eric kim photographer hanoi portrait by cindy a nguyen

There are a lot of people I admire and follow.

I. My heroes

For example, Nassim Taleb, Elon Musk, Jay-Z, Kendrick Lamar, Kanye West, Peter Thiel, and Cindy Nguyen.

The master marketer Seth Godin wrote a book called “Tribes” a while back which I liked. The concept was simple:

You must build a small, dedicated tribe, to become “successful” in today’s world.

Actually, humans are tribe-like cult-like creatures. To be human is to be social. To be part of a group.

Facebook is successful because all our friends are on it. Instagram is successful, because it is a community for creatives and regular folks. What’s app is successful, because it is a way we can keep contact with our friends from all around the world.

If you build a network, a tribe, or a mafia (#RICOHMAFIA), you will succeed in life.

II. What is success?

For me, success is helping other people. I think my mom is successful, because she has helped a lot of people in her life. The same goes with Cindy’s mom, and Cindy.

My mom and Cindy’s mom

I think I’m successful, because I like to help people, and I have helped a lot of people already.

It is important to build a following of people who have the same beliefs, convictions, and personal philosophy as you. We need you to lead us.

III. How to be a leader.

Example is contagious. Meaning, the only way to be a leader is to lead by example.

I am a hypocrite, because I don’t always practice what I preach. But alas, that is part of being a human. What I can endeavor though is to everyday, stay truer to my principles.

But to be honest, I think I’ve been pretty good. Personally, I’ve spent $3,000 on photo books the last 5 years (BUY BOOKS, NOT GEAR), and I haven’t bought any new cameras the last 3 years, besides a $600 RICOH GR II camera.

Also, I believe in open source information– and I’ve kept my ebooks on this site for free, as well as my images, and presets.

IV. Make something bigger than you.

To build a following you need to believe in something more than yourself.

For example, I believe strongly in open and free information to empower others. I follow through.

To build a following also means to empower others. To help draw the best out of others. The reason I admire rappers is that they tell me: “With enough hustle, you can achieve anything.”

I follow in the footsteps of Jesus, because he practiced what he preached. He ate with “sinners” and washed the feet of those who were “inferior” to him. He also died for his beliefs– he sacrificed himself for the collective. He was the first guy to really preach the idea of “forgiving your neighbor”– before the Jewish custom was “eye for an eye.”

I follow the footsteps of Seneca, because even though he was a billionaire in his time, he preached simple living, and actually followed his own advice. He also met his fate with courage– committing suicide instead of running away like a coward, when ordered by emperor Nero.

I love James Altucher: blogger, who blogs about his painful past, with vulnerability and honesty. He’s very open about his finances, which inspired me to write on how I make $200,000 a year as a photographer– not to show off, but to hopefully share the secrets of making (good) money in photography.

Nassim Taleb taught me, you cannot have any true beliefs unless you have “skin in the game.” He is courageous with his beliefs, and helped clothe me with Stoic armor.

V. Skin in the game.

I admire a lot of others, and follow them: because they are heroes (people who put their neck on the line, in order to help others). They are selfless, because they care more about the lives of others than their own “reputation”.

VI. Put your followers above yourself.

To build a following, you need to put the needs of your followers above yours.

For example, I can make a bunch of money spamming people with YouTube ads. But I refuse to do that, because I love my followers too much.

I can put ugly banner ads on this blog, and make a few hundred bucks. But I refuse to, because I care about the aesthetic, clean, minimalist “user experience.”

I could keep all this information on this blog behind a paywall. And charge everyone $10 a month for access. But fuck that. I hate it when people do it to me, and I care too much for my followers to do that to them.

VII. Be useful.

To build a following, create useful things.

For example, if you are a photographer, create a following by making useful photos. A useful photo: inspirational, beautiful, or uplifts the soul of the viewer.

A useful blog post: practical information, assignments, or guidance to help guide a curious photographer.

A useful teacher: doesn’t hoard information for himself. Rather, pours all of their learning into the eager minds of the students, to empower them.

Simple way to be selfless:

Treat others the way you would like to be treated (GOLDEN RULE).

VIII. Treat your followers like yourself.

Treat your followers like yourself.

Don’t seek to gain millions of followers. To make a living from your passion, you only need “1,000 true fans” as Kevin Kelly says. A true fan: someone who believes in the same life mission as you.

IX. Start your own photography blog

Practical advice:

Start a photography blog: Go to 1and1.com, and make a WordPress.org blog. Use any theme you like. Blog everyday about things that interest you. Inspirational photography quotes, post your favorite photos, and interview other photographers. Do this everyday for 365 days straight. You will build a following.

When you publish a blog post, share it with your friends. Email it to them, or share it on Facebook or Twitter. Or instant message it to them.

Also practical way to build a following; consistency. Blog everyday or else you will lose your following.

Just imagine, if your favorite coffee shop wasn’t open everyday, would you keep going back?

X. Listen to your own heart.

And lastly, stay true to yourself. Disable page views and stats on your blog (I don’t have that enabled on my blog), and follow your own opinion. Disregard likes, comments, and all those superficial ways to quantify your self-worth.

Be STRONG,
Eric


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ERIC KIM x HENRI NECK STRAP // Portrait by Benjamin Thompson

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