It might sound a bit flowery, and possibly a bit counter-intuitive, but you can really grow your career by helping others. There are a lot of business strategies out there, a lot of marketing strategies, social media advertising, email marketing, all that stuff, that can really help you to grow your business and your career as an artist. But today we’re going to talk about something different. We’re going to talk about how helping others and being generous with your time and your advice can really help you to skyrocket your creative career. My guest today is Walid Azami. He’s a renowned photographer who has worked with the likes of Madonna, Ricky Martin, Mariah Caray, and Jennifer Lopez among others. And he’s going to share how his philosophy of helping people out, being there for others has really helped his career and his happiness in life, and how it can really help you as well. So you should definitely not miss this episode – it’s amazing.
Eyvindur Karlsson 0:00
There are a lot of business strategies out there, a lot of marketing strategies, social media advertising, email marketing, all that stuff, that can really help you to grow your business and your career as an artist. But today we’re going to talk about something different. We’re going to talk about how helping others and being generous with your time and your advice can really help you to skyrocket your creative career. My guest today is Walid Azami. He’s a renowned photographer who has worked with the likes of Madonna, Ricky Martin, Mariah Caray, and Jennifer Lopez among others. And he’s going to share how his philosophy of helping people out, being there for others has really helped his career and his happiness in life, and how it can really help you as well. So keep listening. This going to be awesome.
This is the Artemist podcast, where we turn art into gold. Here’s your host, Eyvindur Karlsson.
That’s right, my name is Eyvindur Karlsson, you can call me Eyvi for short, because that’s a lot easier. I’m an Icelandic singer-songwriter, among other things. I do all kinds of stuff. But you can check out my music if you want at onebadday.rocks. And you can get a couple of songs there for free and check it out. It’s really good, if I do say so myself. It’ll make your life a lot better. If you like artists like Tom Waits and Nick Cave and Neil Young and that sort of stuff, go check it out. I’m sure you like it. Now, my guest on today’s episode is Walid Azami. He’s a photographer, as I mentioned, and he’s worked with a lot of huge names. And he’s just a really, really nice person. He’s one of the nicest people I’ve ever had a chance to have a conversation with. This conversation that you’re about to hear, it gave me goosebumps. I just really, really loved this. So I hope you keep listening and really enjoy it. But before we get started, this episode is brought to you by followme.is, which is a travel website that I happen to be involved with. If you’re ever thinking about visiting Iceland, you should definitely go there, followme.is. You’ll get all the best tips and you can find all the best tours and stuff like that. And if you’re going to be traveling anywhere, you can find some of the best deals on airfare and accommodation if you go to flights.followme.is. It’s a great search engine where you can find really great deals. So if you’re going to be traveling, for business or for your art, or both, hopefully, or just for pleasure, then that’s a good place to start to go to followme.is. And if you come visit us in Iceland, hit me up, we’ll take a walk and have a beer and become the best of friends for the rest of our lives.
Anyway, today’s topic is how helping others can help grow your career. This is a topic that is really near and dear to me. I heard Walid talk about this stuff on another podcast, the Smart Passive Income podcast with Pat Flynn, which is a business podcast, if you don’t know it. I listen to this all the time. And I’m going to put a link, because we left this interview a few times during our talk. So I’m going to put a link to this episode of the Smart Passive Income podcast in the show notes which you can find at artism.fm/ap4. And that’s where you’ll find the show notes for this episode. Please subscribe to this, and if you can leave a review wherever you listen to podcasts, that really helps. And without further ado, here is my conversation with Walid Azami enjoy.
Alright, Walid Azami. Welcome to the show.
Walid Azami 4:46
Thank you very much. How are you?
Eyvindur Karlsson 4:48
I am very well how are you doing?
Walid Azami 4:50
I’m good. Thanks. I’m good. Good Monday morning.
Eyvindur Karlsson 4:52
All right, good. It is Monday evening here for me now.
Walid Azami 4:56
Eyvindur Karlsson 4:58
So I wanted to have a little conversation with you about helping others.
Walid Azami 5:05
Eyvindur Karlsson 5:06
And how that can help you in return. And before we get into that, can you tell me and anybody listening a little bit about who you are and where you come from in your journey as an artist and entrepreneur?
