Finding My Core and Being Authentic

One of my joys – and one of my struggles – is learning into being a small business owner. Having worked in Corporate America for over 20 years, I’m now trying something totally out of my comfort zone – being my own boss. It’s exciting and scary.

It’s a joy because I’m pursuing things that I enjoy and am pretty good at – photography and web design. Part of that joy and excitement comes from being my own boss. I’m not at the whim and mercy of a corporation. I don’t have to put in work for primarily someone else’s gain.

It’s a struggle and sometimes scary because one has to wear about 26 hats, as they say. I’m my own boss, but at least for now, I’m also the only employee! I used to say that Corporate America encourages mediocrity and efficiency. There’s also so much redundancy, overlap and “shared responsibility” – which is a nice way of saying a lack of accountability and ownership. Now, the buck stops here!

As part of my startup growth, I’ve joined the Professional Photographers of America. Among one of the many benefits has been their Business Challenge – a 12-month online cohort where we study the business and operational side of being a professional photographer. So, we’ve learned and worked on our business model – everything from product strategy, to pricing, sales, marketing, managerial accounting, social media, etc. We have regular webinars and online discussions with mentors in the field – studio owners and photographers who graciously share their knowledge and experience.  The Q&A is where I learn a lot – but the real life experience and various perspectives has been invaluable.

One of our exercises was around “Finding our Core and Being Authentic.” We did a powerful exercise with Jonathan Main, a business coach and entrepreneur who has helped a lot of people and businesses reach their goals.  Our focus was on better understanding our core belief systems – “finding clarity and an understanding of your core as you develop your authentic self.”

Personally, I got a lot our of the exercise because it mirrored what I’m working through for myself, including this blog series on “This I Believe.” I’ve come to realize that as I solidify my brand as a photographer, I want to make sure it’s consistent with who I am as a person –my personal brand. In fact, for me to be as authentic as I can be, there is really just one brand – Todd Fuqua. How I act, react, and interact in the world should be the same, whether its for work, family, friends or community. This is especially true because I’ve often felt like I had to “become something else” in order to be successful in Corporate America. So, I’ve vowed never to do that again – never to have one “work persona” and “home persona.” I am who I am, I believe what I believe – and to be the best, most authentic me, I must shine out in all aspects of my life. I won’t go back into the closet again…on any level!

In this exercise, we did some pre-work, including writing down those beliefs we hold about life. So, I thought I’d create a placeholder post, where I capture these short expressions of belief.  It’s like my online vision board! As I grow and learn, I can keep this updated or add other insights. So with that introduction, here’s where I’ve started:

Traits I Admire in Myself and Others: 

  • Empathetic listener – in doing so, creates connections, community and healing
  • Lives authentically – has found their own voice & stays true to that in life, and encourages others to do the same
  • Fights for the oppressed – social justice minded, particularly for those upon whom society looks down
  • Trustworthy – they do what they say, and are willing to own up to their mistakes or shortcomings
  • Playful – knows the value of downtime, play, creativity, family & friends and taking time for self
  • Generous – shares time, talents and things with others as gifts, to be given freely without obligation

My beliefs about life

  • There are always three sides to every story
  • There is power in a question
  • People are inherently good
  • Presume goodwill
  • Seek to understand
  • Know when to observe without judgement
  • Each of us is doing the best we can
  • Check assumptions and hidden biases
  • That which bothers me in others is usually foremost my own personality trait
  • Never do for others what they can do themselves
  • I can’t fix, manage or control others
  • The serenity prayer works
  • It’s better to have a good memory than a bad picture – stay in the moment
  • I can choose to be right, or I can choose to be happy.
  • People change
  • Community is messy
  • It ain’t over until it’s over
  • Mother Nature is a bitch
  • We have some control over our lives, We can learn from failure, We matter as human beings, We all have real strengths to rely on and share (from Option B)
  • Don’t yuck on somebody’s yum
  • Strive for curiosity, courage, compassion and connection


This I Believe…

Several years ago, I was given a gift for my birthday. It was a CD collection titled “This I Believe.” It was a collection of stories taken from the NPR radio series by the same name. The stories were from people from all walks of life – some famous, some not so famous, older, younger, etc.. The individuals talked about their personal beliefs – and often, why they had come to have these beliefs. Sometimes these beliefs stemmed from the influence of a parent or grand-parent, or mentor, or friend. Sometimes, they came through personal experience – the ups and downs of life. It was a fascinating collection of stories – and was a joy to listen to on road trips.

