Cindy behind a red curtain, “about to” come into contact with you.

In Praise of the New

Cindy behind a red curtain, “about to” come into contact with you.
Cindy behind red curtain. Kyoto, 2017

As humans, we have a bias for the new. We love NEW! But why do we love the new, and is it even a good thing to like the new? How do we balance the new and the old?

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What is “new”?

Uji sunset, 2017. Red, yellow, blue.
Uji sunset, 2017. Red, yellow, blue.

First of all, let us examine the word “new”. This is what Wiktionary says:

New: From Middle English newes, newys (“new things”), equivalent to new (noun) +‎ -s. Compare Saterland Frisian Näis (“news”), West Frisian nijs (“news”), Dutch nieuws (“news”), German Low German Neeis (“new things; news”).

This is so fascinating to me, on several levels:

  1. Humans are addicted to “news”. Even when I search topics on Flipboard, the “news” category is the most popular (follow ERIC KIM on Flipboard). We are addicted to the news, even when nothing important is happening. But still– we love the news, as manifested through constantly-updated blogs, websites, Twitter/Facebook/Instagram feeds, on TV, magazines, newspapers, etc.
  2. We love the “news” because it informs us of new things. I think it is in our human DNA to want to derive beneficial/useful things from the news, in order to improve our lives. Therefore, we follow the news so closely because we have the fear of missing out on some information that might improve/benefit our lives.
  3. Therefore, we love the NEW/news because we always desire to improve/benefit/advance ourselves.

Create new stuff to create new value!

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

Practical takeaways:

Ok, so now that we know that humans love/desire what is new, and why we love news, let us try to extract some useful take-away points:

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

First of all, if you want to create value as a photography entrepreneur, you must create new things. Have a bias towards producing new things. Also as a photographer, always seek to make NEW PHOTOS! To me, I think we are happiest when we are the creative flow of making new photos. I think we get more joy in the process of making the photos rather than just reaping the rewards of making a good photograph (like getting a lot of likes on social media, or having other people admire our photos).

The old stuff is also good!

However, we must also be careful because we must also respect the past. Because often whatever is new is just over-hyped stuff. Therefore if you invest in every new thing that comes out, you can end up wasting a lot of time.

For example, there is always new cameras, new technology, and new ideas out there. But 99.9% of the new things out there aren’t really worth the hype. Often these new things are just small and minor “improvements” to pre-existing things. Very rarely are these new things revolutionary, game-changers, “disruptive”, or a paradigm shift.

Therefore my suggestion is this:

Welcome and be excited about new things, but combine rational optimism and child-like naivety.

For example, I have been really bored with all the “new” stuff having in the photography world. I see everything as minor and insignificant “improvements”. I don’t see anything radically new, revolutionary, or game-changers.

But when I recently discovered the GoPro Fusion; I first was a bit skeptical. I thought it was gimmicky — because I thought that 3D/360 cameras and technology was a bit silly. As a slight aside to the word “gimmick”, we normally see this word as negative– like you are somehow being tricked into believing into something that is false. However, apparently the word gimmick might be derived from the word “magic” — and I do believe that magic is a good thing!

Anyways, I realized the reason why I was skeptical about 3D/virtual reality/augmented technology was because I didn’t think there was “good enough” technology that actually allowed people to view/experience it. However, when I realized that YouTube actually supports 3D/virtual reality/augmented reality/360 viewing (best experience in their YouTube mobile app)– I was blown away! This meant that I could actually shoot 360 footage, and have anyone with a smartphone experience my 360 footage simply by watching my Youtube channel, and looking around on their phone to experience the fully-immersive experience!

I’m glad that I “held out” from adopting the new 360 technology. When it first came out, I resisted — but when I saw that the technology was “mature enough” (both in the technology of PRODUCING the 3D/virtual reality footage via the GoPro Fusion, and then also in the viewing experience on the YouTube app), I knew that this new technology was something worth investing in.

How to judge whether something new is “worth it”

My suggestion on knowing whether a new camera, tool, technology or something is worth adopting:

Ask yourself, “Is this meaningfully different” from what already exists?

Which means, is this new technology a slight improvement on what already exists, or a truly new revolutionary thing?

It is a human bias for us to emphasizes (slight) differences, rather than notice commonalities. Therefore a more rational approach is for us to constantly remind and ask ourselves, “How is this new technology SIMILAR to what already exists?”

For example, in digital cameras, all the “new” stuff is just very minor/insignificant upgrades. For example, every new “revolutionary” camera just has “feature creep” — more bells and whistles you don’t really need. Or you get extra megapixels, which doesn’t really mean anything. If anything, having more megapixels is a problem– more issues with storage space, longer write/read times, etc.

Playful experimentation

Me and my sister as children. Taking my sister ANNETTE on a spin on my tricycle. Picture by my mom.
Me and my sister as children. Taking my sister ANNETTE on a spin on my tricycle. Picture by my mom.

Yet at the same time, you should give yourself the opportunity to experiment with new things. But don’t have any expectations of this new stuff. Which means, don’t expect new stuff to totally change your life (for the better). The biggest sucker mistake we make in life is thinking that if we buy the newest iPhone, the newest car, the newest camera, or a new house, or move into a new neighborhood, that somehow we will become “happy” for the rest of our lives (or at least “happier” momentarily).

Me and my sister as children. Taking my sister ANNETTE on a spin on my tricycle. Picture by my mom.
Me and my sister as children. Taking my sister ANNETTE on a spin on my tricycle. Picture by my mom.

So my suggestion is this:

Experiment with new stuff by buying it on Amazon, and if you don’t think it is revolutionary/different enough, just return it.

