When I was in Philly to pick up my Ford Fiesta for the Fiestamovement campaign, I met up with Chris Urie, a street photographer and journalist based in Philly. We took a stroll around one of the major parks there (forget what it was called) and we started to chat with some of the people we met in the park.
One character I was fascinated with was named Eric Rivera. When I first spotted him, he was chilling on a park bench, enjoying the beautiful weather, while puffing on a nice cuban cigar — donning his Knicks hat with crocodile leather on the bill, and some pretty fly looking sunglasses.
I approached him and commented that I liked his outfit–and we just started to chat. As part of my “America” street photography project, I had my GoPro with me and asked to interview him–so I could learn more about his personal story. What he shared surprised me.
I made the wrong pre-assumption that he was just some guy who liked to dress fancy and enjoy cigars. But upon chatting with him more, I discovered he was an ex-Wall Street Trader and had a passion for philosophy and wisdom. We literally talked for about half an hour, and I recorded about 10 minutes of the conversation below.
After interviewing him, I asked if it was cool if I took some photos. He obliged. I took about 7 shots with my Leica MP and flash on Portra 400, and below is a contact sheet of all the photos I took. I think #4 is the strongest shot, as I love his eye contact, the smoke exhaling from his mouth, and the nice cuban in his left hand. The reflection of the flash in his sunglasses is a great touch too.
I think one of the great lessons I learned that day was never make any presumptions about anybody you meet–especially strangers in public. Not only that, but if you give people your time and attention–they can share some incredible stories and profound insights. I hope you enjoy the feature below:
Interview with Eric Rivera [Video]
Start by introducing yourself? What is your name? Where are you from?
My name is Eric Rivera—I’m from New Jersey. I grew up in New Jersey—migrated to the financial district in New York City. Worked on Wall Street for a while. Did some sentiment analysis, arbitrage, messed around with derivatives. And I have a special love for chaos theory and other mathematics.
I’ve played chess since the age of 5 years old. I speak Hebrew and Spanish in 3 different dialects and English as well. I’m learning mandarin as we speak. And I love beautiful women and I enjoy making money.
So tell us more about your joy of making money.
The joy of making money comes from freedom. It comes from actually getting yourself into a place where you’re self sufficient and independent. Not independent just in a sense of the word or the phrase—but you’re independent where you don’t have to worry about making your supervisor happy or dealing with corporate policies or structures that aren’t like-minded with what your actual personal morality or thought process is.
A lot of people want to make money for superficial reasons. Others want to make money because it’s a way you can grow and actually be self-sufficient and not have to depend on the system.
Me personally, my thought process now as opposed as when I was a younger man is literally invest half of what i make and re-invest 100% of the profits so that I can have compounded growth. And that’s really the only way to accrue generational wealth
What do you invest in? What do you recommend?
I wouldn’t make any recommendations to a person—I would just say if you’re making any investment you should be well-versed in what your putting your money into. If you’re unaware—if something seems complex to you, I wouldn’t do it. I would deepen your understanding of what you’re thinking of making an investment in.
If you’re a journalist or photographer, you’re not just that because you decided to put that in the title in front of your name. You took the days hours and weeks, and you used your irrevocable time to invest in yourself. And that time can’t be given back to you—so it is part of that time period you invested.
It wasn’t necessarily money you got away, but it was experience, it was wisdom—it was the knowledge and details of definitive things that you learned and the processes that you came up with during that time that you spent. And caused you to become a photographer or a journalist for that.
So I would tell anyone if you’re going to make an investment, make an investment in something that you understand and are well-versed in. something you have wrapped your mind and heart around.
The word ‘desire’ –passion, emotions, and motives. Emotions and motives all come from the word called “movere” (in Latin). It means to move. If you have a passion for something, it aught to move you into that direction. It should catapult you in tat way. You cant be successful in something you’re not passionate for. Unless you’re hitting the lottery, which is slim to none.
The gambler is fooled when they go to the casino. They have a misinterpretation of the probability of them winning. So they associate their potential winning based on seeing someone else win. They are fooled with randomness. Nassim Taleb –I’ve sit in 15 lectures of him. I met him several times; I’m a big fan of his writings as well as his thought process. He is one of my favorites –with reference to the way he sees the economy.
As I was saying desire—your desire. You become what your thoughts are. What dominates your mind. If you want to be successful you need to work at it. You need to spend time to invest positive thoughts to propel you and make you grow as a human being—so you can make an actual deposit into humanity into something you really believe in.
I believe you’re wealthy when you actually think wealthy. It doesn’t come with a certain net worth—it has to do a lot with your thought process. If you have a poor mind process or a poor thought process—you will always be poor.
[Story of Desire]
Ill share a story with you—it is unrehearsed, from my experiences and thoughts.
I was in Cape Town—I was in Johannesburg and to Cape Town. When I was there on the 3rd day of the visit her name was ‘evidence.’ When they said her name was evidence I didn’t understand the significance of that until I heard her story. Her mother had died giving birth to her, her father died before that, and her entire family was gone.
Her caretaker called her ‘evidence’ so when people asked her where she came from—that she was the evidence of her entire lineage, her family tree. She gave me this bracelet—that is a reminder of a woman that I met at that time. She was 14 at the time. It was around 2004.
Recently I got an email from an actual tour guide who was from us from Evidence. She graduated from an illustrious university in England—I believe it was Cambridge. She graduated in a masters in psychology. And to see someone come from such a small village where she had food insecurity—she didn’t know when she was going to get water or anything to eat. She didn’t have any support, contacts, and resources. She simply had desire.
Something you can’t recruit—see—something you can’t even disclose to another person. Her desire to actually want to achieve success and want to enhance her quality of life caused her to go from a village where she was predicted to die from the age of 12, to actually graduating from an illustrious university.
Is she successful? Compared to where she’s from she’s a billionaire. If I’ve given anything in this interview—it is evidence. You can do anything that your heart desires. There are no limitations to what you can accomplish and you have a sense of purpose. Every person has a purpose—attached to them.
I enjoy making money but that is just a by-product of who I am. There is so much more to an individual that meets the eye or the title of your career. You have a lot to give, and I believe the more that you give. For example I’m giving you 10-15 minutes of my time. And you’re giving me 10-15 minutes of your time. As we exchange this time and experience, are sharing cultural sharing. We share who we are, where we’ve been—and I believe this moment will be forever sketched in our minds. It will always change how we perceive other people.
My name is Eric Rivera—this is Eric Kim – good meeting you and your friend here, Chris. It was an enjoyable time. Hopefully you can put this together and show it to me, and even Chris write it up as a story in what magazine or magazine – the Philadelphia story.
Maybe the best way to end that story is to take a big Cuban. This is the #2 cigar in the aficionado list. It is called ‘La Roma de Cuba, Mi Amor.’ She is the only woman I trust.