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Do It Your Way

The great thing about life and being alive: you can live your life however you desire, and to pursue it in a way which you find personally-meaningful and important.


To start off, why write this?

This is advice I want to give to the youth, and to everybody in general; especially if you’re an entrepreneur, or trying to enact some sort of social, political, or economic change.

If nobody has done it before, that is why you must do it.

Innovation is doing new things in a new way. Innovation is novelty mixed with technology. Innovation is following your own gut, and doing things differently from the masses, and seeing things differently from the masses.

In praise of individualism

America is weird: as children growing up we’re told that we are special, unique, and that we should follow our own gut and intuition. For the most part, we are encouraged to innovate, try out new things, and to pride ourselves in our individuality.

Yet, this individualistic ethos is marred by Christian guilt and morality of selflessness, as well as Puritan values which were imported from England from our forefathers. Thus American culture is in a pickle:

How can you be both individualistic and selfless at the same time?

Well, I don’t think you really can. But I’ve found my own version, which has suited me:

Follow your own gut, your own instincts, your own intuition, and innovate for the sake of empowering and helping others.

So outlined as an arrow:

Empower yourself in order to help others.


I do think the ultimate goal is to help others, but if you’re weak and anemic, how can you carry others on your back? You need a strong chest and back, and muscles abounding if you are to carry yourself and others on your back.


First water your own garden

“Don’t water the garden of others if your own garden is parched.” – Publius Syrus (written 2,000 years ago)

I believe it is the moral/ethical duty of strong humans to help weaker humans. I don’t think this is a universal law, nor “should” it be a universal law we superimpose/force upon individuals and society. Yet, this is something I personally believe in and pursue.

Why? Growing up, I was weak, poor, and disadvantaged, yet I got a lot of help from others; my teachers, mentors, community, mom, and the American government, to become the strong person I am today. And now at age 30, I feel like a bit of an “OG” (original gangster), and I have finally had enough life experiences to give to the newer generation (kids in their teens and 20s), but also to share my experiences with those older than me.

I’ve been “successful” in my photography in the traditional sense: broke the $200,000 a year income as a photographer (combined with Cindy), built a substantial savings (over 250k with Cindy), traveled the world (more cities than I can remember), bought expensive stuff I desired (Leica, etc), got internet famous, had solo exhibitions all around the globe, had books published, self published my own books and created my own products with Cindy and HAPTIC, made some iconic photos, gained “financial freedom”, lived nomadically, etc.

I feel like on on top of the world, and on top of my photography game. I get recognized on the streets by random strangers usually once or twice a month, I’m one of the most famous/influential street photographers/bloggers, and I’ve made several photography projects I’m very proud of (SUITS, ONLY IN AMERICA, CINDYPROJECT).

Now the question is: how did I become “successful”, what does success mean to me, what advice would I give to younger photographers and individuals, and what’s my next step?


Well, in the words of Frank Sinatra and JAY Z: do it your way.

This is my reasoning:

Never let anyone define success for you. You must define success for yourself.

If you allow others to define success for you; you ain’t gonna feel successful, or be successful. It’s funny, because the word “successful” is such a modern concept. I haven’t heard it anywhere in ancient literature. The closest concept is “glory/honor” which usually came from victory in battle in ancient Roman times. And it didn’t even matter that much if you won or lost the battle; dying for a cause you believed in, or for your country with bravery, confidence, and courage was enough to be “successful”.

Anyways, from an entrepreneurial perspective, this is why it makes sense (and cents) to do things “your way”:


Be unreasonable

The unreasonable man makes the world adapt to him; instead of adapting to the world. – Bernard Shaw

Reality is malleable. Steve Jobs would often use his “reality distortion field” (like the Borg in Star Trek) to get/create what he wanted. Elon Musk started an electric car company (Tesla) and space rocket company (SpaceX) at almost nearly the same time (unheard of).

True innovators and entrepreneurs ignore traditional wisdom, and ways of doing things. That’s the only real way to innovate.

Now, unfortunately a lot of modern “success” comes down to money. Money is easily quantifiable to the simple human mind, and we use it as a marker of success.

However, this is silly. Why? Vincent van Gogh didn’t sell a single painting when he was alive, and didn’t achieve any acclaim until well after he died. Many great artists, innovators, scientists aren’t acknowledged, appreciated, or rewarded/regarded until decades, centuries, after they’re dead! Ada Lovelace only has recently gotten more credit for innovating and starting the first modern computer. Tesla should have been given as much credit as Edison, but Tesla died broke. Vivian Maier was unknown for her photography while still alive, and want discovered until recently.

