The Photography Blog

“Community Over Competition”: Elena S Blair Mastermind Retreat

I sat down at my desk this morning, turned on the first Meditation playlist that came up on Spotify, and took the piece of Palo Santo wood out of my camera bag that was given to me at the start of the Elena S. Blair Mastermind Retreat in Palm Springs last month. As Michelle and Ali walked us through in those first few moments, I lit a match and ignited the piece of wood. I watched the flame dance and the smoke rise. When I felt my anxiety creep in about having an open flame in my office, I blew it out, put the wood down and closed my eyes. 

I by no means consider myself a yogi or versed in meditation, but I know I’m supposed to breathe in through my nose, pause, and exhale through my mouth. So here I am, taking the Palo Santo out and starting my day with it because I want to get back to the mindspace I entered that first morning. I vividly remember, sitting, breathing, and settling into myself – accepting the next few days in Palm Springs were going to challenge me, excite me, and push me to push myself. I wanted to get back to that mindset and do anything I could to channel those feelings and emotions again. Scent, afterall, is strongest tie to memory and emotion.

Photos from Elena S Blair Mastermind retreat in Palm Springs

Ace Hotel, Palm Springs

After what felt like 10 mins, but was probably closer to 45 seconds, I opened my eyes and brought the Palo Santo to my nose. I remembered it being incredibly fragrant, almost overwhelming. Had my piece of wood lost its potency? Within seconds it dawned on me. Nothing had happened to my piece of wood – rather, that first morning, sitting in Palm Springs and lighting the Palo Santo, I wasn’t by myself. I was literally surrounded by close to 50 other women lighting their own piece of Palo Santo. The burning of my single piece of wood was combined with that of so many others to create the incredibly fragrant, I’ll say it, overwhelming, aroma. It’s that aroma, that power created not by one, but the aggregate, that I want to continue to channel into my life.

Trying to figure out how to decipher my thoughts and reactions to my experience in Palm Springs at my second Elena S. Blair Mastermind Retreat, I am realizing it’s not so much about finding the right words or the right hook to draw you in, it’s about recognizing and accepting the experience for what it was. It was powerful. It was draining. It was exciting. It was expanding. It was fun. It was uncomfortable.

Photos from Elena S Blair Mastermind retreat in Palm Springs

Summer Murdock – Creating from Capacity

That power that was created, being in a space with so many other dedicated professional creatives, was something I did not know I needed. Only a year into my full-time photography career, I am still navigating so much new. There is so much for me still to figure out. So many things I do not know, I do not know. Every conversation I engaged in, or conversations I simply overheard, even the ones I missed altogether, were entirely pertinent to me and my business. I had something to learn in each and every direction I turned and for possibly the first time ever I truly understood the power and infinite capacity this community has. 

Elena’s motto is “Community over competition”. I could write paragraph upon paragraph about what this means to me and how it ties into my career playing soccer and being a part of a team. I could go on to talk about my corporate jobs and the amazing teams I was a part of and never thought I would leave. Or I can tell you all about what we did each day in Palm Springs, who I met, and what I learned from each person.

Photos from Elena S Blair Mastermind retreat in Palm Springs

Laura Ellis

But as I sit here, the whiffs from the burned Palo Santo diminishing, I am brought back to those simple but insanely powerful three words: “Community over competition”. My personal examples don’t really matter. Because this community Elena has created, each and every person, fully embodies this phrase. They are open. They are gracious. They are encouraging and supportive. They are passionate. They are sincere. It is not about me and how that phrase pertains to my life, it’s about the experience the group as a whole creates and continues to build and define in new ways.

Photos from Elena S Blair Mastermind retreat in Palm Springs

Tristin Tracy

I’ve been home from the Mastermind retreat one-week today. Sure I came home with a bunch of new Lightroom editing tricks. I came home already registered for a writing workshop with Rachel Larsen Weaver in March. I came home with new headshots. Oh, and I came home prepared to convert all my gear to Canon. But what I really returned home with is a newfound confidence in myself as a business owner.

While the success of Caeli Richter Photography is dependent on me and me alone, I am no longer really doing it alone. I have the support of a community that deeply understands my drive and passion. That understands the sacrifices that comes along with chasing creative goals. I am a member of Elena’s community and for that, I could not be more grateful! 

All images taken by Caeli Richter during the retreat at the Ace Hotel in Palm Springs during headshot exchange

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