“One should not spoil what is present by desiring what is absent. Rather, realize that what we have were among the things we might have prayed for.” – Epicurus (via the “Epicurus reader“)
I’m never satisfied. I always want more. Nothing is ever good enough. My lifestyle isn’t fancy enough, I lust after different cameras, cars, more money in the bank, more security, more fame, more recognition, and more impact in the world.
We’re always striving for what we don’t have, rather than appreciating what we already have.
I’m a pretty happy guy, but there’s still moments of dissatisfaction in my life. Even though I have a “perfect” life in terms of my flexibility to travel, to do what I love (teach, write, photograph), and meet amazing people from all around the world, I always want more.
The shortcut to happiness in life, photography, whatever is this: Desire the things and the life you already have.
So there are many different ways we can apply this philosophy to our lives.
First of all, desire the cameras you already own.
Even though I own my “dream camera” (film Leica MP and 35mm f2 Summicron lens) there are still random moments where I think, “What if I had camera ‘X’?” These are often moments when I’m feeling uncreative and dissatisfied with my life.
So whenever I have an urge to buy a new camera, I think about how much I dreamed of owning my film Leica. I try to remember myself 3 years ago when I read all these reviews of the Leica on forums, blogs, and from my friends. I try to relive the happiness I had when I first got my camera. This helps me be more grateful for what I have, and figure out how I can make photos with the camera I already own, rather than trying to make excuses why my camera or gear is insufficient.
Another idea: desire the life you already live.
I live in Berkeley, California, which is a mini paradise for hipster cafes, organic food, quinoa, almond milk cappuccinos, and other hippy yuppie stuff.
But I still daydream of living in San Francisco, where all the “cool” things are happening.
But I always try to remind myself: rather than daydreaming what I can do on the other side of the bridge, try to cultivate my own city and garden in Berkeley.
Also I try to remind myself of how many hipsters from all around the world would love to live in Berkeley. This helps me open up my eyes to the opportunities and possibilities in Berkeley.
Usually all the art events and photography exhibitions happen in San Francisco. But I partnered with my buddy Walter Margerison and curated a street photography group show at a local Berkeley cafe called “Artis Coffee”, which was a big hit. Keeping it local is key.
Another idea: desire the job you already have.
No matter how “shitty” your job is, there are always benefits. Let’s say you work crazy hours, but at least you make good money which allows you to buy photography books, plane tickets for traveling, and photography education and workshops. Sure you might not have that much time, but at least you can make the fullest potential of the little free time you have.
Let’s say you’re dead broke and working at a coffee shop. But at least you have more time and freedom to do what you love, rather than wasting precious brain energy on trying to get a promotion at a bit corporation, staying extra hours, and kissing ass. You might not have money for a fancy camera or to travel, but at least you have freedom of mind to shoot and flexibility of schedule.
You can be a billionaire and still be miserable, because you’re so busy you can’t take a nap or go a day without answering 300+ emails.
You can be living in poverty but still be happy because you have friends and family who love and support your creative endeavors.
Rather than focusing on the negatives of our lives, jobs, or circumstances, let us be grateful for what we have.
Let us desire the life we already have. Let us desire the camera we already have, the job we already have, and the mind we have.
Your life is perfect just the way it is.