. What did I do in that capacity? Answered thousands of phone calls, directed emails, made a lot of coffee and fought many a battle against the aging copy machine. It triumphed in general, but I won the war. Sometimes I took dictation over the phone from reporters in the field. On election night in 2012, I helped produce a live broadcast that we streamed on our website for hours and hours as results came in.

Shortly after that and with the turn of the new year into 2013, I was engaged to be married to a fellow I met in our shared newsroom, and had accepted a job as a photographer for the local section of the Post. In my tenure as a staff photographer, I documented the stories of neighborhoods and the sometimes unnoticed communities. I photographed assignments while strapped into a helicopter; with a headset perched upon my head in the back of a fire engine; opposite a table full of sweet elderly ladies quilting blankets for the needy. There were muddy farm fields; artist studios covered in paint or clay or shards of colored glass meant for sculpture. I visited dozens of small businesses and even had a sunrise rendezvous with a hot air balloon club.

I enjoyed several years of climbing the learning curve that was full-time newspaper photography, and as I was growing, so was our photo business, A&D Photography. Over the past year it became increasingly evident that A&D needed full-time attention, so at the end of October, I left my job. Told ya this is how this particular tiny tale ends.

Except that, as with most stories in our lives, there are endings, but that rarely means we are anywhere near finished. From here on out I will be running the day-to-day operations of A&D, shooting more, creating more, collaborating with other creatives, and with any luck, fostering more growth as an entrepreneur and small business boss. I’m excited and a little nervous. It seems those are the right ingredients when approaching our life learning curves.

On my last few days of work at the Post, I took a few videos on my fancy phone and put together this very short little film. Let’s call it a video vignette, something short and sweet to say farewell to this place that has meant the world to me and changed my life immeasurably.

Newsroom Farewell from anya semenoff on Vimeo.

Thank you for joining me and for sharing your encouragement and well wishes. Onward we go!

SIGNED, anya elise

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