Episode 54: How Developing an Athlete’s Mindset Will Fast Track Your Growth as a Photographer

Episode 54: How Developing an Athlete’s Mindset Will Fast Track Your Growth as a Photographer


Photography Business Institute
Photography Business Institute

One of my favorite things in life that has helped me grow my photography business is volleyball.

I love it so much that I put my daughter’s college and high school games on my calendar before I schedule anything else.

Something I didn’t realize until recently, was how much being a college volleyball player impacted how quickly I grew my photography business.

Even if you hate sports, I’m going to share three tips to help you develop an athlete’s mindset so that you can grow your photography business fast.

I truly believe that if you can master these things, you will easily grow your photography business.

I think that sports are the best prep for life as an entrepreneur.

If you want to be a successful small business owner, you’re going to fail a lot.

It’s going to be public.

If you’re going to run your business at a high level, you have to develop a mindset that will get you through failures.

Here are three tips that I’ve picked up from my volleyball days about bouncing back from failure.

#1 Better the Ball

I was an outside hitter in volleyball.

My job was to kill the ball whenever I could, but I was also the outlet for any bad passes.

If you’re not familiar with volleyball, one team serves.

The other team passes, sets, hits, and then scores.

When there is a bad pass, often the setter just throws the ball to my position and I have to do something good with it.

My job was to better the ball.

The balls were not always perfect, but I was grateful because I got a lot of sets.

It’s the same way in my photography business.

The more business you have, the more times things won’t work out perfectly.

You have to do something good with the bad situations that come to you. 

You’ve signed up to do hard things when you decided to own a portrait photography business.

Your kids are going to be sent home from school when you have clients coming.

Your tech is going to break.

The power will go out during a session.

Bad things happen that aren’t your fault.

It’s how you handle them that matters.

The more you can better the situations that happen to you, the more your portrait photography business will grow. 

#2 Do Something Else.

My calculus teacher in college was hilarious.

He talked really fast and had a Southern accent.

Calculus is hard, but when you have a fast-talking, funny professor, it makes it interesting.

He would always say, “If you don’t know how to do a problem, you’re going to be like Nike and just do it.”

We were confused, but he clarified,

“If you can’t figure out how to do a problem, just do something else.”

We joked about it on our volleyball team.

No matter how good of a player anyone is, there are days when it just isn’t working.

Days when I would hit every ball into the net.

I had to figure out how to do something else to help the team.

It’s the same way in business.

Some days, nothing goes right.

Everything you do, you feel like you’re failing.

Maybe you talked to three people on the phone who blatantly rejected you and told you your business model isn’t going to work.

Instead of getting frustrated, do something else.

Go find a business you want to do business with and write them a loving note of joy.

Go put on some loud music and retouch a client’s order and get it sent to the lab.

Go send a referral to a business partner that you’ve been working with.

Do something else.

This is not only going to bring you joy, it’s going to distract you from the three disappointing phone calls that you just had.

It’s going to get your head back in the game, because if you want to perform at a high level, there’s no time to sit around and listen to those negative voices in your head. 

#3 Give Yourself Three Seconds to Grieve

Grieve that mistake that you made, and then get over it.

I actually got this concept in a book by Dr. Greg Dale.

He’s a Sports Psychologist at Duke University.

He works with college athletes, and speaks around the country.

He said in one of his books,

“Give yourself three seconds in the game to grieve or mourn that thing that happened. And then you have to move on.”

Have you ever seen an athlete make a mistake, get in his/her head and then fall into a downward spiral?

Yeah, we all have.

During a volleyball game, this mourning and grieving process might look like,

“Oh my gosh, I can’t believe I just served two balls in a row out of bounds.”

After taking a deep breath, change your thinking to,

“Everyone makes mistakes, but it’s more important for me to focus on the future. I will let this go.”

We have to let the mistakes go.

In our portrait photography business, we have to put a short timeline on how long we let ourselves grieve and mourn the mistakes that bother us.

Grieve them.

Acknowledge them.


“I know better than this. It’s not going to serve me to stay stuck. I’ve got this.”  

I totally get it.

It is frustrating to fail, especially in public.

It’s terrible when someone tells you that your business isn’t viable, or when you make a mistake on an order.

But here’s the thing.

You can train yourself to recover from mistakes.

You really can. 

Staying Stuck Won’t Grow Your Photography Business

I hope that these three tools that I’ve given you will keep you from being stuck and feeling bad about what went wrong.

Watching sports is watching failure, after failure, after failure.

Those failures are what makes the game interesting.

Failures can be like that in our business too.

They can make pleasing a client and getting a giant order priceless. 

Know that by developing an athlete’s mindset you’re ready to do whatever you need to do.

You will continue to grow your photography business by leaps and bounds, instead of getting stuck and doubting yourself.

Being successful with your photography business is about so much more than being a good photographer.

It’s about learning how to manage the ups and downs, which is the part of the game I love. 

follow boutique photographer sarah petty on instagram to learn more about the boutique photography timeline grow photography business
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