Dear friend — what is luxury, how do we define it, and how do we achieve it?

1. My definition of luxury

eric kim photography -2017 - hue-0004756 abstract texture

I don’t see luxury as having an expensive car, expensive watch, expensive home, owning a private jet, or flying all around the world.

The only luxury is time.

Time, freedom, and the energy to do whatever you want to do — whenever you want to to it.

2. “Fuck you money”

eric kim photography black and white hanoi-0009560

In the stock-exchange and trader world, there is a term called ‘fuck you money.’ It is pretty much the amount of money you need to do whatever you want in life.

So to have ‘fuck you money’ is to not become a slave to circumstances, your boss, or your company. But to have freedom.

Fuck you money doesn’t have to be millions, or billions, or trillions. Having ‘fuck you money’ can be earning $40,000 a year. Or maybe even less— $20,000 a year (if you live in Southeast Asia, or Vietnam).

Pretty much to me, ‘fuck you money’ is not letting money become your master. To not live life, with the golden Rolex handcuffs. To use money as a tool — to use money as your slave. To have freedom.

3. Artistic freedom

Cindy Project Monochrome-12 black and white

I’m only speaking for myself; but what I desire is artistic freedom. To create the art I want to make, to share it openly and freedom, and to not get censored, or to let anyone control my time or mental energy.

For me, I am a selfish and greedy and self-centered person. But for me, I try to be selfish as an artist— for the greater good.

I am lucky enough that I have financial freedom. I don’t have a blacked-out black Lamborghini, nor do I have billions in the bank. But, I have enough money to pay rent, I have enough to pay for my eggs and coffee, and enough to support my family.

I like being able to have the freedom to work on whatever I want, without thinking that it needs to earn money.

For example, I am fascinated about composition. Composition not just in photography, but renaissance art. Leonardo da Vinci is my big inspiration. Pablo Picasso is another — who acted like a kid his entire life, painting whatever he was passionate or interested about. So I am glad that I can write these articles on composition, which are of value to other photographers and artists— without having to squeeze a dime out of nobody.

4. Avoid the face of Medusa

doves eric kim teal

The traditional face of luxury is Medusa— the Versace logo. Medusa— you look into her eyes, and you turn into stone.

We get tempted by all this material crap in the world. What does it matter if you have an expensive hand-bag, when in reality, it is just made from dead cow skin?

What does it matter if you have an expensive camera, if it is just a hunk of metal pulled from the earth, and painted and made shiny?

What does it matter if you have a big-ass house with marble walls and statues. Lying under a tree in mother nature will always be more beautiful.

Who cares if you drive a blacked-out Mercedes or BMW. It will eventually rust, get dented, become outdated, until the next new version comes out.

Who cares if you have the newest smartphone — it is just another hunk of metal, with a touch-screen, which will constantly get thinner, lighter, and more powerful. Writing on paper will still be more enjoyable.

5. Time above all else

eric kim photography black and white hanoi-0009910 spiral fibonacci

We all want control over our lives, more specifically — we all want control over our time.

We cannot say that we have ‘life’ — only time. Because ‘life’ is too abstract of a concept.

We know what a minute is; we know what an hour is; we know what a day is; we know what a week is; and we know what a month, and year, and decade is.

So what if you lived a life, where you held every hour in your grasp? That nobody could control your use of time. That you aren’t a slave to your boss, who can email you at 2am, expecting a response? Or to be a slave to your share-holders at your company, demanding you to sit in every boring meeting?

The true luxury is time. Time to do your creative work, time to spend a luxurious 3-hour dinner with your family at home, or the time to meet other passionate people.

6. You will die

eric kim street photography hanoi-0005665 cross

Your time is short, limited, and you will die.

No amount of fancy cars will prolong your life. No amount of expensive possessions will prevent the grim reaper from tapping on your shoulder.

So let us forgo luxurious ‘goods’ and focus on the most important luxury in our life — our time. Our control of our mental energy. The creative expression of our soul.

7. Practical ideas to have more time in life

eric kim black and white photography hanoi - monochrome - ricoh gr ii - 28mm-1070769

Some ways to have more time in life:

1. Say “no”

NO — probably the best 2-character word in the alphabet. If someone invites you to a dinner, a party, whatever that you don’t want to go to — just say “no.”

Say it in a nice way. “Thank you, but unfortunately I’m not interested.”

2. Cut obligations

No more obligatory gym class or Yoga class, to guilt yourself into getting fit. No. Cut those bullshit obligations, only go if you want to go.

Cut unnecessary ‘networking’ meetings. If someone offers to buy you a coffee to ‘pick your brain’ politely say no.

Cut obligations for after-work activities. Cut obligations for any social event, or weekly reoccurring meeting that you don’t have your soul in.

As a practical tip, next time someone offers you to do something, ask them “Is it okay if I get back to you in a day or two?” Delay is one of the best ways to re-think your time.

3. Trade money for time

The worst investment in life:

To trade time for money.

The best investment in life:

To trade money for time.

Practically speaking — it makes sense for me to spend $10 to save 1 hour of my life. I can always earn another $10, but can never earn another hour of my life.

Does it make sense for me to spend 1 hour of my time, to drive to the convenience store, to pick up a pair of scissors? Or rather order it on Amazon prime — even though it might be a bit more expensive online?

For me, I also avoid spending too much time in transit, or flying. Cindy and I chose to go to Mexico City for our honeymoon instead of Buenos Aires— because the flight was shorter. Less time on a plane; more time enjoying ourselves during a holiday.

That also means, if you want more time in your life— figure out ways how you can live closer to work. Less time commuting, even though rent might be more expensive. Or figure out how you can use your long commute to work as an advantage. Use that time to listen to empowering podcasts, or to read a book, to write a blog post, to take street photos on your smartphone.

Use every opportunity to your advantage; but always opt for more time, whenever possible.

Conclusion

Time is luxury. Time is the ultimate luxury. Never forget that.

Always,
Eric