Success Lies Outside of Your Comfort Zone
Tamara Knight is a certified professional photographer (and very proud of this fact!) based in Orlando, Florida. Originally from Russia, she is a mother of two teen kids (please keep her in your prayers) and a wife to amazing guy. She has been a photographer for 9 years and loved every second of it.
In my work as a coach, I often come across inspiring professionals who have pushed themselves through significant change to achieve remarkable success. Certified professional photographer Tamara Knight is one such business owner, and a fellow immigrant as well, whom I interviewed on my podcast. Tamara serves women who believe they are not photogenic and haven’t recently had a photo they love.
Tamara takes genuine joy in showing people their beauty and who they are through her art. So many of us, men and women, do not want to be seen. The truth is we are afraid to see who we are and how beautiful we can be. I know I don’t like to be photographed, and when we met, Tamara made me comfortable. This ability and her quality of work have contributed to her success.
Here are a few shots of wisdom and insight from our conversation.
Plan, but Be Flexible
About 20 years ago, Tamara moved to the US from Russia to pursue the American dream. For the first couple of months, however, her limited English and thick accent made life unbearably frustrating—I can relate! In Texas, they have their own accent, too, and she struggled to understand what people wanted of her. She was ready to go back to Russia, to her comfort zone.
Tamara’s Plan A was to get married, have children, build a career and stay. Plan B was to return to Russia as a rich woman, which she decided was having $500 in her pocket. But life, of course, had a third plan. For 10 years she worked as a graphic designer with good pay, and assumed she would do that for the rest of her life, but it wasn’t challenging and she didn’t feel fulfilled. Then she discovered photography—accidentally—and went back to school to study it.
Moving was the biggest change in her life, and it came with the greatest reward. She found her husband here, and her calling—she doesn’t believe she was meant to be a teacher, as she was in Russia, nor a graphic designer, but a true artist, a photographer.
Best Advice: Practice What Is Uncomfortable
Tamara started her business the wrong way, of course, charging way too little money while pouring her heart into her work. Even if you have the greatest talent, Tamara says, you won’t be successful if you don’t understand the business side of things. She took many workshops and classes and set big goals for herself.
Tamara’s greatest challenge in her new business was phone conversations. It was so bad that if anyone called her, she wouldn’t pick up, but wait to listen to the voicemail and then maybe call them back. (or not). She was that scared.
Tamara is a self-proclaimed introvert and decided to push herself to rehearse her words, slowing down her speech and trying to erase her Russian accent. This practice gave her confidence and changed her business. She surprised herself when she eventually started calling her clients and offering new things, unafraid any more.
If you are afraid of something in your business, Tamara says, rehearse until it becomes second nature.
Lesson Learned: Success Is Outside the Comfort Zone
Many small-business owners tend to undersell themselves, but Tamara’s favorite quote helped her overcome this fear. Imagine a blank sheet of paper with a circle in one corner called “success,” and a circle in another corner called “comfort.” You can see that success and comfort never touch. If you choose to sit in your wonderful comfortable happy place, you will not succeed.
Moving from comfort to success takes practice, practice, practice. Practice explaining what you do until it becomes second nature. Practice with your boyfriend, your mother, your friends. Push yourself. That illustration hangs over her desk with pictures of her children by the “success” circle. Whenever she is feeling down or lazy, she looks up at the circles, sees her kids and says, “Success it is,” and pushes herself.
In my experience too, success happens outside the comfort zone. You can see this with athletes and entrepreneurs such as Steve Jobs who challenge the status quo. How can you use this advice to embrace the positive results you deserve?
Always Learn Something New
When I asked her what one thing you changed in your life that was so uncomfortable that you thought you would fail, she said it was her photography certification. She kept putting it off because it seemed hard: the test referred to theory she didn’t know. She didn’t need the certification, but she finally did it for herself.
She pushed herself to schedule the test and a prep class with a friend. Today her certification gives her confidence, partly because of the technical aspects she learned to pass it, especially adapting to many lighting conditions. It gives her leverage and comfort to shoot in more situations. Her certification is posted on every social platform, and in her studio, it is framed on the wall.
Her takeaway? Even when we feel we are good at something, or we have a full clientele, we can always something learn something to improve ourselves.
Favorite Business Book: The E-Myth Revisited
For anyone who wants to push their business the right way, she recommends The E-Myth Revisited: Why Most Small Businesses Don’t Work and What to Do About It by Michael E. Gerber.
Most small business owners have a skill and they want to do that—be a photographer, cut hair, bake cakes—but they don’t know how to run a business. This is an amazing book and could have pushed me through a few hurdles, had I read it earlier. It can benefit corporate professionals as well.
Plan for Expansion
Tamara says that many people like her start with a skill-based small business and don’t consider expansion. She learned that artists can use their craft in areas they hadn’t considered. When people saw her pictures in one setting, they wanted that in others: their professional life, for their family, their pregnancy, etc. So she expanded her offerings. She still doesn’t do landscape (too boring) or wedding (too stressful) photography, but is expanding into new areas that are still portraiture, working with people, and she loves it.
Tamara’s original goal was to set up a small studio, but she has already grown out of it and is looking to purchase a larger space. She has an assistant, can’t imagine life without one, and may hire a second soon. An assistant allows her to delegate tasks that can be done without her brain, freeing her to focus on customer service and of course the photography she loves.
So check out TamaraKnight.com. On her home page you can download a guide that shows you how to pose for pictures: where to put your hands and how to position your legs, so you look nice and slim and tall in any shot.