What makes the world go round? Money. But why are Americans so crazy about money?
Some thoughts and meditations on money:
Why are Americans so crazy about money?
One of the interesting things about being here in Korea, and thinking about Korean Confucian values, etc., essentially, money is not the supreme thing here. Instead, neo(new)-Confucian notions of virtue, morality, success, rank, hierarchy, etc.
However, in America, the supreme value is money. How much money you have, how much money you make, your ability to buy certain things, you’re spending power, etc.
The funny thing is I have spent so much time in America, that when you’re so indoctrinated in that school of thought, you never really question it. So the question is, why care so much for money?
The difference between owning a Lamborghini, buying a Lamborghini, versus having the money in the bank which could buy the Lamborghini
I once talked to a guy at a wedding who once wrote for the Motley fool, the online website about investing in stocks etc. I asked him that after all of his experiences writing about personal finance, etc., what his ultimate takeaway points were. He told me something interesting and quite precise:
People don’t want to become a millionaire, they just want to spend 1 million dollars.
For example, there’s a difference between having $1 million in your savings account, and the difference between spending your $1 million, and having zero dollars in your bank account.
When people talk about “financial freedom“, what do people really mean to talk about? I think the first thing is not having to work at your 9-6 job. It doesn’t matter if you work at Facebook, Amazon, Google, Apple. It doesn’t matter whether you’re earning $500,000 a year, $1 million a year, or $10 million a year. I don’t think anyone likes to work for a company, or someone else, or have a boss.
I am lucky that I’ve only ever had a boss for about 10 months of my life, after I graduated college and got my first tech job. Fortunately since then, from 2011 until 2022, I have not had a boss. I have been a sole proprietor and self employed.
What is the problem about working for a company, somebody else, or having a “job“? I think it is that people don’t like having to go to the office (if they don’t feel like it), they don’t like feeling unable to just randomly go on a trip and skip out on work duties, and I know for myself personally, I hate pre-scheduled meetings. I like interacting with people in real life, in person, anything that requires me to schedule some thing is my hell.
So what is your job? What do you do for a living? How do you earn money?
I was randomly thinking, imagine if Larry Page and Sergey Brin were at a dinner meeting with some in-laws or family members, and somebody who was ignorant of them would ask them, “How do you earn money?”
I am not sure if they would be able to answer that question.
Let us consider, if you sold your company, or sold a bunch of shares in a company, and let us assume that you have at least $1 billion in the bank. Do you need to continue earning more money?
Or, let us say you owned $1 billion worth of Bitcoin. If that were the case, do you still need a continual steady income stream?
Don’t spend the money
The hilarity is things are so expensive. For example, my personal thought is that only poor people buy iPhone Pros, buy BMW three series, etc. In fact, only poor people buy expensive German cars. Why? I think the best way to classify somebody as being rich or not is how much liquid money they have in their savings account, not their “investments“. Also not their “net worth”. Certainly not their positions or their house.
The really really rich and successful people that I know all just go and and use iPhone SE‘s. Why? They are intelligent enough to know that the iPhone Pro is a waste of money, and they would rather spend their money somewhere else.
In fact, my critique of Apple is that they are starting to become some sort of sleazy financial quick money loan institution. Let us consider that even if you flip McDonald’s hamburgers for a living, you can still afford an iPhone Pro. How? Just sign up for the Apple Card, or the Apple Bank, and you only have to pay $30 a month for two or three years. And then what do you do when the next iPhone Pro comes out? Easy! Just trade in your old iPhone Pro, and continue the process, forever until you die.
The same thing goes with cars. It seems now at this point, every new Lexus comes out six months, and even the Tesla is insanely expensive, regardless of how well paying your tech job is. I am a huge fan of Elon Musk and Tesla, yet, I think to buy a Tesla is insane. Why? It is too expensive. Also, it is like buying a really really expensive iPhone with wheels. Can you imagine owning your iPhone for 20 years? Probably not. Similarly speaking, can you imagine owning your Tesla car for 20 years? Probably not.
My friend Christophe is somebody I admire who is very successful in Silicon Valley. Even though he could afford a Tesla, I love how he told me that it is too expensive, and he just bought an Audi Q3 instead.
