The Darkroom

Our generation has an insatiable desire to be discovered. We want to go from zero to ten overnight. In our day to day stories, feeds, and live streams, we have this need to be seen and heard. It's a desire that's built into a generation who has known nothing but overnight success and fame. I've fallen victim to this over and over again. I've struggled for years with my "social presence," follower count, and content creation to support this habit. We desire to have a curated, produced, and flawless appearance in our digital world. I'd like to spend some time addressing a few of these things.

I was born in 1992. I joke all of the time my generation was the last generation to play in the dirt. I remember what life was like without a cell phone, when dial-up internet was something from The Jetsons, and the biggest "social media" decision to make was determining your AIM screen name. In 2018, it's instant. I can post an Instagram story and in moments it's accessible to millions of people around the world. Talk about futuristic.

Until a few years after I was born my dad was a professional photographer. I think our first digital camera was around the early 2000's and up to that point, I remember packing 35mm film every time we went somewhere. The crazy thing about film is the process it takes to produce an image. Not only is film cumbersome just merely getting into the camera, but after the image is taken, the film must be developed to even see what it looks like. I remember going through airport security with dozens of film rolls in filmgaurd bags hoping it wouldn't get ruined by x-ray machines. After a trip, we'd take the film to get developed at a photo studio. This developing process was lengthy compared to the instantaneous results of today. The film goes into a darkroom where it goes through a series of steps used to produce the final image.

In this darkroom, the film goes through several chemical baths, an enlargement process, a development process, and a final refining process before the image is ready. This is tedious, time-sensitive, and perfecting work. Compare that with how we "develop" images today – none of this process is necessary. We snap a photo with our iPhone and upload it instantly to a cloud where all of our memories are stored for the foreseeable future. Or at least until Russia gets ahold of them. (too soon?) Once our images get edited, filtered, and uploaded online they are free to solicit likes, comments, retweets, and follows. However, once a photo comes out of a darkroom, sometimes the only place for it to go is a picture frame.

God Does the Choosing

I'd like to share the story of a man named David. David's story appears in 1 & 2 Samuel. I'll start in 1 Samuel 16 if you'd like to follow along for the complete story.

We start with a man named Samuel who was a prophet. God told Samuel that He was going to appoint a new King over the nation of Isreal. (1 Sam 16:1) This new king would come from the house of a man named Jesse who lived in Bethlehem. Jesse had eight sons, surely one of them was fit to be king, right? (1 Sam 16:7) Samuel traveled to Jesse's house, when he reached Bethlehem to anoint the new king of Isreal, there was a problem. After Samuel went through the seven sons that were present, he asked Jesse if he had anymore to choose from (think about what must be going through Jesse's mind at this point). Jesse replied, "There is still the youngest, but right now he's tending the sheep." (1 Sam 16:11). The youngest son, David, wasn't present, and why should he be? His father Jesse surely found him insignificant and definitely not a prospect to be the next King of Isreal. At the age of about 15, Jesse's eighth son, the youngest, the most insignificant, the shepherd boy, was anointed the king of Isreal. Talk about a turn of events for Jesse and his sons. The son that Jesse found to be unworthy of a crown, is now the future King of Isreal.

While David was anointed King of Isreal at the age of 15, he didn't become king until about the age of 30. That's 15 years of time before he could take his rightful, anointed place as King. Imagine knowing that you are the anointed King of an entire people group but not being appointed to that position for almost 15 years. I'd be a little upset. The 15-year time span that David had between being anointed and being appointed was very telling. He spent time running for his life, living in caves where he starved, and his faith being tested to the extreme.

God Has Already Discovered You

God has a plan even if you're surrounded by people who find you insignificant. While David was anointed King of Isreal he wasn't appointed until he went through 15 years of obscurity, of process, of development. God had already discovered David, even before he was anointed or appointed. He already had a plan for David. The same goes for us. God has already discovered us. He's already set us apart, anointed and pursued us. The problem isn't in the discovery, it's in the development. We don't need to be discovered, we need to be developed. We don't need Scooter Braun to discover us and bring us to the masses. (No offense Scooter) We need to go into the "darkroom" and be put through the development process that leads to a refining transformation by God. This is the ultimate sustainable equation for success. This is the ultimate influencer platform.

