My grandfathers funeral. Busan, 2013.

“I’ve been speeding through life with no safety belt.” – JAY-Z

Dear friend, if you have a certain dream in life– remember, you got nothing to lose in the face of death.

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What is ‘memento mori’?

  • Memento: Remember
  • Mori: Death

Effectively it means, “Remember that you will and (must) die.”

To me, the best motivator in life is death. Not in some sort of macabre way– rather, it is the rational understanding that one day we will die, and that we will be able to die more peacefully on our deathbed knowing that we took risks and attempted epic shit in life (instead of just living a boring/safe life).

‘Regret minimization framework’

One of the most useful concepts I got from Jeff Bezos was this, what he calls the ‘Regret Minimization Framework.’

Essentially Jeff Bezos was once a well-paid lawyer, and in the middle of the bonus season. He had the opportunity to invest in this thing called the “internet” in starting his own business. But the problem was this: If he quit his job and tried starting his internet business (Amazon), he wouldn’t receive his full bonus. He then thought to himself,

“When I’m 90 years old and on my deathbed, what will I regret not attempting/doing in life?”

He then realized that he would have regretted not taking a risk of starting his internet business and therefore took the risk. And now, we all know how successful Amazon is.

The reason why it is called the ‘regret minimization framework’ is because of this:

A better way to live life is to minimize the amounts of regrets you might have before you die.

Steve Jobs and cancer

Steve Jobs (one of my heroes) in his famous Stanford graduation commencement speech told the audience (I am paraphrasing):

When I realized I had cancer, it was the best thing ever. Why? It made me realize that I had nothing to fear in life– because death is the fate that we all share. This helped me take more risks in my life and business, knowing that I had nothing to lose.

Jobs then ends the speech telling the students, “If you haven’t found your passion in life, don’t settle. Life is too short to settle.”

On following your passion

Memento Mori ARTWEAR x ERIC KIM.

When I was 18 years old and went to college, I was quite the optimist. I had this notion of “following your passion”, yet I didn’t (yet) know it was possible to successfully monetize/make a living from your passion. Yet, I still believed in the concept/notion of following your passion.

And I did that. I started off my freshman year at UCLA studying Biology (listening to my parents, to become a doctor). After 1 quarter I hated it and realized it wasn’t for me– and I took a risk, switching my major to something totally different (Sociology). I didn’t know I was passionate about Sociology (yet), I simply looked at a list of college majors, and I saw “Sociology” written on the list and I thought to myself:

“I like society and people — I’m gonna try to study that!”

How following my passion empowered me!

When I started to study sociology, I (for the first time in my life) actually looked forward to going to class! I started to learn for the sake of learning! It was so interesting, fun, and empowering to study sociology– to question my pre-conceived notions about society/life, to challenge Korean-Confucian and American notions of ‘success’, and to gain the mental tools to better understand individuals, communities, and society as a whole.

I was therefore very passionate about my Sociology major, and I pursued it with full zeal in college. Everyone told me that I was dumb, because I “wouldn’t be able to get any other job than being a teacher or social worker.” I ignored them — I knew I was learning something valuable, that I could apply in different spheres. And in the long-term, studying Sociology was the best thing ever, because it taught me how individuals/communities think, which helped me become a successful internet/photography/online entrepreneur.

You don’t really “need” much to live.

Of course we must all make a living. We need to pay rent and feed ourselves. But beyond that– what do you really “need”?

You don’t “need” an expensive smartphone or expensive phone/data/internet plan. You don’t “need” to go to fancy coffee shops, expensive restaurants, or own a car. You don’t “need” to live in a “desirable” neighborhood, and almost everything we have in life that isn’t related to food, water, and heat isn’t really “necessary” for survival. Of course, I appreciate all of my simple luxuries in life and “creature comforts” — but I know that I don’t “need” them.

Dying is my duty.

I know that I will and must die. At best, I will probably live to be 100 years old. At worst, I will die tonight in my sleep (after having an anaphylaxis reaction to eating something I’m allergic to). Or I can die from a car running a red light and hitting me (a good friend of mine died in his teens, from a drunken truck driver who ran a red light).

Anyways, I want to live my life to the fullest. I want to achieve my fullest potential, knowing that I am staring death straight in the face. Because I know that no matter what, I will die. And even if we had the technology that gave us immortal life, I would say no. Why? It is my duty to die, to make room for new individuals and generations. And that is what philosophically makes life so beautiful — death is the ultimate clearing agent, which makes room for the new. For new life, new perspectives, and new people.

Dictate your own purpose and direction in life!

For myself, my self-dictated purpose in life is to empower others, and empower humanity as a whole (both present-living human beings, and future generations). Of course I must make a living doing what I’m passionate about, and I do make a living from teaching workshops, selling products, and now teaching online courses. Of course earning more money is always desirable, if your goal is to use money as a tool in order to help empower more people. For example, I desire to earn more money because I can use that money to employ my sister ANNETTE, and also use that money to continue to empower my friends, family, local community, and then of course the entire photographic community, then all of humanity!

What is your epic goal in life? What do you wish to achieve in your (short) life here on planet Earth? What regrets do you want to prevent having before you die?


Live life to the fullest

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