eric kim street photography hanoi ricoh gr ii-0003866

Don’t Seek the Best; Seek the Least Friction

eric kim street photography hanoi ricoh gr ii-0003866
Ha Long Bay, 2017 #cindyproject

Dear friend, in my quest to live happier, with less stress, and with more meaning— I think I’ve come across an idea which can help you.

This idea came to me when traveling with family — having the stress of having to make decisions.

Where should we eat breakfast? What should we do today? Where should we sit down? Where should we drink a cup of coffee? What restaurant should we eat at for dinner? Where should we go next? What should we seek to do next?

Inevitably we try to plan — by taking out our phones, Googling stuff or going on TripAdvisor. But the problem is this takes a lot of time— because we seek to do the best thing possible. For example, to drink coffee at the “best” coffee shop in town, or eat the “best” lunch, or see the “best” sights.

Instead, I think it makes more sense to do what takes the least amount of friction. Which is the least hassle. To not seek the “best”, but to seek “good enough” — which is more convenient.

For example, when our family was traveling in Tokyo, we spent a long time looking for the best ramen to eat. However the truth is that the difference between the “best” ramen shop and a “good” ramen shop isn’t much. A “good” ramen shop might be an 8/10 in terms of taste— and a “great” ramen shop might be a 9/10 in terms of taste. Is wasting time to find the “best” or the “greatest” ramen shop worth the 10% difference in terms of experience?

The same goes with almost everything in life.

For example, all cameras out there are much more similar than dissimilar. However, we always stress the differences of these cameras, rather than the similarities. This causes us to waste countless hours reading comparison reviews and such. Wouldn’t it be more effective to not seek the best camera, but the camera that was “good enough” — and the least cumbersome in terms of our lifestyle?

Seek less “pain in the ass” costs

I think the best camera is the one that has the least friction to use. Meaning, the least “pain in the ass” camera to use.

For example, I think that means shooting a smartphone for 99% of people. Or it might mean using a compact camera. Or any camera which is easy to operate, and fits in your front pocket.

The irony about photography is that the more experienced we become, the bigger our cameras become, and the less we carry our cameras with us. Which means the less we take photos. Which means the less joy we get from photography.

Shooting photos should be smooth as butter. Shooting photos should be frictionless, like water flowing through a stream. Shooting photos shouldn’t require thought. Just point and click.

Who should you have dinner with?

The next time you decide to meet a friend for dinner, don’t waste time searching the internet to find the “best” restaurant in town to meet at. Rather, seek a “good enough” restaurant that is the least hassle for both of you. This means prioritizing location over other factors. Because who you eat with is far more important than what you eat.

Don’t maximize; satisfice

Don’t seek the “best”. Don’t be a “maximizer” — someone who wants to maximize the quality of everything they own, or the activities they do. A “maximizer” is someone who wants to buy the “best” camera with 20 tabs open in their web browser. Rather, seek to be a “satisfied” — someone who seeks to suffice/satisfy themselves with “good enough.” This person might research 3-5 cameras, and try out a few, and settle on what is 80% good for their needs and lifestyle.

How I’ve applied having less friction to my life

The way I’ve tried to reduce friction in my life includes the following:

  1. At a cafe, I am often overwhelmed by the menu in terms of what kind of coffee to drink. So I try to reduce the friction of my decision-making energy, by just ordering an espresso.
  2. When it comes to meeting a friend for dinner, I choose a place that is convenient for us, close for both of us, a place I know that is pretty good, instead of wasting time trying to find a new place to eat at.
  3. When it comes to processing my photos, seeking the easiest workflow. That means sticking to the same workflow I am accustomed to, by using the same Lightroom presets, and the same settings on my camera. Not always experimenting with new workflows to try to “optimize” or be more “efficient.”
  4. Using the simplest apps on my smartphone. For example, using Google Maps to find a restaurant to eat at (when traveling) as it shows fewer recommendations than Tripadvisor (shows too many options, which often overwhelms me). Google Maps also helps me find a restaurant closest to me in terms of location, which is less of a pain in the ass to get to.
  5. Spending more money to take an Uber or a taxi to get somewhere, instead of spending less money on public transportation, but it taking a lot more time, transfers, and having a lot more friction.

I hope this idea of following the least amount of friction helps you in life. Flow like water, and nothing will get in your way.


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