We had the good fortune of connecting with Alexa Machado and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi Alexa, is there something that you feel is most responsible for your success?
I’m going to say my current success on my ever evolving journey is a direct result of working through a lot of personal mental blocks, especially surrounding fear that was keeping me paralyzed in certain areas of my life. You can’t see the desired level of success in business if you don’t first cultivate a level of awareness of your destructive habits, and that’s going to come from sorting out a lot of your personal baggage. You can’t use your business as a way to hide from it because whatever you haven’t sorted is going to be the cause of chaos in your professional life in the long run. I feel like I should give you some helpful info on how to go about doing this! The process for me was defining success on a personal scale and letting the confidence from living out that personal success bleed over into the business side of things by default. Success will vary from person to person, here’s what it looked like for me: Two years ago I was sitting in my ecology class writing down what I wanted to take away from the class. I remember writing “please give me a sign that I’m supposed to be here or not because I don’t know anymore” the next week (ironically while studying the autonomic nervous system) I randomly developed a type of autonomic dysfunction called POTS, as well as SVT, got out of an abusive relationship and developed agoraphobia, Cptsd symptoms, and panic disorder, had to drop out of my degree program because I couldn’t even walk across campus without a heart episode and eventually had to quit my job. All of this happened at the same time, it was pretty wild. Back then, my success was just walking to the mailbox. It was going out with someone new without feeling absolutely panicked It was learning not to feel like my host of new limitations was a burden or somehow made me less of a person. It was finding the motivation to keep trying to get better. It was receiving a message from a stranger on a particularly bad day who turned into one of my close friends and who encouraged me to keep going. Then it was heading down an exhausting path of self healing, journaling everything so I knew what was working (daily gratitude journaling, art, and guided meditation was the winning formula, if you’re curious :p) until I could function somewhat normally again One year ago I had my panic disorder and agoraphobia under control and I wanted to share my journey. I learned how to show up online and tell my story through video. Success was making a bunch of amazing online friends who showed me what unconditional love was. It was learning how to become a leader. It was learning how to have compassion for other people’s pattens and situations. Success was standing up for what was wrong even if it’s inconvenient. It was not even having a clue what my future looked like and surrendering to the Universe to guide me to where I was supposed to be (it’s done a pretty good job so far ;p) it was overcoming my physical insecurities to continuously show up online. Success was learning who was there for me and who wasn’t. It was becoming aware of my own toxic habits that were attracting people who weren’t too keen on supporting my success. It was sorting out my friend circle to include people that didn’t condemn or enable my tendency towards victim mentality but who knew and encouraged me that I could do all the things I had been wanting to do until I learned to believe in and support myself in that way too. It was learning that I don’t have to be funny or “perform” all the time to have value and that I could just exist on a deeper more thoughtful level and the right people would gravitate towards that side of me too. It was learning to accept that some insecurities were there to stay and that it was successful to just let their corresponding emotions exist in my body without acting on them or letting them stop me from what my highest self was called to do! Now my CPTSD symptoms are in remission, and I’m used to managing my health in a way that still allows me to enjoy life. I have a degree in the thing that makes me the happiest- photography! I get to teach people how to use photoshop and take cool photos. My life is so much better now than it was before my rock bottom and I can honestly say I wouldn’t change anything that happened. Now success is driven by Learning how to keep leading effectively through authenticity and sharing equal parts knowledge and my own growth. Success is learning that the best leaders are also students. It’s learning to develop an identity separate from the people I was trying to be accepted by and asking myself what I personally want to do, and then actually having the courage to follow that mysterious feeling called intuition that gives me the answers but not necessarily the logic behind them. It’s keeping up on loving myself so i can continue to extend that love to other people from a space of non judgement and radical acceptance (I’m not always perfect at this but I try!). It’s reaching a stage where I am confident in my value systems without feeling the need to convince others to change for my comfort. It’s going on my first podcast after turning two others down because I was too scared. It’s being in tune with the energy of others and being selective in who i keep in my circle And it’s learning how to manage my mental health through the pandemic while also supporting and showing up for other people. It’s learning how to pivot in business when my niche isn’t considered essential. Am I worried about that? Nope because I already saw the business success at the level I wanted once so I know I can find it again. Did you know that You only need one positive experience to reflect on to rewire your brain for more confidence? This is reinforced if we look at our failures not as something that defines our value, but as data points that lead us to future success. One exercise that I’m a huge fan of is writing out a flow graph starting with a bad experience and drawing out everything that happened since that point, as well as what you learned from it that you now utilize in more current situations. Once you see that everything is connected it’s easier to forgive yourself or others for the tough situations and start to let go of regret. It also helps you cope with current rough patches, knowing that there will be something interesting that comes from the experience in the future Hopefully all of that gives you a starting point. Be open to growth and you’ll be led to where you need to be 🙂

Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
Please tell us more about your art. We’d love to hear what sets you apart from others, what you are most proud of or excited about: I’m a photographer and digital artist, my main interest is in compositing which is taking elements of different images and putting them together to create a unique image. I’d say the main thing that sets me apart is my style. I actually get inspiration for my art from meditation. Images will pop into my head and then I try to recreate them! I have a magical vibrant style for sure. I’m most excited about my photoshop and compositing course which is about to relaunch!! I basically developed a system to teach beginners how to edit in the fine art style in as little as five weeks, without having to go over the intense learning curve or spend a bunch of time trying to figure things out. I’m really proud of that system because I haven’t seen it taught that way before and my students are enjoying it which makes me super happy!! They’ll send me their photos and it totally makes my day! ^^ I love teaching so much!! How did you get to where you are today professionally. Was it easy? I got to where I am today by falling on my face until I figured stuff out. I’m still constantly falling on my face. I’m a kinesthetic learner so I just jump right in and hope it goes well. If it doesn’t I change it for next time! I’m an advocate of the idea called “jump now and build the parachute on the way down” its not easy but I will say it’s far easier than tiptoeing along the cliff edge for months overthinking whether or not you should jump. If not, how did you overcome the challenges? Procrastination is my biggest issue, And I get freak outs when I make a big shift that sets my anxiety off. 5 second rule, journaling, vlogging, 1 hour silent meditation, having a coach, and practicing with IFS techniques all help. The biggest shift for me was when I realized I wasn’t anxiety or procrastination, I was observing those emotions, which means I’m the space in which they exist, which means I’m bigger than all of it and can make my decisions from that space, instead of staying stuck in my head. What are the lessons you’ve learned along the way? There are so many helpful bits of knowledge I’ve gained over the course of these experiences. I’ll leave a few here 1. Don’t rely in support from the external. This is your chance to learn how to be there for yourself. None of my local friends run a business like mine so it was a really lonely time because I didn’t have anyone to bounce ideas off of in that way, and they didn’t always understand why I was always busy. This is a time to focus on you, your intuition, and your coach if you have one. Only take advice from people who are where you want to be because people have their own limitations that can lead them to be discouraging simply because they haven’t explored your goals as a possibility so they can only see so far or “realistically” 2. If it’s realistic, it’s not a big enough dream fam 3. Silence does not equate to something being wrong. Those of you who grew up around or were with someone who’s anger response was the silent treatment know it tends to cause a lot of issues in how we view healthy people who just need space or aren’t overly reassuring. Brutally honest talk here: In the beginning of my this issue cropped up unexpectedly in my business. I really had to work on this (and I still do!) my brain would go off if I didn’t hear feedback about my course and keep bringing up the thought that no one was saying anything because they hated it. In reality, a bunch of positive feedback came later, and I was worrying for nothing. Prime example of how personal issues can affect business. You have to learn really quickly to deal with those thoughts. For me it was consciously knowing my anxious thoughts were coming from past experiences that weren’t in any way associated with the present, and then allowing them to exist without judging them, which allowed me to move forward and normalize healthy silence without too much anxiety. 4. Everytime you uplevel there will be a host of new issues you have to work through. This is something you will have to work hard for, but it’s amazing once you get into the swing of things. I wouldn’t be the person I am today without this business 5. Follow your gut. Seriously, I’m a bit of a nut because I did an experiment where I only listened to my intuition and ignored my brain, and that led to a very successful course and launch, so I am now a fan! So now when I get a feeling to do something I act on it. However, 99% of the time I never know what the heck is going to happen or why exactly I’m doing it at the time, which makes me seem a little bit crazy. Sometimes that also means going against conventional advice. I’ve gone viral 7 times and built my entire brand off of content that I was told no one would like, and I did it anyway because my intuition said “you gotta”. 6. There is no “right” or “wrong” business personality. My branding is The Award Photog guys. I show up with no makeup wearing a llama onesie in my lives. It’s fine, be you, because you want to attract the people that are totally on board. If you act a certain way to be “professional” you won’t be able to keep that up all the time and then you’ll lose people who were only attracted to the persona. Being yourself 100% online takes all the effort of branding out of the equation, because your personality and style will just be your branding by default. What do you want the world to know about you or your brand and story? I don’t want people to know about me, (well ok yes I do or else I wouldn’t have a business, but you know what I mean) I want people to know about themselves!! I just want people to realize they don’t have to be a victim of circumstance or settle for feeling small or for pursuing the path society lays out for them if it doesn’t make their heart happy. I truly believe everyone was given a gift to give to the world in some way so if you’re going through a hard time know that you do have a purpose and the bad times can’t stay that way forever. Be curious about what makes you you. Experiment with everything until you figure out what feels right for your life and don’t be scared of not knowing. Not knowing is the best place to be because that means you’re only open to limitless possibility. If you have a plan you’re going to be dead set on carrying it out and may miss opportunities that would’ve led you down a more fulfilling path. And last but not least, things have a way of working themselves out. If you make a decision and it’s the wrong one, things will get set back on track again eventually, so never be scared of permanently ruining your life just because of a mistake.

