You Were Meant to Change the World

My general thoughts: first and foremost, this and you were supposed to change the world.

“Those who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, do.” – OG (original gangster, old school) Apple Steve Jobs TV advertisement.

I was born in 1988, currently 35 years old. When I was a kid growing up, it was all about Gandhi, changing the world etc. Even in fact, for my college application essay, that what got me into UCLA as an undergrad, Centered around this quote from Gandhi “Be the change which you wish to see manifested in the world.”

As a kid growing up poor, fortunately having a lot of good mentors, my general gist was always to give back, to contribute to society. a lot was given to me when I was young, and I felt like it was my duty to give back.

Deep passion

Growing up poor, having my dad Gimble the rent money, always being one paycheck away from being potentially homeless… Money action never really concerned me as a kid. It was a strange irony; because we were always so financially unstable growing up, and even when we hit Rockbottom and my mom had to file for bankruptcy and she can no longer even open up her own personal checking account… my sister and my mom were OK. This taught me an important lesson that I could take infinite chances and not worry myself or concerned myself too much about finances. in fact, then even now… I literally have zero concerns about finances.

Why, why not? Never really interest me that much. As a kid, I had deep pride in being scrappy, being frugal, being economical, and having deep pride in being self aligned, making do and making best of what I had, or what I bought or earned or did with my own money, Earning it through working, my entrepreneur endeavors, starting my own business etc.

In fact, I remember when I was in high school, maybe around my sophomore year, my friend Eric Moon (yeah, his name was also Eric) taught me how to build computers. I was so shocked and amazed; I was always passionate about computers ever since I was a kid around 12 years old in New York, when I got my first Acer aspire computer. I think it had the original Intel Pentium processor ”inside”.

I think it was around my junior year, I had this great idea of doing something simple: because me and all of my friends weren’t to video games, kind of strike, kind of strike 1.6 etc.… I had this genius idea of building computers, And then later selling it at a small markup to my friends and other kids at school, for a small profit. I did the math and I would be able to build a pretty good computer for around 500 bucks, until it for around six or 700 bucks. I also put lots of advertisements on eBay to sell my computers, I made my own icon which I made on a pirated version of Adobe Photoshop, and I still recall it… It was a little beach palm tree icon, orange, and I called the company “Paradise computers.” The hilarity was in order to save costs, and in order for me to make a profit, actually use pirate versions of windows XP, I still remember later a kid from school I sold a computer tube his name was Barry… Later complained to me that the computer I sold him Was having issues because it had all of these pop-ups saying that it was using an unregistered or unlicensed version of Windows. I just shrugged my shoulders and continued on.

Anyways, as a kid, around 15 years old, I had enough money, around $1000 or around $1200 to buy my first car; a 1991 Sentra XE, which was a four-door, white Nissan car, 1.6 L five speed manual transmission sedan. GA16DE engine — I still remember it! Also the hilarity; it was so old-school it didn’t even have a tachometer in it! As the mechanic taught me how to drive manual stick transmission, in my uncle Enzo taught me how to drive stick shift, I learned that you could learn how to shift transmissions by just using your ears and feeling the car… At around 2000 to 3000 RPMs I learned how it intuitively felt.

The reason why this brought me so much insane effing joy was I felt so insanely proud of myself: I think I was definitely the only kid my age range that I personally knew, maybe even up to today… In which I purchased my own first car! Later on I remember joining all these online Nissan forums, and learning about this legendary car, which was essentially a souped up version of my first car; a two-door 1991 Sentra SE-R— equipped with a formidable 2.0 L engine, this SR 20 DE engine, the infamous engine which also powers the Sylvia, 240 SX, SR 20 DET engine in Japan (turbo charged)— except the 1991 centra SER was upfront wheel drive, whereas the SR 20 DET engine in Japan on the 240 SX was a rear wheel drive car.

Anyways, fast forwarding a bit… When my 1991 Sentra XE failed to pass emissions, I remember I was able to trade it into the junkyard, to get back around 1000, $1500 or something like that, and I was able to use that money to buy my dream car; the 1991 Sentra SE-R car!

Once again, the reason why this problem is so much joy, literally getting the car my pure pride and joy was a trifold was because the pride and the glory that I felt doing it myself! My own hard earned money.

Later on, I think when I was in college, either my freshman or sophomore year, I had this vision of driving through the desert, on a street path, it looked like it was Nevada or Arizona or Joshua tree or something… Driving top down in a red convertible. I did lots of research on discovering the cheapest option, and I learned about the moth Miata. I scored the deal of my lifetime, on craigslist I found a mint 1990 Mazda Miata, the original one, five speed, no power steering, no air conditioning… Pure. Red, soft top convertible, and I bought it for only $2500 USD. Funny enough that I look back at it, I remember asking the guy why he sold it and he told me that he had his first kid, and he no longer had use for the car. Interesting looking back at it now that I am 35 years old, now that Seneca is around two years nine months old, I am in a similar boat.

Now with cars, I am in love with my 2010 white Prius, which I literally got for free from Cindy‘s family! The genealogy of the car was Cindy‘s older sister first spotted brand new, drove it for a while, later passed it on to me and Cindy, who continued the payments until it was paid off, drove it around in Berkeley for around two years from around 2014 to 2015, went carless, give the car to Cindy’s younger sister, traveled the world and nomading around for several years as Cindy was writing her dissertation, and only may be a few months ago, when we were in Vietnam got the news that the Cadillac converter was stolen out of it, when Cindy‘s younger sister Jennifer was parked in front of her apartment. She no longer wanted to deal with the fear of the catalytic converter getting stolen again, and as a consequence, was saying that she was thinking about just telling it to the mechanic for $2000 or something like that. I yelled out loud, “no! The car is worth at least $10,000! “I then promoted the idea to Cindy of us taking it back, spending the money to replace the Khalid converter, which was around $2500, getting the catalytic converter shield, which is meant to deter future theft, which may be costing $300. Later we discovered that the ABS, antilock braking system was broken and needed to be fixed which was maybe around another $2000… But still, I am so proud that effectively we got what I consider a brand new car a brand new Prius for sub $5000!

