How to Become Wealthy

Berkeley, 2016 #ricohgr
Berkeley, 2016 #ricohgr

If you don’t desire or “want” anything superfluous in life, you are truly wealthy. When you have all your needs (food, water, shelter, love); what else do you need in life?

How to create wealth with value

OK, so you know you don’t need much to be happy in life. But how do you practically make a “living” in your passion— whether that be photography or any other creative pursuit?

I believe to create wealth is to create value. “Value” is empowering others with your original ideas, with useful information, or anything that helps another achieve their dreams.

Seek to empower others as much as possible and everything else will follow.

My personal experiences

Photo by Emilio Aparicio / NYC, 2016
Photo by Emilio Aparicio / NYC, 2016

I’ve dedicated the last 5-6 years of my life producing information on photography to empower others, keeping it “open source” (free, open, and easily-accessible to the masses).

I feel I’ve created tremendous surplus value for others through this information I’ve produced.

For example, I remember when other photographers who went to art school would “name drop” the names of famous photographers, and I would nod my head along like I knew who they were talking about. But in reality, I had no idea, and was quite ashamed of my lack of knowledge. A lot of these art students used their knowledge and information as an ivory tower— to empower themselves, while casting judgement and weakening those around them (who didn’t go to art school).

So I thought to myself, “I’m sure there are other photographers as clueless as I am. Maybe I’ll do some research and write some blog posts about the masters of photography, in order to educate first myself and then others.” Thus the “Learn from the Masters” series was born.

How to overcome your fears

NYC, 2016
NYC, 2016

For a long time, shooting street photography scared the living crap out of me. Fortunately over the years I’ve been able to build my confidence, and now I teach workshops to help others build their confidence. To have the confidence to empower them to take photos that they might have been too scared to shoot before.

Help others

I feel the purpose of a human being is to be useful and to empower others. That means empowering your community, friends, family, and humankind at large.

The more value you create for others, the more meaning, self-purpose, and happiness it will bring you.

Karl Marx talks about how many working-class individuals feel “alienated” from their labor because they don’t have the “means of production” and are never able to fully reap or appreciate the rewards of what they work on. If Marx were alive today, I think he would be much more optimistic seeing how we have all the digital “means of production.”

When I say “means of production” I mean the tools that help us produce information, images, and knowledge. We have free and ubiquitous wifi, powerful and cheap computers, stellar digital cameras, and other free and open-source digital tools that empower us to create the art that is dwelling in our hearts.

Nowadays our only limit is our own creativity and our own tenacity to create the art we must create.

You got everything you need

Berkeley, 2016 #cindyproject
Berkeley, 2016 #cindyproject

As long as you have a laptop (or a “device” that connects to wifi) you can create value and empower others. You can start your own blog, share ideas, make YouTube videos, publish e-books, share images, and make useful information or provide useful services to others. To further add value to others, you can offer your advice, counsel, and honest feedback & critique to others.

The two most valuable commodities in today’s economy

In today’s economy, trust & love are the two most powerful values you can build.

You need to create a sense of trust between you and your audience. You need to help others with an authentic heart, ad to infuse passion, love, and enthusiasm into your work.

You can’t bullshit passion or love. You need to be genuine, and figure out how you can amplify your strengths in order to empower others.

What are your strengths?

NYC, 2016
NYC, 2016

If you’re social and extroverted, perhaps you’re best suited to be a teacher, consultant, or guide. If you’re more introverted, perhaps you’re better suited to writing or producing useful to content to others.

You need to discover how you can best positively impact society and humankind. Be relentless on serving others for the “higher good.”

Blessings on blessings on blessings

I’m blessed. I have low living expenses; no kids, affordable rent, no car, and no mortgage or debt. All I “need” to survive is some eggs, ground beef, and coffee to sustain me. I have a laptop and a digital camera that doesn’t need upgrading. I have all the tools of the internet to empower me, and help create and share value with others.

