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Entrepreneurship 101: Growth and Innovation Over Self-Preservation

If you’re an entrepreneur, you must seek growth over everything else.

“If you’re not busy growing, you’ve busy dying.” – Bob Dylan

I see growth in many different ways:

  1. Growth of self-confidence in yourself
  2. Growth of knowledge and wisdom
  3. Growth of your skills and abilities to do or make stuff
  4. Growth of influence (gaining more followers, or deepening of influence on the followers you already have)
  5. Growth of physical strength and size (growth of muscle mass)

Why grow?

My philosophy is that life is all about growth. If you think of the ecology of life– life strives towards growth.

For example, consider a tree. A tree always strives to get bigger, by ingesting more nutrients from the soil and the air. Slowly but surely, the size, strength, and height of a tree is augmented.

As human beings, we must grow. We must grow in our wisdom and knowledge of the world, and the more we grow, the more powerful and strong we are, and the more we can share with others.

On self-preservation

self preservation ice boston

As an entrepreneur, you are a risk-taker. Specifically, you take risks in your personal life for the sake of the greater collective of humanity.

Of course you cannot allow yourself to die. It is essential that you stay alive. You stay alive as an entrepreneur by being able to pay your bills every month, and ensuring that your expenses don’t supersede your income. You must stay profitable as an entrepreneur (your income being higher than your expenses), and also it is good to have some financial buffer (in the form of cash savings).

tree and window. Boston, 2018

But the thing I want to emphasize is this:

Often we let the self-preservation instinct become more powerful than our instinct of growth. To thrive as an entrepreneur, you must focus on growth over self-preservation.


Self-preservation kills us

Blue salt and red background. Boston, 2018
Blue salt and red background. Boston, 2018

For example, by focusing too much on self-preservation, you will fall victim to the ‘status quo bias’ — you will stay consistent to what has worked in the past, which will prevent you from innovating, making new things, and experimenting with new processes or ways of doing things.

For example, as I write these lines, I am currently #1 on Google for ‘street photography‘. I have been able to make a profitable living teaching street photography workshops and being a specialist in street photography. However I’ve been having the feeling the last few years that my destiny is something greater than just street photography. Also, my aspirations in life are greater than just the small sphere of ‘photography‘.

red, blue, gate. Boston, 2018

I’ve been really fascinated with all forms of visual arts (painting, sculpture, photography, etc) and have also been interested in poetry, cinema, theater, film, music, and other forms of creative self-expression.

I’ve also been fascinated by entrepreneurship and the art of making a living from your passion.

Selfie on white, red, and green brick. Boston, 2018

So if I let my self-preservation instinct supersede my other artistic curiosities, I would trap myself in the small bubble of only street photography. By focusing on the growth-mindset, I benefit in several ways:

  1. Avoidance of boredom
  2. Long-term survival/thrivival (personal thriving in life)
  3. Augmentation of my knowledge, and future ability to further share more ideas

Once again said simply,

Focusing on growth is more important than self-preservation, if you want to achieve grandeur and fulfill your personal maximum in life.

Don’t just stick to the tried-and-true. Keep innovating!


How to grow

Growing green mint plant. Boston, 2018

Now that we have established the fact that it is essential to grow as an entrepreneur (and a human being) — what does it really mean to grow? How can we track growth, should we track growth, and is it even possible to track growth?

Against self-quantification

WAIT. London, 2018

The problem is that a lot of us track growth via numbers. A lot of people track their personal growth by the 1, 0’s, or commas in their bank accounts, by how many likes/followers/page views they get, or other quantified measures.

The reason why a lot of people track progress with numbers is because tracking growth with numbers is tangible. We as humans can easily see growth via increased numbers, increased percentages, and charts/graphs that show upward numerical growth.

London selfie, 2018
London selfie, 2018

But it is of my opinion that we shouldn’t track our personal growth with numbers. Rather, we should only track our own personal growth by our own self-assessment of ourselves. That means, track your growth by looking within yourself and asking yourself:

  • “Have I learned something new today that I find valuable, that I can integrate into my life in some sort of practical or philosophical manner?”
  • “Am I happy the direction that my life is going?”
  • “Am I excited with the new developments in my life?”

Anti Peter Drucker

Abstract london bokeh, 2018
Abstract London bokeh, 2018

The business management guru Peter Drucker once said, “If you can’t measure it, you can’t improve it.”, which essentially means:

You must track your metrics in order to know you’re growing or heading in the right direction.

I respect Peter Drucker, but disagree. To me, we must follow our own nose, we must follow our own intuition, and we must follow our own gut.

In praise of Steve Jobs

I’m a massive Steve Jobs fanboy, who was a true visionary. What does it mean to be a ‘visionary’? It means to look into the future, and see a new future that others cannot see (yet). To be a visionary is to predict what people will want before they know they want it.

