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A new beginning…and the end is near.

by Andy Bondurant

The end is here.

The Collective run by Andy Bondurant has come to a close. I’m moving on to new and different challenges that I’m truly excited about.

To read more on the details of what exactly I mean, please check out my brand new site – AndyBondurant.com and specifically THIS post. There you will find some of the best from The Collective, plus new articles and thoughts from myself.

I know some of you have found a lot of pleasure and interest from this site, so I would love to offer it to someone who might be interested in taking up the reigns. I know that doesn’t make much business sense, but I don’t know that this site is really about being a business right now.

What's Next

In closing, I would like to thanks some people…

  1. My wife. She’s been more than supportive during this entire endeavor. Kia, I love you :)
  2. My contributors. I would need to check to get a final count, but I’m guessing well over 30 different people contributed articles and possibly hundreds submitted images for contests. Thank you.
  3. The readers. During the peak, several hundred of you were reading this site every day. That was really cool. Thank you.

A Final List

One of the things I loved writing was list posts, so let me end this post and this blog with a final list. Here are three things I learned from starting, running and writing The Collective (by no means an exhaustive list).

1. Passion is so overrated.

You can’t truly know what you are passionate about until you dive into something you think you love.

For example…writing or photography. You may think you are passionate about something, but when it comes down to doing it for more than just fun is when you really learn how passionate you are.

Are you willing to work hard…get up early…stay up late…for weeks on end? That’s when you figure out how passionate you are about something. Do you step away from you “passion” and begin to miss it almost immediately. Do you stay away for even longer, but just can’t escape the pull it has on you and your life?

This is when you know something is more than just an interest.

It’s a passion.

2. Fear is an absolute beast.

One of the things I most appreciate about the past several years of creating The Collective is learning to push through my own apprehensions, fears and hang-ups.

If you allow it, fear will stop you from doing anything of real meaning and value.

If you are a creative, there is one book you must absolutely read – Do the Work by Steven Pressfield (4.99 Kindle version or 6.49 hardcover at Amazon). It will teach you to press through the fear.

3. Word of the Year.

Had I not written through my first year of my Word of the Year project, I never would have gotten the life changing benefit it brought me. Having to search my thoughts and feelings and then commit them to the world concretized FREEDOM and RISK in my life.

That alone may be the reason I was to start and run The Collective for 2 years.

The end.

It’s been a year+ long process of letting go of The Collective. I’m not going to lie, it’s been hard. But don’t be fooled, I am truly excited about where I am headed. If you want, take a moment to read about it at my current site if you are interested.

Blessings…

Andy

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More.

We dream too small.

Let me rephrase that.

I dream too small.

I’m part of a larger group of people who think too much like me. The truth is, it’s kind of scary to think and dream big. When we dream big we can’t see the end of the tunnel if we think it all the way through. We don’t know where the end of the dream is.

  • What are the consequences?
  • Do I really want what comes with that dream?
  • Will I be able to do what it is I want?

In the end, it’s that freaking giant that looms over me, taunts me, and tells me I’m a sham. FEAR.

Fear tells me I can’t possibly do all that’s in my heart, so to be practical. Fear tells me that being real is being smart. Fear tells me that safety is smart. Fear tells me big dreams are too much of a risk.

More.

I don’t dream big enough, and as a Christian I don’t ask God for big enough requests. God wants more. He wants more from me. He wants more for me.

Transformation.

My word for 2013 is TRANSFORMATION. 2012 was RISK. 2011 was FREEDOM.

It’s funny to me how all of this is cyclical. A big take away for 2011 was to live intentionally is the best way to be free. To live intentionally, you have to take some risks. You have to live by faith – you can’t always see the clear outline of the next 10 steps…sometimes you can’t see the next step – you just have to take it blind.

A lesson I’m learning about transformation is I need to ask for more. I need to dream bigger. There is something beyond what I can actually see. Safe isn’t enough.

Random.

Yeah, this is kind of random. It’s helped me though. It’s helped me start again. It’s helped me put something out there again. It’s helped me – as Seth Godin would say – “ship”.

There’s something more.

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2012 Word of the Year Finale – RISK.

