eric kim street photography -sapa-0005896

Dear friend,

I want to write you a letter on not giving a fuck of what others think of you:

You were born for greatness

eric kim street photography -sapa-0005957-2
Sapa, 2017

First of all, why do you care what others think of you?

I know in the past, I cared a lot of what others thought of me because I wanted to please everybody else. I hated the feeling of upsetting others. Because I was taught from a young age to be a people-pleaser.

In Asian culture, there is a saying:

The nail that sticks out the most needs to be hammered in the hardest.

Of course, this saying wasn’t very useful as an Asian-American. I rather followed the American saying:

Follow your passion.

I’ve found that in order to follow your passion, you can’t listen to society. You can’t simply follow the rules, the Asian way. Rather, you need to build a life for yourself. You need to pave your own path. You need to have the courage to ignore what everyone else thinks of you, and pursue your own destiny of greatness.

Become invincible:

eric kim street photography -sapa-0006247
Sapa, 2017

Here are some practical tips I can give you:

1. Realize that you will die one day

bac ha - eric kim photography
Bac Ha, 2017

One of the best ways I’ve inspired myself to stay focused on my passion is this: realizing that I have only one life to live. And I don’t want to be on my deathbed, regretting anything that I did in my life. Or even worse, regretting what I didn’t do in life.

Jeff Bezos calls this the “regret minimization framework.” The concept is simple: live a life by avoiding regrets as much as possible. This means to take more risks, and whenever anything looks like a good opportunity, going for it.

Assignment: Imagine you are 90 years old on your deathbed— what will you regret doing and what will you regret not doing?

2. Ignore everybody else

eric kim abstract
Bac Ha, 2017

One of the easiest ways to follow your passion in life is to ignore what everyone else says. Even your loved ones will say things to you, hoping to help you, but you will need to ignore them too.

First of all, your family wants the best for you. If you want to do something unorthodox or extraordinary in your life, they will be worried for you. Of course your parents and friends and family will tell you to take the safe route. We are all risk-averse human beings.

There will be some others who think you’re crazy for wanting to take a risk in your life. But you can’t do anything grand in life without taking risks.

To me, being an entrepreneur in life isn’t starting a company. Rather, to be an entrepreneur in life is to simply take risks for what you believe in, and trying to figure out how to make your passion into a living (not a killing).

If you have an idea, and want to pursue it— but everyone else thinks you’re crazy, I say fuck it — go for it.

Of course, you want to cap your downside. That means, have a backup option. That might mean getting a job as an Uber driver, pushing grocery carts, or becoming a barista (not a bad idea).

Assignment: Uninstall all social media apps from your phone for a week, and ignore everyone else as much as humanly possible.

3. Be the first to make fun of yourself

eric kim street photography hanoi-0005586
Hanoi, 2017

One of the best ways to become immune to criticism is to make fun of yourself first.

For example, if people say you’re an idiot, tell them: “I also don’t do my bed in the morning.”

Self-deprecating humor is liberating. If your friend tells you about someone who is talking crap behind your back, simply tell your friend:

They surely don’t know about my other faults, if this is all they told you.

We all have faults. We are human being. We will never be perfect.

If you make fun of yourself before anybody else, their insults will have no sting.

So make fun of your own height, your weight, your appearance, your silliness, or your lack of skill. Outwardly this will deflect any attacks and blows. And it will give you the inner-courage to pursue your dream in life.

Assignment: When someone insults or makes fun of you, make fun of yourself some more.

4. Think about yourself in the third-person

Sapa, 2017

One of the practical things that has helped me in my life is this: I refer to myself in the third person.

I try to refer to myself as “Eric” as little as possible. Instead, I imagine “Eric Kim” as some other person. Therefore, whenever someone criticizes “Eric Kim” — I don’t feel personally harmed.

Nowadays, I just see myself as a sack of bones, which runs on coffee, writes some things on a computer, and also really happens to like taking photos. I don’t take myself too seriously, nor do I care much for my ego.

What has helped me the most is studying Zen/Taoist philosophy. They are always telling you to ‘kill your ego’ and to drop any notion of “self.”

So whenever I take photos and share them with others, I pretend like the photos were shot by someone else. So I won’t ask others: “What do you think about my photos?”, I will ask: “What do you think about these photos?” This way I detach my ego from my photos.

Also, whenever people give me honest feedback or criticism, I nod my head, and agree with everything anyone tells me. I don’t fight back, or defend myself. Because once again, they are telling me about this other “Eric Kim.” Not myself.

Assignment: Go a week trying to self-identify yourself by your own name as little as possible. See if this helps you have more courage in what you do, and whether it helps you care less about what others think of you.

5. Publish, publish, publish

eric kim street photography -sapa-0006062
Sapa, 2017

I know a lot of artists who want to put their work out there. But they have too much insecurity and self-doubt.

The only way to overcome is to publish, publish, publish. Publish your ideas, your photos, and your art. Whether you publish them online or offline, it doesn’t really matter. Make it a practice to put your work out there.

The more you publish and share your work, the less fear you will have.

My personal rule is that I try to make my art 80% ‘good enough’ and just hit publish. Because I will never achieve perfection. And I know that when I used to be a perfectionist, I used to get nothing done— because I was fearful of doing anything less than perfect.

Assignment: For a week, publish one thing everyday. Whether a blog post, a photo, or an idea. Stand up for your ideas, and become accustomed to caring less about what others think of you and your ideas. Rather, think of what you think about yourself.

Conclusion

eric kim street photography hanoi-0005665
Hanoi, 2017

Life is short. Don’t live it according to the rules and values of others. Rather, pave your own path. If you have an idea that seems crazy, stick by it, and take a risk in life. Consider what is your worst-case scenario, and you will realize, it isn’t really that bad.

Be brave,
Eric

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