Downtown LA, 2011 by eric kim street photography

How to Take More Risks in Life

Downtown LA, 2011 by eric kim street photography
Downtown LA, 2011

“Fortune favors the brave.”

Dear friend, I wanted to write you a letter on the importance of taking risks in life.

Without risk, we can never do anything incredible and awesome in life. Risk is what drives us forward, to become the best versions of ourselves.

Yet we are all afraid of risk. We are naturally “risk averse.” For example, the pain of losing $100 is twice as painful as winning $100.

Being risk averse helped humanity survive over the millenia. But in today’s world, we cannot be slaves to fear. None of us will die via starvation or by being ostracized by others.

The goal of our life is to be bold, and take more risks towards what we want to achieve in life.

In street photography, the more risks you take, the more likely you are to get a great photo.

For example, the more you shoot a scene, the more likely you are to capture a “decisive moment.” Not only that, but whenever you take a photo of a scene or a person that scares you, you’re taking a risk.

I have a personal rule: I must photograph whatever I’m afraid of. Whenever I see a person or a scene that causes my heart to pound, sweat to drip down my back, and causes me to hesitate — I muster my strength to take a step forward, and take photos.

The riskiest thing I’ve done in my personal life is to not take the traditional path of staying at a 9-5 job (after I got laid off). Instead, my dream was to pursue my photography full time, somehow figuring how to make a living from my passion in street photography.

I was lucky enough to make a living from street photography by teaching workshops, and by getting people to know me through blogging.

When I decided to pursue street photography as my living, I had a backup option (to mitigate risk). My mom’s basement was my backup plan, or just getting another office job.

The best way I was able to take a risk of pursuing my passion was knowing I only had one life to live. I knew I didn’t want to be on my deathbed, regretting not trying something risky and grand in my life.

I had no idea whether I’d be successful or not. But I knew that I had to hustle my ass off. I knew the harder I worked, the less likely I was to fail.

For me, I’m always fearful of taking risks because of social stigma, because this irrational fear of death, or becoming homeless.

The best way I can fight my fears is to vividly imagine the worst case scenario. And when I think of the worst case scenario, it’s never as bad as I imagine.

Also practicing poverty is a good practice to prevent ourselves from taking risks. For a few days, all I will eat is eggs, and drink black coffee and water. I’ll only have two pairs of clothes. I will sleep in a sleeping bag. I know as long as I have WiFi and coffee, I will be fine.

Also, one of the best way I take risks is to think of my duty to humankind, not to myself. I know my duty is to help others, through advice on this blog, through sharing information on photography, and help people find more personal meaning in their life. I have faith that as long as I’m dedicating my life to serve others, my basic needs will always be met.

One of the most challenging things I face is regarding money. I fear risk, because I fear going bankrupt. My mom went bankrupt once and it was horrible for our family. Yet we still survived afterwards.

I’m starting to realize, the mission is to make a living, not a killing with my passion. As long as I can pay rent, eat, and drink coffee, I have all my basic needs met. My goal isn’t to drive a matted out Lamborghini, and wear a Rolex on each of my wrists. My goal is to serve others, not myself.

“Why not?”

My friend Jeff started a blog, because he thought to himself: “Why not?”

By thinking “why not?” you will not fear the downside. As long as you cover your downside, you have nothing to fear.

Shoot a lot of arrows

“Shoot a lot of arrows, and no two will hit the same point.” – Publilius Syrus

Taking a risk is like shooting an arrow. The more arrows you shoot, the more likely you are to hit the bull’s eye.

Risk isn’t always reward

When you take a risk, you won’t necessarily succeed. But we can’t control whether we are successful or not. We can control the effort we put in, not the results.

If you’re a risk taker, focus on your effort. Don’t be dismayed if you don’t succeed. Only lady fortune can control the results of your efforts.

Start off by taking small risks

If you’re prone to being risk averse, start off by taking small risks. Take a risk by saying hello to a stranger who looks mean. Take a risk by asking a stranger to take their photo. Take a risk by asking out that person on a date. Ask someone for a favor.

The more you build upon small risks, you can start taking bigger risks.

What if today were your last?

If today was your last day on earth, what risks would you regret not doing?

Minimize your regrets in life, and you will gladly go to sleep each night, knowing you’ve done everything in your power to live an epic and noble life.