When I was in art school I once took Photography 101. We couldn’t or didn’t use digital cameras, we used film. Hence, part of the class was to learn how to develop film ourselves.
We spent as much time in the Dark Room as we did capturing moments under the bright California sun. But it was in the dark that things got developed. The primary purpose of the dark room was for the processing of light.
I find that often we find ourselves in dark rooms while at work.
We fumble around,
squinting our eyes,
looking for meaning in what we do.
Which in turn leads to frustration.
Here are some signs that you are in the dark room but frustrated:
You are negative.
You are critical.
You are a gloom and doom kind of employee.
You are angry when change is demanded.
You are ungrateful.
Here’s the deal, this is a dark room,
so it’s very “natural” that you may be going through these things at work.
If I can stretch the metaphor a little further, it would be safe to say that it is actually appropriate to deal with “negatives” in a dark room.
It is very appropriate to be critical about what you see, that’s why you’re in there.
It has the potential to be depressing, think about it, it’s just dark and sometimes scary if you’re in there by yourself late at night.
It can be discouraging to see that what you imagined didn’t pan out the way you thought, so change and the need for it can anger you.
And finally, you can easily find yourself tired and ungrateful as you continue to work in the dark room.
But faith at work is expressed in choosing to practice the discipline of processing light.
Another word for “faith at work” is perspective.
What images are you creating at work?
What pictures are you processing?
How do you choose to see your boss?
How do you choose to engage in your project?
What do you want to highlight and celebrate,
what do you want to blur out,
and what do you want to focus on?
It takes the same amount of effort to "crop" out the positive things about your boss, co-workers, project. Why not crop out the bad and keep in the good? By now we are all experts in projecting an image because of social media. We spend much of our time editing a photo to present to the world and for us to revisit and remember. These images "uphold" a certain vibe for us and others. Imagine if we curated an Instagram account of all the negative things at work. So many would side with us, "like" our critical comments, and we would feel vindicated. Simply put, we create a world where we are always the victim.
And victims always want vindication.
Victims always want recognition more than results.
Here’s the deal, great careers are developed in the dark room. So, get used to it, maximize it, and use it for its intended purpose. As I wrap up, I can’t help but think about Ansel Adams. Partly because one of his photographs is used as my desktop screen on my laptop. It’s well known that Ansel went to great lengths to capture his photos. But what is often not talked about is the fact that not only did it take him much time and effort to get his shot but it took him just as much time and effort, if not more, to come down the mountain into his dark room and begin the process of processing light. Let's join the masters, or better yet, let's join our Master in the dark room and get developed.