SHANGHAI, HERE I COME: 6 Reasons Why I’m Spending 6 Months In China

Good memories from a long time ago :)
Good memories from a long time ago :)

I’m moving to Shanghai, folks! (for at least 6 months, anyway)

Some of you might be surprised at the suddenness, but I’ve had this desire for years.

The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is today. – an old proverb

I’m tired of waiting. Now is as good a time as any. Hyperink is entering a new stage. I’m ready for a new environment, a new way of life, an external shock to the system.

If you’ve thought about doing something like this, act now. Time is only moving in one direction, so eliminate regrets.

Beyond the timing element, here are 6 specific reasons why I’m moving.

1. My biggest regret in college was not studying abroad

I applied for Stanford in Beijing. For a few mostly short-sighted reasons, I backed out at the last minute. After paying my deposit. I regret this.

There’s more detail in my Quora answer to: What do you wish you’d taken more advantage of while at Stanford?.

2. I had a vivid dream about doing exactly this

A few months ago, I had a crazy dream that I was living and working in Shanghai. The experience was so real, so crisp, so full of people I know or am likely to meet, that I knew my subconscious was shouting at me.

You remember that magic 8-ball you shook in 3rd grade to find out if some cute girl in your class liked you? Well, your brain is like a super powerful 8-ball; dreams are when it shakes itself. Yes, my metaphors need some work…

3. Mandarin, baby!

My conversational Mandarin is at a 6th grade level. My reading/writing are at, at best, a 2nd grade level.

My crappy Mandarin is a source of mild embarrassment and occasional teasing by family and friends; plus, learning Mandarin is super practical: if language dominance is a byproduct of economic dominance (a strong theory), then Mandarin’s stock price is climbing and climbing and climbing.

My goal: to fully understand a normal Chinese newspaper. BRING IT ON.

4. “I’m from the future. Go to China.” – Bruce Willis to Joseph Gordon Levitt in Looper

Everyone in the theater laughed. All good comedy contains a little truth and a little absurd(ity).

China will be a top-3 global player for the next 25, maybe 100 years. There are huge uncertainties (imo: less economic, more sociopolitical) that make it difficult to forecast whether it will play the hero or the villain.

I want to experience it firsthand. Feel the vibes. (nope, not what you’re thinking)

As Paul Graham explains, good design tends to happen in geo-temporal clusters (like Leonardo and Michelangelo in 15th century Florence). I think this concept extends to innovation at large, and Silicon Valley is going through this now.

I’d like to see if Shanghai has this potential. After all, China built a Shanghai->Beijing high-speed train in 2 years. California, pay attention!!

5. I’ve got an idea brewing that will require serious thinking and a change from my Silicon Valley routine

It still amazes me how quickly peoples’ thoughts and actions adapt to their environment. As Malcolm Gladwell elegantly put it,

How we behave at any one time, evidently, has less to do with some immutable inner compass than with the particulars of our situation.

Silicon Valley is about technology and entrepreneurship. The focus on these twin pillars is what makes the Valley tops at cranking out your Facebooks and Googles, and why the most ambitious technology entrepreneurs should live here if they’re serious about changing the world.

Me? I find myself spending too much time wondering what company will be the Instagram-for-video, debating how well Larry Page is leading Google, reading rumors about Apple’s next major product release. Most of the world doesn’t care, and because I’m working on something different, neither should I.

Because it is different, I’d like to THINK differently, LIVE differently, PLAY differently. Shanghai may not be the right long-term city for me, but as the old saying goes, a change is as good as a rest.

6. There’s no city like New York, but Shanghai is as close as it gets

Here’s my Quora answer to why New York is, bar none, the best city in the world. In 3 words: energy, people, breadth.

Now take a look at this picture of Shanghai’s famous Bund area in 1990 and 2010.

Blows my mind, every time
Blows my mind, every time

Energy? Check.

People? Check.

Pollution? Unfortunately…

If you’re in Shanghai, or planning a visit, or have any thoughts/feedback, email me or comment below.

I plan to blog a lot about Shanghai life. Til next time, xie xie he zai jian!

Hi! I write about habits and spirituality and random whatevers. Click here to see the daily habits that I track. Find me on Twitter @kgao.