Never Hoard

Hanoi, 2016
Hanoi, 2016

Why is it that many of us hoard?

We hoard our material possessions, our money, our knowledge, our contacts, and our wisdom.

I think the reason a lot of us hoard is a sense of fear. We fear loss. We fear that somehow we will become disadvantaged by sharing. We fear that by sharing, someone will take advantage of us.

But in truth, the more we share, the more we receive.

For example, the more generous you are, the more you will receive in return. The more you help out your friends, the more they will help you. The more you love others, the more they will love you in return.

Helping others before helping myself

When I started off in photography, I was sad that nobody ever commented on my photos, or gave me feedback. But then I realized the problem: I never commented or gave feedback to other photographers.

So what I started to do was to try to help other photographers. I found other photographers whose work I liked, and I gave them positive feedback on their work. I told them what I liked about their shots, and what I thought they could use improvement on.

And in return, they took notice. They started to give me honest feedback and critique. It was a positive feedback loop — the more I helped others, the more I received in return.

Less is more

Over the years, I have accumulated a lot of stuff. A lot of cameras, gadgets, laptops, etc. Instead of just hoarding them, I’ve tried to make a practice of giving them away — to friends, or other people who I thought could better use it than myself.

And it has been amazing. By giving away my possessions, I have breathed a new life into the possession. Not only that, but these possessions which were once useless to me, becomes instantly useful to someone else. And it empowers that individual and friend.

I feel that it is a burden to have things we don’t use. We feel guilty. They collect dust. We stress over whether we should use it, sell it, or perhaps give it away.

I once read a tale about an ancient king— that no matter how many palaces, bedrooms, and gold-encrusted beds he had — he was only able to sleep in one bed at a time.

The problem that many of us photographers have is that we have too many cameras, too many lenses, and too much gear. No matter who we are, we can only ever shoot with one camera and one lens at a time.

I’ve found by giving away my cameras and lenses that I don’t use, I feel happier, more creative, and less burdened. In-fact, giving things away is a bit of a selfish strategy. You make yourself happier, by making others happier. But I think it is a positive selfishness that helps others (and yourself).

Learning to let go

Growing up, my family was pretty poor, so stuff was valuable. I had a fear that if I didn’t have as much “stuff” — I would somehow be disadvantaged. Each article of clothing or gadget was potential money. And being constantly short of money, having a lot of stuff was important.

But now as an adult, I am fortunate that I have all my basic needs met. In-fact, nowadays having more stuff is more of a burden and a chore. Having more devices means more stuff to charge, manage, update, and backup. Having more cameras is more stress when I’m out shooting.

Everyday, I’m trying to let things go. Not only let physical things go, but also mental baggage. To let go my regrets of the past. To let go of any past resentment of other people. To let go of any past embarrassments.

Seek to make yourself as empty and light as possible. Then when you are truly empty, you will have infinite space to create, to help others, and become the best version of yourself (for the sake of advancing the interests of humanity).

Never forget that you have unlimited abundance, figuratively, and literally.


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