By Maria B. Russell
History is filled with people who dared to dream — inventors, explorers and leaders from all walks of life. Though their journeys varied, there is at least one quality they share: curiosity.
If anything is to be learned from these creative achievers, it is that one needs to muster up the courage to step outside one’s comfort zone to experience the thrill and joy of the unexpected. In the words of Martin Luther King, Jr., “Take the first step in faith. You don’t have to see the whole staircase.” Mac Norfleet took the first step.
Norfleet, a Hopkinsville native, was always fascinated by people as a child and credits his parents and teachers for instilling a passion for learning about others void of stereotyping.
After graduating from Hopkinsville High School, Norfleet furthered his studies at Austin Peay State University and earned a Bachelor of Science in psychology and economics.
While researching Edgar Cayce for a psychology project, he learned of the many hurdles that “the Sleeping Prophet” had to overcome before he was taken seriously while remaining persistent in his endeavors. Cayce’s tenacity and dedication to what would become his life’s purpose resonated with Norfleet.
Although he had steady employment after graduation, Norfleet’s hobby, freelance photography, intensified. He found photographing live performances challenging and intriguing.
The year was 1987 and rock legend Alice Cooper was scheduled to perform in Nashville. Norfleet mustered up the grit to call the Los Angeles headquarters of the Associated Photographers International, of which he was a member, and inquire about obtaining credentials to shoot the performance at close range.
Upon hearing his request, the person who answered the phone began asking technical questions about lighting, film and cameras — questions that Norfleet was able to answer and discuss easily. He had done his homework and was even able to give the person on the phone the contact information for Alice Cooper’s promotion director who was responsible for issuing press passes.
At that moment Norfleet learned he was speaking with renowned photographer Jim Zuckerman.
“Had I known who I was talking with, (it) would have made me nervous and tongue-tied for sure,” he reflects.
That one phone call, a single leap of faith, not only resulted in Norfleet obtaining a press pass, but it put him on the path to becoming a contributing editor to the API Journal, API Magazine and Today’s Photographer magazine.
It also led to future opportunities that included meeting and photographing personalities such as Garth Brooks, Minnie Pearl, the Lone Ranger Clayton Moore and the musical groups Alabama and KISS.
In addition to having a positive attitude and never giving up, Norfleet believes that staying humble and surrounding one’s self with supportive people is crucial to achieving one’s dreams.
“No one ever told me that what I wanted to do wasn’t possible,” he says. That attitude enabled Norfleet to initiate and maintain written correspondence with people he had seen on television growing up and admired, among them Dick Clark, Red Skelton, Priscilla Presley, Raquel Welch, Shirley Jones, Jerry Lewis and Chuck Norris to name a few.
Norfleet notes that each individual he contacted “devoted their life to bringing good smiles to a world where good smiles are always needed.” Each is a brilliant part of history and his story.
Albums full of letters and cards from these celebrities and other memorabilia are among Norfleet’s most cherished possessions. Although each is distinctive, one in particular evokes a special memory: an autographed 8 x 10 photograph of Russell Johnson, the professor on Gilligan’s Island.
The photo is signed with the answer to Norfleet’s question, “If you were so smart, why could you not figure out how to get off the island?”
“For my very good friend, Mac Norfleet — Of course, I could have fixed the hole in the boat, but…if you were stranded on an island with Ginger and Mary Ann would you have fixed the hole?”
Norfleet summarizes, “A person’s value to the community depends upon how much their thoughts and actions go toward promoting the good of others. All valuable achievement is brought about by creative, sharing individuals.”
Mac Norfleet is proof positive that anything one dares to dream is possible. Learning, growing and creating happen only when one ventures outside his comfort zone. The whole staircase doesn’t need to be seen; just take the first step and let the adventure begin.
By Maria B. Russell