Stumbling Forward: On Embracing Your Mistakes as You Stumble Towards Success


Most people see me as a “professional”… as someone who is smart, who has their act together or as someone who knows what they’re doing all the time.

This makes me laugh.

Growing up, I never thought I could do anything, especially when it came to computers or cameras.

I took one photography class in college and on a ABCDF scale, I made a D.

Yes, I nearly failed my only semester of photography.

Years later, I bought a book called “Digital Photography for Dummies” cause I thought of myself as an idiot.

It was 3 years of shooting “professionally” before someone told me there was an “in-camera light meter”. I had no idea.

I once drove 3 hours east to Knoxville, TN when I was supposed to drive 4 hours south to Atlanta.

I once bought the same magazine twice in a row in a 10 minute span because I forgot that I had already purchased it.

I once ate lunch at a restaurant by myself, when an entire creative department at a record label was eating next door, waiting on me to arrive. We had a meeting and I forgot. But I still somehow managed to go eat by myself. NEXT DOOR.

Recently I showed up to a big photoshoot and didn’t bring any cameras with me.

Every time I hold up a camera to my face, the lens cap is still on.

Last year I was holding some chips in my left hand and I saw my bluetooth earpiece laying on the ground. I picked it up and put it in my mouth. Got my hands confused I guess??

Last week, I sent out my second-ever email to my mailing list of 20,000 people and the email was full of mistakes. Many of those people emailed back to let me know. (That was a fun time.)

I drive past my own driveway frequently. I look for my phone while I’m talking on it. I can never remember people’s names. EVER.

The last couple years, my balance has gotten really bad. I walk into walls at least a few times a day. I don’t know what’s going on but I can’t walk straight to save my life.

I’m so dumb that my friends will text me and tell me “Hey I just pulled a Jeremy!”

What does “Pulling a Jeremy” mean? They did something stupid. Really stupid.

So why am I telling you all this?

Because I like mistakes. I think they’re funny. I embrace them. I’m the first to point at myself and laugh.

Yet, people still see me as “successful”. Why? Because I keep stumbling forward.

Mistakes don’t slow me down and they certainly don’t stop me. If anything, they keep propelling me forward.

My career is one big mess of mistakes, stumbling around lost and confused and forgetting everything.

But I just Keep. Moving. Forward.

What about you? Are you letting the mistakes slow you down?

I hope not. It’s time to laugh and embrace them.

About the author: Jeremy is a Celebrity Photographer, Entrepreneur and a Humanitarian. He founded a global photography movement called Help-Portrait and recently launched an iPhone App/Social Network called OKDOTHIS. His goal in life is to use his platform, ideas and creativity to inspire and help others in need. You follow him and see more of his work on his website, Twitter, Facebook, Google+, Instagram and OKDOTHIS. This article was originally published here.

  • Juan Bautista

    I hope you ever have any kids at all!

  • Jason Yuen

    How are you not dead by now? Kidding aside, success now tastes that much sweeter to you.

  • Stephen S.

    I appreciate the point, but I would trade this cliche (“the road to success isn’t a straight line”) for another that I find more useful: that success isn’t a destination. Have you ever heard anyone you admire talk about how they have now “reached” success? Every month/day/year is a new challenge, a new goal. The point isn’t the straightness of the line connecting A to B. The point is, there’s no B. The jagged, curvy, squiggly line is the whole thing.

  • ennuipoet

    I honestly don’t even know what to say to this. All I can think of is mistakes are one thing, but striving to be professional in all things related to photography is something successful people should aspire toward. The general public already thinks anyone can purchase a “good camera” and be a “photographer”. So, I am happy you are doing well, but perhaps writing a story which reinforces this false stereotype isn’t the message most of us would want to send.

  • kathleenbbryant

    you make $27 per hour good for you! I make up to $85 per hour working from home. My story is that I quit working at shoprite to work online and with a little effort I easily bring in around $45 per hour to $85 per hour heres a good example of what I’m doing more detail here..This is what I do,,,,,,,,,,WORkbuCK.CO&#77 <<<<<<40

  • DarrenHumphries

    Jeremy, this is great! So often we fool ourselves into thinking professionals are just better than us in some way we can’t measure. This is confirmation that someone like me can still be a professional. :). Btw, what were we talking about?


    I wanna know what you’re on. Crack? Weed? It’s one thing if mistakes affect your life and your life alone but that’s not always the case. Mistakes affect other people’s lives…sometimes with dire consequences. It’s not always a laughing matter. What am I saying? You’ll probably brush this one off anyway.XXYYZ

  • Jonathan Maniago

    “What about you? Are you letting the mistakes slow you down?
    I hope not. It’s time to laugh and embrace them.”

    Someday, I’ll give that advice to a doctor just to see what happens.

  • Stephen S.

    One of the nice things about being a photographer is that your mistakes rarely cause “dire consequences.”

  • OtterMatt

    Write this on a piece of paper and take a selfie of yourself holding it up, and you’re almost ready for the facebook big-time.

  • Jim Johnson

    It reinforces that he is human.

    He is writing a story to remind people that photographers are humans. Humans do stupid things. All. The. Time.

  • Jim Johnson

    Yeah, we’re not curing cancer. I think a lot of us forget that sometimes.

  • Anton Rehrl

    This was just what I needed. I shot a big event this last weekend with 3 other photographers working under me. At the end we amassed some 6000 images which I was not able to copy to a backup drive because the battery died. No problem, I’ll put all the cards in 1 bag. And then I left the bag on a bus.
    I was feeling pretty stupid about this but it’s nice to know I’m not the only one making mistakes out there :)

  • Andrew Houghton

    Not sure how to take this either. Part of me is inspired by seeing that even someone at this level still makes mistakes, but another side of me feels that it is because of the success achieved that it is okay to make mistakes, at my “amateur” level I feel I can’t afford to make mistakes.