The Regret Minimization Framework in Photography and Life

Dear friend,

A concept I want to share with you in photography: “The regret minimization framework.”

1. What would you regret on your deathbed at age 90?

Back view of a hearse (death car)

I got this idea from Jeff Bezos, who has the ‘regret minimization framework’ in his life.

Summed up the concept is this (paraphrased by me):

I imagine myself at age 90, on my deathbed. Then I think, “Would I regret doing this, or not doing this?”

Jeff Bezos was talking about this ‘internet’ thing. He then started Amazon by quitting his high-paid job. And we all know Amazon.

2. How to have fewer regrets in photography and life

Have you ever seen a good potential photo opportunity, and you hesitate and don’t take the photo?

That is regret. It is a horrible feeling.

This happens to me a lot. I either hesitate in street photography (because I’m afraid of upsetting the person, or if the person gets angry at me), or I self-censor myself by thinking: “Oh, that is a boring photo, I shouldn’t shoot it.”

But fuck it — whenever you see something interesting, just shoot it.

3. No regrets in street photography

eric kim istanbul street photography1

In street photography, to take a photo and get yelled at is better than to not take the risk.

Street photography is all about risk-taking. That is what makes it fun.

eric kim istanbul street photography1

If street photography were too easy, it would be no fun. So for me, I take as many risks as I can. Whenever I see a photo that might possibly upset someone, I just go for it.

One of my mottos in life has been: “It is better to beg for forgiveness than ask for permission.” It has worked pretty good.

eric kim istanbul street photography1

Because if you always ask for permission for everything in life— you won’t do anything. You won’t do anything epic, or noble.

You need to make your own opportunities, by taking risk.

Learn to love taking risks. And the more risks you take, the more likely you are to hit a home-run.

4. What is the worst that can happen?

eric kim istanbul street photography1

Always consider the worst-case scenario. You might get yelled at. You might get punked. You might get punched. Whatever.

Be like Brad Pitt in Fight Club, blood coming out of his mouth— laughing and saying, ‘Is that all you got?’

I think every street photographer should know how to take a punch. I remember when I was a kid, I was afraid of being punched. But when I was in high school, at age 16— me and my buddies started to box for fun. We boxed in my garage, and I got hit unconscious before. Funny thing— the pain from getting hit in the head isn’t as bad as you think it is.

One of the best practical ways to overcome fear of pain or fear of anything— start to deadlift. When you deadlift (yes, both women and men can) — you feel like a badass. You feel like a beast. You feel super-human. There is no better feeling than increasing your ‘1-rep max’ (the maximum you can lift a certain weight) than anything. Getting into this style of ‘powerlifting’ will make you physically more powerful, and mentally more powerful — with less fear.


memento mori

MEMENTO MORI: remember that you will die. And you must die.

Whenever I live my day, I imagine like today is my last day on earth. I contemplate:
– What should I do today?
– What should I not do today?

I close my eyes every evening— and wonder, “If I didn’t wake up tomorrow morning, would I regret my life?”

This is what keeps me on-track.

6. Be epic

eric kim photographer hanoi portrait by cindy a nguyen

Your life is short. Do cool shit. Be epic. Change the world.

Believe in your idealistic beliefs. Sacrifice yourself for the collective.

Your body will die, but your soul and your spirit will live forever— through the imagination, inspiration, and motivation you give others.

When I die, I can probably continue my genes through my children. Also continue myself through the information I create— I hope these blog posts, books, and videos help empower future generations (as well as people of today).

7. Death on your golden bed

Imagine you’re at the end of your life. You’ve accrued 1 billion dollars. You have a spaceship. You have a Rolls-Royce Phantom, 100 Rolex Watches, every single Louis-Vuitton handbag and Hermes scarf. You have a mansion, with 100 rooms. You have all the honors and accolades.

Yet, no matter how rich or influential you are— you’re going to die the same as someone in the hood.

You’re going to be surrounded by your loved ones on your golden bed. But you’re going to die. And you can’t take all your goodies and your toys with you.

Conclusion: Regrets I want to avoid in life

Cindy Project Monochrome-12 eric kim ricoh gr ii self portrait gas station

How do you want to be remembered when you die? What regrets do you want to avoid?

Just avoid regrets in life, and you will live a noble life.

For me, regrets I want to avoid:

  • Regrets dying in a car crash, because I bought a fast sports car, and got a bit too crazy— and drove it off a cliff, or hit another car.
  • Regrets drinking while driving, or texting while driving, or changing my Spotify playlist while driving, and dying in a car crash (or killing someone else)
  • Riding a bicycle in the city, and getting hit by a car and dying
  • Going deep-sea diving, oxygen tank breaks, and I drown to death.
  • Wasting precious hours of my life, trying to accrue more 1’s and 0’s in my bank account, and forgetting I can’t take it with me when I die.
  • Betraying my own ethics and morals, for some financial or selfish gain.

And of course, not to miss any good moments with my loved ones, or missing good photo opportunities.

2-side by side eric kim cubist

When you see a good opportunity— seize it. It is better to take a risk and fuck it up, than to take no risks in life.

Be strong,

Learn more: Stoicism >

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