God has already discovered you, now He wants to develop you. Click To Tweet

God Wants to Develop You

So many of us who call ourselves Christians know the process. We know about God, we know the right answers, and we know how to get the proverbial "likes." But have we been developed by God? Have we let Him take us into the darkroom and crush us so that something new develops? Something bright, vibrant – something worthy of being appointed. When we are called by God he begins something that only he can sustain and finish. Philippians says:

I am sure of this, that He who started a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.
- Philippians 1:6 HCSB

God is obligated to sustain what He started. He will never leave us out to dry. It might take 15 years to complete, but sometimes God will test us to make sure we're still faithful, we're still purusing Him, and we are still worthy of the calling He's placed on our life. Sometimes this development process is a change in relationships, environment, or simply building habits. It's different for everyone.

God is obligated to sustain what He started. Click To Tweet

In closing, don't be afraid of the darkroom. Don't be afraid to be developed by God. It's going to take a while. I would rather be developed by God than elevated by man. My hope and significance isn't found in Instagram likes or applause, or in cash flow. It's found in the desperate longing to be refined and developed by my creator. You are more than your social following. If you find yourself getting affirmation from your social presence, I challenge you to escape into the darkroom and let God develop you. Let Him shape you through prayer, His word, and through key relationships in your life.

Just as God anointed David then took him into 15 years of development, of process, let God take you into the darkroom.


Intention

Intention comes from the Latin word, Intentio which means stretching, thought, purpose. I came across this and found it fitting as we bring 2017 to a close. Wow. What a year. Looking back there were great strides as well as mistakes made. I spent more time out of Arkansas this year than I ever have in my entire life. I completely reworked my business model and set a new trajectory for the career I've created for myself. One of the most important lessons I learned this year is having a true support system. Surrounding myself with people who will keep me accountable, keep me honest, and most importantly, challenge me.

As this year comes to a close and new dreams and goals are set for 2018, I'm reflecting on some lessons learned in 2017.

Be Honest With Yourself

This year I learned that being honest with yourself is vital to mental and emotional stability. From personal life to business, if being honest with yourself isn't at the top of your list, it should be. Clear direction only comes by being 100% open and honest with where you're at and the next step to take on your path. Without brutal honesty to yourself and those around you, each step seems more fabricated than the last.

You Don't Need Permission

After completing over 10 of the largest events I've ever been apart of this year, I've realized that the only person you need permission from is yourself. Stop waiting to create. Action is always talked about yet rarely ever taken. Stop asking permission to create that next project, host an event, or share your talent with the world – take action and create. I learned that surrounding yourself with people who are brutally honest and those that have an interest in your success is important. These are the ones that will help you, push you, and hold you accountable. The world needs your passion, talent, and energy. You don't need permission to show us what you can do.

It Takes A Village

I've heard several younger individuals this year address how they are self-made and how they did it all by themselves. I cringe every time I hear that. In my own life, not only can I not do it alone, but it takes what feels like an entire village to get the most minute task accomplished. We all have those that have given us a hand up. Let's not forget where we came from and those who have helped get us there. To those in my life, you know who you are, thank you. It's because of you and the support you've shown that I wake up every day thinking of new ways to create and add value to my world.


I started to film a short YouTube video to accompany this post, however, I'm a super sentimental guy and I couldn't hold it together long enough to get through filming. Words cannot express how grateful, humbled, and truly amazing 2017 has been. I can't wait for 2018 to get here. It's going to be a year like no other. My heart is definitely full.

M


Book List - FW18

I have a problem. There I said it. I love to read. As the months turn colder, I always find myself reading more. It's during the fall/winter months that I get inspired and recharged for the spring/summer. I have a strict policy of only reading non-fiction. For some reason, I just don't like reading fiction books. So if you're looking for fiction based titles, this isn't the list for you. This season I decided to put together a book list of my favorite reads as well as some I'm going to be reading this year. I've noted which books I've read(*) and which I'm going to read(+).

Business

Leadership & Personal Growth

To view my complete library, click here.


