Photo Heart Connection: Balancing a Paying Job with Your Passion Project

Have you ever met someone and thought they were wise beyond their years? That’s how I feel about Kat Sloma, an amazing photographer who uses her power to inspire people to focus, develop and connect on a deeper level.

Kat Sloma taking a photo
Photo: Toan Lam

When I heard about the work that Kat was doing with her Photo Heart Connection — thanks Fiona Pattison for the connection — I felt she was an evolved soul and knew we would connect in a meaningful way, so naturally, I interviewed her for Go Inspire Go’s (GIG) Tea with Toan segment.

After this interview, I was excited to learn that she was planning a trip to San Francisco in the coming months! We quickly calendared our snapshot soiree!

San Francisco's Transamerica Pyramid
Photo: Toan Lam

We originally planned to do a photo walk, where she would teach me how to take captivating, beautiful pictures and we were open to an organic experience, meeting for the first time.

San Francisco neighborhood with a view of Coit Tower
Photo: Toan Lam

Our day unfolded as perfect as the early morning sun rising above Telegraph Hill, our meeting place.

Kat Sloma, Erin Sitt and Toan Lam
Kat Sloma, Erin Sitt, Toan Lam. Photo: Toan Lam

Me, Kat and Erin Sitt (a GIG volunteer) met up early in the morning at Cafe Divine before our snapshot sojourn. We traversed Telegraph Hill to show her the breath taking views of the city and my favorite meditation spot, along the east steps of Coit Tower.

Kat Sloma and Toan Lam
Kat Sloma and Toan Lam. Photo: Toan Lam
Kat Sloma and Toan Lam taking photos of San Francisco
Photo: Erin Sitt

Perched atop Telegraph Hill, you literally feel on top of the world. We also zig-zagged through North Beach, a.k.a. San Francisco’s Little Italy, and connected, conversed and snapped photos of sights that resonated with us. I was fully present in the moment, enjoying every snapshot, light bulb (in this case flash) moment — time didn’t seem to exist. Don’t you love it when that happens?

View of the Transamerica Pyramid through a chain-link fence
Photo: Toan Lam

Through the shutter clicks, I learned an important life lesson about the yin and yang of balancing business and passion. Many of my friends struggle with this situation: a job that pays the bills vs. a passion project that enlivens.

Toan Lam and Kat Sloma taking pictures in Chinatown
Photo: Erin Sitt
Toan Lam "petting" a painting of a dog
Photo: Erin Sitt

“It’s hard to put a price tag on my passion,” Kat said, eyes wide. “I just want to give it away.” Chills shot up my spine as I could relate.

I started Go Inspire Go about three years ago, with the small seed of a dream that five people would help five others. I remember thinking, wow that would be 10 lives changed — for the greater good.

The story that unfolded is bigger and better than I could ever pen or blog. A story that wouldn’t have any roots if I didn’t listen to my inner compass — my spirit.

When I had an idea to quit my TV reporting job to use my power/talents to produce stories about inspiring civic engagement, instead of death and destruction, like any journalist would do, I quickly began to research the competition. Dozens of meetings ensued with the best and brightest folks in my network. Immediately, people asked me, “What’s your return on investment?” “How are you going to support yourself?” All relevant, but not the right questions at that time.

Naturally, I wanted to put my GIG project on the backburner and search for a job with a big paycheck. But stories like, Tent City Sacramento, Angel in Queens and Phoebe Food Bank, pulled me back into what would be my divine assignment and calling, my new GIG.

My goal, to use storytelling to inspire viewers to help others. Tens of thousands of people watched. Many were inspired to help. Exciting! Nothing brings me more happiness than seeing people GO (to our site) get INSPIRED (by our videos and blogs) and GO — help others.

Our mantra became “Discover and Use Your Power to help others.” After all, I was using my power (talent) — storytelling and connecting with people — to highlight regular people doing good deeds that rippled out to meaningful changes.

Media attention ensued — our stories were shared on AOL, Yahoo local and national shows like ABC’s Good Morning America. Three months after launching GIG, Arianna Huffington emailed to ask me to share my content on the Huffington Post. We also connected with Mallika Chopra’s to share our content.

The truth is, I work with an amazing team of volunteerGIGSTERS,”who help with everything from back-end programming, producing content to social media outreach. On many occasions, I stay up late and wake up early to blog and edit.

This is what makes my light shine brighter. It doesn’t feel like work. I know that if I focus on authentic storytelling and serving the community, everything will come together and I will be supported.

Heart on a stone wall
Photo: Toan Lam

I told Kat that I have had numerous conversations with people about how to fund my project — angel investors, advertising, content syndication. Likewise, I speak to many artists about turning their passion project into a business that pays the bills.

As a mother and breadwinner of the family, Kat works as an engineer and does her photography business on the side. She too, struggles with monetizing something so invaluable. I am still learning how to monetize and scale GIG without losing its authenticity and soul. She asked, “What answers did you come up with?” I immediately said, “Trust.”

Oprah coined the phrase, “What I know for sure.” To that I answer: Believe that the universe will support you. After all, the universe has shown me time and time again that it has my back. Of course, we need to put together an action plan. Write down your vision and plot the small goals and tasks that will lead you to the bigger goal. The truth is, you can get advice from hundreds of people, take calculated risks, etc., but ask yourself, do I believe?

I hear many people say, I do believe, but their actions don’t show that they trust 100 percent. The universe knows — and in return won’t give you 100 percent.

It’s not as easy as it sounds. Lucrative job offers in and out of the TV industry poured in. Against the behest of some confidants to take the opportunities, I turned them all down.

There’s also been a handful of media providers that have reached out to me about creating a multiplatform GIG show. While many of them seemed right in my head and great in the bank, some didn’t feel right for my heart. So at the behest of my spirit, I walked away. Exciting things are percolating… We are close. And you will be too. If you believe.

Downtown San Francisco
Photo: Erin Sitt

Believing that you will always be more than OK — that you will be fully supported — will allow you to be even more present to soak in the lessons designed to enrich your life. As my dear friend and spiritual sister, Terrie Crowley tells me, this is your divine assignment.

Toan and Kat with boba tea
Photo: Erin Sitt

I will always be grateful for our little morning walk, Kat’s soul connection and conversation. As we continue to seek and use our power to help elevate humanity, I know for sure that being present and enjoying this journey is what connects these snapshots of experiences to develop our spirit.

Black and white photo of Toan and Kat
Photo: Erin Sitt

What can you do? It’s been an awe-inspiring journey so far, both for Kat and me. Where are you on your journey and what can you do to help others with your power? We want to know, please comment below.

Here are some things I’ve learned along the way:

1. Ask yourself, “Am I doing something I’m passionate about?” Whether it’s your paying job or a passion project on the side. This is a good place to begin your journey to find your authentic calling.

2. Believe. Trust. If it’s meant to be and you are truly operating from your authenticity and place of passion, it will manifest.

3. Share your power with others. At Go Inspire Go, we inspire people to “Discover your power to help others.” True joy isn’t experienced until you give it away.

* See Kat’s blog through her lens on Kat Eye Studio

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