Walid Azami 5:19
Sure. Um, I guess who I am and where I come from… I’ll just cover the where I come from first. Refugee from Afghanistan. So, a product of war or escaping war. I mean, compared to some of the horrific refugee stories you hear, we had it very well, but still, you know, family split and just all the chaos around that. And then I live in the Los Angeles area, now. I am a photographer. My experience is photographing, in my opinion, some of the most legendary people like Mariah Carey, Jennifer Lopez, Courtney Love, Maria Carey. I don’t know if I mentioned her. Ricky Martin, Madonna. With Madonna, I worked with her, I didn’t photograph her yet. And just a lot of people like that. I direct music videos, I direct commercials, and now I creative direct for, whether it’s recording artists or startup companies. And about… I want to say… I think it’s three years now… I started an account on Instagram called How to Photograph. And the original podcast that introduced us together, Pat Flynn’s, we talked about How to Photograph, and How to Photograph has now branched out to be its own podcast, YouTube channel, blog posts, private Facebook groups, all that. But it was a byproduct of my growing frustration of the disrespect to artists, and especially photographers. That’s what I could relate to the most. That’s what I do primarily. And it was also at a time where I felt like: “Okay, do I put the camera down? Am I done? Am I done saying what I need to say? Basically, do I become a part of the problem? Or do I become a part of the solution? Is that good enough?
Eyvindur Karlsson 7:17
Yeah, totally. Yeah. I mean, that’s amazing. That’s an amazing journey in in two minutes. And I heard you on on Pat Flynn’s podcast. And it just struck such a chord with me hearing you talk about that journey and how you sort of became, I guess, disillusioned with “the industry”, maybe or whatever and how helping others made you reignite that spark, so to speak. So can you tell me a little bit more about how that came to be?
Walid Azami 8:02
Eyvindur Karlsson 8:04
How the How to Photograph started?
Walid Azami 8:06
Yeah, totally. If I can rewind, maybe about a year before I started How to Photograph… I was with an agency as a photographer. And I, obviously there’s the wave of “photographers” on Instagram. And there’s people that are true artists and there are people that lay a filter on it and rely on… I guess I don’t really… There’s all kinds of photographers, right? I don’t want to discredit anybody. So there was already that but there was a whole movement towards people working for free for insta-fame. They were being targeted by big, big companies. I lost a major… I don’t want to say the artist’s name, but it was massive artists like enough that they can headline a big, like a Coachella type of festival or something. Right? And I lost a massive album cover because a photographer came up who was probably about one two years behind me. Comparable styles, comparable portfolios. When I say one or two years behind me, just maybe one or two years less photography experience. And this photographer offered a free photoshoot in exchange for Instagram mentions.
Eyvindur Karlsson 9:26
Walid Azami 9:27
And so I had that same exact “Oh, wow” response. And I thought: “Oh, wow. Like, you have no idea what a kick to your own career that was, to the whole community of photographers. And myself, of course, included in that. And so there was a lot of stuff. But it wasn’t just.. That was just like one tiny little chapter in a series of hits against the photography community. I had an agent that couldn’t find me work, but I was keeping myself busy. And so they did everything from you know: Walid, you need to lose some weight. And you see me, I’m an average guy. I got I got a personal trainer postcard in the mail saying: Please consider. I got everything from Stop photographing a certain ethnicity, because it’s pigeonholing you, and to me that’s so ignorant. So there was so much about it that I thought was so ugly, and then I started falling for things. And I started going towards: Hey, check out her work, or his work. They’re phenomenal. They’re getting published everywhere. And meanwhile, I’m still booking myself, right? I booked branded commercial spots for HP computers, and for Volkswagen motors and stuff like that, but at the same time, I’m hearing this voice in my head, that perpetual tapping of the shoulder: Hey, be more like this, be more like that, be more like this.
At a certain point, I started kind of getting weak on my stronghold, and going: Okay, fine, I’ll just try it. It was more to shut them up. But in the process, I lost who I was, or that helped catapult that movement, right. And it got to a really bad point. Sorry, if this is dragging out, but it got to a really bad point where I put my camera down for eight months straight. Did not accept a single job, I was over it. I didn’t know if I should go back to school and get my Masters in Business Administration. Didn’t know if I should get like a nine to five type of job. Did not know. But I put my camera down. And thank God I was good with savings and stuff like that. And somewhere in there, probably about six months in, I was like: Okay, you’ve done enough whining and crying and pounding your fist, you know, whatever. And now you’re going to either completely sink, or you’re going to do something about it. And so that frustration of artists being taken advantage of, that frustration of my former agent did not care about my artistry, cared more about the money that I could bring in and fast, quick things. I said: I don’t want to do music videos with twerking, of a girl on top of a car in a bikini squatting. You know what I mean? It’s like, I got nieces, I’m not doing that. And no judgment on people that are doing it. It’s not my stuff. And I’m not against violence or sex, if it tells the story. I’m against it, if it covers up for lack of creativity. Objectifying females and stuff like that.
So anyways, I started this account called How to Photograph and I did it anonymously. And everything that anyone ever did, to me that was right or wrong became an example for this thing for this account, and one by one photographer started coming. And they started, they started joining. It was like: Oh, here’s 100 people, that’s cool. And it was just like: Oh, it’s 150 people, and it started building. And now I believe today, I’m probably like in 37-38,000 range. And it’s just grown, it’s been this movement. So in me becoming so busy and helping other people, I began to find my love for photography again. And watching people thrive… And I did it anonymously for the first half of it. I just didn’t want any attention. I just wanted to help others. Because as much as some people were being crappy, I wanted to offset that and do something, an equal action towards the kinder way. And so I started watching people, and I started reading DMs. And people were like: “Dude, you just told me about this, and I booked the client. Who are you?” I start getting DMs about who are you? And at some point it was a business decision. My friends, like: “Attach your name to it, your resume is pretty qualified. And people might even listen to you more. If they’re like: Dude, this guy’s photographed Ricky Martin, I’m going to listen to him, versus some anonymous voice.” So that’s kind of where all that started from? And I answered, like, 10 questions in the process for you.
Eyvindur Karlsson 14:19
This is fantastic. I don’t have to do anything. So basically it reignited your love for what you do, basically, is what you’re saying. Which I think is great. And also, you mentioned one thing that I actually wanted… I wrote this down as a note, just for clarity sake. You mentioned it yourself. You lost this account because somebody else offered to do it for exposure, really, you know, which is the four letter word. You can help people out in so many different ways, right? But that’s not a good way to do that. To work for free. That’s probably the worst thing to do. Because, again, as you said, it devalues you as an artist and everybody else in your field, which I think is a great point.
Walid Azami 15:15
Yep. If I can add to that. I spoke to the commissioner at the record label. And I was like: “What? I was promised this.” Because I had done them a favor before. And I forgot to mention that part. I had done them a favor. I had taken an artist for a lower budget, the new artists don’t have the budgets yet. And they’re like: “Can you please do a makeover for this artist?” Right? I was like, sure, sure, sure. And we had a good working relationship. But the video commissioner/music commissioner was also like: “Walid, we’re also as a record label, not making a lot of money. So when somebody pretty good comes up and offers to do it for free, my hands are tied.” So I understood that. But the commissioner told me something which really resonated with me and became a lesson even on my account for How to Photograph, was this: Look. This photographer… I’m trying my hardest to stay vague, and not he say he or she, but… This photographer has already told us they are not worth much. So while we have to take this opportunity, and save on the budget, when it comes down to requesting a budget in the future, we already know that they established their portfolio, or excuse me, their market value.
And they said the fact that I just walked away and I was like: “Nope, no, thank you.” That established my market value. And of course, it still does hurt me and other photographers. But for the people that give things away, you’re not going to… All right, this is kind of like a crude example, not crude, but it’s like a street sort of example. It’s like, you can’t go on a date with someone and give them everything and put out on the first night, and then demand a steak dinner the next time and say: “Well, I need to be wined and dined.” And they’re like: “I had you at a bean burrito. What are you talking about?” It’s a terrible example. But it’s also a great example of like, you establish how people are going to treat you. And if you sell yourself for cheap, and you establish your own market value, as: My photography is not worth anything more than an Instagram mention, they’re only going to believe you and move forward with that.
Eyvindur Karlsson 17:46
Yeah, exactly. You teach people how to treat you in every respect of life. I mean, that’s just how how things work.
Walid Azami 17:52
Eyvindur Karlsson 17:58
There are people, though, who have have reservations about asking for money. And this is actually one of the things that you did talk about on the on the podcast we mentioned, with Pat Flynn, that when it comes to, not charging, in that case, for your art, but when it came time to ask your Instagram followers to, to buy a product…
Walid Azami 18:22
Eyvindur Karlsson 18:23
And then obviously, there was a big shift your mindset there. Can you can you tell me a little bit about that sort of shift in mindset, from being timid about asking for the sell, and then sort of getting around to it?
Walid Azami 18:38
Sure. I originally had a hard time, for those that did not hear the podcast on Pat Flynn, I originally had a hard time, because I had provided so much free content for the sake of “Let me help people.” And then there was a little bit of imposter syndrome of like: Well, who do I think I am that now I want to charge them?” The old mentality was: This is a bait and switch. Right? But at the same time, I also had to go through the transformation of: “I do have bills to pay, I do have great content, I have helped save other people’s careers or help start other people’s careers.” So now I looked at it as this is like: “I’m not taking their money, I’m giving them an opportunity to do better.” And that to me, right there is that switch. And I believe… Man, I wish I remembered…. It was not Gary… I don’t know who it was, I wish I remembered. But somebody said something like this: If you’re afraid to sell, this is an extreme example, but imagine if you have a cure for cancer, and you keep that to yourself, because you’re afraid to charge for it. That kind of makes you a first class jerk. You’re a jerk for not sharing something that can help people, right. So if you have something that can make someone else’s life easier, better, let them pay you. Let them pay you because they’re actually probably getting more out of it than you are.
