You cannot please everyone.

I have to tell myself these words on a frequent basis. Actually, I have to speak these words OUT LOUD to myself. Mental monologues do not work for me with this topic.

I just said them, in fact. On this northbound commuter train out of NYC, I had to look out the window and bring my focus from the rooftops in the distance to my dim reflection in the dirty windows. And here, disregarding the woman sitting across from me (who’s singing a bit too loudly to the music inside her headphones) and say aloud: “You cannot please everyone.”

Not a profound mantra, I know. But I need to hear it routinely. Because if I don’t self speak that sermon, I crumble into myself. Like a heap of nothingness, I start to question all I’ve ever done…all I’m doing…and all I may ever do. I question if I should even go on doing what I’m doing. Is what I’ve done to this point a waste?

And it happens fast for me.

These moments of self-destruction don’t stroll into my psyche. No, they steamroll over all the successes and joys I’d been piling up. And they do it moments. In micro-moments. They don’t build up, they just bull over. And they don’t wait for my invitation. They come unannounced through a written word I read, or a spoken word I hear, or a look I happen to catch.

It came in writing today. I’d just spent a grand day roaming the streets, bridges, and alleyways of NYC, my camera in tow. The city was mine, all laid out for me to enjoy and to capture—not for anyone else, but me. I’d met new friends, ate great food, saw new sights. It was the kind of days that brings me joy like no other.

And then it was gone.

I found four fatal words stuffed in an email inside my inbox: “We’re not completely satisfied.” They came in response to a recent photo gig I’d just done for a client. A project I thought went really well, in spite of the myriad challenges involved. A project that gave me great pride in the finished work. And yet those words hit me like the train I was riding. They knocked me off my pedestal of joy and ran me down the tracks of despair—an express train barreling past the oncoming stations, keeping me pressed to the rails, and riding out the remnants of joy within me.

And here I sit, seeing my reflected self as a pile of failure, a mediocre artist, a waste of a person. Four words, more likely intended to open a door toward more direction on a project, rattle down the halls of my eardrums with overtones of absolute disappointment. So it goes for me. It’s not something new…I’ve said it all before.

And so I speak.

I simply cannot please everyone…and that’s acceptable. In the nature of creating, there is room around the art—a space that lingers around the finished piece. Space where all expectations, visions and interpretations live. Sometimes they align. Other times they collide. But neither outcome fully decides the worth on that something…or the someone who created that something. One man’s trash…another man’s treasure.

I cannot please everyone. I am worthy. I do make good art. I can be pleased, and I can be pleasing. Let me always strive to do my best and not let the outcomes define me.




  1. The Incredible Hoke

    Exactly. You will never please everyone. But, I bet you knock yourself out quite a bit. That’s where it’s at!

    • Even though I can be a tough personal critic too, I do find that I’m definitely most pleased when I’m striving for personal satisfaction first. Sure you can relate…or could back when you used to take pics. haha