Don’t Prove Yourself; Improve Yourself

A critically important, universal success principle is featured throughout Dewitt Jones’ recent account of his experience as a photographer and photojournalist for National Geographic.  Dewitt Jones is the highly acclaimed, world-class photographer whose images have been featured in scores of National Geographic expeditions over the past 20 years.

On his very first day on the job,  Dewitt’s new boss sat him down and emphatically said:

  • “Look, if you work here, you’re part of a team of photographers that are the best in the world.  You don’t have to prove yourself, not to me, or to the other photographers.
  • What I do demand that you do is improve yourself.  Every day, strive to be a better photographer, a better visual storyteller.
  • And everything you learn, share it openly with the other photographers here at NGS.  Improve and share; if you do that, you’ll do fine.  If not, you won’t work here long.”

To this day, Dewitt describes those words from his new boss as an extremely valuable and life-changing gift.  “Don’t worry about proving yourself; just improve yourself!”

Over the years, Dewitt “watched countless photographers waste countless hours trying to prove themselves to others rather than spending those same hours improving their technique and sharpening their eye.”

The same is true in all areas of all of our lives.  Each of us have watched hundreds, even thousands of people waste countless hours trying to prove themselves to others rather than spending those same hours improving themselves, their performance and their value.

Dewitt Jones is absolutely right when he writes, “you get better a lot faster by focusing on improving rather than proving.  You learn far more by sharing than by hoarding.”

And so it is with each and every one of us.  We get better much faster by focusing on improving rather than proving.  We also contribute and learn far more by sharing than by hoarding.

Don’t prove yourself; improve yourself – and then openly share with others!


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I am a leader, speaker, and author who is passionate about Leadership Excellence and Achieiving Greater Success. I am the author of the books Be An Inspirational Leader(2016) and Presidential Leadership (2013), and deliver keynote presentations on those topics and several others.

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