My Definition of Happiness

I’ve been asking a lot of people about how they would define happiness. I figured I’d also answer it for myself:

Jeroen Helmink eric kim street photography
Portrait by Jeroen Helmink

Download PDF: MY definition of happiness

My simple definition of happiness is currently this:

Do everything you want in a single day without getting tired. Employ every day to the fullest! Don’t do what you don’t want to do.

Pretty simple.

1. Not getting tired

eric kim photography junku nishimura CONTAX T3
Portrait by Junku Nishimura

I’ve discovered for myself, being tired is worse than feeling stressed, anxious, or bored. When I’m tired, I have no motivation to do anything — which to me, is the worst mental state.

Therefore for myself, I’m constantly self-experimenting to discover how to have the maximum amount of energy in a day, with minimal exhaustion or tiredness.

Cindy and my graduation picture, UCLA 2010. Dreaming big!
Cindy and my graduation picture, UCLA 2010. Dreaming big!

As of now, I discovered my personal hacks:

  1. Don’t eat breakfast or lunch, fast until dinner (intermittent fasting keeps me sharper during the day, and more energized). I do get hungry, but I’m actually more energized, sharp, keen, and aware when I’m hungry! And when it’s dinner time, I go HAM (hard as a mother….f) and eat unlimited eggs, leafy greens, and fatty meats (strict ketogenic diet). Then I take a shower, read a little, chat with Cindy and count our wins and blessings from the day, and then pass out (around 10pm). Then wake up the next day around 6-9am.
  2. Lots of black coffee, black and green tea, and 100% cacao powder during the day. Keeps me energized, and pumped up.
  3. Hard knocks: Energizing hip hop music, like JAY Z, KANYE, PUSHA T, KENDRICK LAMAR. Their music gets me in the zone, like Silicon Valley investor Ben Horowitz (apparently friends with Kanye).
  4. Working out in morning: A nice walk in the park, and chin ups and dips/planches in the park gym. Nice chats with the guys working out there, and enjoying the view of the trees. I find trees to energize me– I appreciate how long they’ve been around, and I theorize that green and verdant colors are naturally stimulating and beautiful to humans (we thrive off lush, green, biological areas).
  5. Going for a walk when I’m tired or burn out: Allows my mind to recharge. I’ll either walk with my camera, or without anything. No music, no phone.

2. Employ everyday to the fullest

Me and Contax III, my grandfather's camera. 2009
Me and Contax III, my grandfather’s camera. 2009

This is connected to the first point: how can I make the fullest of everyday, assuming if I’ll die tonight in my sleep? Because one day I will.

Selfie, 2009.

To me this is a good mental exercise, because it forces me to NOT waste my time, energy, and human metabolism on stuff I don’t find personally meaningful to myself. This means I best leverage my “Archimedes lever” (my strengths in life) to make a meaningful impact in the world — a combination of blogging, art, video production, writing, philosophy, art, photography, and entrepreneurship.

Black and white Hanoi face

The best way to employ everyday to the fullest:

If I knew I’d die tonight in my sleep, what would I make, write, or create today?

And more importantly:

What would I not get distracted with today?

3. Don’t do what you don’t want to do

White ERIC KIM FACE. Selfie, Saigon 2017

Lastly I think true happiness is not doing what you don’t want to do. This is a “via negativa” way of obtaining happiness, via Nassim Taleb (Antifragile book).

eric kim red face looking up hanoi

Besides feeding yourself, drinking water, not freezing to death, and paying your taxes — nothing else is really “necessary”.

Woman with face mask in Tokyo subway. 2018
Woman with face mask in Tokyo subway. 2018

So friend ask yourself,

What do I do on a daily basis which I consider a “necessity”– but actually it is an obligation forced onto me by someone else?

My definition of happiness thus includes,

Not doing anything which is superimposed onto you by someone else.

Man dark silhouette face. Getting close with 24mm lens, filling the frame. Umbrellas are good to simplify the background.

That’s why I hustled so hard to become a self-employed entrepreneur— I love working hard, but I hate doing stuff superimposed on me by others, which I consider a waste of time. This is why I can never have a boss.

Daily happiness

Eric kim artist

In your quest for happiness, my suggestion is this:

On a daily basis, do more of what you want to do and create, and do less of what you don’t want to do.


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