So I did that. And I started thinking about like: “Yeah, you know, there is somebody who will have a better product, because of my knowledge. There is somebody who might be able to start a business and live a more fulfilled life, because of the knowledge that I can pass on. And I’m a jerk if I keep that knowledge to myself, because I have a fear of asking for money.” So the the money part now is second, it is more about: “How can I help you? How can I make your life more of value? How can I make you just stand taller and be stronger?” And in that the money just kind of follows it. They are more than happy to invest in you and that relationship.
Eyvindur Karlsson 20:58
Yeah, great answer. And just to go back to… You know, obviously, this is referring to a product where you are teaching people how to photograph and things related to that. But I think this can also come back to just your art as an artist.
I think if you are extremely helpful to other people, and if you have that mentality: How can I help people? It’s not just that. I mean, they are going to be more inclined to help you back as an artist, either by buying whatever it is that you’re selling, or by sharing your name, your brand out there. They’re going to become ambassadors for you.
Walid Azami 21:16
Eyvindur Karlsson 21:42
Even if they’re not buying it themselves, if somebody’s looking for a photographer, or somebody is looking for a book, they’re going to recommend you to them because you’ve helped them out. And I think that is also, regardless of whether you have something like a teaching product to sell, I think it’s always going to help you. I mean, karma is a word that gets thrown around a lot. But it is. A little bit, you know.
Walid Azami 22:08
It is about karma and good energy. And it’s one of those things that you cannot duplicate in a lab. So it’s hard to, like… You just have to tell people: Look, trust me, good brings more good, you know? No, you’re right. And it is that, that’s it. I just believe in helping people and just one example on that was… At the time of the first episode of Pat Flynn’s podcast it was: Should I release an E-book that was going to teach you how to start your fashion photography portfolio. And now I’m releasing a full online mentorship course, to help photographers go from ground zero to a full, like… Basically my 10-12 years in photography in a 9-10 week course. And, no joke, it’s the course that I wish was around when I started. It didn’t exist. So I decided to make it myself.
But let me give you an example of people wanting to help you. Of course, there are people who always say… Just yesterday, I saw my Instagram stories today, where I reposted it, and someone’s like: “Hey, if anyone’s a photographer, this guy gives you good stuff.” And he just wants to see you win, you know. So there’s that. And then there’s a financial gain of…
I believe I did a half day or one day or something, when my ebook first came out on Amazon. I gave them a free download. Just to introduce the book to people. And I had no idea how I was going to do. It ended up being number one for that week, anyways. But I had posted it on my Instagram stories, and someone said: “When is your book available?” And I said: “You can go now, you know, take the link and go now.” And he said: “Are you kidding me? You’ve done so much for the photography community. I’m going to wait until tomorrow when it’s for sale. And the least I can do is buy your product.” And that was mind blowing to me, that the majority of people are great. And they want to see you win. They want to pay you back.
Eyvindur Karlsson 24:17
Exactly, exactly. There’s one thing that I heard you describe that I really wanted to ask you about, because I just love it. You talked about that one of the things that you do is, every once in a while you’ll invite somebody to come along one of your fans to come along on a photoshoot, and shadow you. Can you tell me a little bit about that? Is this something you still do?
Walid Azami 24:43
Yes, I still do it. My last photoshoot was for a new cosmetic brand called Levania, and my BTS photographer, and my DP, and one of the PAs we’re all from How to Photograph.
Eyvindur Karlsson 25:04
Walid Azami 25:05
Yeah, because listen, I gotta walk the walk too, you know. I’m giving them tips. I’m telling them to be a community, I’m telling them to help each other. So guess who’s gonna have to start that first? That’s me. It’s exciting too. You know, when I started, I would kill for somebody to invite me on set and just let me watch. Right? So in this case, and it all depends on the client. And I run it through and all that stuff. And I sense it to see if this is a good move or not. But I’ve done everything from invite them to sit on set for like an hour to hiring them. At full industry rates. I hire them. And I’m like: “I’m not your mentor right now. I’m not Walid from How to Photograph. I am your boss on set. And this is what I expect. And it’s got to be perfect.” But man, they learn so much, and they’re excited. And so if there is an opportunity, then I usually post it on Instagram stories, I send it out to my newsletter. And that’s pretty much it. And I encourage them to do that for each other too.
