What Does Your Place Whisper?

August 22, 2018 by Greg

Two random silly things happened today that made me think yet again about the idea of place.

First, I listened to a Tropical MBA podcast episode (that’s right) that asked “What Does Your City Whisper?” They referenced one of my favorite old Paul Graham articles about the same topic. It’s a quick read you should go tackle, but the basic gist is that our environment matters and that different places subtly tell you different things about yourself. Paul Graham says that New York says to people “You should make more money” and that Cambridge (Boston) says “You should be smarter”.

The second thing that happened is that I watched the last twenty minutes or so of the movie A Good Year. I know, it’s a ridiculous romantic comedy, but I love it. I love the realization that Max makes towards the end about the tradeoffs he’s making and the things he’s missing from his life.

My places - Maryland, just outside of DC, and Bethany Beach, Delaware - whisper different things. Paul Graham has his own answer for what DC says: the most important thing is who you know. I wouldn’t say that’s far off; spheres of influence are incredibly important here. DC also says that you should work harder and be more ambitious.

Mostly, I’ve been thinking about what the coast of Delaware whispers. For me, it whispers the same thing as the South of France in A Good Year, or Berkeley according to Paul Graham: you should live better and more authentically.

I feel more myself there in part because the environment makes me feel more myself. I still appreciate the messages of being smart like Boston, or making more money like New York. Even the work ethic of DC is appealing. But none of these hold a candle to the place that can make you feel more honest, more comfortable and more settled as yourself.

Where is that for you?