I found myself in a two bedroom apartment. Third floor walk up. Ground floor is a Chinese restaurant. Hamilton heights, upper Manhattan. I was getting shown a tiny bedroom covered in bags of clothes, by an attractive woman who play in a bluegrass band on weekends.
Why was I there? Well, it was a very cheap apartment. But, I realized that’s was a rationalization of a very emotional and irrational decision.
It’s natural for us to drift toward comfort. And I don’t mean physical comfort. Comfort in certainty, in control or whatever makes you feel comfortable, however ‘wrong’ it might be. We drift away from discomfort.
I made conversation with J, remarked on the interesting location and large living room. As I shook her hand goodbye, she quickly said, “look, you seem very normal, and you have a job, and you’re great, and I’m all in. The room is yours if you want it.” I smiled, and thanked her again for the comment and taking the time to show me around. I wasn’t going to take the room.
The real question was, what was I doing there in the first place? I have a perfectly good home in Brooklyn, which I pay a fair and good price for. What made me decide to visit a rent controlled apartment in upper Manhattan, and not a light filled loft in West village? Why not an improvement on my current (fairly humble) station in life? Something better?
The truth is, I don’t really know. That’s partly why I’m writing it down here. However, the experience was valuable, and I think kind of instructional.
It proved a few insights about myself, that I usually ignore.
- I shoot low more than I shoot high (low reward, low risk)
- I like predictability over unpredictability (low reward, low risk)
_“Manhattan is a tough place. If you’re not careful, it can chew you up and spit you out. But if you work hard, you can really hit it big, and I mean reall_y big.” - Donald Trump
When you live in Manhattan, you’re exposed to a lot of risk. It’s a very honest signal too, to sink your savings into the island, in hope to “hit it big”. You can’t fake it. Anyone visiting the city can spectate, but I’ll only listen to those who have their own money tied up here. That environment of pressure is undeniable. You see it everywhere. It gives New Yorkers their character, and also their empathy and compassion for each other.
“Everybody is dealing with the same shit, everybody is on the subway elbow-to-elbow.” - Louis C.K.
So the cognitive dissonance that I experienced, is maybe the fact that risk might be good for me, however wrong and uncomfortable that might feel. As a young guy, I can take it. There’s incredible upside and options to risk, that would be a shame to waste.
New York beats this thinking into you, and the harder you push back against it, and stand up to it and fight it, and invest in it, the sharper it makes you.
And really, who wants to look back at their life, as a 75 year old, and all you see is how little you spent and all the risks you didn’t take.