#046 – Awareness is a Gift

You know that old adage: you don’t know what you don’t know? Well, we probably don’t notice it much, except for when we’re looking for an answer to something we’re seeking, right?

Then, we notice that we don’t know what we don’t know.

But what about the rest of the time?

I’m sure there’s many instances where just sort of being in the dark and not knowing what we don’t know is probably a gift. But when does it come with a cost? That’s what we’re going to talk about today!

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I’m going to be really candid here in the beginning, and then hopefully provide you with a mad amount of value.

So, The Preservation Project has been the hardest thing I’ve ever sold in all of my offerings.

Fearless and Framed has only been around since 2014, but prior to that, since 2006, I have been selling something. I’ve been a bit of an entrepreneur for a long time and even when I was working in the corporate world, I was a sales rep. So, I just cannot believe how difficult this has been to get The Preservation Project off the ground.

There are several reasons for that; I’m going to share one of the bigger ones today.

So, the funny thing about The Preservation Project and how it’s been so challenging for me to sell is that it’s resulted in the most depth-filled success stories out of anything I’ve ever sold.

I’m talking stuff that is coming into my inbox that I’m not asking for. It’s just coming in with ease.

People who are grateful that they went through this program, telling me how it’s changed their lives. In a lot of cases, it has to do with processing some grief, whether it’s fresh or it’s old. I don’t necessarily even mean losing somebody, but just maybe just seasons changing. You know what I mean?

So, it’s crazy and I’ll tell you some of those success stories a little later.

I’ve been doing some reflecting on why is this has been a tough sell.

My main bread and butter of my business has been teaching documentary family photographers how to have stronger messaging in their online marketing, as well as teach them how to run workshops that allows them to get in front of their ideal audience while making a profit at the same time. So, I’ve got a couple of programs there.

I’ve got to be honest, selling marketing programs, that’s like a walk in the park to me now compared to what’s been going on with the Preservation Project.

I think the reason why is that with the marketing programs, it’s easier for my customers to wrap their heads around. These customers (maybe this is you), maybe you have invested in Mastery Moment Seekers or in Profitable Photography Workshops. You were looking for a solution to advance your business, right?

At the end of the day, that’s what that transformation is and advancing your business means something to you (which is different for each person).

That transformation is both emotion driven and logical.

You probably know that you don’t know something about marketing. You believe you’re not a good marketer. You believe you’re not good with your words and your stories. You believe that when you show up online, you don’t really know what to say to your audience or you’re wondering, “Can I teach a workshop? Am I ready? Do I know enough to teach that?”

And here I am giving you a workshop on a platter, basically, to go out and do. So, those solutions, it is very easy for you to picture how they fit into your life. Right? They don’t just sound cool, they make sense.

With The Preservation Project, the transformation is a little less tangible.

It’s about awareness.

That is what I’m promising you.

Awareness is the #1 word that’s been coming out of the participants of The Preservation Project once they’re on the other side. Meaning, an awakening.

I love how Dreama Spence worded it… I’m paraphrasing here. Because of the Preservation Project, now she’s noticing things that she already knew, but they’re like louder. She can hear her thoughts or she can see them more clearly, and she can react to them. Her story is here.

So, that’s really what this is about, but I’m finding most people aren’t looking for that.

Like tell me, honestly, are you walking the planet looking for more awareness? Of course not. And if you are, you’re rare, and I need to meet you.  Most of us are simply living our lives, and some things pop up here and there, or we pause once in a while to reflect on our lives.

Just like I was talking about in the monthly report episode, I have a designated time every month where I sit down and look at my goals and all of that stuff. And even that, even that reflection is usually based on some sort of personal growth, or business goals, and the state of how it feels in our family. Maybe we want to try to make our family more like full of kindness or just more love, more compassion, more fun, more play, or whatever it is.

The reflection is in that kind of context, which is a lot different than what I’m talking about here with this awareness that people are getting out of The Preservation Project.

So, first little nugget of wisdom here for my creative entrepreneur and photographer listeners:

Get crystal clear on the transformation you’re selling.

Photographers are not selling pictures, they’re selling what those pictures do for somebody’s life, right?

So, what I’m saying here is you need to know what that transformation is—what that means to the people who are investing in that.

