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Paul Graham on Cities and Ambition

I was rereading Paul Graham's article on Cities and Ambition. His idea is each city project a specific message to the people. The message attracts and motivates people to a specific kind of enterprise. New York is about making more money. Boston is about becoming smarter. Silicon Valley is about to become more powerful (by means of innovation). Paris was a about intellectual but today it is more about arts. This is fairly consistent with Richard Florida's thesis that location has great influence on what people do and what they could achieve.

One astute observation that Graham put forward is you don't have to live in a great city the whole life to benefit from it. Where you grew up and went to school is not so important. Instead, what matters is a critical period from the early and middle career. The example he gave is the Impressionists painters. They were born all over France and died all over France, but what defined them were the years they spent together in Paris.

I come to Silicon Valley at the age of 27, still in my early career. This has happened opportunistically. When I was younger, I have never imagined I would emigrate to a distance place. This location has indeed redefined myself. Now I am working in the forefront of technology in the cosmopolitan where innovation happens daily. Had I stay in Hong Kong past 30, the window will probably close. I would not have envisioned doing things I am doing today. Biologically I am the same person with the same capability. But I would not have the same ambition compare to the peers in the Silicon Valley.




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