Self-Criticism: I Live in a Bubble

I couldn’t find street parking before a Board meeting in the Boston Innovation District, and so, I parked in one of those garages where they valet your car.

The valet person was very friendly, and he initiated a conversation.  He came to the U.S. from the Dominican Republic.  He was 24 and came alone.  He had very little. In fact, he didn’t have a suitcase.  All of the clothing he had was what he was wearing.

He’s now married and has four children. His English is very good. He never took a class, and instead, learned the language by parking cars for about 20 years.

Unfortunately, he is one of many people whom I un-consciously ignore every day. The lady who takes my order at Chipotle. The guy sweeping the street. The folks who clean my house.

I’m realizing more and more that I live in a Bubble. I hang out with entrepreneurs, bloggers and VCs. I regularly have business meals at restaurants at which the average household eats only rarely and only on special occasions.

I’ve got to stop ignoring accidentally most of the people around me.

How do I prick this Bubble?

9 thoughts on “Self-Criticism: I Live in a Bubble

  1. Bravo! I don’t have a good answer, but as in many things, awareness is the first step – so you’re on your way!

    I’m not as insulated as you, but even so I try to actually engage with most every person I meet, even if it’s only briefly. Doesn’t always happen of course, but it’s a good goal.

    I’ve also noticed that even at the lowest level – street people and beggars – people appreciate just being acknowledged; a simple head-nod or “hey” suffices. Some are mentally ill and so no easy meaningful connection can be made and one does have to be somewhat cautious, but for many of the ignored a simple acknowledgement is appreciated. I don’t give money directly to street people but instead donate to the shelters and food bank so I know the money is not going to booze/drugs. This can be awkward because sometimes the acknowledgement can be taken as an opening to solicit on their part.

    It takes time to do this and so the next step might be to insert enough flex in your schedule to have time for these moments of engagement. If you’d been in a rush you wouldn’t have had time to speak with the parking attendant, for example.

    I know people better than I who volunteer at homeless shelters, food banks and such once or twice a month as a way to stay connected. Perhaps there’s something like that that would work for you. Or maybe use your expertise and create or work with some kind of micro-finance organization that is more likely to work with immigrants or those in “ignored” group you’ve identified. Help the “ignored” to achieve their dreams and goals.

    Again I say, Bravo to you for your willingness to identify your blinders and choose to take them off. We’re all just humans with a brief time here in the end.

  2. For one day each week between Monday and Friday don’t drive your car. Take public transportation everywhere, no matter where you need to go and what you need to do. Don’t optimize around it.

    While you are doing this, talk to people. Don’t check your email on your iPhone. Observe. Listen. Talk.

    Don’t eat breakfast, lunch, or dinner at a normal restaurant. Go to McDonalds. Sit and listen while you eat. Observe.

    I’ve found the power of observation, one day a week, grounds me in what’s going on around me. It doesn’t burst the bubble of the world we live in which involved town cars, valets, fancy restaurants, and lots of comfort, but it at least creates a lens into another perspective in the US.

  3. Try to be “present” in everything you do, including in your interactions with people from all walks. It may not help business, but it’ll help ground you, and you’ll smile more too 🙂

    For many entrepreneurs, leaving the certainty of the pay-check to ‘go for it’ can be similarly eye-opening. You adjust and take a lot less for granted.

  4. How do you prick the bubble? Invest in the real world.

    There is no great need for your loving ear, or you to volunteer, or your check for charity.

    What that Valet needs from you, that plays into your strengths, is you to invest in something other then a useless internet app.

    My recommendation so that Valet can afford something more than a dollar pizza for lunch, cause the price of food is too damn high.

  5. Here’s the bad news. It takes a lot of effort.

    Popping the bubble means leaving your comfort zone. Most people don’t like doing that.

    To use entrepreneur speak, you need to get out of the building and interact (observation is fine, but it’s passive. Interacting is active and forces you to be part of something).

    The good news is, popping the bubble can be very rewarding. The easiest way I know of is finding a social activity you’ve always wanted to do. Sign up for it and go to it.

    Be a joiner.

    Run that local 5k you’ve been meaning to run. Try out for that community play you’ve always wanted to act in. Volunteer at the homeless shelter. Get your kids involved in that thing you’ve been meaning to bring them to.

    Do something that interests you or your curious about. The bubble will eventually pop.

  6. Hi Jo:

    To bust the bubble, just purposely keeping only $20 in your pockets, leaving your business cards and electronic gadgets at home, dressed in plain Patriots (or Redox) shirts or any other Halloween costume of choice, and forget about anything related to VC during that “FREE FORM” hours.

    As you blogged, talking to some friendly people that want to share any random thoughts with you.

    And I agree, it is good to once a while breaking out of your routine. 🙂


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