How do your dream clients and customers interact with it? Right now, before working with you, and after. Look at that difference.

When and where do they even come in contact with it?

When does there begin to be a need for whatever that transformation is?

So, I’m learning, the hard way, that I have to continue going further back to meeting my dream customers where they’re at.

The fact is they’re not shopping for awareness, yet it is my job to spark that need for more awareness and to help people believe in why they need to practice it and what it can do for their lives.

One of the mistakes I’ve made has been assuming that because one of the core elements of The Preservation Project has to do with documenting, and it’s a little bit different than these business classes and it’s not necessarily a photography class, but it’s still in that, under that umbrella of documenting….

I just thought that this’ll be pretty easy, because my audience already loves documenting. Spoiler alert: I’m finding is that’s not true. It’s not been easy.

I think what’s happening is my audience already loves documenting and believes that they’re basically experts in it, because they’ve (you’ve) been practicing it. You’re well versed in it.

Maybe you’ve done a 365, maybe you’ve been shooting for years, and you’re shooting things that are important to you, so you really just don’t understand how TPP can impact your life.

So, it is my job to take a step backwards and come at this from another angle.

Knowing what I know about how TPP is impacting my customers, I’d be doing you a disservice if I didn’t.

So, I wanted to share all of that with you, because a lot of you are growing a business.

If you’re having a hard time, it’s almost always that people don’t understand and value your offer.

The problem isn’t in the excuses we hear, “Oh, I’m broke. I don’t have enough money,” or, “I’ve got to talk to my husband,” or “I don’t know.”

Whatever is coming up as an objection, at the end of the day, most often, it always the root is that they don’t understand and value your offer.

So, for the rest of this episode, I am practicing on you, my friend. 😜

I have to…

Define awareness.

I have to teach you how it can give you what you really want…. which… what do you really want?

I learned from Susan Ferraro (our guest back in episode 13), that no matter what it is you want in life, there are three roots they always boil down to:

  1. freedom
  2. love
  3. safety.

The Preservation Project (and awareness for that matter) is about love.

Awareness reveals existing cues that are all around you. Cues we often miss, because of four reasons:

1. We’re “experts” of our own lives.

So, we kind of stop looking for things in our own lives. We don’t really think that we’re overlooking anything, because we are the owner of our own lives, and therefore we kind of stop asking questions.

Don’t believe me? A couple books go into this deeper: A More Beautiful Question and Insight written by folks much smarter in this area than I.

2. We’ve been promised “more” by society.

The main message in a lot of advertising these days is: You deserve more. There’s more for you.”

So, we are out there…. We’re busy looking for our more.

We are looking for our piece.

We’re going to find it.

We’re gonna get it.

“Get there,” we tell ourselves.

3. Our “flaws” are illuminated more now than ever.

I don’t know about you, but when I get on Instagram and I read some captions, or maybe I see an article shared online, or I pick up some sort of a self-development book, it’s really simple to relate to *some* of the feelings that somebody has inside of a problem…

and then adopt that problem as a truth for our own lives.

Example: I just read the book Present Over Perfect. Now, I’m not saying anything bad about the book…. I was not that book’s ideal reader.

I related to a lot of the thoughts at the beginning of the book where the author was just talking about how all-consuming her work was. My favorite thing was how she “faked rested,” she called it. I think she’d do lighter tasks, like doing the laundry, and she’d call that resting. But really, that wasn’t resting.

And at the end of the day, she was talking about how she was addicted, not exactly just to working, but to prove herself. I started just listening to some of what she was saying and being addicted to working and I started to think and adopt the ideal that I’m addicted to my business.

As I kept reading and sat with that some more, at first, I craved a solution. Then, I kept reading, because I wanted to know, well, how do I get away from that? She kept talking about how she would sit with herself and basically just let a lot of commitments go.

I kept thinking about how it’s very rare anymore that I ever do any kind of work on the weekend. I mean, the weekends are FUN! I usually get to drop the kids off at a drop-in child care center here, and then Dave and I’ll go out on a date — often a day date.

No, I’m not addicted to my business.

What I do have is a lot of passion, and I’m really happy about that. But, I do do a really good job at being present for my kids and for my husband, because I do a good job at turning my work off. I definitely go through seasons where that’s a little challenging. Lately, because it’s the winter and I know that the kids going to be out of school for the summer soon, I’ll admit I’ve been sneaking in work after they get home from school.