Eyvindur Karlsson 26:22
Yeah. Oh, that’s so cool. And have you used that to to grow your following? Is it more like a thing that’s just for your existing following?
Walid Azami 26:33
You know, you try everything to see if it grows, and then you have this big demon that keeps you down, which is the Instagram algorithm, you know? Whatever you do, they’re like: “We have a different idea. We’re going to shut it down.” What it is, is that it has not grown the following, but it has grown, the quality of the people that are there.
Eyvindur Karlsson 26:57
Right, which is more important.
Walid Azami 26:58
Way more important, because I see people that are like… I’m a baby account. I hate the term influencer. But I’m a micro-influencer in that term. But the number of comments, DMs, bookmarks or things like that, that I look at, actually goes against accounts that are in the 3-500,000 range, as far as engagement. It’s a solid little community. And they all know that I get last minute stuff. Last minute stuff of like: “Walid. I got a job. I took the leap, I got a job to photograph my friend’s newborn baby. I don’t know what to do.” And I’m like: “Oh my god.” Okay, so then I try to help them where I can. Literally Instagram face timed one of them before and I’m like: “Okay, now…” They show me the back of the camera, I’m like: “Change your F stop to this, turn your ISO up…” I try to help.
Eyvindur Karlsson 28:04
That’s so great. Community is so important on social media and all that, and obviously, in real life too. But when you’re trying to be a self employed artist, you need that community around you. And in that interview we keep referencing, you talked about how great your community is, and how polite everybody is. And it really sounds awesome when you when you describe it. So besides getting people to shadow you and all that, are there any other things that you’ve done that you can sort of share any tips about how to strengthen your community rather than maybe growing it?
Walid Azami 28:49
Yeah, I think people want to see… And it doesn’t matter if you’re a musician on author or painter, whichever, right? We create things that’s from within us. Some kind of creative field. I think that it’s okay. People are starving for authenticity. And we’re starving for social… It’s so weird. We go on social media to be social, but we’re actually countering that and hiding behind a flawed filter lie to be honest with you. And it’s exhausting. And I think that when you present imperfections, people naturally gravitate towards you more. If you’re frustrated at something, if you are confused on something, it’s okay to say: “I also struggle.” That makes people want to attach themselves to you more, in my experience.
So that’s a tip I would say, is definitely be vulnerable. You know, there’s a great book by Brené Brown. I forget the exact title of it. But it’s right here called… It’s called Daring Greatly. It’s by Brené Brown. It’s about showing your vulnerability, and people relate to you more. Help others just help. At first, it kind of freaks people out, because we’re so conditioned now to think that everybody wants something from you. But if you help people, they’re more than likely… I don’t know what the stats would be like five times, three times, whatever, more than likely to reach out to you when you need help. And it’s about being a community. And the whole thing about community is we’re supposed to be there for each other. And now we’re hiding behind these little screens on our phones. And everyone’s like: “I’m perfect, no I’m perfect,” and there’s no more communication. But once somebody pokes their head out, like: “Y’all, I can’t figure this part out,” it’s refreshing. So I would say that, for sure. That would be like my advice is just be honest about things, your wins and your losses.
Eyvindur Karlsson 31:04
That is great advice.
Walid Azami 31:05
Eyvindur Karlsson 31:07
Now, you mentioned before that feeling of imposter syndrome.
Walid Azami 31:14
Eyvindur Karlsson 31:16
When it came to selling your book, and all that. But is that something that you’ve ever felt as an artist?
Walid Azami 31:24
Eyvindur Karlsson 31:25
Yeah? Do you have any tips on… What do you do to counter that?
Walid Azami 31:30
I remind myself that the greatest people have imposter syndrome. Honestly, like, that’s what I just have to do, I can’t counter it. I just have to pat myself on the back and have a moment of ego. And just go: “You know what, I’m in good company.” And just sometimes just rely on that. I wish I could say: “Oh, it’s because of this, and if you do these following steps, it will be remedied.” But the greatest people have imposter syndrome. And generally, in my experience, I’ve realized that they’ve kind of skyrocketed at a rate much faster than everybody else. So you keep looking down and you’re like: “I should be there.” But you carved your own path for one reason or another, or got lucky or a mixture of both. But I don’t try to worry about that too much.
And I also have to remind myself… There’s a Madonna quote that I love and I I’ll paraphrase it, but it’s like: “It’s none of my business, what other people think of me.” Just go do your thing, and if they think you’re an imposter, they’ll just eventually go to the next person to the next person. But, I don’t know, if you have imposter syndrome, chances are that you are successful. Chances are that people are looking at you as: “Well, how did that happen?” And that makes you feel a certain weight. And so you have this fear that someone’s going to call you out, always. But I think that when your heart and your mind kind of go crazy, you just have to look at the data and go: “No, I’ve been shooting for so many years. I have this track record. That’s not an accident.”
