My advice for starting your career is to nearly always say “yes.” After I graduated from college and moved to Los Angeles, I was so nervous about letting down film producers, that time after time I turned down projects I didn’t think I was capable of doing.

But after awhile, I needed to eat, so I gained a little more confidence. I still wasn’t capable of most of the jobs I was offered, but I decided I wouldn’t let that get in the way – I just said “yes” and figured it out as I went.

I do have an embarrassing confession to make: That first year after college, I saw a newspaper ad that a small university in Texas posted (the school will remain unnamed). They needed a freelance photographer to spend a few days at the college taking pictures of college life for their annual report. I wasn’t a still photographer, but I was a budding filmmaker, so I jumped at the chance. I literally went to a pawn shop in Hollywood and bought a used 35mm Pentax camera and drove to Texas. I don’t remember how many rolls of film I shot that week, but I turned in the rolls, and drove home.

Looking back all these years later, I still feel guilty. At the time I didn’t know anything about still photography, lighting, film, or anything else, and the shots must have been terrible. Years later I made an anonymous donation of what they paid me back to the school.

OK – that was a screwup, but I still hold to the advice.

Obviously if the opportunity is completely out of your league, then maybe turning it down would be appropriate. After all, you don’t ever want to disappoint a client or employer.

BUT – in 90% of the cases, suck it up. I didn’t have “Google” back then, but we do now. So be bold. Take a chance.

You’ll never know until you say “Yes”!


This article originally appeared at Phil Cooke, Ph.D. is a media producer and consultant to churches and ministries around the world. His latest book is “Ideas on a Deadline: How to Be Creative When the Clock is Ticking.” Find out more at

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