That is where my danger zone is, but because I’m aware of it, I don’t really believe I’m “addicted.” If it continues, maybe, but I feel good.

The point is that our flaws are illuminated easily today. We are in a hurry to fix things in our life all the time, and sometimes it’s all we can focus on. That causes us to miss these cues all around us.

4. We live our lives like the good things will always be around, even though *we know* that’s not the case.

I’ll explain later.

I don’t know if any of those reasons resonate or have helped you believe that maybe there are some cues + things in you’re life that you’re completely overlooking, because you don’t even know to look for them. I’d love to hear from you on all of that, for sure!

Where I want to go next is: You’ve probably heard all of the messages on “being present.”

Maybe you’re really good at practicing being present, but awareness is not presence.

It is not the same thing.

They are two completely different things.

Awareness is a higher level of presence. It’s consciousness.

It’s not just being present. Presence can cue awareness, but awareness does not happen first. Most likely, you’ve already experienced it, too. What I’m trying to do here is experience it more often, because there’s some just major benefits that come with that awareness, which we’ll get into.

I’ve got a couple stories:

About a year ago, I was in the car in the passenger seat, and my husband was driving us home from Atlanta where I had surgery. We were holding hands, and I was completely present in that car. I wasn’t thinking about anything besides just being there.

I don’t even think I was really thinking.

My mind was sort of lingering where it was at. I wasn’t thinking about what I was going to do when I go home. I wasn’t thinking about what was going to happen five minutes from now.

I was just completely there, and then I emerged.

This awareness emerged in that moment.

I noticed that we were holding hands. It wasn’t just that we were holding hands… BECAUSE I noticed that we were holding hands, it gave me stories and thoughts that I’m so glad I acknowledged….

In that moment, I was thinking about how Dave has always been at my side when I really need him. So, I’ve had two cesareans, one for each kid, and then this was my second surgery for endometriosis. Every time that I’ve had a surgery, HE has been by my side and been more compassionate, and nurturing, and caring, and kind, and gone out of his way to make sure I was comfortable moreso than any other time. I appreciated that.

So, I’m thankful that in that moment like I felt all of that.

I acknowledged it. I didn’t take it for granted.

I’ve expressed TO HIM how I noticed how he was showing up for me many times now.

Can you imagine? I wish I would’ve asked him before I started recording this, how that made him feel to feel seen and to feel acknowledged. If that were you, that would feel so good to feel valued, right?

I think don’t we all need more validation. To feel more valued, and believed in, and that we matter, and all of those things, right? So, that’s just one example.

And then the second story is that we were visiting Dave’s family. We went over to Ontario, Canada. My sister-in-law had recently lost her dad, so, we went to the funeral home to visit. We’d dropped the kids off at my in-laws’ house. My sister-in-law and brother-in-law’s kids were at my in-laws’ house as well, so they were watching all the cousins. All the grandkids.

After the funeral home, we picked up the kids and as we were leaving, I was in the passenger seat as the car was backing out of the driveway. There was my father-in-law up on the steps waving his hand.

And it hit me.

The next time that I go to their house, I can expect the same thing. He’s going to be out there waving his hand, and my mother-in-law will be standing next to him, probably not waving, but she’s there. She’s present.

It’s something that’s reliable, and it’s predictable, and it’s one of those simple things that matters.

 

How many times is something happening in your life over and over and you just kind of overlook it? It’s so familiar.

I was reading about how our brains are so quick to filter information. We don’t want to waste energy that we don’t have to waste. So, things that are familiar and they they’re not necessarily a cue for our safety, or for food, or survival, we just kind of brush it off. I think we do that a lot with things that are just right under our freaking noses.

But, because of that awareness, *I noticed* this moment that matters.

So again, I’m sure you have experienced stuff like that, too, and you’re probably like, “Oh, yeah. That’s like the best thing ever.”

But, did you know you could have more of that and you can do more with that?

Acknowledging and feeling those things in the moment rather than in hindsight, like so many good things in our lives, is a complete and total gift.

It’s got me saying, “More, please!”

That awareness gives you a choice that simply does not exist without awareness. That choice is if and how you want to respond to whatever it is.