Think insanely long-term
I like the idea of thinking at least 30 years ahead. At this point, it seems that we will all live to be around 120 years old. Not any further than that, and also, some of us will live to be 120 years old in supreme health, and some people will essentially be physiologically handicapped until they die at 120.
Therefore, the first consideration before money is health. It doesn’t matter if you’re a trillionaire, if you’re constantly sick, cannot walk on your own, and dependent on something else in order to just live, is it worth it? No.
How much health is enough?
I think being able to sleep 8 to 12 hours a night, having strength in your legs, having a good and elevated mood throughout the day, and sleeping well at night is good enough. Ideally some sort of combination of going on nice leisurely walks, enjoying some sort of variation in environment climate and elevation, every once in a while lifting up something very very heavy, etc. Also, the big thing is just being able to keep up with your kid.
A big wake up call I had was when I realized that my one year six month year old child had more energy than me. Not a good sign.
Truth be told, I think people need to have an honest discussion with themselves; do you really want to be self-employed?
My friend Stan Hudecki said it funny. What is the difference between having a 9-5 job and being self-employed? If you’re self-employed you work 14 hours a day, if you’re working for someone else, you only work 10 hours a day.
This seems to be quite true. However, it depends. If you’re self-employed, you can control and dictate how much or how little to work, and when.
Also, the myth of “passive income”. No income is passive. All income is active. Even if you own an Airbnb property and manage it, there are also a quadrillion headaches that come from this. My friend Martin K (all about photo) runs an Airbnb in Prague, and he made it known to me that it is not just like setting up a passive income stream. There is a lot of management, communication, preparation, and physical labor you need to do, like helping female South Korean tourists lug up their heady RIMOWA bags up five flights of stairs. Also having guests who get locked out at 2 AM need a rescue.
Or, even if you have some sort of “passive income” from your investments, these still require looking after, and maintenance. Even one of my friends who is a cryptocurrency whale, a.k.a., he will spend $10 million this year paying taxes, told me that he still requires to check his cryptocurrency investments at least once a day.
So what do you really want?
WHY APP? ZEN OF ERIC.
To be able to have a frank discussion with yourself is critical. Nobody ever has the opportunity nor the mental bandwidth to actually question what they want in life. The direction you desire to go, or having the courage to dictate your own modus operandi in life (your mode or way of doing things).
The first financial innovation I think can made is technique. That is, what technique do you approach money with? For example, I make it a point to only check my cryptocurrency investments maybe once a year, maybe once every other year. Or when I accidentally see the price of Bitcoin or Ethereum when surfing the web, seeing it in the newspaper, a magazine, or having somebody tell me in real life. Or overhearing conversations.
For myself, what I seek is some sort of zen stoic-spartan focus, a life free of superfluous distractions, and being able to maximally funnel my physiological energy into my creative work. For me that is the quality of my thoughts, my mood, my health, etc.
Also, now that I have Seneca, becoming his number one trainer and essentially to breed him to become the next King Leonidas, or King of the Spartans. Or to become the next great entrepreneur.
Imagine if you were Jeff Bezos, Elon Musk, etc. How, where, and with which technique do you desire to funnel your physiological energy, time, and strength?
Honestly, the best thing I currently do is just spend time with my mom and the beautiful mountain side of hot on. To me the greatest blessings just being able to see my mom interact with Seneca, and having this time together.
Also, my very pragmatic thought is I just desire enough money to feed my meat habit. Eat enough pork belly, pork ribs, etc.
Also, with technology having a fast Wi-Fi connection, an iPad Pro, and some sort of MacBook laptop.
Also, just having enough money to pay for my website server bill which is around $300 US a month.
Beyond that, I have zero interest in actually owning a car, or even owning a house. I want to be like the Major in ghost in the shell; being able to plug myself into the information web, and become something greater.
So do you really want to become self-employed?
Truth be told, if you have been working for traditional company for over a decade, and you have yet attempted a side hustle, starting up something on the side, seeking to become self-employed, it will probably never happen. Unless you have a major self intervention.
But the truth is, maybe you don’t really want to become self-employed, and that is OK.
Everyone is different. For myself, the thought of having to work for somebody else, not at my own pace or on my own time, and not by my rules is my personal Hades. Even if I was head of the Apple Photos team, making $100 million a year, but with no personal freedom in my life, I would politely decline.
