I’m not a big fan of plans. Plans can only do two things. Either they become stories we tell ourselves about how we controlled the events and outcomes of our lives – that kind of plan can help us look cooler, smarter or grittier than we really are – or they can severely constrict us. Sticking to them doesn’t help because we can’t predict the future. I believe in being open and curious – having a map and a compass, but no fixed route.
As a teenager I thought photojournalists had the coolest job on the planet, sending home pictures of wars and elections, sporting events and natural disasters. That was how the rest of us got to see the world. The dream was so addictive that it eclipsed everything else. I flunked out of high school and started photographing like a maniac. I hung around the news floor at a daily paper, a tentative teenager with wild expectations, like an office mascot. I managed to sell a couple of pictures from sites of accidents or hockey games. Back then I was interested in North America and wanted to see if I could make a living over there. I felt my camera could take me anywhere.
So I moved to Los Angeles, then ended up in New York where I stayed for five years and had the time of my life. It was a constant challenge. It was only when my girlfriend and I were expecting a child that we decided to move back to Sweden and see if we could find new footing here. After a few right turns and a couple of wrong ones, my experience in media landed me a position as photo editor-in-chief at the paper where I used to work. It was bad timing. This was during a period of downsizing and the executive position meant I had to lay off my old friends in the staff, people I had worked with for years. I sometimes had to go out running twice a day just to sweat out the anxiety. Eventually I reached a tipping point. I felt that if I stayed any longer I’d end up becoming one of ”those” executives who just clings to job safety.
I resigned, and I got a few gigs here and there helping corporations with media. Then I founded a public relations agency with three friends, Wenderfalck PR. We had a lucky start and we grew quickly. Within a few years we had twenty employees and our office in a skyscraper. We won awards, the whole shebang. It took me five years to figure out I wasn’t enjoying it. I’m a doer by nature and now I was a manager again. I also grew cynical. What were we really selling? We were helping the largest companies persuade the public. My ideas of right and wrong was making it hard to get out of bed in the morning. I was putting makeup on the same old facades.
I’ve always despised the cowardice of people who are only in it for the money. Now I was one of them. Some people are happy doing PR but I wasn’t. I quit the company I founded. It’s a lot like a divorce.
Since then I’ve been riding solo. I tell others that small organizations are the future, and the smallest, most agile organization conceivable is the one man operation. I’m curious to meet the future, and to see how it will change my plans for the better.
I’m convinced there’s only one source of security in life, and that’s your belief in your own ability. You need confidence to take risks. And throughout my life I’ve had a feeling that whatever situation I get into I will handle it. My favorite question is simply: