“Where” Is Just As Important As “What”

Every spring, many college and MBA students from around the country reach out to me to inquire about the startup community in Boise and any internship/job opportunities that might be available.   Perhaps it’s the success in recent years and subsequent national exposure of our incredible Boise State football team or that the secret is getting out as to what an amazing place Boise is to live. Nevertheless, the last couple of years have been particularly busy in this vein, none more so than this year. I try to always take the time to talk to everyone who asks because 1) the business leaders in Boise were incredibly accommodating to me when I moved here 12 years ago and I enjoy being part of that continuum and 2) I love hearing the unbridled enthusiasm of young people ready to take on the world.

These conversations inevitably end up being more of a coaching session than anything else. I had some great mentors at that age and the wisdom they shared with me helped me make the most important decisions in my life, none more so than deciding to leave my partnership in Boston in 2000 and move to Idaho. It’s my belief that where you live is even more important that what you do. Now of course, this is a broad generalization. If your career ambitions are intricately tied to a certain locale (marine biology, professional musician or athlete, etc.) then this notion doesn’t have a lot of merit. However if you’re like the vast majority of us, it’s never been easier to create a life for yourself in a town or city that speaks to you.

I grew up in New York and until I was 35 I lived in Chicago, San Francisco & Boston; four pretty amazing cities. However, no place I’ve ever lived or visited has ever felt more like home than Boise to me. I find it easier to recharge my batteries here than any place else. For me, the lack of traffic, ridiculous access to a multitude of outdoor activities, climate and dozens of other reasons make this the ideal place to live. Does Boise have its shortcomings? Of course, depending upon your perspective, there are many. Given that there’s only 200,000 people living here, it’s obviously not for everyone. Personally, there are many places where being a venture capitalist would have been easier for me. However, I believe down to my toes that I’m better at what I do BECAUSE of where I live, not despite it.

For me, Boise lets me regularly recharge my batteries more than anywhere else I've been

I believe it’s important for young people starting their professional lives to realize that geography matters in your happiness quotient. It far outweighs the highest paying job opportunity. My advice to everyone pondering these important life questions is to figure out where you can best recharge your batteries regularly, whether that’s outdoor activities, health and fitness opportunities, museums and other cultural attractions, climate, having local professional sports teams, etc. Then consider things like population challenges, prevailing ideologic sentiment, ease (or challenge) of travel, demographics, and dozens of other factors.

Then you can start investigating how to create a life for yourself there. It’s never been easier to connect your career aspirations with where you want to live. Many have written about the importance of doing what you love in life and I couldn’t agree more with that notion. However, doing it where you love to be makes life all the more richer.

  • Reply

    Great post Mark. I very strongly agree, and that’s great advice that you’re giving.

    I tend to think of this issue this way: Life is a multivariate equation. As we work on one variable, the others are all effected. We often try to solve for just one or two variables (with Gross Income often being one of them), instead of solving for Life.

    Location is a gigantic variable in life’s equation, one that too often is ignored. Yes, it effects the other variables, but it has a huge impact on the value of our existence.

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