Having recently turned 49, and facing a new milestone birthday in about 11 months, I’ve been giving a lot of thought, airtime and therapy time to better understanding my beliefs. I’ve learned about CBT (cognitive behavorial therapy) – a tool a friend of mine discovered through his own early recovery during a month-long in-patient program he checked himself into for his own mental health. I’ve realized how much my unconscious (and sometimes conscious) thoughts stem from deep-seated beliefs – and how those thoughts can drive my feelings. I used to think, quite honestly, that this “cause and effect” relationship was bullshit. I had probably been burned enough in my past about the role of feelings – or shall I say, never really came to understand what I believe about the role of feelings. Instead, I took what my “pastoral leaders” in a Christian cult said during my college years as “gospel.”  Well, that fucked me up for a long time! More recently, I spent time in a 12 step program, where feelings and their role in addiction was drilled into me for years. And, I’ll admit that they were probably closer to what I now have come to believe – but even there, I couldn’t fully embrace their way of thinking.  And, in my black and white mind, it was all or nothing – they were right, or they were wrong.

So, my world is little more grey these days.

And my world is a little less clear these days.

And my beliefs are a little more in flux these days.

And all of these statements are ok with me these days.  I’m ok with not knowing – or believing I know or understand – it will. Just writing that stands out as both arrogant, ignorant, and unrealistic.

What I believe is what I believe – and it seems to make more sense to figure that out for myself, rather than take someone else’s doctrine as “gospel.”

What I believe may also change – as I learn more information, have new experiences,  interact with other world views – and that seems to make more sense, than accepting some static, infallible set of beliefs.  Has my 49 years on this earth not shown that life is about change – that change is healthy – and that growth comes through experience, uncertainty and struggle.  It also comes through the loving support of others, and the insight and experience of others. But ultimately, I have one person to answer to – one image in the mirror looking back at me.  And for that understanding, I’m grateful.

So this is me reengaging with my blog, as I take pen to paper and tell more of my story.

This I believe…

Stay tuned for more!



Storytelling and Sleeping At Last…

Those that know me (1*), know I’m far from a “current events” guru. I usually hear trends and stories after the fact…  I just don’t watch much regular TV or listen to much radio to stay connected with “the real world.”  And most of it is depressing and repetitive (apart from PBS and some other shows – skipping the frigging commercials that are all about MARKETING and CONSUMERISM…

(*1) no, really know me…you’re few and far who get in to the second or third heart…THOSE are the ones I’m talking about!

Who remembers CBS Sunday Morning – the ORIGINAL (well for my story…the original!), with Charles Kuralt. Classic. Can’t replace or improve upon a great storyteller.  Still a great show (mainstream’s version of PBS news!), but it’s not Charles…  Reminds me…when Garrison leaves PHC (as if that were really possible…PHC without Garrison?  Never), we will lose another monumental talent on the public airways.  Just saying…

And the other living story teller is Mike Mather in my life (ok, there are some others…) – who I consider to be a close friend / BFF far more than I consider him “my pastor.” (*2)  He may be a “white, middle class, heterosexual Christian male” (got all those MAJORITY labels?!) but he is one of the most pigmented, poor, gay, agnostic, “spiritual realist” gender benders you will ever meet.  And he is in the (UMC – United Methodist Church) – but DO NOT HOLD THAT AGAINST HIM.  Please.

(*2) a label that brings a lot of baggage… at least for me, and probably most LGBT folks, or people who “live on the edges” of society.

So, back to me and my story.

Watched Grey’s Anatomy’s “summary” and closing season episodes from last year (*3) and discovered this nugget of creative splendor – “Sleeping At Last.”  Sure, it’s because they Cover for songs from MY generation…and having lived for a month with a 19 year old who epitomizes all that is good and bad about this “Generation Y W U T V” – it was nice to hear something I recognize!  (White rap all sounds the same…sorry!)

(*3) See how far behind I am!?  Not only do I not watch it regularly…but I get my updates from the networks’ prep for season starters…so I am WAY behind, ok

So, check them out.   They were “all that” last year when they appeared on G.A (*4).  And yet…their voices were there long before the “cultural blessing” they got from mainstream TV.

(*4) Like so many of us…we are here, living quiet lives, unnoticed by the mass media that envelopes us. Some of us are making a difference in another person’s life, just maybe…not for the external recognition or validation but simply because that’s who we are. Good neighbors. Good friends. But, that doesn’t sell advertising, “papers” or whatever “moves” today’s marketing engine. So we continue quietly, like a tree falling in the forest…

So anyway.  Here they are:

YouTube Playlist Coming Soon
(I’ll add it to my photography website when I do!)
My Favorite Songs
(*5) And I just learned that Bonnie Tyler is from WALES.  I lived 20 miles from Wales…  “This was the first record by a Welsh artist to top the US chart.  This entered the UK charts at #1, making Tyler the first female singer to do so.”