How to Live Bravely

eric kim street photography -sapa-0005896

“It is courage, courage, courage, that raises the blood of life to crimson splendor. Live bravely and present a brave front to adversity” – Horace

Life is all about courage.

Courage to face adversity. Courage to take your work to the next level. Courage to deal with criticism. Courage to deal with self-doubt. Courage to not be afraid of pain. Courage to not fear death.

How to build courage

eric kim street photography hanoi-0005586
Hanoi, 2017

We cannot change the world around us. Yet, we can build our courage.

But how?

Some things which have helped me:

1. Drink a lot of coffee:

When I drink coffee, I feel adrenaline going through my system. I feel hyper-alert. I also get inspired and motivated to work, write, and do creative activities, with no fear of death.

2. Become accustomed to pain:

I’ve taken cold showers quite religiously for the last 3 years. Of course I cheat once in a while. But the benefit of taking cold showers is that I am no longer afraid of pain. Cold showers are still painful, but afterwards — I build courage to face pain with greater zeal.

I have also practiced intermittent fasting (not eating breakfast, and lunch) — and dealing with mild hunger pains. This has helped me realize: I have nothing to fear but pain — and pain isn’t as bad as I often think.

3. Disable comments:

Everyone in today’s digital age is a commenter. Everyone likes to comment on everything. Yet, few people are “doers.” It is easy to criticize the work of another artist. But it is hard to create art yourself. It is easy to criticize another musician, if you don’t know how to make music. It is easy to criticize the work of another photographer, if you don’t know how to make photos yourself. A practical thing which has given me more courage was to disable comments.

I’ve disabled comments on this blog, and that has helped me build more confidence in myself— and courage to say what is really on my mind. I also have installed an extension for the Safari Mac Browser called ‘shut up’ which turns off comments for YouTube and other websites. By reading fewer comments from random people on the internet, I have more courage to take risks. I still listen to the comments and feedback of close friends and family, but I really don’t care about the comments of trolls online.

4. Eliminate a concept of self:

I am always afraid of what others will think of me. I am afraid of being negatively judged. I am afraid of becoming homeless, and starving to death. But what has helped me recently is this — taking on this Taoist/Zen concept of “non-self.” which means, I no longer think of myself as “Eric.” Rather, I try to just think of myself as a sack of bones, with a computer as a brain. And whenever I share “my” thoughts or opinion — it isn’t mind. Rather, it comes from some other source.

Therefore, I no longer identify my photos as belonging to me. Nor do I identify my words to belonging to me. Therefore whenever people criticize ‘my’ work — it is like they are criticizing the work others. And therefore, I feel less pain, and feel less fear to share what I really want to share.

5. Just do it:

If you have an idea for a business, just do it. If you see a photo you want to shoot, just shoot it. If you want to ask someone for a portrait, just ask them. Don’t think too much. Focus more on action than words. Do you want to get into physical shape? Don’t sign up for a gym membership— just get on the floor and crank out as many pushups as you can. Do you want to ask that person out on a date? Just shoot them a text and see if they want to grab a coffee tomorrow. And the practical tip I have is this: always expect to get rejected, so you don’t fear rejection.

Always keep courage, courage, courage on your mind— and nothing will ever stop you. Whenever you face obstacles, you will use this obstacles to make you stronger. You will innovate through difficult times. You will become the person you were destined to become.

Be strong,

Learn more: Stoicism >