Painting by child, Margot in marseille
Painting by child, Margot in marseille

This strategy is good to me because you have more upside than downside. The upside is that this new (something) might be truly revolutionary and awesome (and actually might potentially help you become more creative, and produce new cool stuff). But most likely it won’t. And the downside is minor– because you can always return it! Of course, returning stuff can be a bit of a hassle, but this is just a minor annoyance.

This is why I love GoPro– if you order cameras on their website, if you don’t love it– you can return it!

Also a random note in photography entrepreneurship: offering a 100% money=back guarantee is a good strategy that decreases the risk-aversion that most human beings have.

Why respect the old?

My grandma, laughing. Seoul, 2017.
My grandma, laughing. Seoul, 2017.

Old stuff is often good, but sometimes it is bad. How do we approach the old in a beneficial way?

My suggestion:

Realize that whatever is old has probably existed for a long time for a good reason– we might not be able to understand the reason, but there is probably some sort of hidden logic/rationality to it.

For example, a lot of older traditions/customs that older societies have seem “irrational” to us moderns. However, there is often hidden rationality/logic to their beliefs/way of living that even THEY might not know. For example, many Jewish people who follow “kosher” food customs have a good reason — in the past, eating “kosher” was actually more sanitary and prevented disease/death. I also forget which religions have a law which are very draconian about how you wash your hands and where you decide to defecate– but all of these laws were good, because in the past (before sanitation) they kept people alive/healthy.

As Nassim Taleb says, listen to your grandmother. A lot of her wisdom (though it might seem backwards and old-fashioned) has probably existed this long for a reason.

For example, a lot of modern psychology that “finally” explains human behavior has existed in the past for a long time. Seneca and Stoic philosophy discovered that the best way of conquering fear in life is to preemptively expect the worst to happen, and to constantly think about the shortness of life, and also memento mori (knowing that you will, and must die, and you might randomly die in your sleep at night). Buddhism/Buddha and Zen philosophy has discovered that detachment is an effective strategy to conquering disappointment in life, and they have discovered many strategies to conquer anxiety and stress in life.

Therefore when you approach things from the past (old stuff), just ask yourself:

Is there any hidden benefit to this old thing or stuff that I don’t know about?

For example, why do humans still use paper? Isn’t it just more “efficient” to store everything on our phones or on Evernote? But the benefit of paper: infinite battery life, easier storage systems to remember where you put stuff (the ‘memory palace’ technique that humans used to use), and it is quicker to just jot a note on a piece of paper than having to load some app on your phone.

Where the old is silly

Funny story: I remember the first time I cooked something and then instantly put it in the refrigerator, and got yelled at by Cindy. I asked her what was the problem– and she told me that if I refrigerated hot food, it would collect bacteria, and might possibly cause us to get sick. I asked her where she got the logic from, and apparently it was indoctrinated to her via her mom. And her mom had good logic: in the past in Vietnam, perhaps the refrigeration systems weren’t good enough, so in-fact the food might have spoiled? Anyways, I’m not sure– but the logic probably made sense in the past.

Another funny story: Koreans used to believe in (unfortunately some still do believe) in “fan death.” The basic concept is this: If you sleep at night with the fan on, you can die. Why? The pseudo-scientific explanation was this, “If you sleep with the fan on at night, it removes oxygen from the air away from you, therefore you can die.” To a 10-year old child (myself) this made sense. I was deathly afraid of sleeping with the fan on for a long time. Yet one sweltering hot night in Korea during a summer I spent at my Grandma’s house, I fell asleep with the fan on. And to my surprise, I woke up the next morning still alive. My grandma then ran into the room, then yelled at me, and told me that I could have died. I then realized, “This fan death stuff is a myth.”

Therefore the takeaway point is this: Respect the old, but don’t blindly believe in it. Challenge old ideas, concepts, technology, and beliefs– and take it back to ‘first principles‘, and seek to discover the truth for yourself.

Conclusion: How to harness the new (while sill respecting the old)

Cindy with elbows flared outwards.
Cindy power pose. Saigon hotel, 2017

Anyways my apologies for rambling on too much. I will summarize my thoughts and points below:

  1. Be skeptical of new technology, but don’t totally turn a blind eye to it. If you’re curious about a new technology or something, experiment with it, then decide for yourself whether you think it is “worth it” or “worth the hype”. Don’t just take others’ word for it.
  2. Realize there is often a hidden logic to the old stuff from the past that we don’t know. That means, respect old stuff, old people, and old traditions that have existed for a long time. But still– you must question traditions and old customs. Because there are many old things which we must continue to respect (because there is a lot of truth in it), but there is a lot of old stuff which is in-fact backwards in a negative way, and we must pave new ways of thinking, new technologies, and new ideas to advance humanity forward in a positive/empowering way!
  3. Never stop making NEW STUFF! Make new photos, new videos, and publish new ideas constantly. The purpose of life isn’t to just discover one ultimate truth and sit content for the rest of your life. No! We must keep pursuing NEW truths that is yet uncovered! Realize that seeking the new, and desiring to create NEW things (everyday) is the stimulus which keeps us alive. I think newness is the principle of life. What would nature or life be like without new trees, new fruit, new saplings, or new animals or organic life? Therefore also realize that death is an essential part of life– that we (old) things must also die, to pave room for the new.


Re-spark your passion for creating NEW photos with “Ultimate Beginner’s Guide to Mastering Photography“, and also learn how you can create new sources of wealth with “Ultimate Beginner’s Guide to Photography Entrepreneurship.”