How tiny risks lead to big rewards
You have much more control over luck in your life than you might think. Opportunities are ubiquitous — like the wind. However, you need to build a sail to catch the winds of luck by taking small risks that get you out of your comfort zone.
I’m always on the lookout for examples of those who take tiny but bold risks in order to catch luck. The story below is a beautiful example, demonstrating that opportunity — aka luck — is abundant!
Katherine Emery was a freelance photographer in the San Francisco Bay Area. She began capturing images of children and families, and slowly built her business via word of mouth. Her clients expanded over a decade to include a large children’s hospital, an educational institution, and a land trust.
When the pandemic hit in March 2020, Katherine’s world and work collapsed. Not only did her photography business dry up, but she was also caring for a family member with a frightening illness. With everything falling apart, she and her family made the courageous decision to pick up and move to Mount Desert Island, Maine, her husband’s home town, to get a fresh start.
Now, Katherine had to start all over, building her photography business anew. Unfortunately, due to pandemic restrictions, it was nearly impossible to meet potential clients in person. She and her family were stuck at home, including their daughter, who was doing “zoom school.”
Katherine felt like an island on an island.
Feeling demoralized that she had to start all over again, Katherine made lists. She made lists of photo documentaries she wanted to produce, fine art projects she wanted to develop, and professional work that would pay the bills. She listed seven organizations in the community she would be delighted to work with, including family foundations, land trusts, and a research institute. However, without local connections she felt stuck.
So, Katherine took a tiny risk.
In May of 2022, after two years of the pandemic, she started small… really small. She set up three pop-up portrait stations where anyone in the Mount Desert Island community could get a professional portrait for $50. She got permission from two community centers and one restaurant for the photo shoots, and offered free photos to anyone who worked in those organizations. She also chose a local nonprofit, and for each paid photo she offered another free photo for them. Her goal was to contribute to the community and to start building meaningful relationships.
Now, to get the word out… Katherine wrote an email introducing herself and included some sample portraits. She sent it to 10 people she knew, primarily parents of her daughter’s classmates. She invited them to spread the word. She took a risk — she had no idea whether anyone would show up. She waited…
Within a few days, she had 42 people sign up!
She took photos of fishermen, teachers, a mother and child, four business owners, the president of a local college, a lawyer, a former diplomat, two writers, four artists, and a student who had never had a professional portrait taken. She asked each person how they heard about the photo shoot, and learned who in the community was responsible for spreading the word.
This was just the beginning…
At the same time, an island land trust was looking for a professional photographer, and shared their interest on a local online forum. Nine of the people she had photographed recommended her for the job! And a couple of weeks later, in late May, Katherine received calls from five organizations inquiring about hiring her for their projects. All five were on the list of dream clients she had compiled!
The tiny seed that Katherine planted took root, sprouted, and grew into a flourishing business. Since the day she offered portraits for $50, only two months ago, she has been hired to take photos at family reunions, weddings, graduations, and even fishing boats. No advertising required… It was all word of mouth.
This story is a powerful reminder that opportunities are abundant. However, they won’t find you unless you make an effort. By taking small risks, doing tiny experiments, and getting out of your comfort zone, you build a sail to harness the winds of luck.
All images in this story are © Katherine Emery Photography
Note: If you have a story about how you have captured luck by taking tiny risks, I’d love to hear your stories! Please reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org