How do you handle adversity?  Do you lie down and accept the bad turn of events or do you mobilize against it and try things you’ve been afraid of to reap possible benefits?  Your choice can be the difference between success and failure.

In their APA presented talk, Recovery Act: The Restoration and Reinvention of a Photography Career, William and Susan Brinson give us a look at what can happen when you have nowhere to go but up.

It was only a few years ago that William, a photographer, and his wife, Susan, a design director, were basking in success, so much so that they bought a 2000 sq ft. loft to renovate as a live/work space. That’s when the bottom dropped out: William’s agency folded, and they freaked out. That’s when they got down to business. With no other choices, Susan used her years of experience to begin to rebrand and restrategize their lives.

There is so much to be learned about yourself and what you really want in life if you are willing to dig deep and ask yourself important questions. Many of us have never thought about what success really means for us, or what we really want in life.  We “go with the flow,” drift in whatever direction that seems the easiest. And for some that will work for a lifetime. For others, it will come to an abrupt, and unplanned end.

The Brinson’s solutions are unique to them. But the lessons of how the came to be back on top, and more importantly, truer to what they want in life are applicable for everyone.

First of all, define what success means for you: is it money, esteem, freedom to travel, to set your own agenda, or is it a combination of all of that? And be honest: would you want to hire yourself? If so, what are the qualities you have that make you desirable? Make a list of career benchmarks and then figure out how to achieve them.

Can you take your best points a put them together into a statement of who you are and what your work is about?  That’s what a brand is. The stronger and more unique it is, the better you can distinguish yourself from others. You can look around and see how valuable being unique is. Are your work and your persona consistent?  Can you own it?

It’s impossible today to talk about any of this, or talk about branding at all unless we talk about how to use social media. When things are bleakest, when you are worried about money, strategic planning is vital. What is worth spending money on, and what is free for the tasking. That’s the beauty of social media—it’s free. Creating a strong blog, tweeting, communicating on Facebook are all free (at least for now) ways of getting your name and work out there.

Many people are still unsure of social media, how to use it, how to make time for it, and those are things each person needs to figure out. Think about it this way, Susan advises, “Twitter is like a cocktail party. Facebook is a family reunion.”

At a cocktail party you want to show people who you are, what you like, and what you do.  See that as the “Rule of Thirds,” and use Twitter as 1/3 personal, 1/3 business, and 1/3 inspirational.  And remember, it’s not how many followers or “friends” you have, it’s who they are that will help you to achieve your goals.

At a family reunion you catch up with people, telling them what you’ve been up to. It’s a place to reconnect with people.

With a blog you can give prospective clients a clue to your personality, and when someone is looking to hire you, how they feel about you as a person weighs in heavily these days. It’s also a place where you can show the personal projects you are working on—something that is incredibly important to who you are as a photographer. If you don’t spend the time shooting things you love, even if they are radically different from the work you get paid to do, you are not really living for yourself.  And that’s the message the Brinson’s are giving.

It may be clichéd to say that if you do what you love, success will follow. For the Brinson’s it’s been true. With their blog, House of Brinson, they are able to show their personal style. With his portfolios William is able to show his professional style. And with social media, they are both able to show their personas. All of these things have brought them the success they were looking for.

It’s been three years from empty loft until now. In three months William has picked up 7 new clients. He is shooting for all the magazines on his initial wish list. Both of their careers are flourishing. It wasn’t easy, but it was doable. The Brinson’s took a leap of faith—faith in themselves, and it has paid off handsomely.