Any great local spots you’d like to shoutout?
Ooh this is fun!! I’d want to go to Sea Port Village and hang out in the shops and take pretty photos! Id show them the San Diego Botanical Gardens and the Rose Garden at Balboa park. Also the Carlsbad flower fields. I’d take them on a tour of Safari Park where I used to work too. We’d watch the sunset at moonlight beach then go out for pizza at Napizza. After that we’d go to my favorite star gazing spot and play music and sing and just enjoy each others company 🙂 I’m pretty simple, I like calm, quiet, and nature haha basically my favorite place is anywhere where I can spend time with my favorite people, even if it’s at the dump. 😂

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?
YES!! Sarina and Leighton for introducing me to photography Jay Shetty for introducing me to mindfulness and meditation Lewis Howes for answering my questions on his show way back when =) The Honest Guys for the Art Inspo My Genius Crew for showing me unconditional love Caroline for dubbing me the Color Junkie and being so enthusiastically supportive. Rest in peace friend I love you and hope you’re proud of me! Ryan and Misty for being my role models and helping me navigate the path out of victim mentality by asking so many dang questions X’D My wonderful friend Andrew H. for getting me out of bed that day. Love you!! Matt Kahn for the wonderful teachings full of love Erica for being a space to help me work through all my past baggage and giving me the courage to make an effort to sort out the bits I could! My besties Pearl and Andrew for always believing in me and my work through everything Madison Manathunga for being my support system and helping me launch my course Mimi for making facebook ads make sense after years of trying My photog friends from around the world who enable my shenanigans hehehe And God of course for taking care of me through my worst times and because I wouldn’t have been able to dream up this life path if I tried. I’m excited to see where it goes and cocreate with His guidance. =)

Website: www.alexamachado.com
Instagram: instagram.com/alexatheawkwardphotog

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/A.M.photographygallery/?ref=aymt_homepage_panel&eid=ARA2-e8dimhAzoBsStc_NjZb5VZgB2t8sQApVBVyoY6NCmTvMoTsGwxZ6Yd1JCAnQhKwIOzglM8y5jGC