Eyvindur Karlsson 33:19
Yeah, exactly. I think you’re right. I think everybody does this. Everybody has it, probably to a certain extent, at least if they’re doing something worthwhile, probably.
Walid Azami 33:29
Eyvindur Karlsson 33:30
But I remember at some point, a few years ago, I needed to write some marketing stuff for myself, which I was terrified of doing. And I just sat down and wrote down a few of the things that I’ve done. And I was like: “Hey, this is not too bad. I’ve actually done some stuff.”
Walid Azami 33:54
You have to do that, right?
Eyvindur Karlsson 33:58
Walid Azami 33:58
You have to do that.
Eyvindur Karlsson 34:00
Yeah, exactly. You have to remind yourself sometimes that: “Hey, I’m not worthless.”
Walid Azami 34:07
Right. And one of the things that I do in my photography course is that I tell them at the end of every single module or unit: “You guys, this is amazing. And I just want you to close your eyes for 60 seconds, not a lot. That’s a long time, but it’s not a long time. And just think about what you know now that you did not know as of a day ago.” You gotta celebrate, because those small wins, are like… I don’t play video games, but I remember a long time ago, in Pac Man you eat the little cherries, or whatever it is, and it gives you life and it gives you strength to keep going. And so when you look at it, we all expect…
You just have to basically stop and look at your small wins and go: “I am…” Small wins that make you go longer, that get you out there, stronger and everything. And it’s like: “No, I am…” And it doesn’t have to be massive accomplishments. It could just be: “I didn’t know how to get a business license. But today I do.” And it’s these little things and you’re like: “I’m not full of shit. I’m not…” Excuse me if I can’t cuss, but it’s like: “I’m not dumb. I actually know my stuff.” And that helps curb some of the imposter syndrome. Like you said yourself, you write a list and you’re like: That’s not an accident.
Eyvindur Karlsson 35:38
How can people…? What would you suggest, if somebody is listening to this and thinking: “Yes, I want to help more people. I want to do more than what I’m doing.” Let’s say somebody’s out there. And they’re, I don’t know, a painter?
Walid Azami 35:52
Eyvindur Karlsson 35:54
Obviously there is teaching and all that. But anything else that you can think of that people can just do to get out there right now and start finding people to help?
Walid Azami 36:06
Good question. What can he do? Of course, besides teaching? Yes. I think that helping somebody, I believe in this positive energy, whether you affect like my account right now 37,000 in one post, or you affect one person, that’s a neighbor, just do something positive. And when you do it, the next thing just naturally comes up to it. Just do the work with pride, do it with ownership, and just help people and rely on the goodness of people to spread your message. But they can’t spread your message, they can’t hear your message, if you’re not out there doing things to help others. So I don’t know if that answered it. But if you are, like to your own example, if you are a painter, and you want to help somebody just put your work out there. Paint somebody, like, just off the top of my head, somebody passes away. And you could say: “Hey, I know that you lost your grandfather, I saw this portrait. And I wanted to just give you a painting that I did.” That right there is… The immense amount of goodness that can come of that, on so many levels, is really a beautiful thing. And things just kind of build. It’s hard to explain it. But when you see it, you’re like: “Wow, it’s all about these tiny little breadcrumbs along the way that feed you to the big picture.”
Eyvindur Karlsson 37:35
That’s actually a great idea, that painting thing. I mean, it sounds…
Walid Azami 37:43
Share your that talents.
Eyvindur Karlsson 37:44
That sounds so awesome.
Walid Azami 37:46
If you’re a writer, help somebody write. If you’re a songwriter, if you play an instrument, contribute somehow. Nothing is too small. And that’s something that I… If I can any artist anything it’s: The big stuff comes later on. But sometimes the smallest things have the biggest amount of gratitude. So another… If you just play a guitar, just go to your, no joke, go to your local retirement home, where the elderly are there and just be like: “Can I come play guitar while they’re having lunch, once a week?” Just do that. Even if it won’t lead to a job, it’s going to lead to a fulfillment that helps you seek the next client in a different way.
Eyvindur Karlsson 38:32
That’s so funny, because I had a house concert at my house just a few days ago. And there was this guy there. And I played these two comedy songs, one of which is very vulgar. And he said: “Can you come to this retirement home and play those two songs?” I was like: “Yes, I can. I would love to.”
Walid Azami 38:52
Those old people have more years of vulgar jokes than all of us.
