Living in a Bubble

Living abroad, I often hear people talk to me about Americans who don't know there is anything going on in the world except from within the American border. Baseball isn't really a 'World Series'. Football is soccer in Brazil (Brasil, Brasilia) and Rugby is considered to be a real man's hard-hitting sport when compared to American Football with all the padding, helmets and so forth. Field hockey, Cricket and Polo are considered international sports by anyone who talks to me. One person told me that he enjoys watching American television because we are masters at creating false realities and 'what-if' scenarios. I've had people mention their love of our innovative spirit, the fact that infrastructure simply works and the unique fact that 50 individual states are joined together to construct one country, as opposed to, 54 countries co-existing on one continent, yet unable to work together. There is a lot to admire, love, respect and learn from when thinking about the US. There are also important lessons to be learned when studying the US or any other particular country, region or continent.

The fact remains that at the end of the conversations with so many internationals, I'm continually challenged by others to see if, for all the other great aspects of America, I'm capable of seeing things from another perspective than purely the United States of America. One person even told me they believed most Americans had no chance of knowing about the world because we learn about everything through the Discovery channel, CNN and Fox News which are all conglomerate owned and orchestrated. "So", as I was told by an associate just days ago, "unless you guys leave your borders and go see the world for yourselves, all you really seem to know is what you're told by your government and by your media institutions." I've heard it before. There is truth in the statement. And when an American friend of mind rebutted with, "We have everything we need inside the borders, why go out?" the idea of a bubble was validated.

The larger issue for all of us, any of us, is that we have to choose to see outside the bubble in which we live. Personally and professionally, our ability to understand what we see, hear and experience on a daily basis is all mapped into the library that is our minds. A library full of personal experiences, experiences communicated via friends and families and even experiences we glean from television, music or movies. The size of our mind-library is moldable. We are able to continue putting things into the library, in which case the library expands. As we group experiences into like categories our perspective on what "Africa" is, or what "foreign policy" means, or even what it means to be an oil-based economy often makes more sense as we gain data. In fact, after we have more and more data (and we've assumedly verified the source of the data) we may even begin to realize that what we considered a 'truth' or 'reality' is a gradient or more different from our original definitions. What if more data helped us realize that we had it wrong?

"The size of our mind-library is moldable." Unfortunately, for as many people there are continuing to put more and more data into their mind-library to evolve constructs, theories, paradigms, definitions and world-views, there are also people out there that don't. Simply characterized, there are many people floating through the ecosphere we call Earth who don't have access to additional data, don't desire additional data, or believe that someone else is going to learn it, think through it, synthesize it and go fix or change it if necessary. Some people may not even know they need to challenge information provided by governments, corporations, religious and political leaders, trusted friends, media outlets and the like. Some may not know the bubble could be bigger. Some people may accept, swallow and digest whatever is fed them. Regardless the situation, each person tends to define their reality by what they choose to see and what they do not choose to see. This reality is their bubble.

The next time you're trying to figure out why the person you're having trouble working with is so inexplicably stupid, consider an additional theory. Perhaps it has something to do with the bubble. The next question may then be, is it their bubble or yours that requires expansion?


  1. I couldn't agree more - after having lived in China for a year my bubble was popped so-to-speak it's the ability to embrace culture/views/people/etc that are different than your own. It's pushing what you know and challenging everything you think (key word think) to be true. Thanks for the write up my friend!

  2. Four years an ex-patriot and keen of international travel I relate well to your perspective. The greatest growth experiences and therefore the most valuable opportunities I've personally realized are from bursting the bubble and being thrust into a new ecosystem where we can soak up perspective without the surface tension of the old bubble protecting the comfort of past beliefs. I've long said that every US Citizen should be so fortunate to live outside the US. Anywhere. Ironically, when traveling and meeting new people in the US, I find it almost easy to identify those that have such an opportunity.