Sydney, 2016 #suits

What Do You Want to Do With Your Life?

The three most valuable things we have in life are time, attention, and money.

With time, we never gain more of it. As time goes on, we slowly die. Sooner or later we will all (eventually) die. And no matter how rich we are, we can never buy “more” time to add to our lives (although we can pay people to save us time).

With attention, once we lose it, it takes a long time for us to regain it. The internet is an “attention economy” — catchy titles, pop-ups, messages that always try to get our attention. Advertising is all about getting your attention, and stoking you with desire. And also with attention, apparently once you lose attention and focus, it takes you around 30 minutes to regain it. We only are given so much attention in the day — we decide what to give attention to (and what not to give attention to).

With energy, we start the day with a 100% smartphone battery charge. As the day goes on, as we work, interact with others, move, etc — our battery slowly drains. At the end of the day we are near 0%. We decide what to do during our days, and how to conserve our energy.

What if you didn’t have to worry about money?

Let’s do a thought experiment: If you made $5,000 a month ($60,000 a year) in “passive income” (meaning, you didn’t have to work for this money, it just magically appeared in your bank account every month) — what would you do with your time, attention, and energy?

What is the one main thing you’d want to focus on? Devote your life to? Who are the individuals that you would want to spend your time, attention, and energy with?

Better yet— what would you decide not to do with your time, attention, and energy? What are the superfluous things you would cut from your life? What activities would you stop doing?

What would you do with your newfound freedom? Would you sit passively on the couch, and just consume media? Or would you be more active— and focus more on creation, self-exploration, and helping others?

My passion

For me, my main passion in life is to teach and empower others. I love doing this by blogging, by making videos, by teaching workshops, and by encouraging friends and family.

I’ve actually found out a while ago that my main passion in life isn’t photography. Rather, I see photography as a tool to better connect with others, and also for me to connect with myself. Photography helps me step outside of my comfort zone, approach people I normally wouldn’t, and also help me find more gratitude in life.

My ideal lifestyle

So you know the imaginary scenario where you no longer have to worry about money anymore? That is currently my situation in Vietnam. I know once I move back to the states, I will start having to worry about money again (cost of living in Bay Area/Berkeley is much higher than Hanoi). But what if I didn’t?

An ideal day for me in Hanoi includes the following:

  • Having coffee
  • Doing creative work/writing
  • Walking around and taking some photos
  • Eating good food
  • Spending time with Cindy, meditating on life, encouraging her, and collaborating with her
  • Meeting friends for dinner, talking spirited talks on life, philosophy, and friendship
  • Ending the day (doing pillow talk) with Cindy, reflecting on the day, counting our blessings, and going to sleep fulfilled

None of this stuff really requires a lot of money. So I’m not sure why I always stress out about money. This lifestyle doesn’t even cost much when I live back in the states.

How much money do I need? And what do I need it for?

Sure, I might want to buy a house or buy investment properties or whatever to have a lifelong source of “passive income.” But honestly — I’m not too worried about money. I know that as long as I work hard, build value for others, encourage and motivate others, teach, and help my fellow humankind— my basic needs will be met. I know that instead, I should devote all of my psychic energy to helping others— instead of thinking how I can add more security, comfort, and pleasure to my own life.

Hell f*cking yeah! (or no)

Many of us live paycheck to paycheck. Of course we still need to work to pay the bills, and do other unpleasant things in life (like doing taxes, and visit in-laws we might not like).

However, there is still a lot in life we can control — like what to do with our free time, with our energy, and attention (at least before/after work, to some extent our lunch breaks, and on the weekends).

One of the best ways for decision making (learned this from Derek Sivers) is that when you want to know what to do (and what not to do) ask yourself the question:

Is this decision a ‘hell f*cking yeah, or no?’

Avoid things that you only have a ‘mild’ enthusiasm/passion for in life. This will help you direct yourself to knowing what you really want to (and don’t want to do).

For me, my hell f*cking yes’s include the following:

  • (Good) coffee
  • Spending time with close-knit family
  • Spending time with Cindy
  • Writing/blogging/video (when I’m in the mood)
  • Aimlessly walking and wandering and snapping photos (street photography)
  • Physical exercise (ideally in the form of pull-ups, deadlifts, and squats)
  • Spending time with friends who uplift me, motivate me, and who I can have deep philosophical talks with
  • Teaching workshops

Things that I know that I don’t like to do, or waste time, attention, energy on:

  • Networking
  • Logistics/planning
  • Stressing about money
  • Stressing about what other people think of me
  • Anxiety about the future
  • Regrets from the past
  • Living in fear
  • Excessive traveling/jetlag
  • Spending too much time away from Cindy
  • Comparing myself to other people on social media/envy/jealousy

I want to rid myself of all these negative emotions, anxieties, and fears. And I try my best on a daily basis— to liberate more of my psychic energy to helping others.

So now that I’ve shared some of my personal thoughts with you — I want you to have the chance to answer the question.

What would you do if you no longer had to worry about money? What would you choose to focus your time, attention, and energy on?

Would you focus more on your photography? Focus more on your family? Focus more on making a contribution to the rest of society? What other forms of art could you pursue?

What would you spend less time on, less attention on, and less energy on? What negative emotions do you want to rid from yourself? What positive emotions do you want to focus on, and let enter into your life?

Always think and meditate on these questions. You only have one life to live— why live according to the standards of others?

As Socrates once said:

“The life unexamined isn’t a life worth living.”


After dragging myself out of bed, having a (strong) Vietnamese coffee at home, and getting ready for a (very hot) day in Hanoi.