What Does Your City Say?

This post is by Ian Hathaway from Blog - Ian Hathaway

This morning a friend reminds of a Paul Graham article from 2008 titled Cities and Ambition. It’s excellent. For those of you who don’t know, Paul is the outspoken founder of Y Combinator—a prominent early-stage startup investor in Silicon Valley.

The general thesis of Paul’s article is simple yet elegant. Cities speak to us. They influence our behavior. They shape who we are. It matters where you live. A lot I would argue. The essay leads with this:

Great cities attract ambitious people. You can sense it when you walk around one. In a hundred subtle ways, the city sends you a message: you could do more; you should try harder.

The surprising thing is how different these messages can be. New York tells you, above all: you should make more money. There are other messages too, of course. You should be hipper. You should be better looking. But the clearest message is that you should be richer.

What I like about Boston (or rather Cambridge) is that the message there is: you should be smarter. You really should get around to reading all those books you've been meaning to.

When you ask what message a city sends, you sometimes get surprising answers. As much as they respect brains in Silicon Valley, the message the Valley sends is: you should be more powerful.

That's not quite the same message New York sends. Power matters in New York too of course, but New York is pretty impressed by a (Read more...)