A little background on me.

For sake of context, it’s important for you to know a little more about me. Immediately out of college, I worked at a church helping reach children in their neighborhood in urban core of Kansas City, Missouri. During these two years, Kia and I lived and worked in this neighborhood, and we came into contact with hundreds of kids. However, it was about 25 or so regulars that I formed a really strong bond with.

Andy Bondurant circa 1997

Andy circa 1997

Over the years, I’ve continued to keep in contact with a handful of these kids (Facebook has really helped). However, most of the children from 15+ years ago, I have no idea where they are, what they are up to or if they are even still alive.

Introducing Trey.

The Friday before Christmas, I was back in the neighborhood. I was there to work to distribute food to the needy. This church connects with various organizations helping hundreds of people in the Kansas City, Missouri area. I led a group of people helping put together these Baskets of Love.

While unloading a truck of food, I was shocked to see one of my regulars – Trey.

Amazingly, Trey, other than a foot or two of growth and tattoos up and down his arms & neck, looked like the same person he was at 9 years old. Looks can be deceiving though. Trey was no longer a child (of course at 24, I didn’t expect it), but Trey had stopped being a child years before.

Trey and I spent the next hour or so reconnecting. He told me his story.

Trey - friend of Andy Bondurant

Trey and his brother in silly hats (Trey is on the right).

For the past several months, Trey has lived a clean life, but the years before it was shootings, drugs, robberies, jail and prison. Trey has already spent a fourth of his life in jail. It’s not what he, his family or I envisioned for his life.

A sobering encounter.

Walking away from the conversation, I was struck by a two thoughts.

1. I reap what I sow.

It’s a law of life which seems so simple. It’s so simple we lose how profound it really is.

You reap what you sow.

Trey has been living a clean life for almost a year, but his past sticks with him. He can’t find a good job. He wants to marry his girlfriend who is pregnant with his child, but he doesn’t have the money. He doesn’t have a complete education. His friends dropped him when he went to prison. The list goes on and on.

With someone like Trey, the law of sowing and reaping seems obvious. In our lives, we miss it if we don’t look carefully.

In 2011, I learned to live intentionally (in order have FREEDOM). The law of sowing and reaping is all about living intentionally. What I do today effects my life tomorrow. There is no way around this.

2. RISK is not glamorous.

My 2012 Word of the Year was RISK. Last year, Kia and I made a lot of decisions that are scary. I learned there isn’t much glamour in these scary, risky, but right decisions.

Trey made decisions that were stupid (he admits this plainly). In one instance, he got mad at someone, and fired a gun into a house. Thankfully, no one was hurt. It was RISK, and it was exciting. It was something you expect to see in a movie, but it wasn’t the kind of RISK that changes a life for the better.

A RISK that improves your life doesn’t get books written or movies made. In fact, people around you – the ones closest to you – may question your integrity or sanity or character. There is no glamour in that.

In the end, you and you alone must decide if a decision is right. Again…no glamour in that.

2013. A new year. A new word.

2012, and my Word of the Year in 2012 – RISK – is done. But if I’ve learned anything about my experience with FREEDOM in 2011, I’m hardly done taking RISKs.

Now that it’s 2013, I’ve chosen a new Word of the Year – TRANSFORM. I hope you’ll choose a word for 2013 too. I promise, it will change your life.

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Have you been assimilated? Star Trek, photography and YOU.

Image of Josh Hanna from West VirginiaThis is a guest post by Josh Hanna. After ten years as an avid hobbyist of landscape and still photography, Josh has found a new creative love in portrait photography …which has served as his primary subject of choice for the past five years.  Josh is the owner of Joshua Hanna Photography & Design, an on-location portrait photography business serving the Charleston, WV and surrounding area and specializing in High School Senior photography.

You will all be assimilated…

Ok…so, I am a bit of a Star Trek geek. I am a bigger photography geek, however.

