Rivalry. One of my favorites.

All too often, rivalry is almost always portrayed as good vs. bad, an angry confrontation. And I think it’s just stupid.

Those of us who have ‘really’ competed especially in sports, know the truth. It’s all about: it’s about making yourself. You should be grateful when there is someone seemingly superior to your own ability. Seriously? Yes. Seriously.

Reach Unknowingly Higher Heights

I used to run Track and Field in High School and it just never left my blood. I think running is possibly the purest sport out there. And I especially love women’s events. There just seems to be more drama and in my opinion, I think they try harder.

The one item that really inspired me to write this article is when I was reading the comments of the track and field video shown above. Katelyn Tuohy graduated H.S. last year and dominated track events on the national level for a good three years. Here, you see her smash the American H.S. girls record for the 3200m. She’s won the girls National Cross-Country H.S. three times starting as a sophomore. She usually just runs away from the rest of the crowd. But this last cross-country championship, she had to work to win. She was not having a good race. But she pulled it out at the end. Great race to watch!

There was a comment I read that said “God, wouldn’t you hate to have someone race something like that in every race?” It was immediately followed by another comment “No, I would welcome it! Because she makes me and everyone better! She’s someone you aim to beat!”

I was so happy when I read that comment. Because that’s what it really is all about. Competition. And in some ways, having that person makes the goal incredibly clear. How can you beat someone like that?

It’s Not Always About Ability

Honestly, do I think the best of the best photographers out there with careers that I am going to have someday create images and have techniques which are better than mine? Maybe. Superior? Absolutely not! There are images of mine that if you typed in a famous photographer’s name under it, no one would really question it. 

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One of my favorite pics with the lovely Sophia. Taken years ago. To me, it looks very much something like the famous photographer Peter Lindbergh would create. That's not what I was going for. I had no intention of doing a black and white pic of this shot. It just worked out that way. Now, is Lindbergh's images that superior to this? Personally, no. I don't think so.  And there are certainly other photographers that do work that look similar to famous ones. Intentionally or not. Heck, there are photographers that sell their own image Lightroom presets. So there can be even more potential for people to copy their image style.

So if their ability isn’t superior, what is it? How can I get the work they get? How can I be the best?

I don’t think I’ve ever known anyone famous who was instantly at the top of their game. No one. Really. Show me one. They may start at a higher level than another person for various reasons…

I’m going to go at this from a photographer’s viewpoint which can be used in many scenarios:

• Experience. Most very successful photographers started in art and photography when they were little kids. They may have come from parents who are very artistic who recognized their children’s talent and got them started early. I mean, many actors who are famous in their teens have been in their industry for over 10 years. By the time they are 17 years old, they are hardened professionals. Ask Taylor Swift….

• Networking. This is one of the biggest advantages to having started early in a particular field. You know or have access to people who can help you do better. In different aspects to help you grow whether it be in talent or the business side of things.

• Tactics/Marketing. I lumped these two together as one is more physical and the other mental ways of beating your opponent. I can’t tell you how many photographers, many of whom I consider very mediocre, have great careers simply because they market themselves very well. They tend to be very extroverted and almost natural salesmen. But the thing is: this can be learned.

Lots of times, you just have to time or organize things a certain way. Watch the movie Seabuscuit. Fantastic and perfect example of making tactical changes to win the race. Seabuscuit had to win a physically superior horse called War Admiral. Fantastic acting. When the team went to go see War Admiral train, they were truly intimidated by the horse. They knew their usual tactics wouldn’t defeat War Admiral. So they changed them and the rest is history….

Muhammed Ali would verbally assault his opponents before a fight. He’d either destroy their confidence or get them angry. Either way, he would have the upper hand in the fight. He knew how they would come after him and he could train to defeat that.

• Team. “You’re only as good as the people you work with”. It doesn’t get any truer than that. When that happens, you may be the weak link. But they also raise your game. You can learn from them. Build a better and stronger network.

• Just work harder! I know so many creatives and others who piss and moan about not being where they want to be with their careers. My only question is: how hard are you working for it? Most likely they aren’t putting in the hours and effort. Creatives are especially bad on this matter. I’ve seen this countless of times. You have to be doing hours and effort that your opponent isn’t willing to do.

Persistence. Routine. Lots of times, you’re just grinding it in day in day out. There is a lot of grinding. Doing it every day. Doing it as best you can. Even a rest day. Are you truly resting?

Image: Peter Lindbergh

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From the great Peter Lindbergh. Now, there is a difference. Right? Between my image and his. But it's not a huge difference. The biggest difference: he's using a world-famous supermodel. But on a style and quality difference, it's not much. I think it would look more like my image as this is low-res but the style is similar to mine. I could make my image look more like this one. But I do original work. Not copy anothers.

Embrace Rivalry

I have several advantages that have been sort of born in me:

• Competitive.

• Love working.

• Aim for excellence.

So yes, I don’t rest on my laurels for anything I want to be good at. I love rivalry and competition. I’m lucky. Because I left I.T. into photography without really knowing anyone or anything about what it takes to succeed in it. I love to learn and challenge myself.

I’m a hungry competitor not just with others, but with myself. And I'm by far my own, toughest competition. 

Ricardo Gomez Photography

Originally from San Francisco, Ricardo is now a New York-based photographer specializing in editorial and commercial photography.
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