Without that choice, there’s a cost. It’s the cost of: you don’t know what you don’t know.

And, it looks like this:

You may never notice whatever that thing is. You might completely miss it.

Wouldn’t it be sad if I never would have noticed how just how sweet my mother and father-in-law are—always walking us completely out onto their porch? And I can always rely on him waving goodbye?

I mean, it’s so simple, but I’m so glad I’ve noticed that.

Without that choice, you may never understand the magnitude of whatever that experience is or that moment. Or if you do, it’ll be too late.

I mean, don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying that we’re going to see the power of every moment. There’s always going to be defining moments that we don’t realize that they were a defining moment until later. But still, we have more control to see just the goodness in our lives and the depth that they bring.

And then, that fourth reason is just that you make kind of notice it, but you take it for granted.

There’s a fear I have: someone that I care about will pass away too soon before I ever let them know the impact that they’ve had on me. Or I will pass away with a completely full heart instead of an empty, expressed heart.

I want to wring my heart completely dry, letting people who mattered to me know that they *matter.*

But even that, saying, “You matter,” is kind of empty.

Here’s why:

I would love my Aunt Linda to know that shopping for a wedding dress with me really stuck. It made an impact for which I’ll always be grateful.

My aunt Linda is married to my uncle Ken, who is my dad’s brother. We did a lot with that part of my family growing up. We’d go up to the cabin together, we’d go down to their house in Indiana, or they’d come up to my parents’ house in Michigan.

I looked forward to hanging out with all of them, but I really had fun with my Aunt Linda throughout the years mainly through our ongoing, playful banter. I mean, I have fun with her. It’s so simple, but so special.

It’s just one of those small things in life that’s been a simple but fulfilling pleasure.

Can you see how being specific to why somebody matters packs more punch than all of the things that we say, like: “I love you, you matter, thank you, I believe in you?”

Specificity makes these words mean something.

It gives the words feeling. It makes them more believable.

You want that kind of impact with the people you care about, right? I imagine you do. If so, you need to practice awareness first, and The Preservation Project is a framework to do that.

Elevating your level of awareness means that you’re going to see those cues of opportunity to respond or not.

I’ve got a story from a book called Chasing Daylight.

I’m going to paraphrase this excerpt, because it was pretty long, so I don’t want to read the whole thing. The book itself is about Eugene O’Kelley (Gene in the book). He was living his life as a corporate guy in a big accounting firm. He was in wonderful health, until he wasn’t.

One day, he found out that he had a form of cancer and was expected to live three months. That was it, three months. So, the book is a memoir of his final three months on earth. His wife finished the last two chapters because he had went into hospice, couldn’t write anymore, and ended up passing away.

His wife shared that really puts all of this into context. At least, it brings up a fear that I am completely terrified by.

She wrote that (I’m paraphrasing here) a doctor came to visit, spent a little time with Gene, and told her that in the six years he’s been doing full-time hospice work he’d seen numerous people, younger and older than Gene, with the same diagnosis as Gene’s, and that they experience what’s called terminal restlessness or end-stage restlessness.

This is an agitated state that frequently requires heavy medication, like antipsychotics, opioids, and something I can’t pronounce that means tranquilizers. This state is caused by a combination of factors. It might be fluid pressure on nerve impulses, or something physical, or its source maybe social or spiritual.

Then, the doctor went on to say when young people experience this restlessness, it’s often because of the goodbyes enclosures that they didn’t have.

“A lot of people arrive at that final stage not having done the psychosocial and spiritual work that would have brought them more peace.”

I’m reading now:

“It’s true for older people, but especially young people like Gene. The doctor realized that Gene’s unwindings plan was somewhat compulsive and seriously type A wanting to tie everything up as if it were possible, but that ultimately it was positive.”

So, I kind of skipped over unwindings. A good chunk of this book was about how Gene took a look at everyone in his life, and he intentionally crafted these perfect moments where he let people know that they made an impact on him. Maybe it was a conversation, maybe he created an experience. He took some of his family out on a boating trip.

It’s truly worth the read! Get the book here.

He did that work while he could—the work this doctor is saying a lot of people don’t do that comes with a horrifying cost.

