Girl laughing with blue sunglasss. Kyoto, 2017.
Girl laughing with blue sunglasss. Kyoto, 2017.

Charles Darwin was all about this idea of “survival of the fittest”— and the sense I got from the book was this:

All organisms are fighting one another, in the brutal struggle for survival.

I felt like Darwin made the case that “survival” was the most important thing.

My idea:Focus on thriving, not survival. I will call this new concept: “thrivival”.




Life is short. Why focus on surviving, when you can thrive in life?

To thrive:

Making the best of what you were given in life. Paving your own path. No excuses. Hustling hard.

To survive:

Struggle in misery. To complain about how cruel fate is.

I favor Nietzsche’s concept of “amor fati”— to love fate. That means, love all the resources you were given in life. Be grateful being born as the runt, or the underdog. If you were like me and born poor, see it as a blessing. Because poverty is what breeds strength. Being poor gives us the thirst to achieve “the American Dream”—we have something to work towards. We aren’t just fed a silver spoon, and feeling malaise and boredom from life (like some rich kids I knew)—who end up getting addicted to drugs to “feel” some sort of purpose in life.

Become the best version of yourself

Cindy in Yukata and cup of tea in Ryokan. Uji, Kyoto 2017

Anyways, my idea of focusing on thriving instead of surviving is this:

If you focus on becoming the best version of yourself, and seeking to achieve really big or epic things with your life, of course you will naturally survive.

For example, let me make a basic point:

Let’s say your goal is to deadlift 405 pounds (four 45-Pound plates on each side of the barbell). After 10 years of training, you might achieve your goal. If you “fail”, perhaps you will be able to hit 335 pounds or something. But you still would be able to deadlift a lot more than setting a small goal for yourself (only thinking you can deadlift 225 pounds).

Another example:to THRIVE as an artist, set your expectations for yourself VERY HIGH. Don’t just think of yourself as a photographer. You’re a modern-day Renaissance person in the making. Master all visual arts— drawing, painting, sculpture, photography, and study all aesthetics. Become an “erudite” (knowledgeable individual) on all fields of knowledge — study philosophy, science, physics, psychology, sociology, economics, aesthetics, ethics, etc. Don’t set a ceiling on your creative limits and imagination.

Don’t settle


To thrive as an artist, don’t settle. In terms of judging your progress, only judge yourself according to your “inner scorecard” or “inner ruler”. Never compare yourself to other humans. Only compare yourself to yourself a year ago. Or be better today, than you were yesterday.

As a photography entrepreneur, to THRIVE might mean making more money. Rather than seeking to make a “middle class income” from your photography, seek to BECOME RICH. Seek to make your wealth pile up, seek to accumulate as many resources for yourself and your family — for the greater good.

Creative Everyday by HAPTIC

The richer you make yourself (assuming you know how to be frugal, economical, and make good use of your money), you can help more people.

For example, I used to be afraid of charging more money for my workshop experiences. It was mostly out of fear that I might go bankrupt. That nobody would signup and I would be a “failure”. But the problem was that I was focusing too much on survival, rather than “THRIVIVAL”.

Thanks to my friends Todd and Joel who encouraged me to value my self-worth, and not to doubt me. Thanks to Joel, who told me to focus on THRIVING, not just surviving.

Anyways, now I no longer sell myself for cheap. I’ve been raising prices for my workshop experiences, and to reflect my own inherent value—acknowledging my expertise, my massive sum of knowledge of photography and aesthetics, my skill in empowering photographers by conquering fear, and my ability to foster a supportive and open community.

Essentially, I learned to value myself, and believe in myself, and to respect my creative labor… and to strive to work even harder.

And now, I’m making a lot more money in my photography. I used to be afraid that having more money would corrupt me. But in fact, having more money has helped me become MORE GENEROUS. Also, I’ve actually (funny enough) have become MORE economical and value-oriented with my lifestyle. Still eating my 6-10 “egg snacks” in the evenings after dinner. Still staying at cheap Airbnb’s with Cindy. Still flying economy, and wearing the same all-black outfit everyday. Still sharing one entree with Cindy at restaurants.

Having more money has helped empower my sisters ANNETTE KIM and JENNIFER NGUYEN. Cindy and I were able to send them over to Kyoto for a HAPTICLABS internship. And they’ve made great art for HAPTIC — none of this would have been possible if I just had a “middle class” income (death of the photographic middle class).


Money to me is just a tool for empowerment. Money by itself is worthless. If you’re hungry, you cannot feed yourself by eating a $100 bill. But, $100 can buy you ten $10 bowls of Ippudo ramen. $1,000 can buy one roundtrip flight for your family member to travel with you somewhere. $50 can pay for one night for an Airbnb or cheap hotel. $15 can pay for a good bag of coffee (that can last you many cups of coffee at home). $4 can buy you a good cup of coffee at a hipster coffee shop, where you can work at for about 2 hours with free WiFi.

For me, I like to trade money for tools. Digital tools (digital camera, phone, tablet, laptop). Money can pay for rent, travel expenses, and food. Money can be used as a tool of empowerment for yourself, your family, friends, or local community.

Help Yourself; Help Everybody

Also if you thrive, everyone benefits.

For example, now that I no longer worry about money, I can be MORE GENEROUS giving away free information, like this article without charging money.

I can produce more information and knowledge, and not be stressed out about how to “directly monetize” it. And not having to put up a paywall or “nickel and dime” people by charging for every e-book or preset.

Also not having to put up pop up banners on this site, or advertisements on this site, for a less distracting experience for you.

Best of all, all the information on this site is (and always will) be OPEN SOURCE.

Takeaway points

Diagonal leaf, black and white. Hanoi, 2017.

Anyways I’m totally off topic, but friend… this is just a reminder to THRIVE as an entrepreneur.

  1. Charge 25% more for your photographic services, than you think you “should”.
  2. Your photographic labor is not free.
  3. Money is not evil. The more money you have, the more you can help yourself and others.



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

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Table of Contents

Learn how to make a living from your passion:

Photography Business 101

How to Make Money with Photography


Photography Marketing 101


How to Hustle.

Entrepreneurial Principles

How to be a Full-time Photographer

Photography Blogging

How to Teach Photography

Social Media

How to Save Money


Ultimate Beginner’s Guide to Photography Entrepreneurship

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Ultimate Beginner's Guide to Mastering Photography

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