In American society— we are always told to buy more shit to take away our misery and dissatisfaction in our lives.
The mistake; materialism and buying and adding things to your life doesn’t remove your dissatisfaction.
Rather, adding materialistic things often adds complications and frustrations to our life, rather than removing complications from our life.
Buying a Leica will fix all your life’s problems
For example, let’s say that I add an expensive camera to my life. By adding that new camera to my life, I have added frustrations and stresses.
For example, a new digital camera means more megapixels, meaning that I need to add more hard drive space, perhaps purchase a new laptop that can have more processing power and speed.
Buying a new camera means that you need to have more worries about it not getting scratched, getting stolen, etc. Furthermore, having to figure out what new laptop to buy is additional stress (should I buy a PC, a Macbook Pro, if I want to buy a Macbook pro, should I get a 13’’ or a 15’’? Also what configuration should I buy? Should I get insurance, or the additional warranty?)
More stuff, more problems
Buy a new car— more stress. Worry about someone denting your car, worry about having to spend more money on insurance (full-coverage), and probably getting more speeding tickets (if you buy a sports car).
Even if you buy a new sports car, that means more stress because you want to “upgrade” your car— by adding additional equipment to it (upgraded headers, intake, exhaust, turbo, new rims, lowering springs, etc).
Buy that new iPhone 6s
New electronics? Added stress. The anxiety of having your new iPhone scratched. Figuring out what new case to add to your phone. Figuring out what new apps to download and add.
#photography #iPhoneography #buyfilmnotmegapixels #streettogs #ricohgr #nofilter
Social media; trying to figure out how to get more comments, more likes.
Spending more time on social media = more stress.
For me personally, the anxiety I get from not getting as many “likes” on my photos that I expect is worse than the pleasure I gain from the actual likes I receive.
For example, when I started my first photography blog, I would be overjoyed to have 50 views or 1-2 comments in a day. Now if I get “only” 500 likes on a photo (instead of 1,000) I feel inadequate and frustrated.
The TVs, advertisements, billboard ads all tell you:
What you have isn’t good enough. You are dissatisfied. If you buy this new thing, this will fix your life’s problems.
Your iPhone 5s looks dated. Do you see how big and sexy the iPhone 6s is? It has a new camera. It has a bigger screen. The “3d touch” feature will change/revolutionize your life.
Your Honda is looking a bit dented and rusted. Buy that new BMW; it is the “ultimate driving experience” — you spend so much time stuck in traffic anyways, wouldn’t you rather drive around town in luxury? See how sexy the lines in that car look?
You’re not good enough
Your photos suck. Upgrade your camera. You will get a few more megapixels, faster autofocus, face-detection, better ISO performance, whatever.
Your laptop is slow. Upgrade it. Get that retina screen. You will see your photos much sharper— and your post-processing will improve. Then you will get more “likes” on social media.
It isn’t a waste of money, it is an “investment”
Your jeans look faded. Get that new pair of raw-denim for “only” $300. Sure, it is a lot of money, but it is an “investment” — you can wear it for 10 years instead of just 1 year for that pair of cheap UNIQLO pants that will wear out quickly.
You want to save money don’t you? Yeah you do— so spend a shitload of money once, and you won’t regret it.
You need the best. You can’t “settle” — after all if you buy the “best”, you will be satisfied won’t you?
Go ahead, spend that $8,000 on that new Leica and lens. Once you have the “best” you will be satisfied and never will have the “urge” to upgrade anymore.
Buy that bigass house— after all, you’re going to have kids in the future won’t you? You want to “invest” in your future— don’t piss away your money in rent. And don’t worry about those taxes on your property— it is just another tax deduction! Don’t let Uncle Sam steal any of your hard-earned money.
Common you’ve worked hard this year. Why save money, indulge yourself friend. Buy all the shit you’ve wanted this year. Add to your life by buying all this stuff, and trust me— it will make you feel so much better and happier in your life.
Your equipment is holding you back
Once you buy that new camera, you will go out and be more “inspired.” You will unlock new creativity. You will get more “creamy” bokeh with that new lens— it is only $1,000. Common, you slave away at your cubicle day-and-night; you deserve to treat yourself.
The voice that is always in my head. The voice that tells me that I am inadequate. The voice that tells me that I need to buy more shit, “upgrade”, and the sound of dissatisfaction reverberating in my head.
The voice that compares myself to others. The voice that tells me that I am not good enough, not handsome enough, not fashionable enough, not a good-enough photographer. Not buff or “ripped” enough. You look at those magazines, and imagine how much happier you would look if you look as ripped as those 6-pac guys in the front.
If you’re a woman— you go to Yoga class, see all those sexy other girls in their LuluLemon pants— and you compare yourself to them. You will never be as sexy or slim as them. But if you ever were as sexy and slim as them— all your life’s problems will dissolve.
You try that new fad diet. You torture yourself. But never forget— those ladies who you are jealous of— they aren’t satisfied with their physique either. They are comparing themselves to the other models in these Yoga magazines doing handstands. They are dissatisfied.
Why are we dissatisfied?
We are all dissatisfied.
We are always comparing ourselves to others.
Ignore everybody else. Lock yourself up. Only let your close friends and family into your life.
Block the internet. Spend as little time on your smartphone and social media at the time.
“Invest” in experiences instead of stuff.
I’ve recently wanted to buy something for $500 (iPhone 5s). I tried to convince myself that it was a good idea— but would I rather spend $500 having 25 meals at all-you-can-eat Korean BBQ (assuming each meal cost $20) than just having another “device” that will just rust and be disposable in a few years.