So realize: as an innovator/entrepreneur, you shouldn’t expect to be rewarded. You might never be rewarded. But would you still try to do it?


Doing it your way is a risky business. Why? You can lose money, lose social credibility, and risk being ostracized by your peers and family.

Yet, I think the best way to think of ourselves as entrepreneurs are like Spartan soldiers (consider the movie 300). We put our lives, reputation on the line for what we truly believe in.

Now, the great thing is that we won’t die for pursuing our entrepreneurial ideas. At worst, we will become bankrupt, and the great thing is that bankruptcy is a modern invention which prevents us from falling into indentured servitude or slavery. In the past if you went broke or couldn’t pay your debts, you would be sold into slavery. Thus Christianity tells us to forget those who owe us money, in order to free them from slavery. To get a vivid view of how shitty slavery is, just watch “Spartacus” by Kubrick, or “Django Unchained” by Terentino.

Anyways, when you pursue things your way, there’s a very high probability that the result won’t be what you have in mind. But my suggestion is this: as an entrepreneur, consider yourself a “mad scientist”: you might have to try out an experiment 10,000 times before you get 1 successful result!

And even funner: sometimes your “mistakes” can end up being useful inventions! This is how scotch tape (Bell Labs, failed experiment for strong glue), the microwave oven (failed Xray experiment), and many other things have been invented.


But it has never been done that way!

The worst advice someone can tell you is this:

“Don’t do it that way. Nobody else has ever done it that way, and therefore you will fail!”

Ignore nay sayers. Just experiment and find out for yourself (without killing yourself in the process, of course).

Steve Jobs was the first person to ever even think of making computers or electronic devices” beautiful”. I still remember growing up, all computer PC’s were ugly beige boxes. Now all mobile phones and devices are beautiful (thanks to Mac, iPod, iPhone, iPad) and the innovations of Steve Jobs, Jony Ive, and the design team).

Steve Jobs did Apple his way: defying all “common knaokedge”. He got rid of the external ports on the Macintosh computer, even though Steve Wozniak wanted them to be there (back then all computers had many slots). Steve Jobs was the first to put design first over engineering. Steve Jobs created a ruckus when he refused to put USB ports into the iPad, because he didn’t want to screw up the minimalist design aesthetic.

The true innovator is a bit of a tyrant, in the sense that they superimpose their tastes and values upon others; rather than letting the herd/masses dictate their taste. And if the entrepreneur or artist is diligent, persistent, and lucky enough; he/she will succeed. It might take decades, however, or sometimes will only succeed far after you’re dead.


Let me talk about my best friend Kanye West; the first black rapper to wear skinny jeans, pink polos, backpacks, to popularize autotune and singing in rap, to speak his mind freely (George Bush doesn’t care about black people), to crossover rap and rock music, and to also successfully break free from the “producer” category to get into rapping, then eventually to break out of rapping to get into fashion and design.

Love him or hate Kanye; it doesn’t matter. He is doing his life his own way.

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Die with no regrets

You’re going to die one day. Don’t you want to lie on your deathbed with no regrets?

Live today to the fullest, because you never know when you’ll die; whether crossing the street from a drunk driver, or from an accidental overdose.

MEMENTO MORI and MEMENTO VIVERE!

ERIC

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# Photography Entrepreneurship 101 >

Never stop innovating: “Ultimate Beginner’s Guide to Photography Entrepreneurship“.

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How to Make a Living from Your Passion

Put a Dent in the Universe.

How to Succeed as an Entrepreneur

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The Modern Photographer: Tips, Strategies, and Tactics to Thrive as a Visual Artist in the Digital Age

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## Business Mental Models

ERIC KIM x HENRI NECK STRAP
ERIC KIM x HENRI NECK STRAP

How to Succeed as a Photography Entrepreneur: Be Extremely Resourceful
Open Source Business Model in Photography Entrepreneurship
Entrepreneurship 101: Growth and Innovation Over Self-Preservation

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## How to Monetize Your Photography

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Why Become a Photography Entrepreneur?

Take control of your own photographic destiny:

  1. Photography Startup Manual
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  3. On Risk Taking and Entrepreneurship

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By ERIC KIM

Artist-Philosopher