How affection changed my life

Last year at about this time, I went to WPPI, a conference for photographers in Las Vegas. WPPI was flush with life-changing opportunities and inspiring speakers, not to mention an epic visit to the Grand Canyon. 

What was the most life changing thing about the trip to Vegas? It was a snippet of a program on PBS, watched by chance, while channel surfing in the hotel.

The program was a talk by neuroscientist Rudolph E. Tanzi about something called the Super Brain. Tanzi spoke about many interesting facets of the brain and how to use knowledge of the brain to achieve happiness. 

One piece of advice Tanzi gave, and the only one I remember, was something like "regard others with affection."

Since then I have used this little gem over and over. I used it in stressful situations, while working, shooting weddings, with family and on countless other occasions. For me this mindset does two wonderful things. One, it mentally connects me to people in a positive way so I can see the best in them, and two it stops me from judging others while at the same time removing the worry about people judging me.

For a chronic over thinker like me, this view of people changes everything. It's no longer me against the world. I feel like we're all in it together.

As I was giving myself a "pep talk" on the drive to my first day of training at Air North, I realized I was just psyching myself out. My stomach was in knots. I was sure everyone would be more prepared than me, would be more comfortable than me, be better dressed than me. Then I remembered that one piece of advice, "regard others with affection." The knots began to unwind.

The day involved many things that would normally make me uncomfortable, meeting new people, trying on uniforms, getting my hair done, being the model for a cosmetic make-over (yes, that happened) and touring the labyrinth of hangars, offices and buildings. 

Normally I'd think the make-up artist was judging my hairy face, the uniform co-ordinator thought I was fat, the trainers were rolling their eyes at me and the hair stylist was wondering how many years it had been since my last haircut. But I didn't think that. I thought they were all trying to help me. And I do think they were.

Old me would think my fellow trainees were judging me for being socially awkward and dull/overbearing/shy/arrogant/bossy/mousy/condescending. I know, right. No one could possibly be that bad. But this time I didn't think that. In fact, I think they are a stellar group of people with whom I have a lot in common. I actually do feel real affection for every single one of them.

And as for what they think of me.... well, that's none of my business.