Right Action

Luke 9:23-27 The Message (MSG)

23-27 Then he told them what they could expect for themselves: “Anyone who intends to come with me has to let me lead. You’re not in the driver’s seat—I am. Don’t run from suffering; embrace it. Follow me and I’ll show you how. Self-help is no help at all. Self-sacrifice is the way, my way, to finding yourself, your true self. What good would it do to get everything you want and lose you, the real you? If any of you is embarrassed with me and the way I’m leading you, know that the Son of Man will be far more embarrassed with you when he arrives in all his splendor in company with the Father and the holy angels. This isn’t, you realize, pie in the sky by and by. Some who have taken their stand right here are going to see it happen, see with their own eyes the kingdom of God.”

Action.

What is so bold about action? In an age where celebrate courage by many standing up for themselves, their rights, their freedoms, courage is nothing more than someone taking the initiative to act.

Action, I've learned, is a daily mindset, a daily choice. When we act it must be with deliberation, boldness, and persistence. This is a huge lesson I'm learning in my life. Not just how to take action, but to take the right action. There's a quote from one of my favorite books that says, "No one is coming to save you. And if we'd like to go where we claim we want to go– to accomplish what we claim our goals are– there is only one way. And that's to meet our problems with right action."

I've said it time and time again here, but every day it becomes truer– thinking is the enemy. I'm not talking about spending $20K in Vegas type of not thinking, I'm talking about pursuing something that is worth the pursuit. Once that first step is taken, the following step is to act. To pursue and keep pursuing until the work is completed, the goal is met, and the check has cleared. Whatever it might be, the action following the decision is vital, and it's a daily one. The daily decision to not let your environment, personal issues, or mindset get in the way of taking action to change those things– daily.


Baseline

This will be the first time I've posted since May. I wanted to do a really cool photo set with this post and have everything planned out nicely, but as always, that's not how this will go. Recently I've been so scared. Scared of where my life is at, where it's going, and the person I'll end up being. The word Legacy comes to mind. What will my Legacy be? If you read my blog you know I travel a lot. For those of you that just landed here, I'm no stranger to traveling and submerging myself into other cities and cultures. I was born and raised in Fort Smith, Ark. It's my hometown and currently where I reside. My community was once known for being a dead, boring place. This is simply not the case anymore.

I've got a long line of failed ventures and harebrained ideas that just didn't work. Maybe it's because I didn't have enough money, seek enough counsel or they just weren't timed right. Starting and creating is in my DNA. Even if it doesn't end well, creating is a passion of mine.

With all of that said, it's time for a new chapter, a new beginning, a new baseline if you will. In typography, a baseline is where most of your letters sit. It's the starting point or a point where something begins. I'm at a baseline moment in my life.


Baseline Collective is the biggest risk I've taken in my adult life, all 24 years of it. Up until now, I've played it safe. I mean, I've taken risks but only those I'm 90% sure of the outcome. This risk, however, I'm not sure. Time will tell.

In October of 2015, I set out to create an entity with enough room to grow and scale as my brain could dream. That statement sounds much more magnificent than the current state of the company. Nonetheless, I took the risk.

Zero to one is the hardest step you will ever take. Click To Tweet

With all that said – almost a year later, countless clients who have stuck with us while I worked a full-time job and put in full-time hours (sometimes at their expense), and endless support from those in my life – it's here. Baseline Collective is finally a thing. Alongside my fearless co-pilot, Megan Young, my zero to one now turns into one to two. The next hardest step I've ever taken.

Why Fort Smith?

The past few months I've finally been able to tell those around me about this career transition. The most common question I get is, why Fort Smith? This answer is simple, and if you'd like, I recommend taking notes on this part.

  • Fort Smith is a safe place to fail. We have a strong community that will pick you up, lend support, and be there at a moments notice when trouble hits.
  • Fort Smith will be the center for Art, Culture, and History in Arkansas.
  • Did I mention we have a strong community of supportive people already? Because we do.

What is Baseline?

The second question I get asked a lot is what is baseline?

Baseline is a collective of individuals working to tell brand stories through creative direction, live experiences, concept development, and content creation. We create for a purpose.

Simply put, that is what baseline is. The heart of this organization is building a better community, creative and economical alike while raising the standard of excellence in this region. We haven't gotten far yet, but we've only just begun.

The opportunities are endless when pairing creation with execution. Join me. Let's create a better world.

Mason