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 billion dollars even if you merely inherited it. In Silicon Valley no one would care except a few real estate agents. What matters in Silicon Valley is how much effect you have on the world. The reason people there care about Larry and Sergey is not their wealth but the fact that they control Google, which affects practically everyone.1
– Paul Graham
Paul Graham once wrote this article on different messages that a city sends you when you are in it. I like the article alot. In my words, the message is the city’s attitude.
What message does Singapore, the flower city of asia, send?
Follow the rules; Live a secure life.
People living in singapore are good citizens, almost too good for their own good. They follow rules to the letter and abide by government policies rain or shine. Flouting the law is seen as blasphemous and challenging authority in itself almost seemed a criminal activity. You know you are safe as long as you stay within social boundaries.
The city tells you to prepare for the unexpected. What if you lost your job tomorrow? What if you couldn’t pay your house mortgages anymore? What if your children couldn’t perform academically?
Perhaps it is this constant vibe that the city is giving out, people no longer dare to challenge themselves, the status quo or the rules but default to security. Failure as a result of a challenge is too much to handle, too much of a loss to bear and too shameful to be seen. Oh wait, arn’t those the exact sentiments for life’s mediocrity?
It is hard to ask a city to change. So we shouldn’t stay in a city for too long as we will subconsciously inherit the city’s message and live by it as our mantra. Travel around when you are still young. Look at what other cities has to offer. Perhaps that’s why people say, Life is a journey and not Life is a place.