What is a millennial?

I think I got a good definition for millennial; somebody who foolishly uses their money. And also doesn’t really know what they want to do or get out of their lives.

Living here in LA, being back here in LA for about a month and a half, some funny heuristics I’ve noted:

  1. How do you know if somebody is unsuccessful? if they drive some sort of baselevel Audi, like an Audi Q3 or A3. Even if they drive just a basic Tesla model three. Essentially a lot of millennials my age or people my age, want to see men appear rich and successful or elite, or rich or whatever… Yet can only afford the cheapest luxury thing. Same thing for people who drive the base level BMW three series, Mercedes a class, essentially any German car. Even I see so many people driving range rovers, all black everything; or AMG G wagons, once again all matte black everything… They are more common than seeing Toyota sienna in the Orange County suburbs.
  2. Everyone aspires to buy a home. Yet I think my big innovative thought is that actually… It may be superior to rent a really really nice apartment in an insanely great location, than owning a home even in a good to great location. Why? My thought on supreme happiness, joy, and success is being able to walk 50 miles a day, and also, having to spend minimum time to maintain anything. It is crazy, even though I may have the world’s least maintenance car, a Prius, even basic things that I gotta do is wash it every once in a while, I don’t even have enough time to take my car to the drive-through car wash at the gas station anymore! Or even washing the car myself, I would prefer to use that time to work out in my Spartan parking lot off the grid workout, or take Seneca to the park, or go on a walk downtown topless to sunbathe. I can’t be fucked wasting time washing my car or doing any of this other nonsense.

What do people aspire to?

Am I the last optimistic, entrepreneurially hungry person that I know?

I think out of all the real life human beings that I know, and also out of all my friends, the entrepreneur that I know, and also consider successful is my friend Todd Hata. I am insanely grateful of him, because when I was only 21 or 22 years old, he reached out and actually helped me get started in business very very early, traveling the world together, I still consider him one of my closest friends, and also mentors.

But besides Todd, I don’t think I know anybody. All of my friends, even the ones that consider successful either work at Facebook, Amazon, Google, or Apple.

Funny enough, I actually don’t know anybody, and don’t have any friends or anybody in my personal friends Circle who has actually become entrepreneurs, or self-employed, or soul proprietors. Everyone is working for a company or a corporation. Or a foreign business. Not for themselves.

And this is what I think is the critical thing; if you really really really want to change the world, I think it is impossible doing it while still having full-time employment. Why? I remember thinking a few years back, one of the most grateful things I was no longer having to work my old 9 to 5 was that suddenly, I had another 8 to 9 hours a day, to do what I was truly passionate about, Doing street photography and riding and blogging about street photography, instead of being stuck in some sort of tedious office.

My visions

I had lots of visions in my life, many of which I accomplished and I am very proud of.

First, my idea and notion of open source, open source photography. Apparently I created quite the buzz when I first made available all of my photographs on Flicker online for free, open source, full resolution JPEG. This was unheard of at the time, when people were still putting Sylvia watermarks on their images, or they were afraid of people “stealing“ their photos online. I always had the clear understanding that ultimately, you can’t even pay people to steal your photos. Ultimately nobody cares for your photos that much. What is more important? Your influence, your fame, your clout, your reach. I knew that even from a basic perspective, it was better to have your Photos available for free, open source, to the general public, for them to use it as their desktop wallpaper or something. I even recall remember hearing Some fans I met using my dark skies over Tokyo photo, behind the suit with the black face, as there does top wallpaper! That bought me a quadrillion times more joy than selling my photos for thousands of dollars.

And I think this is the thing I discovered; what a lot of us photographers are seeking is significance, a feeling of legitimacy. My personal journey was attempting the traditional routes of becoming a “successful“ photographer; traveling the world, becoming world famous, becoming a household name, having solo exhibitions, printing a photo book, getting sponsorships etc. Now having done all of it, I am happy… Yet… What I ultimately discovered was this:

True success ain’t any of that. True success is simply, having a unique vision, and fulfilling it.

in fact, one of the proudest moments of my life, two “Nasim Taleb was “via Neiva“; the idea that the proudest moments of your life aren’t positive actions of doing or saying yes, but rather, act of omission; things you decide to not do, or things to say no to or to refuse.

For example, my book, “100 lessons from the masters of street photography.” I had a grand vision of doing this book for a long time, especially after doing my exhaustive self studying series of all the masters of street photography etc. In fact actually got an offer from a book agent, who offered me a book deal on it, but, he said that it was impossible to make an open source, free, open easily accessible PDF available for free. After much thinking, delaying and thought… I ultimately refuse the book deal and I am proud that I did. I am certain that this book will outlive me. Why? It was created out of pure passion; things which are created out of pure passion will never die.

Ultimately, what is it that we want or desire?

One of the great quotes I love is from the pre-Socratic philosopher Heraclitus, who once said “The greatest good amongst men is to seek immortality amongst mortals. Yet the majority of men themselves like cattle.”