We had the good fortune of connecting with Justin Chimienti and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Justin, have there been any changes in how you think about work-life balance?
Work life balance has certainly evolved for me over the course of my career. When I was in my twenties, I was very career focused and took little time off to enjoy my family and hobbies. Even when I did take the time, it was difficult for me to fully pull away from work. Unfortunately, I wasn’t fully disconnected and didn’t focus on myself or my family much. I think the main reason for this lack of balance was that I had chosen a sales career which was a 100% commission job. Essentially if I wasn’t selling, I wasn’t making money. Work always seemed to take the priority as I was establishing my account list and building a nest egg. It wasn’t until I was in my late thirties that I took my first 2-week vacation. By then I had more money in the bank, I was established in my career and I was able to afford more time away from work.
The other major factor that contributed to a poor work life balance for me was my commute. Most days I was spending 2 to 3 hours in the car. I typically the office at 5:30p or 6:00p and didn’t get home until 7p or 8p. Once I got home, I would eat dinner and put my kids to bed. Then it was get up at 6am and do it all over again. Needles to say, this pattern didn’t leave much time for me to focus on my physical or mental health.
In my forties, I joined a company that had an amazing culture, my pay was comprised of a base salary plus commission and my work life balance improved dramatically. (Not to mention my kids were older and self sufficient and I also went through a divorce). My commute was also cut in half so I had more time to focus on my life outside of work.
Then the pandemic hit. No commute, no kids at home and so much extra time I didn’t know what to do with myself. My eating habits improved. I got more physical activity. I was more focused on my job and I found I took way better care of my health and mental well being.
Over the years there seemed to be a natural progression and improvement in my work life balance. Looking back, I don’t think I would have changed a thing because I believe that where I am now gives me perspective and helps me appreciate what I have so much more than had I had this type of balance all along.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
I’m going to shift gears here and move away from my sales career and talk a bit about my creative outlet and my passion for photography. For as long as I could remember I had some sort of camera that would accompany me throughout my life. I was not a master of the craft, I just liked taking photos and documenting my life events like camping trips, family get togethers, hanging out with friends and so on. Over the years I started to develop a good eye for composition and capturing interesting subjects, but I still hadn’t figured out my creative niche. It wasn’t until a colleague of mine showed me some recent pictures his son had taken of seascapes and waterfalls. The water in his photos looked silky smooth and I was fascinated by how this technique made an ordinary scene look magical. From that point forward I was determined to learn the art of long exposure photography. I wanted to be able to capture similar scenes and say to myself “I took THAT picture”.
The cameras that I tinkered with were always some variation of a point and shoot and I knew if I wanted to take amazing photos, I was going to have to learn more about light, f stops, shutter speed etc. and I was eventually going to need to buy an SLR where I can change lenses and work the manual controls of the camera.
My starter camera ended up still being a point and shoot, but it had all of the controls of an SLR or DSLR. Aperture Priority, Shutter Priority, Program mode and Manual as well as f stop, shutter speed and ISO. I used this camera for a couple of years until I got comfortable enough with the controls so I could buy a DSLR and not be intimidated. My first DSLR was a Nikon D5000 with kit lenses. Not the best set up but a great place to start and learn and learn I did. I quickly found out that the better the lenses the better the image quality and in no time I dropped a few thousand dollars on a couple of quality lenses.
It was time to go put my learnings to the test. I would frequent Grizzly Peak in the Berkeley hills to practice taking long exposure nighttime shots of the San Francisco skyline or head into the city to capture the bridges or along the coast for interesting seascape shots. Then this photo ap called Instagram hits the scene – you may have heard of it . This opened my eyes to a whole new world of photography and subjects to shoot. Still quite a novice and willing to learn, I started following artist that inspired me and that made me say “I want to take pictures like THAT one day”. After reaching out to a few locals, I finally met up with one of the best long exposure photographers in the Bay Area who showed me the ropes and helped me improve my skills in no time. We were both going through a rough time in our lives and photography became our creative outlet. After our first meet up we quickly bonded over this craft and started shooting about once a week. Eventually we added a few others to our group and formed a bit of a motley crew of friends with a common bond. For a few years we were out shooting at least 2 nights per week. All of us improved our photography skills exponentially.
During this journey, I found that learning by doing and having the right guidance and influence of positive people helped take my photography to new heights. Before I knew it, my Instagram following started to explode, I was taking amazing pictures and eventually I was selling my work. What I am most proud of is that my desire to learn and my determination to improve led me to being able take the kinds of pictures that I was impressed by but more importantly than that I ended up connecting with the most amazing people who have become lifelong friends and travel partners. Since starting this photography journey I have been up and down the coast of California, have had countless trips to Yosemite and even made a trip to Japan with my “Instagram” crew.
You can view my work on Instagram @photoz2frame. If you scroll back far enough you will see how my shots improved over the years. I like to leave those early shots on there as a reminder of where I was and how far I have come. I still feel I have a lot to learn and I’m looking forward to continuing to improve upon my craft.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
Big shout out to my mentor, Rich Kahn. His guidance and confidence in me helped me gain the skills I needed to become a successful salesperson. I had a rough go at media sales early on and was so close to throwing in the towel. I was one of those “book smart” kids, and that simply wasn’t going to cut it in this business. Rich was a great teacher, took me under his wing and helped me develop the street smarts I needed to succeed. He was also one of the best trainers in the business and lucky for me I had access to his help 24/7. Rich introduced our team to the Sandler Sales System and the book “You Can’t Teach a Kid to Ride a Bike at a Seminar” by David Sandler. It was a brilliant sales system and helped me define my sales style and hone my skills launching me to one of the top sales reps at my company within a few short years.