Eyvindur Karlsson 38:55
Oh, yeah. They’ve heard much more versions of those jokes than we have. And I’m very excited about that. I’m going to be doing that in a couple of weeks. I can’t wait.
One thing that I would add actually is… Well, two things, actually. You know, a lot of people, I see this with a lot of musicians, they go to Facebook groups and they post their songs, endlessly. And nobody listens to them, they don’t get any feedback, and nobody cares. But if you go to a Facebook group, if you’re a writer, go to a Facebook group for writers and so on, and you just help people, you’re helpful… I’m a member of a lot of these groups, and you see the people who are just, they’re genuinely helping people out, answering their questions. A lot of people will be trolling and be obnoxious, but others will just be: “Well, you know, here’s what you should do.” Giving constructive criticism as well. I see this, especially… I do a lot of online courses and they usually come with a group. I took a photography course, because I’m terrible at that, and I want to get better. And so it’s just the basics of photography. And people are posting pictures on there. And then there are these people who are professional photographers who are critiquing their work or giving them really good criticism. Stuff that is really helpful. And I think that if somebody gives me feedback like that, and helps me out like that, I’m going to remember that person.
Walid Azami 40:33
You will, you will, I love that example. And for my photography course, the back end of it, like the automation and all that I was a member of a group of the service that I use, and I hired the person to help me based on exactly what you just said. He was always answering people’s questions, whatever. So when it was time for me to hire, I got a whole bunch of people interested. And I was like, but you’re the one that I remember that name. And I remember your action. So and I hired him. Great guy.
Eyvindur Karlsson 41:04
Yeah. Of course. Yeah, exactly. That’s how these things happen. And one other thing that I just remembered, because again, we both follow Pat Flynn and his podcast. There’s this thing that he’s talked about. I heard this years and years ago, how he will sometimes, just when he’s in line at a coffee shop, he’ll pay for the person in front. He will pay for their coffee. And that might not help you as an artist or as a business person. But it’s a great thing to put out in the world.
Walid Azami 41:40
But a collective effort.
Eyvindur Karlsson 41:42
Yeah, it’s just a cup of coffee. This is one more. You’re going to buy one for yourself, anyway. You pay for one more, and I’m sure it just makes you feel great. And I keep meaning to start doing that. In fact, I’m going to do it tomorrow.
Walid Azami 41:55
Eyvindur Karlsson 41:55
That’s my pledge to you right here, right now. I’m going to do that tomorrow.
Walid Azami 42:01
It’s so valuable, though, like that person… You may never see the benefits of it from that person, although you’ll feel the benefit. But I mean, don’t you think that that person that had a coffee paid for them is more than likely to be kinder to a handful of people for the rest of their day?
Eyvindur Karlsson 42:18
Yeah, of course they are.
Walid Azami 42:20
It just continues.
Eyvindur Karlsson 42:22
Yeah, exactly. You pay it forward. And it just makes the world a little bit better, one person at a time.
Walid Azami 42:27
Eyvindur Karlsson 42:28
So just one more thing before… Because this has been absolutely fantastic. Thank you so much.
Walid Azami 42:33
Eyvindur Karlsson 42:34
But before we wrap this up, for anybody out there who’s listening, who is… Because you obviously have a great career, you’ve done all these different things. And I’m sure there’s somebody out there listening, who is at the start of their career in whatever field they are, and who si passionate about their art and wants to make a career out of it. Or improve their existing, career, whatever that may be. Is there anything that you’ve learned throughout your career, any tips you can share with anybody out there listening?
Walid Azami 43:27
Yeah, so… I like that question too. Or the request. No matter who you are, no matter what kind of work you do, one of the first skills… If you want to be a photographer, a painter, whatever, one of the first skills that you need to reclaim, because we lost it… This is going to be a moment of preaching. It’s your instincts, your gut instincts. Without those you are just a dull tool, and you’re not going to be your best. Okay?
Some of my best decisions, some of my best jobs, some of the best moments where I got out of a bad situation is because I relid on my instincts. To cut to earlier in the podcast, me listening to then agent/manager saying: Be like this and not listening. But it didn’t feel right for me. Not listening to my gut feeling saying: “Okay, fine, I’ll just do it, whatever.” That helped, for a moment, pretty much almost derail my career.
Getting back on it was this gut instinct to help people. Something about it. My career started because of a gut instinct moment. And that could be a whole other podcast, because it’s such a long story. But it’s fascinating. So if you guys can trust your instincts, if you can learn to fall 100 times, knowing that we are re-developing a skill… So here’s the thing about instincts, and you can call it instincts. You can call it God, energy, the light, the universe. I don’t want to label it because it scares people. Okay, there is something that is greater than you and I, and it’s just there.
