If you want to evolve as an artist, you must isolate yourself.
How to Evolve
After I got married about 2 years ago, I embarked on a semi-nomadic lifestyle with Cindy, where we lived intermittently all around the world. We spent about a year in Vietnam, some time in Europe, the East Coast, back to Vietnam, Japan, etc. But for the most part, I creatively isolated myself. I got rid of my phone, stopped checking emails, cut my communications with the outside world, and entered a digital ‘zen monk’ mode.
This was probably the best thing I’ve ever done for my own creative evolution.
Why creative isolation?
Three years ago, I made a New Year’s Resolution:
I will no longer attend any more ‘networking’ meetings, or any meetings which are non-monetary.
I felt this instinctive need to distance myself from others. Why? Because I felt that I lost the faculty to think for myself. I am easily distracted, and the only way I can do meaningful work is when I can focus. And to me, focusing is simply ruthlessly eliminating all external distractions.
During my stint of creative isolation, this meant saying no to meetings, events, conferences, and meeting other people in my field (photography). This was good, because everyone has this pre-conceived notion of who ‘ERIC KIM’ is, and if they were to treat me this way, they would attach a label to me.
And when I get labeled, I am vulnerable to becoming pigeon-holed into that label. Furthermore, when others interact with you while thinking of you with that label, you might get suckered into “playing the part”. And this might derail your creative evolution, because you fall back into the black hole of being defined by the labels of others.
Which made me wonder:
Perhaps the only way to evolve is to isolate yourself, in order to give yourself negative space to grow, evolve, change, and experiment.
What can we learn from Darwin?
When Charles Darwin first went to the Galapagos Islands, he was amazed at seeing all these strange animals and species. But how were all these random animals able to evolve in such a unique way? Well, they were sheltered from the rest of the world on those little islands. And I guess they were lucky enough to not really be threatened by outside predators.
Which made me wonder:
Is it possible for myself to put myself on some sort of metaphorical island; to help distance myself from outside society, in order for me to think, philosophize, come up with new ideas, and let my photography evolve?
I think so.
Nietzsche once said something like, “I endeavor to put a distance of at least 300 years between myself and others.” Which meant:
Don’t think about or worry about your contemporaries. Rather, consider how influential your work can be 300 years from now.
Because as artists, creators, and entrepreneurs, we aren’t only seeking to help empower people of this generation. We are also attempting to influence future generations — your grandchildren, their children, their grand-grand-children.
I often wonder to myself:
What will my descendants look like, 10 or 20 generations from now? (1,000-2,000 years).
This is what I labor towards.
“Festina Lente” (Make haste slowly)
“Festina Lente” means to ‘make haste slowly.’ It is a poetic idea that we shouldn’t rush things. Yet, we must ‘memento mori‘ (remember that we must die) — our maximum lifespan (around 120 years) is a ticking death tock. Thus, we must also hustle hard in order make great works (magnum opuses) which will empower ourselves, our modern society, and future generations of society.
You have a great destiny.
A great death makes a great life.
I want to die a great, glorious death. That means, I am lying on my deathbed knowing that I created great works that can profit future generations of humanity.
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