On Happiness: Photographically, and Otherwise

Today I was talking to a student, and they asked me what the most important thing I have learned in life is.

That’s a big question, isn’t it?  During my years I have experienced epic success and crushing failure (not in that order, thankfully).  I have been a cook, a musician, a private investigator, a paramedic, an EMS educator, a web designer, a writer, a photographer, a son, a brother, a father, and a husband.  I have been ill, and I have recovered.  I have had experiences that literally run the gamut from delivering babies to holding the hands of those who were passing from this world.  My life, even the worst parts, has been amazing.

Speaking only for myself:  I think this quote sums up my thoughts on this question perfectly:

“Happiness is a choice, not a result.  Nothing will make you happy until you chose to be happy.  No person will make you happy unless you decide to be happy.  Your happiness will not come to you.  It can only come from you.”

– Ralph Marston

My work has gifted me the opportunity to speak to tens of thousands of strangers over the years, and the ones who were truly at peace with their lives all had one thing in common: they had learned to take ownership over how they react to things, rather than letting those things dictate how they feel.  When I was younger this seemed mystical to me…. foreign…. impossible even.  Honestly, it seemed like bullshit to my younger self.  But hey, wisdom comes with age if we let it, right?

Epictetus said:

“It’s not what happens to you, but how you react to it that matters.

When something happens, the only thing in your power is your attitude toward it; you can either accept it or resent it.”

This is easier said than done of course, especially in this era of political strife, of a pandemic entering its second year, etc.  But, it is 100% true.  

My student and I had a good chat about where our happiness comes from.  It was a great reflection, and I think we are both better for the conversation.

…and, because I had time on this rainy Sunday afternoon, I thought I would share this with you all as well.

Have a great day everybody.



6 thoughts on “On Happiness: Photographically, and Otherwise

  1. Joan Lyons says:

    It reminds me of my favorite quote by Matisse:

    “There are always flowers for those who want to see them.”

    The trick is, you have to want to see the flowers. Gotta make that choice. Thank you for this lovely post.

  2. simonlindenphotography says:

    Hi Ian.

    Simon in Cape Town.

    Nice email.

    It was 38 degrees Celsius in Cape Town yesterday, so summer is still with us.

    Pessimists are right, so are optimists… we decide what we want to be.

    Have a great week

    Sent from


    • Ian says:

      Good morning Simon!

      How are you?

      I loved your pessimist / optimist comment… it is spot on!

      Thanks for commenting. 🙂



  3. jazz110 says:

    I too have had several careers/jobs over my life (some mundane and some dangerous) . I enjoy reading about your photography and now philosophy of life! I’m still trying to figure out who I am, as is my spouse 😉

    The only unifying thing about my life is my love for photography, and the company of people that enjoy that pursuit.

    • Ian says:

      I think “who we are” is kind of a moving target, as we are always growing and changing. That’s the fun part of life, isn’t it? 🙂

      Thanks for commenting. 👍



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