Category Archives: Inspiration

From Nominee To Finalist

A couple of weeks ago, I posted on Facebook that I got nominated for a Small Business award for the annual Greater Dallas Asian American Chamber of Commerce Awards Gala 2013.

A part of me was surprised, because as a business owner, I didn’t really feel like my business was anywhere near outstanding.  I was barely making it when it came to profits and growth.

Yes, I provided my business services (event photography) to different non-profit organizations whenever I can, but no way is my photography business successful compared to all the other Small Businesses out there.

Another part of me was grateful.  For whatever reason, the people around me have been recognizing the work I have been doing.  In particular, one of the officers of the non-profit organization NAAAP-DFW Janet had nominated me for the award.  There’s no better feeling than to have a peer recognize the work you’ve been doing through an award nomination.

I filled out the questionnaire and sent in my resume to the committee.  I didn’t feel really solid after answering the questionnaire.  When your overall answer to most of the questions start with “that doesn’t really apply to me”, there is little confidence gained in your chance of making it.

I just told myself, “Hey, you should be happy you even got nominated in the first place.  So many other people who work harder than you didn’t even get a chance for nomination.  You’ve already got plenty.  Appreciate what you already have.”

A couple of weeks fly by and I receive an email saying that I’m one of the Finalists for the award.

My first reaction was disbelief, because I wasn’t sure how I got to this point.  Then a sudden burst of adrenaline came next, with the acceptance that I really am one of the Finalist.  Even though I still haven’t won the award, for some odd reason I already felt like a winner.

And now I’m sitting here just reflecting on everything that happened so far that got me to this point:

  1. Last year around this time of the year, I actually attended the previous GDAACC Award Gala 2012.  I wasn’t invited as a guest though.  I was actually covering the event as a second shooter with my friend.  It was my job to get pics of all the award winners.  Funny how one year can change your circumstances so much.  I went from covering the event as a photographer to becoming part of the event as an award finalist.
  2. When you look around at all the successful photographers, you will notice everyone specializes in something.  You will find photographers who are great with weddings, fashion, sports, nature, architecture … etc.  I’ve always wondered what my niche would be.  I think I’ve finally found it.  I will be known as the photographer who does non-profit events.
  3. Then I take a step back and think to myself, who in their right mind aspires to be a non-profit photographer?  It didn’t make sense to me at first until I reflected on my past.  For as long I can remember, I have always volunteered with the youth group at my Vietnamese Catholic Church.  My focus back then was giving to the Vietnamese Catholic community.  Now my focus has broadened to giving to the Asian Business Community.
  4. I made one other connection with my past.  Specifically my passion.  In the past I was passionate in volunteering my time to my youth group.  For the past 2 years, I have been really passionate about photographer.  Without even realizing it, for the past year I have been merging both my past and present passion into what I have right now:  non-profit photography.
  5. Everything has come full circle.  What I mean is I started out as going to the award gala 2012, come 2013, I’m going to the award gala again.  Or with community involvement, I did it for a good 10-15 years with local church, took a 3-4 year break, and now I’m helping out again with the Asian Business community.  My life is filled with things coming full circle.  I’m just grateful that each time I’ve come full circle, I’m somehow in a better place even though the place still looks the same.

Resume I Sent To Award Committee:  https://docs.google.com/file/d/0B2PUVKTY6jFGZFc2Q0wyZWtTMm8/edit?usp=sharing

Questionnaire I Sent To Award Committee:  https://docs.google.com/file/d/0B2PUVKTY6jFGVUtnSVZMbUgwN2c/edit?usp=sharing

Award Finalist Email From Award Committee:  https://docs.google.com/file/d/0B2PUVKTY6jFGQ3NqYjktUi1TcEU/edit?usp=sharing

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“Money Power Issues Within Relationships”

  1. Went to grab Starbucks with my friend and he shared his thoughts on the topic of the power to control money within a relationship.He mentioned that within any relationship there is usually two polar opposites that usually work with or against each other when it comes to money.

  2. He said that he enjoys having control over money.  If it was up to him, he would control all the financial decisions within his family.  His dad is very easy going when it comes to money.  His mom exerts some control over the money within the household.  I asked him, “What’s the point of having a hand in all your family’s financial dealings?”.  He said, “I know it’s their money and they have a right to spend it anyway they want, but sometimes I wished they had talked it over with me first.  When they hold the money, I can disagree but they can still go through it.  When I have control over the money, when I disagree with their decision, I have the power to delay/stop the spending.”