As such, I find myself constantly looking at other photographer’s work and trying to determine what it is that makes their images so great. While I have learned so many wonderful tricks and techniques from my over analyzing, I have also managed to force myself into a pitfall that I see way too often.

high school senior picture by Josh Hanna

Image by Josh Hanna

I found myself trying to copy the style and techniques of other photographers whose work I admire, and in the process losing all sense of my own style and creativity. In essence, I’ve placed restrictions on how I could create and put myself into a box that defined how I approached a session, and what my expected outcome should be.

My creative process has always been more fluid than this, more “on-the-fly” and organic. How did I get to this point? I was being assimilated and felt powerless to control it.

I lacked self-confidence.

It was simple – tunnel vision and lack of self-confidence. I was trying to make my work look just like the other guys because their work is so phenomenal.

As a result, I was unhappy with the quality of my work, I wasn’t having fun doing it, and my work still didn’t compare to that of my mentors! Why was their work so much better than mine? I mean, c’mon…I’m doing everything that they are doing!

high school senior picture by Josh Hanna

Image by Josh Hanna

Wrong! They were simply being true to themselves, being original, and allowing their creativity to dictate how they operate. I was trying to be them…an unoriginal, poor imitation.

I had finally started asking myself the right question…

“What makes their work so great…not the technicality of their work, but what is the driving force behind it?”

The answer? They were being themselves and taking a natural approach to their own creative process.

…and there it was “Click!” The light bulb had just come on. All of the right questions were starting to be asked, and I was answering them for myself.

  • How can I impart myself into my photos?
  • What do I enjoy about photography?
  • How do I see these shots in my head?

I started telling myself it’s okay to not be just like the other guy. I was okay with knowing that my work is what it is.

senior photography by Josh Hanna in Charleston West Virginia

Image by Josh Hanna

Most importantly, I started to enjoy creating an image again and my confidence began to be restored. It was liberating and freeing to know that who I am as an artist is good enough and that I don’t have to operate based on someone else’s parameters.

4 steps to not be assimilated!

So how do we keep from being assimilated into parameter-based beings that must follow a set of predefined rules which determine how we operate?

My best advice…

  1. Be who God made you to be! Rely on your own intuition, and stop comparing yourself to everyone else.
  2. Stop feeling inferior to those who are vastly more experienced and have been at this a lot longer.
  3. Make it a point to ask yourself how YOU would create your next image…and then shoot it again and again until your vision is reality.
  4. Gain knowledge and experience through persistence.

Be who YOU are and you will always be original! Original will always be good!

Apparently, resistance is not futile after all!

How do you keep from becoming assimilated?
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Have you targeted your competition?

Who is your competition?

In mid-July Seth Godin wrote a blog post entitled “Competition as a crutch.” In part, he said this:

The problem with competition is that it takes away the requirement to set your own path, to invent your own method, to find a new way. When you have competition, it’s the pack that decides what’s going to happen next, you’re merely trying to get (or stay) in front.

Competing with yourself is more difficult, requires more bravery and leads to more insight.

Are you too focused on your competition?

Image courtesy of Flickr user Eric.Parker

Last week, I wrote an article featuring a new YouTube video by Goyte, and I asked the question, “Are you comfortable with your art?” The question maybe should have been, “Are you too focused on your competition?”

However, I like best, “Who is your competition?” Why? Because too often, we are focused on the wrong target.

You are your best competition.

Here are 3 reasons why you are your best competition:

1. You know you best.

Only you know what you lack in your business. You know best what needs improved on in your art. You know best what your family needs from you. This should be what drives you to improve. It needs to be what drives me to improve.

2. You don’t know where other competition is headed.

You don’t know why a competitor is doing what he is doing. You don’t know if he is in the midst of a cash crunch. You don’t know if he is expanding or pulling back. You don’t know if he moving in the right direction.

3. Focusing on other competition steals your freedom.

When you look around at others in your market (or even out of your market) you allow YOUR passion to be stolen. It holds you back from dreaming your own dreams. It ties you up.

Apple, the great example.

I love Apple computers, phones, tablets, and most other products. I am a fanboy.

That said, I worry about the energy Apple is exerting pressing various lawsuits against its competition, namely Samsung. Will Apple continue to create innovative, ground breaking products? Can Apple continue to improve their already wonderful technology?

Time will tell for Apple. Time will tell for you.

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