And so animals have fight or flight. We are the only living creatures… You didn’t think I was going to preach, did you on this one? We’re the only creatures on this planet that teach our young to kill their instincts. Okay? And it’s because what other people think of us. “Oh, don’t cry. We want people to think you’re a good baby.” And it’s constantly this reinforcement. Don’t do things because what others may think of you. “Be a good girl, girls aren’t that loud.” You know? “Be a good boy, boys don’t cry and show emotions.” And so we build on that. And we teach people to kill our instincts.
And your instincts are… Any successful business person… I can give a substantial bit of credit to my career because I follow my instincts hardcore. I hire on instincts, I let go… I mean, of course they have to do something wrong. But when my instinct say something is up, all eyes go there and I start searching. Something is up. I take clients that offer me less money, if it’s up against a different job, if my instinct say: “No go for this one, there’s something very special about this.”
So if I could tell artists to do anything, that want to be successful, it’s: Practice your instincts. It’s that voice that tells you don’t get in this car right now. And then later on, you find out: “Oh my god, there was a car accident. And I’m so glad I didn’t get in.” It’s that voice that tells you: “Hey, call your friend right now.” And when you call them, they say they say: “I was having the worst day, thank you so much for calling.”
It’s a higher connection that tells you… That voice is for your highest good, right? And we teach people to kill it. Because of what somebody might say. “Don’t be too flamboyant, somebody might think you are blank.” “Don’t put your work out there, somebody might not think it’s good enough.”
So ultimately, if you can get back in the habit of learning to use your instincts, you’re going to mess up at first, because you’re redeveloping something. You might make an ass out of yourself at first, but it’s going to serve you so well in the long run. Walk out of situations. If you feel a client is not going to be good for you, and now you know what your instincts feel like, say: “Thank you, but no, thank you.” If you feel like…
You know, Jennifer Lopez called me in… Her and her manager, Benny Medina, called me in five times for a job. Five times. Five times I did not get the job. Something happened. Something stopped it. And I was sitting there. And I got this, no joke… I got the weirdest feeling, which was my instincts, and I said: “Hit up J-Lo’s people right now. Just hit them up and say: “Hey, how are you? Let’s do something.” Okay. I did not know this, that they were even doing this. I emailed. Manager calls me instantly and says: “Your timing is impeccable. Because she and I were just talking. For her Vegas residency, we want somebody to document this. And to tell a story. And we were literally just talking about it. And you just called us up, or emailed us.”
Some people can say: “Oh, that’s just lucky timing, Walid.” No, that was my instincts that said: “Right now. She crossed my mind. Call her, right now, and drop everything and just email or contact them.” So that’s one example of how instincts has helped my career. I’ve also said no to a lot of stuff. I’ve said no to people. I’ve said no to hiring people based on it and it always, almost always ends up being right.
So to repeat myself for the 37th time: You guys trust your instincts, develop your instincts, listen to them, it will not steer you wrong. The end.
Eyvindur Karlsson 49:02
Awesome. Yeah, thank you. Thank you so much. This is great, great stuff. And so nice to talk to you. So thank you so much for coming on the show.
Walid Azami 49:13
Thank you very much.
Eyvindur Karlsson 49:14
And just before we say goodbye, where can people find you and find out more and, you know, follow you and all that good stuff?
Walid Azami 49:24
Sure. If you actually just go on Instagram @howtophotograph, that will link to my website that helps people, my podcast, my YouTube channel, all of that stuff is there. Private Facebook group, of course. But the easiest is just go to Instagram, @howtophotograph. And I am there.
Eyvindur Karlsson 49:44
Awesome. Thanks so much.
Walid Azami 49:46
Thank you so much.
Eyvindur Karlsson 49:47
That was so awesome. Thank you, again, so much, to Walid Azami. He’s a total legend. You should really go check him out on Instagram, @howtophotograph, and find all his other stuff there. Especially if you are interested in photography. I’m following him and I’ve been trying to grow my photography skills. It’s a great skill to have, you know. If you’re a creative person, you always need photos, right? You know, I keep running into issues because I don’t have this or that picture that I need. So just brushing up on basic things like, how the camera works and photo composition and stuff like that has really helped me because now I can actually shoot some of those photos myself. So whether you’re a photographer or not, I say check him out because he’s got some great stuff there. And you know, he’s a nice person.
Anyway, thank you so much for listening. I’d love to hear from you. If you want to leave me a voice message. Go to artism.fm/voicemail and leave a comment, post a review, send me an email. I’d love to hear from you. You can also hit me up on Facebook. It’s facebook.com/artemistpodcast. And yeah, don’t be a stranger. And I will see you in the next episode. Bye bye.