Dear friend,

The key to success: HUSTLE ALL DAY.


eric kim portrait by cindy

I’ve been contemplating the ‘key of success’ since I was around 12 years old. Imagine this — my dad gambled away the rent money, my mom was hustling 6-7 days a week, working under-the-table shitty jobs to just pay the rent and support me and my sister.

Growing up poor sucked, but it actually gave me the keys to success.

I learned early on this fact:

You cannot depend on nobody else for success.

I couldn’t depend on my mom to give me money (she had none) to buy some ADIDAS shoes I wanted. I couldn’t depend on my dad to get a job, and uplift my mom (and our family) out of poverty.

Rather, my goal in life was simple: I would fucking hustle hard, to one day become rich, and support my mom and my family — and to also give back to the community.

II. Thank you UMMA

I knew early on as a kid, money wasn’t the secret to happiness. In high school, I knew a girl who drove a PORSCHE (family was rich). But I remember I learned one day — her family didn’t care about her. They didn’t love her. I then realized:

Wow, my life is so much better. Even though we’re poor, at least my mom loves me.

I love you UMMA for sacrificing everything for me and Anna.

III. The virtues of growing up poor

Being poor taught me how to tinker. I couldn’t afford a BMW, so I bought a 1991 Sentra — and tinkered the shit out of it. I stripped the interior, spray-painted the shit-brown interior black, spray-painted my rims (bronze), I learned how to paint the scratched bumpers, and I still remember all the fun trips to AUTOZONE and KRAGEN. I bought $200 headers on Ebay, and got a Chinese mechanic in Oakland to install a 2’’ ‘Mendrel Bend’ exhaust. I installed an intake, and learned how to fix up my car by myself — via internet forums, and tinkering.

Which made me realize: the benefit of growing poor is you learn how to make the best of what you have. You learn how to play the card you’re already given — rather than complaining what you don’t have.


And the funny thing — I had a fucking blast. I loved working on my car. It was my baby. It was an externalization of me. It showed me that I could change my fate— by changing the body exterior of my car, and upgrading the engine.

So applied to philosophy — I can change everything and anything about myself, if I just work hard enough.

I can change my exterior body. I started to lift weights to get ‘buff.’ I started (in college) to do powerlifting— deadlifts, squats, and bench. I broke out of this stereotypical emasculated Asian-male (small dick) prototype — and learned how to become more power through my sheer will.

I learned I can change my engine (my mind). In college, I was fucking hungry for knowledge and information. And I was voracious. I felt like I was starving my entire life for empowering information — and once I found it, I devoured it alive.

When Cindy helped me get an internship at Demand Media, I came across social media and business books. There was a free library (thanks Joe and Mateo for letting me borrow so many) — and I must have read at least 20 business books. I spent a few hundred dollars on Amazon, buying paperback books on business, marketing, psychology, and everything I could get my hands on— to feed my insatiable curiosity.

So the moral of the story is: you can change both your body and mind. I believe the way to become a fucking beast is to have a strong body and mind.

A strong body means you have strong self-confidence (mind). Having a strong mind means you can have a strong body (to have the mental fortitude to know you can one day, become an Asian-American male who deadlifts over 405 pounds at bodyweight of 160).


Kanye West is my hero — I jam out to his music (listening to ‘All Day/I Feel Like that’ while I’m writing this).

The secret to success is to hustle all day. Everyday, and all day.

Let me give you an example: This is what I do in my life.

Now that I’m rich (I feel rich, because I no longer need more money, and I have 100% freedom in my life to do whatever I want to do, because my living expenses are very low, while my income is high — around 200,000 USD a year as of 2017) I have actually 10x’d my hustle. Because to me, the only use of wealth is to give you freedom of time and mind — and to use that opportunity to create art to empower others.

For example on some days I wake up at 5:30am (without alarm clock), because I am fucking pumped to write and create value to society. I take an icy-cold shower, I might shave, and look at myself in the mirror, and think to myself:

Damn, I can see all these bags under my eyes. I’m starting to feel fucking old.

But then, I go outside, make a cup of coffee, then listen to some ‘empowering’ music (KENDRICK LAMAR’s DAMN. album is good) via my earbuds. I then open up IA WRITER (my writing app on the Mac), and start jamming away on the keyboard, and writing.


To me, I feel the purpose of life is to empower the rest of humanity.

To me, the only way I measure ‘SUCCESS’ is by how much I can help others. And how proud my 18 (or 12-year old self) would be of me.

I personally get the most happiness and joy when I am helping others. When I create information that can empower others.

For example, I want to make a change in the world for the better. Because I grew up poor, and it fucking sucked. I don’t want others to suffer the same way I did.

VII. You can make your own luck

I also was lucky enough to get ‘successful’ in life by pursuing my passion for a full-time living, and making a good living out of it. So I write that ‘How I earn $200,000 a year as a photographer’ not to brag— but to encourage others to do the same, based on the information that I have learned through my experiences.

Of course, it isn’t going to work for most people (there is no formula) — but at least it can encourage and empower others to know that they can do it, if they just hustle hard enough (and if they’re blessed enough to be given the right opportunities in life).

Because in life, we are given a few pitches — it is our choice to swing the bat or not. And the more we swing the bat, the more likely we are to hit a home-run.

My friend Todd Hatakeyama has at least 10 failed businesses, before he found his successful business with SIMPLE STUDIO LIGHTING selling Lighting equipment on Amazon. He is my biggest inspiration — someone who refused to be a slave to the 9-5 cubicle prison, and to do something that gave him freedom of time, and to create, and help others.


I feel successful not because I have XXX,XXX amount of followers on social media, or because I have XXX,XXX dollars in my bank account.

I feel successful because I am not a degenerate in life. I feel successful, because I hustle fucking hard, and have found my purpose in life (sacrificing myself for the collective).

And friend, I want to encourage you to study philosophy. To study what is important to you in life, to ask yourself ‘What were my morals and ethics at age 12 and 18?’ And to write an imaginary letter between your 18 year old self and your today self, to see whether your morals are still in accordance with your present self.

I know for myself, my 18 year old self would have said:

Eric, you’ve gone fucking soft.

And I would tell my 18 year old self (my old nick-name was ‘EKIZZ’):

Ekizz, I will hustle harder, and not let you down.

Only let your 18-year old self be the judge of yourself.

Be strong,


Become invincible against fate:

Learn From the Masters of Stoicism

eric kim photography black and white hanoi-0009910

Learn from the master stoics:

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