Side tattoo face. Downtown LA, 2015
Side tattoo face. Downtown LA, 2015

How to turn negative situations into positive ones, how we grow stronger, and why we must push ourselves to failure, and the importance of the right difficulty in life.


“I need a greater challenge!”

To become invincible, turn every negative situation into a positive one.

Consider every negative experience in your life as a stimulus to test you — to make you stronger.

A little poison is necessary to stimulate us to become stronger. For example, a theory I heard is that the reason why vegetables are “healthy” for us is because the toxins they emit to ward off predators are actually a good stimulus to our health.

In other words, vegetables don’t want to be eaten. They cannot run away. But they can emit toxins and poison to prevent themselves from being eaten. But us humans, we eat vegetables — and the poison of vegetables aren’t strong enough to harm or kill us. The poison of vegetables are just strong enough to taste “bitter” to us. In fact, that is why bitter vegetables are more “healthy” for us — the more poisonous (therefore more bitter) the vegetables, the better they are for us.

Also note that the best traditional medicines that cure our diseases are very bitter — consider the bitterness of ginger and other traditional herbal medicines.

Anger and frustration as positive stimulus

Another idea: things that anger or frustrate us are good obstacles that give us an opportunity to exhibit our strength.

For example, if life were 100% easy and had no obstacles, randomness, or difficulty — we would just become fat, flabby, and weak blobs. We would be like those people sitting in the movie Wally — who are sitting in hover chairs, fat, and sipping soda.

For example, if you want to build muscle, you need additional resistance. You need more difficulty to become stronger.

More Challenge, more fun.

As an artist, you always need bigger challenges.

If you’re a rock climber or hiker, you only get thrills when you climb more and more difficult mountains.

As a writer, you need more challenging things to write.

If you’re a philosopher, you need deeper ideas to stimulate you, to fully develop your mind.

Street Photography is fun because it is difficult

Going back to photography — if you kept taking the same easy photograph with no difficulty, there would be no fun. I have fun shooting street photography precisely because it is difficult. If Street photography were easy and not difficult, it would not be enjoyable.

For example in video games, you need a difficulty that matches your skill. It needs to be slightly difficult enough that you might fail a level a few times, before you beat it. Video games with too easy a difficult are boring. And video games that are too difficult are too frustrating, and also not fun…we give up too easily.

Push Yourself to Failure to Grow Stronger

Therefore, I think the secret is to increase your difficulty in life— to increase the challenges in your life.

This is why I like this 25% principle— try to push yourself 25% more than you think you’re capable of.

At the gym, strive to do 25% more repetitions when you think you’re at the failure point.

Push yourself to Failure… that’s the only way you can test your limits, then overcome your limits.