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Against Self-Preservation

Man bowing at Aman Hotel. Tokyo, 2018
Man bowing at Aman Hotel. Tokyo, 2018

Dear friend,

A thought I got from Nietzsche/Steve Jobs: always seek to innovate, make new things, new approaches, and experiment with the new; instead of seeking self-preservation. Life is about thrivival (thriving) not just mere survival!


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What is really your worst-case scenario?

Orange and black lines crosswalk at night. Tokyo, 2018
Orange and black lines crosswalk at night. Tokyo, 2018

My thoughts:

First of all in today’s modern world, you’re not going to starve to death, die from the cold or die of thirst. You’re pretty good: at worst you’re going to become “impoverished” but you won’t die. I know from my personal life experience (my mom went through bankruptcy, and my dad was a chronic gambler) that NOT having money isn’t actually as bad or scary as it seems. You make it through the tough financial times. No matter how bad our finances were, my mom was always able to borrow money from her friends, family, coworkers, and also by declaring bankruptcy with the US government banking system.

Black and orange shadow night Tokyo

I think as a life and as an entrepreneurial principle it is the same. We must not focus on self-preservation, and let fear hold us back from attempting to do great, epic, untried, untested, and new things in life.


Experiment living a “simulated” poverty life

Blurry Tokyo lights building night black orange

One tip I have is to realize that the worst case scenario isn’t so bad, and it seems some of the greatest entrepreneurs at once in their lives either did infact live in poverty, or at least “simulated poverty” (or lived far below their means).

For example when Elon Musk was building up his first company, he shared a computer in a small office space with his brother, slept in a sleeping bag, and fed himself on $2 a day in hot dogs and spaghetti. They were so poor they couldn’t afford an apartment, so they slept in the office, and took showers at the local gym.

Steve Jobs had his typical hippie-Indian-Buddhist trip, in which he survived off beans and rice. Even as he got older, he lived on a quite slim diet of mostly fruits and vegetables, and he wore the same simple outfit everyday.

Apparently even Mark Zuckerberg (although one of the richest men in the world) still drives a simple Volkswagen Jetta, his signature grey t-shirt and jeans look, and his favorite food is fried chicken. Same goes for Warren Buffet who lives in the same simple house, drives the same simple car, and eats the same steak and fries he likes.

The point is this: if you’re able to live a simple, cheap, lifestyle, and still live life to the fullest, that means you will have less fear to attempt to do more great things in life!

(Related: the philosopher Seneca lived in “simulated poverty” even though he was once the richest person in the Roman empire, in order to fear less in his life).


I believe that humans have infinite, and truly insanely great potential. Consider, we created the internet, smartphones, self-driving cars, and have gone to the moon and back, we created airplanes and Trans-Atlantic flights, and all this other phenomenal technology which has revolutionized our lives and the world.

The problem is that the very primal instinct of fear holds most of us back. In fact, I don’t think that successful artists, entrepreneurs, or people are any more smarter or talented than the rest of us. I just think they’re less afraid of going against the grain, less afraid of breaking social norms and rules (apparently a lot of successful entrepreneurs are a little on the asbergers-autism spectrum, and don’t worry as much about what others think of them, or “hurting the feeling of others”). I think also successful entrepreneurs are more foolish, childlike, and excited to try new things!


I know for myself personally, I get bored easily. At this point in my life, I’m like:

“Fuck it, my life is short. Why waste my life trying to please others, and why care what others think of me? I know what I think of me, and I like myself. I like my ideas, and my approach, and my spirit of risky experimentation. At this point in my life, I don’t even care whether I am “successful” or not in the conventional sense. I’d rather die knowing that at least I took the risk and chance in my life. I want to die with no regrets, and I want to die pushing myself, my talents, and my ideas to the limit.”

Because to me I don’t care so much about self-preservation. If I end up self-cannibalizing myself, so be it. When Steve Jobs made the iPhone, he knew it would cannibalize iPod Touch sales, but in the long term, Apple (obviously) thrived as a result. But nobody a decade ago could have ever predicted just how great and insanely popular the iPhone would become.


Anyways my friend my ultimate suggestion is this: Don’t worry about your self-preservation in life. The worst-case scenario that will realistically happen in your life is that you might face social stigma from your peers or family, or you might go bankrupt. But both of these worst-case scenarios aren’t so bad. I’ve been through it personally, and trust me life goes on! You’re more resilient and stronger than than you think you are!

Some experiments to try to become more courageous and brave in your life:

  1. Take cold showers: For a month, nothing but cold showers. This will help you build a resistance to pain. Because eventually your body gets habituated to the cold, and will become stronger as a result. I’ve been a cold water devotee the last 4 years and it’s probably been the best thing for my mental clarity, waking up in the morning, and feeling more resilient to pain and fear in life.
  2. Write down what you consider to be your worst-case scenario scenario in life: What do you really ultimately fear in life? If your worst-case scenario actually did happen or become manifested in reality, would it be as bad as you imagine it to be?.
  3. Which huge, epic, audacious goals do you want to accomplish before you die? And when you actually accomplish them, what NEW goals can you set for yourself?
  4. If you feel more risk-averse in life, ask yourself, “Where do I get that from?” Were you raised by your parents to be risk averse? To be afraid?
  5. Don’t watch the news or social media: The news and social media and websites thrive off your fear. Anything that seems scary gets clicked on (which is more advertising money for the companies). These companies thrive off your fear: your “fear of missing out”
    (fomo), your fear of not having certain essential information which can benefit you (financial news), or the fear of missing out on certain good opportunities (the reason we check our emails obsessively). Try to go a month not reading, checking, or consuming any news; I guarantee this will make you less risk averse and scared to try new and epic things.

BE BOLD,
ERIC

Be the change which you wish to see in the world.

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By ERIC KIM

Artist-Philosopher