You never know where lessons in life will pop up. This weekend, it was at a photo shoot. The lessons: The commitment to doing things “right” and the need for patience to achieve that “right-ness.” They were both beautifully and powerfully on display.
My husband, Ron, a part-time photographer, had a photo shoot this weekend, and he asked my daughter and me to come help. He was photographing a young dancer, and that means there usually are family members who need to be cared for while he is focusing on taking the pictures. In this case, the dancer—a young Indian girl who performed traditional Indian dance—was joined by her parents, her sister and her dance teacher. Ron photographed her in three different outfits doing assorted poses in preparation for her upcoming recital. The shoot was supposed to take one hour…but three hours and 875 photos later, the family and the teacher were at last satisfied that the student had posed admirably and that they had plenty of options to use.
Mind you, in the end, they needed only a half dozen or so photos for the recital invitation and program. So why on earth did they spend time and money on three outfits and 875 frames?
They wanted it “right,” and they had the patience to make sure they achieved it. It required shooting an enormous array of pictures and paying extreme attention to detail with each shot to ensure that it was the best it could be. Of course, they won’t know until they review all the many choices which outfit best frames the dancer…which combination of poses creates a balanced display of her talents…and which photo should be featured on the invitation to draw the recipient into her world. They will know when they see it and feel it.
I can totally relate to this scenario as we at Bottom Line try, test, evaluate and shift. We are constantly looking at the playing field and adjusting to make it “right.” We do it with our editorial content, too. Getting the facts and the language right is critical. If either is too loose or imprecise, the article can’t be trusted. If the language is cold, it won’t be inviting. Each issue of Bottom Line Personal and Bottom Line Health needs the right mix of topics. It’s a sensitive balance, and in fact, our customers may not even be aware of all the decisions we make to bring them a great product because we do it so seamlessly. But if we get it wrong, I promise you they notice.
In spite of the fact that the photo shoot went well past my dinnertime, I could not help but have deep respect and appreciation for the family’s commitment to excellence. I am worried that the commitment to excellence is declining of late throughout our world. And to make things even more confusing, we are living in a world with a weird contradiction of values—there is a whole lot of tolerating “good enough” as a trade-off for profits in business (when is the last time you received great customer service?), while our young people struggle with an unachievable, silent demand for perfection. But I digress—I will talk about commitment to excellence versus the insanity of perfection another day.
Back to the photo shoot…the dancer diligently moved from pose to pose. More often than not, the pose wasn’t quite right. In all dance forms, every placement of a hand or a foot or a finger must be perfect and precise. That’s part of the discipline and the artistry. If your hands look like claws or your feet aren’t perfectly aligned, the pose simply is wrong. So the mother and the teacher patiently and diligently corrected her, and to her credit, the girl accepted the feedback with no arguments or frustration. She, too, understood that this had to be right.
And that leads me to lesson two of the evening—endless patience. Through all the poses and all the corrections, the teacher never once showed the slightest inkling of frustration. He was gentle and supportive as he instructed the girl to raise her elbow, relax her shoulders, tilt her head—not that way, the other way—find her balance before lifting her leg. Left arm higher. Right arm lower. Switch sides. Look up. Look down. Smile but not too much. The entire family was equally patient, even the older sister (and siblings aren’t known for their patience, especially when the attention is on another family member).
It was beautiful and calming to watch and such a great reminder of the power of softness and the inflammatory nature of shrill. Both the teacher’s and mom’s voices were firm but soft…never showing any sign of irritation. The girl felt supported and safe the entire time. She moved, she turned, she adjusted just as they told her to. Had anyone been stressed or raised their voices, there would have been no rightness in the 875 pictures, and the entire process would have been wasted.
As I was lulled by their patter, it struck such a contrast with the irritation and demand for immediacy that is overtaking our culture. Force generates force. Patience really is a virtue.
The pictures turned out beautifully…and the family is pleased with their investment.
As for me, what a rich experience. The costumes and artistry of the dance were nothing I had seen before. The commitment to excellence was inspiring. The endless patience so calming.
And the reminder that lessons in life can be found in the simplest and most obvious places is important for all. Keep your eyes open, and see what lessons you can see today in your world.