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<title>Fish don't know they're in water </title>
<p>
Fish don't know they're in water.
</p>
<p>
If you tried to explain it, they'd say, “Water? What's water?”
</p>
<p>
They're so surrounded by it, that it's impossible to see.
</p>
<p>
They can't see it until they get outside of it.
</p>
<p>
<strong>This is how I feel about culture.</strong>
</p>
<p>
We're so surrounded by people who think like us, that it's impossible to see that what we think are universal truths are just our local culture.
</p>
<p>
We can't see it until we get outside of it.
</p>
<p>
I was born in California and grew up with what I felt was a normal upbringing with normal values.
</p>
<p>
I was speaking to a business school class here in Singapore.
I asked, “How many people would like to start their own company some day?”
In a room of 50 people, only one hand (reluctantly) went up.
</p>
<p>
If I would have asked this question to a room of 50 business school students in California, 51 hands would have gone up.
(Someone would have run in from the hallway just to raise their hand.)
</p>
<p>
Thinking maybe they were just shy, I asked, “Really!? Why not?” - and asked individuals.
Their answers:
</p>
<ul>
<li>
“Why take the risk? I just want security.”
</li>
<li>
“I spent all this money on school, and need to make it back.”
</li>
<li>
“If I fail, it would be a huge embarassment to my family.”
</li>
</ul>
<p>
Then I realized my local American culture.
The land of entrepreneurs and over-confidence.
I had heard this before, but I hadn't really felt it until I could see it from a distance.
</p>
<p>
All of my Singaporean friends live with their parents.
Even pretty successful ones, even married ones, even up to age 35, live with their parents at their parents' home.
</p>
<p>
When I told one that I left home at 17, she was horrified.
She said, “Isn't that horribly insulting to your parents? Weren't they devastated?”
</p>
<p>
Then I realized my local American culture again.
The emphasis on individualism, rebellion, following your dreams.
I had heard this before, but I hadn't really felt it until I could see it from a distance.
</p>
<p>
My culture isn't in the center.
It's off on the edge, like one petal in a flower, like they all are.
Not right or wrong - just <a href="http://sivers.org/more-than-one">one of many options</a>.
</p>
<p>
Yes, the rest of the world can enjoy a good laugh at the stereotypical American - just now realizing he's not the center of the universe.
</p>
<p>
I'm just a fish who didn't know he was in water.
</p>
<img src="http://sivers.org/images/fish.jpg" width="500" height="333" alt="http://www.flickr.com/photos/tjt195/229800778/" title="http://www.flickr.com/photos/tjt195/229800778/" />
<p>
UPDATE: A few people have linked me to <a href="http://online.wsj.com/article/SB122178211966454607.html">this David Foster Wallace speech</a>. Wow. I don't remember ever reading this, but I must have, long ago. Wild <a href="http://youtu.be/ZyQjr1YL0zg">what our subconscious remembers</a>.
</p>
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