Isaac Johnston

Who are you, and what do you do?

My name is Isaac Johnston. I am a travel and adventure photographer and filmmaker.

What is one habit of yours that helps you be productive?

It really started with the habit of only focusing on what I’m curious about to the point of obsession. I find it’s much easier to be productive if I can’t stop thinking about my work. So I guess my habit would be to choose my work based on my obsession

What is your morning routine and how does it help you get the most out of your day?

I set my alarm for 7:45 but most often wake up before it goes off. I am a believer in sleeping until I am not tired. I am happier and more focused if I’m not fighting to stay awake. I make a press of coffee and read at least a chapter of a book before I look at my phone. I find this really makes me feel like I’ve accomplished something even if I have a tough rest of my day. It sets the momentum.

In the last few years, what lifestyle, habit or behavior change has had the biggest positive impact on your life?

My lifestyle changed significantly when I chose to leave my position as the CEO of a vacation rental company and start working as a freelance photographer. It was a huge change and one that I wasn’t sure would work out. I set my lowest possible outcome, in my case working at night stocking shelves at Home Depot, and said that anything above that was going to be alright. It set me up to have a life where I can work on what I am interested in and bring the most value to others instead of working for a company I didn’t own. I create something daily and get to live on a schedule that is more flexible than I’ve ever lived. It was a great change in hindsight but at the time was very scary.

When you feel unfocused, what do you do?

A bike ride or a walk usually helps me work out whatever is taking my mental energy away from what I am trying to focus on. I also will take my phone into another room and leave it where I can’t see it or hear it from my office. Most of my loss of focus comes from my phone.

What is one piece of software or a web service that you get immense value out of? How do you use it?

How do you use it? I love Apple Final Cut Pro 10 for video editing. I started editing video on Adobe Premiere Pro, but it was so complicated and not intuitive. A friend convinced me to switch to FCPX and I actually love it. Software is always such a necessary evil, but FCPX feels like it adds to my creative project not hinders it.

What is the one book you recommend most often and why?

I recommend Endurance, Shackleton’s Journey. It’s the best adventure story I’ve ever read and is the gold standard for what kind of stories resonate with the audience I serve. I’ve also never had anyone I recommend it to say they didn’t love it.

What advice would you give a smart and ambitious recent college graduate? What advice should they ignore?

Oh man, thrash hard and struggle in your 20’s. Sort out who you are as a person and what you owe and are always drawn to. When you find what really makes you come alive then you will obsess about it and naturally become an expert. Experts find success in any field. It takes years but it’s worth the journey.

What is your favorite quote, one you aim to live by?

I always forget quotes, but I love them in the moments I hear a good one. Here is one I heard recently talking about moments with the humans we love: “I woke today with the most extraordinary feelings of grief and joy. Grief that I’ll never see them again and joy that I met them. Thank you for teaching me that cynicism isn’t a way of life” – Helen Marriage


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