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On International Women’s Day, Lessons From Alpha Female

A brand is not an animate object, even though we often speak of it as if it were. A brand is not the products it puts out into the world. A brand is not even the image it has built over time. But rather, a brand is the sum of the people it serves and the people who serve it. And so, the Sony Alpha Female brand is the sum of all the people who have ever wanted to be a part of this movement for equality in the visual creation field, actively or passively. 

This last part, active vs. passive, defines the biggest set of lessons I’d like to share from the past year of Alpha Female+

The most cited reason for applying for an Alpha Female grant is “my friends sent it to me and told me to do it.” And when you listen to the applying creator speak of it, you can feel their friends’ passion coming through. It’s not that the creator doesn’t have passion of their own--on the contrary, they’re bursting with it. It’s just that they were passively waiting for validation for the passion they felt, for a push in the right direction, and their friends were the conduit for that validation. And at that point, they stopped being passive and took action. Their friends acknowledging their talent isn’t the thing that brought their talent to life, it was just a mere confirmation of the talent they already had. In other words, their talent existed even if nobody had ever acknowledged it. 

This interesting dynamic, as well as many conversations with our community on the topic of applying for a grant, led us to dig deeper into a few of the challenges we’re facing in our quest, and the result was identifying some patterns of behavior, passive and active, that, when tweaked, can lead to breakthrough results. Perhaps, dear reader, you’ll recognize yourself in some of these patterns, and you’ll join us in taking action to further our mutual goals of representation in a world that can be enriched with your voice and participation.  

Pattern #1: Waiting For A Sign

This is the ultimate passive behavior we’ve observed in our conversation with our community and one that has prevented many a creator from reaching the heights of their own potential. What we often forget is that signs are only as strong as our ability to recognize them. We may be waiting for a sign that has already come and gone a dozen times, we just couldn’t let ourselves believe it. So rather than falling into that time-consuming trap, how about we change how we see things? 

Lesson: The Sign Is You

You’ve been preparing, you’ve been creating, you’ve been dreaming big. That’s all the sign you need to take the next step into your future. Thinking of Alpha Female+, what sign would convince you to apply today? I bet it could be a lot of things and I bet if you looked hard enough, some of those things are already there. So knowing that, how about you just do it? You are the only sign you need. And you’re flashing brightly.

Pattern #2: The Tyranny Of Disappointment

Another frequent scenario we’ve encountered: you know you should apply, but for some reason you’re still not taking the leap. You’re held hostage by the tyranny of disappointment. Because all the statistics out there tell you there’s little chance that you’ll win. Because if you take the leap and fall badly, then who knows when you’re going to answer the call again? Instead, maybe it’s better to stay passive and save this shot for some other occasion--when the signs are stronger, when disappointment is no longer a risk, when success is guaranteed. Even though you know there’s no such thing as guaranteed success. So what if, instead of expecting disappointment, you expect growth?

Lesson: You Win By Taking Part, The Result Is Irrelevant

What if you went into your next challenge, contest, competition, thinking that the result is absolutely irrelevant? So what if you apply for Alpha Female+ and you don’t win a grant? Does that mean you’re any less worthy? Absolutely not. So many different aspects of an application cycle affect the grant winner. Besides the standard criteria that remain the same for the duration of the contest, there are also many other things that happen that are not within your control, which is the case with every single situation we ever live through. So instead of focusing so much on winning a grant, why not focus on doing the best job you can at that moment in time? Because ultimately that’s a huge win. You only need be in a contest with yourself. If you’ve gotten better than the last time you did something similar, even fractionally, you’ve already won. The more you do it, the better you get at it. Success is a journey, not a destination.  

Pattern #3: Me Against The World

This final pattern hits close to home for many of us, and it’s another natural reaction in a challenging world. You didn’t win this time, and because of how the human mind works, you feel you’re never going to win. Getting discouraged is easy. Finding an enemy is even easier. A perceived failure leads to a defensive stance. Now, instead of focusing on what you can do for the world, you focus on how to defend yourself from it, from that disappointment we spoke of above. You begin fighting your way out of your feelings, without realizing that when you fight against others, you also fight against yourself because you’re only getting farther from your goal. That rarely, if ever, gets you a win.

Lesson: Us For Each Other

There is plenty of opportunity for everyone. Not getting one opportunity does not close the door for all the rest. Instead of getting into a scarcity mindset, where there is only so much to go around, and you must fight to get your share of it before it runs out, what if you took joy in the successes of others, and focused on believing that you are going to be in that winning spot as well, and likely soon. Bitterness is a tricky master. It will soothe your ego while destroying your soul. What if, instead, you focused on celebrating every success you see in the community as if it were your own? Because it really is. Whenever someone who has been systematically prevented from entering a particular space is able to break through, even if everyone else is still behind the door, it’s still a genuine win for all. When one of us wins, all of us win. That’s what Alpha Female is ultimately all about, the collective victories that will usher in change. 

Can you relate to any of these patterns? Are you ready to turn them on their heads and take action? I hope so. Because what the world needs right now is for more of us to throw caution to the wind and go for the things we want for ourselves and for those we care about.

Alpha Female is a challenge to reclaim a term that was reserved for only some of us. It’s the voicing of a realization that I am my own Alpha. It’s the quiet determination to own being the best without qualifiers--the best photographer or filmmaker and that’s my identity. And most importantly, it’s the manifestation of the deepest realization one can ever make: despite its connotation, Alpha doesn’t actually mean I’m alone. Alpha means I’m part of a community where I’m doing my part, surrounded by many other Alphas who are doing theirs, and together we’re going to change the world. So be a part of the community. Don’t give in to fear anymore. And prove how a sea of determined voices can change the world in ways never before thought possible.

Happy International Women’s Day!

PS: There’s one grant left for Alpha Female+--apply by April 3rd to be in the running. Get inspired by our previous winners while you prepare. Post your photos with #sonyalphafemale for a chance to be featured on the Alpha Female Instragram. And connect with the coolest community out there to keep feeding the Alpha in you. 

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