Satisfaction— so goddamn hard to achieve.
Even look at people like Kanye West. Arguably the most recognized rapper out there. But he’s not satisfied with his music nor his influence.
He wants to take over the world— he wants to be “respected” and “taken seriously” in the fashion world.
All these famous comedians are afraid of becoming redundant and forgotten.
Sooner or later— we all die. We are all forgotten.
Even Michael Jackson— arguably one of the most famous singers/writers/performers in history— who ever talks about him anymore? And if anyone does, the accusations of him being a child-molester come up.
Elvis Presley— at the top of his game? How did he die? Over-dose on drugs— was he really satisfied with his life? And who talks about Elvis, unless it is during Halloween when someone wears a goofy outfit?
Even Henri Cartier-Bresson; the most venerated photographer in history. He got “bored” or frustrated with his photography after 30 years, and just gave it all up to continue drawing in the rest of his life. Was he satisfied with his life and work? I’m not sure— he hated hanging his own work. And another story I heard— he was frustrated that his “best-sellers” were just the puddle-jumping man, whereas the “better” photos that he made were never sold.
Give a middle-finger to the world’s expectations of you.
Be satisfied with your life.
Be satisfied with your image, your physique, the material things you have, your job, your spouse, your kids, your friends, your loved ones.
Don’t look for reasons why you don’t like your life.
Look for reasons why you love your life.
You live in the suburbs? Thank God you don’t live in the hood and have to worry about being jumped on the way to school.
You have a boring 9-5 tech job? Thank God you’re not in India cleaning toilets (watch Slumdog millionaire and you’ll see what I mean).
You dissatisfied with your older-generation Fuji and wish you had a digital Leica? Think about the kid who just has a shitty smartphone camera, and would die to have the camera you have. And remember how excited everyone was when the original x100 came out— the ‘poor man’s Leica’ which was so revolutionary.
Dissatisfied with your old iPhone? Remember; it was the iPhone4 which was supposed to be the “perfect” size (according to Steve Jobs). Even a lot of Apple evangelists call the iPhone 5S the last “true” iPhone (I personally think the new iPhone 6s/+ are too big).
Your laptop too slow? Strip it down— rather than upgrading it, see which apps you can uninstall. Perhaps re-install a new OS on it that runs faster (some stripped-down version of Linux).
Dissatisfied with the photo books you have? Re-read them, and try to look at them slower.
Hate where you live? Think “creative constraints”— the more boring the place you live, the harder you have to try to be creative. This becomes a benefit; not a disadvantage.
The voices in my head
I’m no saint. I’m flawed, a typical American consumer who will (probably never) be satisfied with his life.
Everyday I am just trying to be a little less miserable, a little less deceitful, a little less egotistic, a little less materialistic, a little less hot-tempered, and a little less shitty of a person.
It is a constant struggle. But writing these words are a bit of self-therapy for myself.
And all those “voices” and the devils advocate written earlier in this letter? Yeah— those are the voices in my head.
Don’t waste a minute of your life
Today might be your last day on earth. Do you want to waste that time shopping on Amazon and wishing for something you don’t have? Or do you want to use that precious time to actually use what you have— and create art given your limited means?
Do you want to use this short time you have to be angry at your loved one— or to be appreciative of your spouse, hug them, apologize, kiss them, and go to sleep without any regrets.
Anger is like poison. We drink the poison and hope that the other person will die.
Make love your life’s mission. Love for yourself, and love for your fellow humans.
Whenever I personally criticize someone else; I always remind myself:
“I’ve done that before.”
Someone cut you off in traffic? Recall the time you’ve done that to someone else.
Someone insult you? Remember that one time you talked shit behind a friend’s back?
Your spouse say something mean to you? Remember the time that you lost patience with them and did the same.
Nobody is perfect. I’m not perfect, you’re not perfect, neither is your neighbor. Your priest, your spiritual leader, whoever isn’t perfect. We’re all flawed.
A lesson I learned from my buddy Seneca (in his book “On Anger”) — treat your fellow men as they are yourself. Imagine that all of humankind is one body— we are the arms, and the others are the legs.
Let’s use an example; Cindy and me are one being. We often refer to ourselves as “Cinderic” (a word-play on “Cindy” and “Eric”). When I yell at Cindy or yell patience at myself, it is like my body’s arms trying to cut off the legs.
Another analogy; Marcus Aurelius says that we and our partners are like the top and bottom row of teeth. We need to work together to chew the food. Would it make any sense for the top row of teeth to get angry at the bottom row of teeth?
Remember; we are all on the same team.
If you’re playing soccer, and your teammate scores a goal— do you get jealous or angry? No— you’re on the same team. You are happy and excited.
Your close friend get more likes/comments on Facebook on a photo they uploaded? Don’t be jealous— be happy for them; after all, they may teach you how to make better photos, or how to improve your photos. You’re both on the same team.
You lack nothing.
Never forget to count your blessings.
Don’t compare yourself with others, but remember that you started from the bottom, and “now you’re here.”
Be proud of all your accomplishments. Don’t look up at others who are richer/more successful than you— but consider all the people behind you who are probably jealous or envious of your position.
Don’t see how you can “add” to your life, but what you can subtract.
Someone insult you? Smile, pardon them— for they are just mistaken. They want to be loved, just like you.
Lots of love,
Wed, 1:24pm, Dec 23, 2015.