Hey guys, this is the first episode of a two-parter in which I want to share some super personal stories with you and talk about how they’ve shaped me into the person I am today.
First up, I just want to tell you that I have loved every part of my life, even the hard times – I learned from every mistake and wouldn’t change a thing. More importantly, I’ve never felt hard done by and I certainly don’t want anyone to feel sorry for me. These stories are how I remember them from my perspective – I don’t want members of my family to feel as if I’m calling them out; my only aim in sharing these stories is to inspire those who might be in a hard place and show you that you’re not alone and that no matter what you’re going through you will get through it and have the opportunity to make yourselves – and the world – a better place.
OK, let’s start!
People often tell me that they reckon I’m the luckiest person in the world. Thinking back over my life, I’m not sure if any of my success is down to luck but more that I jump at opportunities when they present themselves…and sometimes I even create those opportunities myself. And this started at a very young age…
What got me thinking about this was that I’m trying to buy a house in the little town that I live and it made me remember my own childhood homes (or lack of them) and how stuff you pick up from your parents kind of sticks with you, no matter how different your life may be from theirs.
It wasn’t a traditional or easy upbringing but I loved every moment of it. As you’ll learn from the podcast, from the moment I was born there was always drama. For the first seven years of my life, we lived on the streets and slept in our car, driving from town to town and sharing tents and friends’ houses. Some people might be horrified at this but it meant that we could do whatever we wanted, whenever we wanted. Appreciating the value of freedom is something that I carry to this day.
However, this nomadic existence meant that I didn’t get a lot of schooling other than a few months here and there and a bit of home education. So when we finally settled in one place, I attended my first proper school. And I loved it. But I’d still feel ashamed of the fact that I couldn’t bring my mates over to play at my house because, well, I didn’t have one. Eventually, we made up the long, long list for a goverment house and I understood the value of having a place that I could call my own.
Unfortunately, the house didn’t fix all of the problems at home. When my parents would argue and fight – sometimes really vicious, physical fights – more often than not it would be over money. This imprinted on me and I just thought that if I could make enough money then everything would be better. Of course, I see now that money can’t fix everything but it did teach me about the importance of having enough money to provide for yourself and those around you.
Even though I was only about 12 years old, I wanted to provide for my family. I managed to get a job picking weeds for a local guy who – after seeing that I wasn’t the type to take ‘no’ for an answer – employed me to wash dishes at his golf course restaurant. This was one of the toughest jobs that I’ve ever had (and not just because I had to cycle to and from it every night in the dark!) but it taught me that I could take action to improve my life and that of my parents’ through earning money.
Jump to the age of 16 and I realised that school wasn’t helping my purpose. I knew I wasn’t going to get a higher education – it just wasn’t part of my story. So I borrowed my mum’s car (slightly illegally) and drove to a construction site and told the foreman that I was going to work for him. While I might have seemed sure of myself, I’ve got to tell you that my heart was pounding out of my chest! But the guy saw that I would work harder than anyone and offered me $15 an hour. $15!! Guys, at that point I was working for $5 an hour washing dishes. So yeah, I took him up on the job and even though I looked about 12, I rocked up to the site and worked alongside full-grown men, saving my cash so I could send my welfare cheque to my Mum.
For the first time in my life, I felt valued by an employer. This experience taught me that confidence is everything. No matter how you feel on the inside, if people see that you’re confident on the outside they will believe in you.
I knew that I needed an electricians’ license to progress in my career but without much schooling, I knew that I wasn’t going to get very far. However, with the help of people around me, my mates coaching me and a ridiculous amount of studying, I managed to pass the test. I love that I overcame that challenge through the sheer force of hard work.
But a much bigger challenge was ahead of me.
When I was just 20, my partner and I set up a cafe. We put EVERYTHING into this – I’m talking all of our time, effort, money – and (spoiler alert) we lost it all. I go into why we set up the cafe on the podcast but the main reason was to get my Dad (who was essentially unemployable) a job. Unfortunately, he died a week before we opened. As well as losing my father, I lost my purpose for running the cafe in the first place. We fought and fought, I got a second job, we lived in a car but still finally lost everything. And you know how I felt that day we closed the doors of the cafe, just a year after opening? It was the best day of my life.
Imagine the stress that a failed business puts on you and your relationship. Now imagine that weight being lifted as you lose everything. Watching the sunrise that morning, I felt so free. I felt like the luckiest person on the planet. (So maybe people have been right all along)
As hard as it was during that year, I learned how to serve clients, lead staff, manage money – basically, a whole business degree crammed into 12 months of on-the-job experience. So now when I’m facing challenges, I look back at my life and try and remember the knowledge I learned in previous difficult times and work out how to use it to overcome what’s in front of me.
The main thing I’m trying to say is that if you see an opportunity, why not go all-in? Why not risk losing everything because that’s the only way you’ll truly gain anything? What’s the point in life if you’re not living it?!
Thanks for listening, guys – join me next time where I dive into how I started my photography career, all the ups and downs of the last 10 years, and share more wild and exciting stories.
I love sharing these stories, so if you hear something that resonates with you then jump over to my Instagram and say hi!
My new online course ‘Posing & Lighting’ is available on the 10th of Feb.