I want to write you a letter on the EGO — how we can kill our personal ego (in a negative way), but also let our ego flourish (to become the best version of ourselves):
## I. EGO-MANIAC x HUMBLE
I think if you want to live a super epic life, full of creative joy and expression — embrace both extremes. My buddy Nassim Taleb calls it the ‘barbell’ strategy. We avoid the middle.
For example, don’t be ‘average’ in life. Rather, have a fucking massive ego (like myself) and be extremely humble (like [Jesus](http://erickimphotography.com/blog/jesus)).
I feel this is the best way we can express the ‘Apollonian’ (rational) and the ‘Dionysian’ (wild and crazy) — something that [Nietzsche](http://erickimphotography.com/blog/nietzsche/) taught me.
## II. ANTI-SOCIAL EXTROVERT
So for me, I am very greedy about my free time and private time. I value it above almost everything else. If I don’t have creative time and freedom — I feel like I am dying. I feel like I am dying of thirst, or drowning.
So if I need to shut out distractions, I become an anti-social recluse. I lock myself up in coffee shops, and don’t check social media, emails, or messages from the outside world. I need to go into my Zen-like monk stage— in order to create.
However when I am not working on creative projects (writing, photographing, meditating, philosophizing, thinking) — I LOVE LOVE LOVE to be extroverted and around other people. To me, I live to be with other humans— but I prefer to go 100% social *after* I am done with my creative work. So I usually stop working at around 5pm, and enjoy a leisurely 3-hour dinner with Cindy— chatting about life, or meeting friends for dinner.
## III. Either ‘whole ass’ something or don’t do it
For me, I only want to ‘whole ass’ everything. No half-assign.
For example, if I am having a conversation with Cindy or a friend, I will either totally ignore them (headphones on), or I will shut off my smartphone and close the lid of my laptop, and give them 100% of my attention. No 50% attention — I don’t want to be the guy half-checking my phone while talking to someone. To me, giving someone 50% of your attention is more rude than giving someone 0% of your attention. Better 100% attention or 0% attention.
## IV. Don’t be fake humble
So I don’t like fake humility. If you are fucking awesome, just say it. Don’t decrease your accomplishments— but at the same time, don’t increase your accomplishments. Just say it how it is. Tell me the #FACTS. If you are a Hollywood movie producer making millions of dollars, no need to hide it from me. If you are a rock star producer and known all around China, no need to hide it from me. Just say it how it is.
The worse is when people act ‘fake humble.’ To me that is fake.
Even worse when people try to over-hype their accomplishments.
## V. Write with your soul
For me, I try to say what I really think. 100%. No filter. All killer.
I have censored myself for too long. No more. I want to really say what is on my mind— for the greater good and the collective. I want to have the courage to speak up for my fellow friends, humans, and society.
But the funny thing is that when I write — my ego disappears. The words write themselves. Like now, I am looking into the blinking cursor on the black screen, and the words are flowing out of my fingertips like water. But once the words have exited my fingers and onto the screen— the words no longer belong to me. They belong to you, and society as a whole.
So this is the strange parallel extreme dialectic — I write with 100% of my soul without a filter. But I don’t see my words as belonging to me. So I write with a massive ego, but once I have written something, I have no ego or connection with the writing. The writing exists by itself.
## VI. ‘My’ photos don’t belong to ‘me’
For my photos, I don’t see them as ‘my’ photos— but ‘the’ photos. I keep all the photos that I make open-source. You can download full-resolution images and do whatever you want with them. To remix them — and the reason I do it is as an educational tool, and to make images and share them openly and freely, hopefully to inspire, uplift, and motivate others.
I don’t think that as artists, we can ever ‘own’ our work. Rather, our duty is to our fellow human beings. Art (in my mind) should be 100% communal.
Of course I don’t think everyone should be forced to give away 100% full-resolution images for free. But it is an ideal that I believe in for myself— and I like to practice what I preach. Or else my beliefs are false.
## VII. MAKE COOL SHIT (and share it)
The reason I’m writing you this letter is to encourage you to build up your ego. To become stronger. To overcome yourself, and to fucking do some really cool epic shit.
But at the same time, to detach your ego from your work. Once you create it, just let it be. Don’t worry about your reputation (you cannot control it) as my [Stoic](http://erickimphotography.com/blog/stoicism) teachers have taught me.
So in your photography, shoot whatever you want — and no censorship. But once you share your photos, let go and detach.
[PHOTO JOURNAL >](http://erickimphotography.com/blog/product/photo-journal/)