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Cities and Ambition (2008)

by Paul Graham

http://www.paulgraham.com/cities.html

Every city expresses its own identity and values. NYC tells you to be richer, Boston tells you to be smarter, and Silicon Valley tells you to be more powerful. Ambitious people are drawn to great cities.


  • "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."
  • New York: "You should make more money."
  • Boston (Cambridge): "You should be smarter."
  • Silicon Valley: "You should be more powerful."
  • "As of this writing, Cambridge seems to be the intellectual capital of the world."
  • "Cambridge as a result feels like a town whose main industry is ideas, while New York's is finance and Silicon Valley's is startups."
  • "A city speaks to you mostly by accident—in things you see through windows, in conversations you overhear. It's not something you have to seek out, but something you can't turn off."
  • "No matter how determined you are, it's hard not to be influenced by the people around you. It's not so much that you do whatever a city expects of you, but that you get discouraged when no one around you cares about the same things you do."
  • "The Impressionists show the typical pattern: they were born all over France (Pissarro was born in the Carribbean) and died all over France, but what defined them were the years they spent together in Paris."
  • "Unless you're sure what you want to do and where the leading center for it is, your best bet is probably to try living in several places when you're young."
  • "Some people know at 16 what sort of work they're going to do, but in most ambitious kids, ambition seems to precede anything specific to be ambitious about. They know they want to do something great. .... [Y]ou'll probably have to figure out where to live by trial and error. You'll probably have to find the city where you feel at home to know what sort of ambition you have."

published : may 2008
read      : june 2015
source    : pinboard
tags      : cities, pg, san-francisco, values