• Justin Key

2020: The Year of Discipline II

Here we are again, the annual clean slate. A fresh calendar means a fresh outlook on the coming 12 months. In prior years I, like you, opened my eyes on January 1st focused, motivated, and optimistic. Behind all of that positive energy, however, was the memory of the failed goals and forgotten resolutions of a year ago. For the previous 365 days, I'd molded my ball of clay into the person I wanted to be but come January 1st, that creation would get mashed back into a ball in pursuit of a new vision. Once again I started this year focused, motivated and optimistic. Rather than staring at a freshly balled up pile of clay, I like what I created in 2019 and I'm going to continue to mold it. Welcome to 2020, the Year of Discipline Part Two.

Every year I feel like I talk about building a foundation or laying the groundwork for next year to build upon. It's during this time of year that I reflect and realize there's a new section to develop or another area needs to be reworked after years of being completed. Finally, entering 2020 I feel like the foundation is finally set. As a photographer and a person, I finally have the blueprint for what I want to become.


The pursuit of discipline was intended to benefit all aspects of my life. While distractions in the office were a major concern affecting my photographic pursuits, my eating habits and exercise routine needed improvement as well. As I began to acquire faint traces of discipline, other aspects began demanding attention. My full-time job has a nasty habit of clouding up my skies. As the year wore on it became easier to remind myself of the things I cannot control. The reliance on excuses and the lie of "busy" became unacceptable in my eyes and I began to take responsibility for my shortcomings. All the traits and principals I valued were finally being established with a little discipline.


Some of you have noticed my absence from social media over the last few months. The anxiety of creating content had been a heavy distraction that I finally had to set down. When this journey began, the idea of a personal brand was a foreign one. As someone struggling to find an identity as an individual, it was extremely tough defining my art. To properly develop and execute a personal brand, my identity had to be defined first and foremost. The chaotic blend of ideas that were employed felt forced. After years of overthinking, it was finally time to take a step back and examine my approach.

This year I have a vision. After lifting the weight of content creation my focus shifted to editing. The deep hole of procrastination left me with years of photographs to cull through. Spending months sorting through old trips and excursions revealed the tendencies of my photographic eye. Those tendencies aligned with a simple truth I've always relied upon, life is in the details. The smell of tomatoes growing in the garden, the stillness of a lake at dawn, the light from distant stars piercing the black abyss of an infinite universe. The simplest pleasures of life and my favorite photographs all focus on little details.

The year of discipline part two will feature a more consistent presence on public platforms but the reason for the sequel is to continue the disciplined practice. Perhaps the greatest success from 2019 was the pursuit of better health. Physical exercise and better eating habits were top priorities last year. Not only were positive habits established but an obsession was created. My hope to develop a routine quickly shot me down a rabbit hole that installed a disciplined practice.

While my physical practice stuck, efforts to bolster my mental fortitude sputtered throughout the year. The meditation practice I'd hoped to establish had hot and cold streaks but remains a top priority for 2020. That practice was intended to help prevent distractions during the few hours of photography work I found each day. Additionally, the hope is to reduce the pressure I place upon myself to complete tasks. The tendency to feel rushed or behind only hinders my ability to concentrate and function smoothly. A consistent meditation practice can be established through discipline and will also help bolster that trait within me.


From the photographic side, there is still plenty of editing to catch up on. While discipline helped me to remain focused more often during editing sessions, the backlog of photographs remains. The taste of relief that came from the completion of old trip folders was only a sample of the high that would result from finishing everything. It's extremely possible to enter 2021 with a completely fresh slate photographically. Just the thought makes me a little light-headed.

For the first time since the pursuit of this dream began I find myself entering a new year satisfied with the progress of the previous one. Rather than recalling the missteps that were made, the focus is finally on the successes. My art has direction, my marketing has a purpose and the individual creating all of it has an identity. The faint idea of the person I always wanted to be finally started to take form last year. Developing discipline will take time but I'm looking forward to finding out where dedicating another 12 months to it will take me. Stay tuned because we're just getting started.

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© Justin Key Photography