  3. He said he could never be with someone who has a Type-A personality like his.  Someone who is hands on when it comes to money.  He believes that being with another Type-A personality would just cause conflict.  Both would be too convinced that their way of budgeting and spending is the right way.

  4. He said he knew a couple who were both raking in the dough.  Each wanted to do things their own way.  No one would consult the other, on how their impulse decision to buy something would affect their overall budget.  As a result, each month they barely make it by even thought they each bring in more than six-figures a year.

  5. I asked him, “How do couples determine who will be the leader in financial decisions and who will be the follower?”  He said, “Most of the time, it’s pre-determinded by who brings home the bacon.  If the husband works and the wife stays home, most of the time he exerts control over the money.  I’m sure there are circumstances where the husband will relinquish control to his wife.  But if the husband was adamant about keeping the control, it’s tough for the wife to argue because she didn’t earn the money.”

  6. He shared the following, “I know a couple.  He is a successful entrepreneur.  His wife quit working at a department store because he easily provided for all their expenses.  Once they started to live together, she would go out and buy things for their house.  More times than not, the husband would always complain about her wasting money on things that were unnecessary.  She felt powerless and put up little resistance.  She eventually made the decision to go back to work again, not because they needed the money.  She was just tired of him bickering about how she spent his money.  Now that she is working, she can spend her money anyway she wants.”

  7. I then asked him, “What kind personality do I have, type-A or type-B?”  He responded, “You’re neither, or rather you’re a lil’ of both.  On one side you do a good job of saving and planning for the future.  On the other side, you don’t really mind if someone else were in charge.  You’d just go along just as long as you trusted that person who made the financial decisions for you.  When it comes to money, not everyone is considered entirely type-A or type-B, even though there are people like that.  You and many others lie somewhere in the continuum between type-A & type-B.”

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What You Do With Money Reveals Who You Are

Me and my cousin TA were diving into various monetary topics such as tipping, spending habits, and power control issues during my birthday outing.  We briefly touched on the topic what you do with money reveals who you are.  I had some more alone time and this is what I came up with.

  1. For people who work, money serves as a counter of how much time, energy, and other sacrifices they you have accumulated in the past.  Money is usually used to fulfill their needs.

  2. For some workers, work is meaningful and therefore money serves as a bonus to what they inherently enjoy doing.  There are doctors out there who enjoy helping others so much that they would still stick with the profession, even if their salary is halved.  They are in it because of the meaningful work, money is secondary.  Of course, there are those who would change profession if they knew they would only be making half.

  3. For others, where passion is absent from work, money serves as an investment into a better or different future.  People who work meaningless hours at the local gas station, in hopes of saving up and one day starting their own restaurant belong to this category.  They put up with things they don’t enjoy now, so one day they can be able to do what they enjoy.

  4. Some people put up with work so others around them can reap the benefits of having stable income to support their lives.  Most parents who start out with nothing, don’t have a choice in what they want to do.  They put up with doing dirty, physically straining, low-paying jobs that no one else wants.  All the time they wasted on doing something they don’t enjoy is actually an investment into the future of their own kids.

  5. People who gamble have the belief that they can multiply the amount of money they have.  No one walks into a casino thinking that they will probably lose all the cash they brought.  There is even the chance that they will lose even more than what they intended to gamble with.  For one person to walk as a winner, there will probably be multiple others that must walk out as the loser.  Everyone wants to be the winner, yet the number of people who lose always outnumbers the number of people who lose.  For some reason, they are unconscious to this.

  6. People who are handed money, don’t see meaning in the things they buy.  With someone else’s money, they can buy anything they want.  Anything they want is easily thrown away because it was so easily attained.  There is no need to cherish or be grateful for something that they gave up nothing for.  If they lose something, they can always buy another one without putting out anything.  They only need to put out their hand and a rich mom or dad will provide more money.

  7. People who take other’s money, are extremely short-sighted.  They only see what they could do with that money.  When you take someone else’s money, its like unleashing a demon that will haunt you.  People will investigate, they will become suspicious of you, they will want to know the truth.  They will be relentless, they will demand justice, and they will raise their guard.  They won’t forget.  If you take money and it becomes public knowledge, you have essentially closed all doors to a bright future.