My mom always tells me, “Eric, you’re so blessed to be born in the generation you were born in. Without the internet, you would have never been able to create your business and do what you do.” And she is totally right— I always count my blessings, because I certainly couldn’t do what I do today if it weren’t for the internet and modern technology.

My daily focus

BART, 2016
BART, 2016

Everyday the only thing I focus on is how I can be more helpful and useful to you, my friend. Whether that is to create YouTube videos, blog posts, e-books, or teaching workshops. I honestly feel everything else is a huge distraction (social media, blogs, etc).

There are many times that I feel lost and purposeless; and whenever I am not working, thoughts of doubt and depression cloud my mind.

But whenever I teach a workshop and be around other passionate photographers, I realize the impact that I am having on others is powerful and positive. This helps uplift me, and empowers me to continue to hustle to help others.

Nowadays I’m becoming more cynical about social media. Honestly it doesn’t hurt, but having a big social media following helps you a lot less than you might think. My suggestion: invest your time, energy, and attention into your own platform. Purchase your own digital tools (don’t trust ‘free’ social media platforms), self-host your own blog, and publish your best images to your own website portfolio (firstnamelastnamephoto.com).

Blogging is self-empowerment

NYC, 2016
NYC, 2016

I am quite sad that it looks like fewer and fewer people “blog” anymore. It is much easier to upload something to Snapchat, Instagram, or Facebook. But blogging gives you so much more freedom— to share your thoughts, your words, and to express yourself on your own terms. Do you really want to only be able to express yourself through your photography in a 4’’ screen?

If you don’t know what to blog about, simply write articles which you wish you could read. For example, I was frustrated that so few blogs on the internet actually taught you about photography— 99% of the blogs I found were just gear-review sites.

Furthermore, know that your blog doesn’t need to be perfect. It matters less about how fancy your images, words, and ideas are— what matters more is that you are consistent, stay on-track, and be open and honest.

One of my favorite photography blogs is my friend Josh White (jtinseoul.wordpress.com). Not only does he share his soulful images, but he also shares a lot of his personal thoughts and life experiences. Reading his blog is more like reading a personal visual diary, than some promotional corporate-sponsored entity.

If you are struggling with things in your photography, share your experiences with others. Share why you are currently facing “photographer’s block” and ways you think you can overcome it. Treat your blog like a visual diary — share images, thoughts, and write for yourself. Write with all your heart and soul; the more you bleed onto the page, the more others will relate with you.

It doesn’t need to be perfect

SF, 2016
SF, 2016

You’re not perfect and you’re not an expert. But then again, who is?

We are all “amateurs” — we do what we do because we love it. We might or might not make a living from it, but as long as we are providing value to others, we are doing our job as a human being. We are all on the path of self-improvement; and daily becoming better human beings and photographers.

Everything in today’s digital world is a “work-in-progress.” I think this is quite liberating— we can go back and re-edit old blog posts, we can delete old photos we are no longer proud of, and we can constantly re-shape and stay flexible with our photography style.

Know that all your “needs” in life are taken care of. All that is left for you to have the time, energy, and enthusiasm to create your art.

Know that freedom is what we are all seeking for as artists— not having a more expensive camera, not living in a more fancy city, living in a bigger house, having a faster car, or having more 0’s in our bank account. True happiness is to know our purpose in life, and devote as much of our time and attention on empowering others; loving and being loved.

Share your gift

Fort Bragg, 2016
Fort Bragg, 2016

To end this letter, know that you have a special gift that you must share with others. You might not yet know what that gift is, that is why it is your special task to spend your entire life figuring out what your gift is.

And once you discover your personal gift, you must spend the rest of your life, and all your time and effort to share it with others. It doesn’t matter if you’re 18, 40, or 70 — the genuineness of your sharing matters far more than how many people you help, and how many years you help others for.

The more you share your personal gift with others, the more you will receive. And the more wealth you build, the more you can be generous with others.

Push humanity forward with your ideas, inner-gift, and love. Your imagination, creativity, and fountain of ideas is boundless and infinite. Keep sharing, and you will never die.

Always,
Eric

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