“The doctor couldn’t help but compare Gene’s attitude with that of another man he had recently tended, a very senior executive at one of the big pharmaceutical companies. This man was about 60, not particularly close with his family, not close to his children, with no real spiritual foundation, and he would talk, and mumble, and even cry out in the middle of the night angrily barking the names of colleagues and superiors.

His rankings were deeply upsetting to his wife and to others who came to see him at the end.

The man had to be heavily medicated.

He died restless.”

That is probably the most terrifying thing to me. I mean, if when I pass, I hope that it’s quick, and I don’t know that it’s coming or it’s very peaceful, like Gene’s.

I don’t know about you, but I want to live awake.

Not sleepwalking through all of those cues that only consciousness gives.

I want to experience more serendipity, which is the act of finding something valuable and delightful when you’re not looking for it.

I want to do something with all of that.

I want to do something good with all of that for the other people on this planet, especially the people who are closest to me and who I desperately want them to believe in themselves, and for them to know and believe that they matter. They’re valued.

It starts with practicing awareness, so that we can recognize those cues. And in case you didn’t know, that’s exactly what you do in The Preservation Project through a whole menu of activity options, which part of that is documenting, and it’s all set into a proven framework that works.

Lora is a recent Preservation Project participant. She got into the program very shortly after her dad passed. She said that this program helped her with processing the grief. It gave her something to do in this time that was so difficult.

Pam, she joined TPP, because her father-in-law had just passed. She had some trouble in her marriage. There was just so many things flying around her. One daughter had just graduated, her other daughter was having a hard time in school, and this gave her a way to turn inwards and do something beautiful. And out of that, she did something that she believes made her husband feel like he was actually seen and looked at.

She started to see that there were more opportunities. Even though her daughters were like older, she hadn’t really been photographing them and documenting them as we do when our kids are little. She started to see just more opportunities for these moments that are still really special and important. She said that they’re sneaky, but they’re there.

Eboni saw more than her daughters playing on the swing set. She saw the wear and tear of this swing set and all of the good and beautiful memories that that swing set represented. She saw it. She saw more depth to that swing set than just looking at a swing set.

I could go on, and on, and on.

Kelly lost her uncle in December. She said that she spent more time with him that felt intentionally connected and she felt fulfilled, and that was because of going through The Preservation Project.

All of that to say, all of these women that I talked about (we’ve had some guys in the program as well) all experienced transformation that’s internal, right?

It is about awareness and really feeling some of the moments that they were living out and looking at their own lives through a different lens.

It wasn’t about the documenting, and the preserving memories, and the putting your pictures into photo books, which I think a lot of our documentary family photographer audience assumes that this is. That’s part of it, but it’s not that.

Gut Check Questions for you:

  1. How often do you pause and really look at your life? Is there a way that you can initiate some sort of a practice so that you can do that? Maybe it’s like a once-a-month date with yourself to do that. I don’t know what that looks like. Maybe it’s every Saturday morning when the kids are watching cartoons and you’re on the couch. I don’t know. But, how often do you pause and really look at your life? Start there.
  2. How are you doing that when you’re doing it? Are you doing it in a self-critical way, like looking at your goals, and where you’re at, and really illuminating where you’re not at? Or are you kind of reminiscing and looking at remember-whens or what’s going on in your life that’s good, but it’s kind of fleeting? Or do you really allow that to sink in?
  3. That is really important, because I think sometimes we can say, “You know what? I reflect on my life kind of a lot. I do a gratitude journal every single day.” But are you really sinking into that or is it fleeting?
  4. And if you are connecting with all these things in your life, good or hard, are you doing something with that that can elevate the people around you and strengthen your ties to them? Or to allow you to process and let things go? Or to ask for more of the goodness?
  5. Lastly, how can you practice awareness?

Again, I’d love to help you with that: fearlessandframed.com/preserve.

Play with living more awake and report back with whatever you find.

Author: MarieMasse
I help client documentary photographers fine-tune their workflow + marketing game, so their work is filled with sessions that represent their voice + client values while earning a living. I shoot undirected, off-beat stories that aren’t preserved often enough (like the story of couples before starting a fam or becoming empty-nesters – a dream project of mine), so my clients’ old box of photos is a meaningful, visual diary of their life + legacy to leave behind.

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