On Sharing Knowledge

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Dear friend,

I am glad to learn in order that I may share.

“Nothing will ever please me, no matter how excellent or beneficial, if I must retain the knowledge of it to myself. And if wisdom were given me under the express condition that it must be kept hidden and not uttered, I should refuse it. No good thing is pleasant to possess, without friends to share it.” – Seneca

One of the thing I believe the most in life is ‘open source’ information. The idea that information should be open, free, flexible, in order to educate, empower, and help others.

To be human is to share. We have grown as a society and species because we shared information (both genetic information, as well as knowledge).

Societies which thrive are the ones that have open borders to knowledge. Societies which die are the ones that are secretive, and don’t pass on knowledge.

Happiness is sharing

I am pretty convinced that we are happiest when we are helping others.

For example, no matter how greedy someone might seem — these people are generally happiest when they’re helping their family members, their friends, or society.

Studies prove this. For example, when students were given $20 to spend either on themselves or others — they received much more joy spending that money on others.

I feel it is in our DNA to help others.

“He who lives for himself is truly dead to others.”

If nobody read this blog, I wouldn’t write. Why? Because I write in order to share what I have learned, in order to (hopefully) help others.

I of course, learn for my own benefit as well. But the good thing is that when we are teaching others, we learn the most. To share information with others, we need to fully-understand this knowledge.

For example, when I was personally-curious to learn about the masters of photography, I did research for my own purposes. Then in trying to distill their knowledge and wisdom (in practical tips) — I put together the ‘Learn From the Masters’ series (and learned even more). Because before I could distill their information, I needed to fully-understand.

That is why when you are a student and you tutor your friends for a test, you often do better on the test.

It is your duty to help others

Nobody is remembered for living for themselves. Think about it — who wants to have this written on their tombstone:

Here lies John, he owned 5 BMW’s, a few rolex watches, owned a big home, and lived only for himself. Everyone remembers him as being selfish, and helping only himself and his immediate family.

Wouldn’t you rather be remembered like this?

Here lies John, he drove a modest car, never showed off his wealth to those (especially poorer than him), lived within his means, and helped serve the community. He was remembered as being generous, selfless, and a patron to others.

If I want to be remembered for anything, it is this:

Here lies Eric Kim, he dedicated his life to promoting ‘open source’ information — to empower, encourage, and uplift others.

But how can I pay the bills?

I, of course, am always afraid of my own livelihood. I am always tempted to start charging a bunch of money for the information I create, remix, or share. And maybe I can make a few bucks.

But the paradox is this — the more I share with others, the more I receive in return.

When I told others that I gave away all my articles, ebooks, and videos away for free— they thought I was crazy. They thought that I would end up going broke.

In-fact, what happened was the more information I shared, the more popular I became. It helped me build my ‘brand’ — and over time, I’ve been able to have more students attend my workshops, and also purchase my products.

So being selfless can end up being a selfish strategy in a way. But the benefit is that it is a ‘win-win’ situation. By helping others, you help yourself. And in some ways, by helping yourself, you can better end up helping others.

What are you scared of?

A lot of photographers refuse to share their ‘secrets’ because of fear. Fear that someone will ‘steal’ their techniques, and end up making better photos than them.

But in truth, all information, knowledge, and wisdom is common property of humanity. Nobody has a truly ‘original’ idea (who hasn’t borrowed ideas from other human beings).

We are all born in common — like bees as part of a hive. We collect pollen from many different sources, and end up making honey based on the combination of sources we received.

If you learned a good photography technique, made a nice preset, or discovered some wisdom — wouldn’t you be happier sharing it with others?

Don’t be afraid of ‘theft.’ In today’s digital world, everything is easy to copy. The internet is essentially a big copying machine (in order for you to view images on a website, your computer ‘copies’ a local version of that image).

Sharing is caring, it can be fun

Share everything you know. Share your knowledge, insights, wisdom, and life lessons. The more you share, the more you will learn and internalize your own knowledge. And the more you share, the more you will help humanity at large.

Consider Linus Torvald — who created Linux. Linux powers billions of devices and servers all around the world. Linus Torvald has empowered millions (and perhaps billions) of people all around the world. He won’t die as the richest person, but he will certainly be one of the most remembered.

Elon Musk took a risk and open-sourced all the Tesla electric car patents. People thought he was crazy — but he knew that it was in the best interests of humanity to share this knowledge. Because the more (competing) car companies adopted electric cars, the more Tesla would profit, and the less pollution there would be on Earth.

Okay, you don’t need to share everything

Often you need to keep certain things under-wrap if you want to innovate. Steve Jobs and Apple is famous for secrecy. But honestly, I think their goal was to keep things secret— in order to help more people. Steve Jobs didn’t allow competitors to adopt the Mac operating system or iOs because he wanted the customer to have the best possible experience.

As for me, I don’t think there is a ‘right’ or a ‘wrong’ in terms of technology that is either ‘closed’ or ‘open.’ I feel if the individual’s intent is to empower humanity as a whole, that is the most important thing.

You might not want to share all your information or knowledge (you don’t need to air your dirty laundry), but certainly share the knowledge that will help empower others, and drive the human race forward.