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I’ve always been a great fan of a good metaphor. The best metaphors have a way of explaining things that are sometimes hard to put into words.
My colleagues and friends know that I’ve developed a fondness for whisky in the last few years. I certainly wouldn’t call myself an expert, but I do enjoy the experience of savouring a good malt, and I’ll often find myself pouring a dram to enjoy while working in my office late at night.
Did you know that all whiskeys consist of only 3 ingredients? Water, yeast and a grain.
It’s the process of its creation that makes one whisky so vastly different from another.
I was thinking about that recently, and realised that this is a great metaphor for the development of our own personalities and individuality.
So why is whisky so much like our human personalities?
Before I explain my take on this metaphor, I thought that it would be fitting for you to watch a video I found quite helpful in explaining the complex nature of whisky production. It was only through learning about this process that I began to see the connections between this beloved alcoholic beverage and our everyday lives.
Surprisingly, the taste of whisky is not solely dependent on these four steps. Even with only three ingredients, the flavour can change vastly with even the slightest difference in location, treatment of the malt, how the spirit is aged (or for how long), and the barrel that the final product is aged in.
I believe there are very real parallels between a good whisky and our human characters.
The creation of whisky is a lengthy affair, much like the extensive process we as humans go through to become as refined and as “real” as we are today.
As we experience new aspects of life, we either add it to our repository of knowledge or adapt our existing knowledge to align with that new information.
This process does not occur overnight.
Indeed, it is not the trials of the day to day that make you uniquely you: It is the endurance required to weather the storms that question and refine your values, your beliefs and your purpose that makes you who you are.
As a photographer, it is this unique quality in each of my clients that I aim to capture. A picture can disclose a million things about a person, from the expression that reaches the eyes to the relaxation or tension in the muscles. My intention is not to take a simple photo that my client could have created themselves. I aim to capture the nuances of your character in one image.
That is a skill and an art form.
The second is that our specific experiences are easily forgotten or go unnoticed by those around us.
There’s something special about drinking a glass of whisky that has sometimes taken decades to find its way into your glass. But the glass will be emptied (or the bottle) – which means that experience and enjoyment is fleeting and needs to be savoured.
It’s the same with meeting people – and indeed I am mindful of that when working with my clients – you’re meeting someone new with a rich background. It’s easy to overlook that.
Another parallel revolves around how you drink whisky. The many different ways (neat, with ice, mixed, as a shot) can affect the experience quite dramatically.
Without sounding pretentious (because God knows there’s too much of that in the whisky community!) one should respect the spirit.
You wouldn’t mix a 30 yr old single malt with coke. I think humans are much the same – you have to respect their journey too. It does take a bit of mindfulness to do so, but pays amazing dividends in the experience.
I’ve held the belief that most people with integrity have a few ideals that they have fought and struggled to keep true to. If you can recognise those ideals in them, and respect them, then you have very likely made a friend for life.
The same is true of the clients I deal with; I believe that I have respect for their journey. I’ve always felt that, because I work with one client at a time, that each client is, at their appointed time, the most important person in my business. They’ve approached me for a reason, and they have a need that I should do my best to both discover (because sometimes it’s not that obvious) and meet (or exceed.)
Oscar Wilde famously said that “Experience is the hardest kind of teacher. It gives you the test first and the lesson afterwards.”
Yes, it is often through the unknown – the mysterious tests and the unfamiliar trials – that the uniqueness and beauty of each person becomes apparent. Just as with whisky, the richness of our character does not truly manifest until days, months, even years after a new experience challenges who we are and what we do. But that is the beauty of our lives and the beauty of the process.
Every person that I meet is different, and that is the part I love most about my job. Getting to know my clients and the experiences that have shaped their values, beliefs, and purpose helps me to deliver an original work of art that will display their authentic selves online.
I like the idea that, if I do my work well, I let good things happen to good people.
I truly believe that my work professes an honest belief in that idea.
Until next time, keep savouring the good experiences (and people) in your life.