Steve Jobs and original iPhone.

For example, Steve Jobs predicted the future of mobile computing, thus pushed for the iPhone and iPad.

There is a funny quote by Henry Ford (which might not be true) that goes something like:

“If I asked people what they wanted, they would have said a faster horse!”

STVE JOBS: Dreaming BIG

Similarly, it is your job as an entrepreneur and innovator to NOT ask people what they want. Rather, it is your duty to imagine and predict what others will want before they know what they want.

Tokyo Dutch angle, 2018
Tokyo Dutch angle, 2018

The sad truth is that most people don’t know what they want in life. Most people don’t know their preferences, nor do they know what is ‘good’ for them. Therefore, I believe it is not compassionate to ask people for what they want, or what their preferences is, because it is too difficult for most people to have to think about what they desire.

Going back to the iPhone/iPad example, before the iPhone was made, people didn’t know what they ‘needed’ or even wanted an iPhone. People seemed pretty happy with their Motorola RAZR phones/crappy Windows “smartphones”.

Similarly, people didn’t know that they wanted an iPad before it was made. But when it was announced, it quickly went on to becoming one of the most sought-after and best-selling devices.


Growth is innovation

Cindy. Lisbon, 2018
Cindy. Lisbon, 2018

Sorry I’m getting a bit off topic, but my point is this:

One of the best ways to grow is to innovate; to come up with new ideas, and to predict the future.

Thus in entrepreneurship, always seek to innovate. Keep on coming up with new ways to create information, share information, and use all the digital tools at your disposal.

Abstract Cindy face Lisbon

Practical ways I’ve been able to innovate:

  1. Studying abstract painting (especially Piet Mondrian) and being able to explain photography composition in simplified forms (using iPad and Procreate app).
  2. Creating photography slideshows in iMovie and making my own beats/music in GarageBand, and uploading them on YouTube (instead of just uploading single photos to Instagram or Facebook). Download BEATS by KIM VOLUME I.
  3. Discovering more ‘scalable’ solutions to monetizing on the internet by selling digital products (HAPTICPRESS digital books), and online video courses.

Videos


How to innovate

Blurry Cindy shot through foggy car window. Boston, 2018
Blurry Cindy shot through foggy car window. Boston, 2018

I’ve found one of the best ways to innovate is restrict your options, which will force you to find new solutions to your problems.

Let me give you an example: I deleted my Instagram about a year ago, and have been trying to discover new ways to share my photos.

Cindy at work. Boston, 2018
Cindy at work. Boston, 2018

To be frank, Instagram is probably the simplest way to share your photographs and pictures. But the problem is that Instagram doesn’t allow much innovation, because you are stuck inside Facebook’s ecosystem. Closed systems do not allow for as much innovation as open systems.

Walking woman. Lisbon, 2018
Walking woman. Lisbon, 2018

Because I was no longer able to share my photos on Instagram, I had to think really hard and experiment with new ways of sharing/publishing my photographs.

I then realized several ideas:

  1. I should just publish more photographs to my blog. The benefits include that I can better control how to display my photos, I can change the order of the photographs, and I can also display many photographs in a single blog posts. This is better than Instagram, because on Instagram you cannot change the sequence of your photographs after you’ve published them.
  2. I could make video slideshows of my photographs, and share them on YouTube. This is superior than just publishing single photos to Instagram, because I’ve discovered that by adding music, the experience of consuming photographs is much fuller and richer.
  3. By exclusively publishing photographs to my own platform (my website and blog), it encourages more people to visit my own website instead of just staying stuck inside the Instagram-ghetto.
Lisbon abstract walking woman Golden triangle
Abstract: Walking woman. Lisbon, 2018

Therefore, I believe that innovation must be born out of need, and by having no other options.

This is why companies with huge budgets and a ton of money rarely innovate– they get spoiled by having too many resources, too many options, and can easily buy their solutions.

But the most innovative ideas in society have come from scrappy, money and resource-lacking individuals, who had to come up with novel solutions to their problems.


Conclusion

Selfie and candles. London, 2018
Selfie and candles. London, 2018

To wrap up this messy essay, let me try to re-summarize some concepts I want to share with you:

  1. We should aim for growth above everything else (following the lead of Amazon, who focuses on growth over profits). Because if you keep growing and get big and strong enough, the profits will always (eventually) come to you.
  2. Growth shouldn’t be tracked via numbers, rather, by following your own self-assessment of yourself.
  3. One of the best ways to grow is to innovate and come up with new ideas and approaches.
  4. To innovate, restrict your options, and focus on building your own platform.
  5. Stay hungry and stay foolish, to keep innovating, growing, and thriving.

BE BOLD,
ERIC


Photography Entrepreneurship 101

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