  8. People who borrow another’s money and return it, are opportunists.  They see borrowing money as an opportunity to help them out of a rut.  They see it as an opportunity to take advantage of a prosperous business endeavor.  Regardless, of whether the borrowed money serves it’s purpose or not, returning it strengthens the relationship between you and the lender.  Whether it be a bank or a rich relative, when you own up to what you say, you build credit for the future.  A friend is more likely to let you borrow $1,000 down the road, when in the past you have been good on repaying the $500 you owed them.

  9. People who borrow another’s money and don’t return it, are slowly burning down all the bridges in their life.  Every single time you borrow someone’s money and don’t return it, you have closed off that person from your life.  You don’t want to see them, because you don’t have any money to pay them back.  Every time you do see each other, it’s the one thing that will be on top of everyone’s mind.  Conversations may start on any topic, but it will always end on “where’s the money you promised to pay back?”  Your relationship has been put on hold until you can pay them back.  No meaningful conversations, life experiences, or memories will be created between you two until you have fulfilled your promise.

  10. People who lend out money to help others, transforms the lending process into a charitable act.  They realize that their money does more good in the hands of others as opposed to having the money just sit there in the bank.  They enjoy lives of plenty and prosperity, and wish the same outcome to all those around them.  They hope that with some extra cash, you can start walking down the path of your own dreams.

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FB Status Update: Started From the Bottom, Now I’m Here

Dad told me recently, “Taking pictures is a hobby. You need to stop bumming around and get your ducks in a row.”

What this usually means is he thinks photography is a dead end job with no prestige and honor. I should go back to being a teacher or engineer. Or maybe go back to school to be a doctor.

Friend told me recently, “You can’t make a living off of photography. It’s something you do on the side, after you have a career in something else.”

Which is true, because most of the well-known wedding/event photographers I know, do weddings on the side. They have a tax firm, electronic store, or cell phone service business that they run on the weekdays.

My Aunt told me, “Here’s a business loan for your photography business. You have to promise me that within one year, if things don’t go well you have to move onto something more stable.”

I only got 40 more days until my year is up.



People were getting to me and I was letting them get to me. I wasn’t going to give up photography up completely, but perhaps I would be able to sustain my photography passion with a stable income like librarian or computer lab manager.

It didn’t matter much what I did during the week, as long as during the weekends, I got to do what I loved the most.

Perhaps everyone was right all along. Perhaps last year was a waste. Perhaps I shouldn’t have put my life on hold and poured everything into photography.



Last Wednesday, replied to Craigslist post. Friday got called in interview. Left interview as a full-time architectural photographer with pay comparable to a full-time teacher.

Literally, had tears falling from my eyes because I was so happy. It felt like I just won the lottery. Similar to waking up from a beautiful dream only to realize that it wasn’t just a dream, it’s reality now.

Now, I don’t need to work, save money, and then to go spend it on something I truly love. I can do something I truly love, save money, and then chill until I can do something I truly love again. This is truly my dream job.



I appreciate all the friends and family who have supported me along the way. Friends critiquing my work. Family referring photography business to me. Inspiration and creativity were allowed to flourish with companions like you guys.

At the same time, I got nothing but love for my dad, aunt, and friend. They told me what they knew to be true. It was there own way of showing me love. Full-time photographers are unheard of. Well at least now, they can say they know one full-time photographer.

No photography courses/classes. No photography degrees/certificates. Learning it the hard way by just doing it. Definitely helped to have so many experienced photographers around me to give me tips/advice. Couldn’t have done it without them.



Started from the bottom, now I’m here.

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FB Status Update: Manny Pacquiao

Volunteering for Spa Castle Commercial and they asked for a pic of me. I sent the following pic and got the following response from them:

Screen Shot 2013-03-20 at 1.51.15 AM

“P.S. Did anyone ever tell you that you resemble Manny Pacquiao? He’s my favorite boxer.”

I guess Manny Pacquiao is making a guest appearance on Spa Castle Commercial.

Now I realize why people always come up to me asking for signature and when I sign my name, they always respond with: “That’s an interesting way of spelling Manny.”

Hey I may resemble Manny Pacquiao, but I assure you, underneath the suit we are of identical build.

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