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Same But Different

Dear friend,

A truth I’ve discovered: a good way to find more joy and happiness in your everyday life is to enjoy the same things, but by adding variety and doing it a little different every time.

Apparently this saying “Same but different” is a Zen saying (koan). I first learned the saying from the badass Russian-Kettlebell instructor Pavel. Pavel innovated kettlebell training in the states, with a zen-like approach: use one kettlebell (simple equipment), but to get stronger, add variety in exercises.

In other words,

Use the same tools, but change your technique/approach a little differently.

How to apply “same but different” philosophy in real life

This concept of “same but different” can be applied in many different ways:

  1. In photography, use the same camera and same lens, and just shoot different subject-matter. The best way to innovate as a photographer isn’t to just buy new gear, but to change up your compositions, by making new projects, or by switching up your aesthetic (shoot in black and white if you’re a color photographer, and vice-versa).
  2. In physical fitness, just stick to the same simple exercises (like the pushup, chin-up, and squat). But add variations (do it differently), for example in pushups– do 1-handed pushups, clapping pushups, elevated pushups, etc. For chin-ups, switch up your grips. For squats, try 1-legged pistol squats, or jumping squats.
  3. In food and diet, eat the same foods, but change how you season/salt/cook them. For example, I am a huge fan of eggs (I can eat 10 in one evening), and the way I don’t bore of eggs is I always cook them differently and season them differently. Sometimes just salt and pepper, other times with cayenne and paprika, other times with cumin, other times with a little bit of avocado or guacamole.
  4. For coffee shops, visit the same coffee shop you like, but switch up your drinks (espresso/drip coffee/aeropress,etc).
  5. For restaurants, visit the same restaurants you really like, but try to switch it up with variety– sit in different places, order different dishes, etc.
  6. For traveling, visit the same city over and over again, but try to stay in different places, in different neighborhoods, or switch it up a little bit.

Why ‘same but different?’

Doing the same thing, but doing it differently is a good way of living life. Why? It simplifies our life, yet still allows us to have pleasurable novelty.

I think it is human nature to like new things, different things, and novel things. We hate doing the same thing over and over again. Too much predictability in life is boring.

Switch up the variables in your photography

Some more fun ideas with ‘same but different’ in photography:

With variables ‘X’ and ‘Y’ in your life, figure out how to keep one of the variables consistent, and change up the other variable. Switch up the variables.

For example,

  • Only shoot black and white photography, but shoot different subject matter // or shoot the same subject matter, but use different camera equipment for the same subject-matter.
  • Only shoot the same neighborhood, but shoot different subject matter // or intentionally shoot in all different neighborhoods, but shoot the same subject-matter.
  • Shoot the same thing in your house everyday, but frame it a little differently everyday // or shoot a different thing everyday, but always frame it the same.

Make the best use of today

Regardless of your situation in life, you can be the best possible photographer, today. And you can be the happiest person possible, today.

Some more ideas:

  • Take a different route to work everyday (if you drive/commute, take different paths, or freeways). Or if you take the subway, take a different route or train.
  • Everyday when you have dinner at home, sit in a different chair.
  • Disrupt your habits/patterns by adding a little randomness or differentness.

Have fun,


Less is better:

Philosophy >

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