I feel like I’m in a living time machine. Each week I spend part of my week in San Francisco, Seattle and Vancouver. And it feels like living in the future, the present and the past, respectively.
San Francisco has a dream, a mirage, a too-good-to-be true sort of quality to it. As soon as you land, you realize that there is someone pushing the boundaries of what is, to what should be, no matter the category.
Need a valet? Luxe. Need groceries? Instacart. Need a blow-dry? Stylebee. Need to get your kids to soccer without leaving your budget meeting? Shuddle.
Take Uber to work, Google will helpfully inform you to leave early to beat traffic, pick up your Starbucks you ordered on the app, pay with your Apple Watch…. end your evening at an airbnb. I could go on. I won’t. Because you get the idea.
It’s like a drug that you don’t even notice until you travel to somewhere else and start getting the shakes from the withdrawal. It may be progressive but it can also be divorced from the realities of the rest of the world.
Vancouver feels like the opposite for being a major, cosmopolitan North American city. The living is incredible. But the progressive endeavors have not been. There are many reasons for this – it is impossible to serve a population 1/10 the size of the US, across a greater geographic distribution, with the same economics. Canadians aren’t nearly as interested in pastimes that involve clicking a buy button and consuming.
But there are enough self imposed reasons too. Life is so good there, with everyone busy enjoying the fresh air, balanced lives and toned physiques that perhaps they’re ok having to deal with taxis that are still abominable in a time when Uber, for all their faults has revolutionized this industry in the consumer favor (if not the drivers). Healthcare wonderfully affordable but woefully inefficient.
Or most striking of all to me, there isn’t this expectation that it should be otherwise. There is a quaintness, a simplicity that I’ve forgotten can exist.
Seattle, then, is the closest thing to living in the “present” that I can get. We have Amazon Fresh and Instacart but not Sprig and Shuddle. There is the expectation that more can and should be done but still this grounding in reality and perspective.
These are gross generalizations, to be sure, but there is a truth within them that only become more and more clear to me the more I am forced to juxtapose one with the other, in rapid succession.
They are all beautiful, opportunity filled urban centers. And I realize not all progress can or even should be marked by the existence of start-ups, frivolous and bold.
But progress only happens because people come together to dream of not what is, but of what can be. My own start-up exists only because I once read this fundamental piece of advice: Live in the future, and build what’s missing.
As a proud, stubbornly Canadian, entrepreneur, I can’t help but be frustrated with the abundance of contentment in what is, without the necessary impatience of what could be.
Because that’s the thing about the past. It’s what we leave behind us. So I’m eager to change that. But for now? I have no answers, just the observations.
It’s trippy. That’s all.