Photo of the roof of the Lao Dongxiang Muslim LIbaijian In Xining China

I have often struggled and to be honest, I still do at many times, with a lack of outwardly visible success in my work.

I don’t have a lot of followers, very few people will read this post. I have not won any awards nor have I been invited to photograph any stories for National Geographic.

This week I turned 40, it kind of snuck up on me, like the surprise birthday party my wife organized for me.

As I was thinking about the milestone over the last few days, I realized that for me to feel unsuccessful I would have to adopt a different set of values than the ones I currently hold. I would have to be striving for and pursuing a model of success focused on lifting myself and the things I create above the people they are created to celebrate.

For me, as I start a new decade I know the following to be true:

If what I am striving for does not make someone less fortunate’s life better or celebrate the wonder of our shared human existence, I am pursuing failure.

Our time on this earth is limited, to what extent we cannot know. Ultimately time is a finite resource, grains of sand in an hour glass. What I do with that time is of the utmost importance, not in a legalistic way, but in the sense that I have been given so much, blessed beyond measure to the extent that it would be shameful to waste the one resource I have that cannot be renewed.

As I start my fourth decade on this often beautiful and sometimes seemingly destitute and evil world, I am rededicating myself to the pursuit of communicating the infinitely immeasurable value of just one human life.

I believe that the Son of God died so that each person on this planet could live. That he would have made that choice if only one person was alive and in need of redemption.

For me this is a declaration, made centuries ago, that each and every human life is beautiful and valuable. That we should celebrate life, and live each of our lives with the goal of choosing to value everyone we come in contact with.

Because of this, I will tell stories that connect people, that inspire hope, trust and respect, stories that promote an understanding of our shared human experience. I will endevor to inspire those around me and those who see my work to become lovers and champions of people.

What I am working toward as I start a new year:
  • I want to be at the forefront of creating communications that lift up, value and adore the lives of people.
  • I want to work with and train humanitarian organizations to communicate effectively and ethically.
  • I want to create humanitarian brands that are ethical in their communications and champions of the value of people.
  • I want to build and champion causes that are built on hope and the potential and capacity of real people.
  • I want to tell more personal stories, to be an amplifier for the voices of hope that we all desperately need to hear.
  • I want celebrate people and culture

Practically this means continuing and expanding the work of Sharing Dots. But I think it will also mean a few new personal projects as well. After a season of rest and reflection over the last few months,  I am excited to begin a new season of work and creativity.

Success for me is to see people valued, no matter their lot in the birth lottery, no matter their situation, occupation or personal history. True success is to be able to inspire the world to see people differently, to see the beauty and experience the wonder of the diversity of the human experience.