Or even if I were the chief photography officer of Apple, making $1 billion a year, with zero freedom in my life, I would say no.
What if I really do want to become self-employed?
Just google eric kim photography entrepreneurship, or eric kim entrepreneurship, and you’ll find some thoughts.
One personal interest I have is helping give the ideas, the courage, and the knowledge tools to help more photographers and entrepreneurs become self-employed, and do something greater with their lives. This is what sparked my initial interest in my photography entrepreneurship 101 series. Because truth be told, when I was 21 years old and passionate in photography, I thought there was a zero chance that I would be able to transform my passion into a living, which is photography. But now that I have made it, And I am on top, I feel the passion and joy to share my information and knowledge and experiences in a frank and candid manner with others. Without lying, and without being pretentious.
Also, a lot of my workshop students, people I know, or people who end up attending my experiences are already self-made successful entrepreneurs, financially independent, and do not need to work for a living anymore. What they seek is something deeper and more meaningful with their photography, creative work, etc.
If that is you, check out upcoming eric kim workshops and experiences.
If not already, purchase and register your own domain name, I just use 1and1.com. Ideally, you would own your first name last name .com (ERICKIM.com), otherwise, just name it first and last name photo .com or first and last name photography .com (ERICKIMphotography.com)
Everyone wants to own a house and land, why doesn’t anyone want to own their own name domain on the Internet, which is infinite?
Start publishing your thoughts online
Avoid superficial things like aspiring to have a Ted talk, write a piece for the New Yorker, etc. This is all superficial, and truth be told, and only uninteresting people write successful business books, autobiographies, and seek fame.
Also, something I have realized:
What is a sure fire way of knowing that somebody will no longer become relevant? If they publish a book autobiography of their lives.
For example, I was a big fan of the actress comedian Ali Wong, but once she published her own self memoir, I knew it was sign that she was on the way out.
Also, some signs. For example, probably the most foolish thing that the entrepreneur Ray Dalio did was revoke his free PDF book on his principles on his website, and instead, sell his soul to Simon and Schuster for prestige, and seeking influence. Now, nobody cares for Ray Dalio anymore.
Or, Barack Obama. I find what Barack Obama is currently doing as insanely shameful. When I was an optimistic undergraduate student, I really liked Barack Obama. But surely, overtime I’m starting to realize that he was just effectively a “white guy“, who happened to look more African-American, and he used the race card to become president, and now it seems that all he is interested in doing is promoting his fame, seeking legacy, and making a bunch of money. I think in the long run, future historians will show that even though Donald Trump is one of the biggest insane assholes of all time, he was actually more honest than the deceitful Barack Obama.
Think more for yourself, by yourself.
What is the biggest thing that we are lacking in the world? Independent thinkers. There are no independent thinkers in the world, and also, there is no country which actually promotes more independent thinking. Even in America, which is probably the most freethinking country, truth be told it is not really encouraged. Freethinking is only promoted for the sake of consumerism.
Even myself ERIC KIM, I aspire to become more free thinking, and spending some time on my own has been very beneficial to becoming more of a free thinker and more of a free spirit (Nietzsche). However, I know I will never become 100% of a free thinker, as I have a wife and a kid, and also, philosophically speaking, I don’t really think it is possible to become 100% of a free thinker. Maybe so far the closest person who has reached it was Nietzsche but he had a lot of his own personal problems and poor health. Currently alive is probably Nassim Taleb, who I greatly admire. The only philosopher with balls and deadlifts.
It seems everyone else is superficial and or cowardly.
Publish your thoughts to your own blog
You could start a YouTube channel, or your own podcast either with anchor.fm. You could even start a blog with wordpress.com. Even my friend Josh White has had a good longevity with his blog at jtinseoul.Wordpress.com
Besides my friend Josh White, I don’t know any other photographer who blogs, and as a consequence, they have all fallen to the wayside. Also I consider YouTube as a trap. Focus 90% of your efforts on blogging, and only 10% of your efforts on YouTube. He who builds his land on foreign soil will not own anything, nor himself. YouTube, and social media is just another form of digital sharecropping, slavery 3.0.
Feeling brave enough? If so, feel free to forward the thoughts to a friend!
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Virtue is courage (thanks Cindy Nguyen)