What is Water?

Change your perspective // September 2015, Capri, Italy

If there was ever only one reason to travel, this is it. But first, you have to ask yourself, what is water?

It’s okay if you’re confused right now. I’ll explain.

Today in my entrepreneurship class, we were discussing why a much higher percentage of entrepreneurs in any country are immigrants.

As my professor explained, if we live in a blue house in a blue world and everything around us is blue, what is the one color we can’t see? Answer: it’s blue.

Confused again?

Let’s try another analogy. My professor’s “blue” story immediately made me think of the following parable from David Foster Wallace:

There are these two young fish swimming along, and they happen to meet an older fish swimming the other way, who nods at them and says, “Morning, boys, how’s the water?” And the two young fish swim on for a bit, and then eventually one of them looks over at the other and goes,

“What the hell is water?”

Wallace gave an entire commencement speech about this story, but I never really understood its message until today. The fish don’t know what water is because it’s the only thing they’re used to. The reason so many immigrants start businesses is that they go to a new country and they can see blue. They know what water is.

When we have lived in the same country our entire lives and have never traveled, we are viewing everything from the same perspective. We are conditioned to see everything around us as “normal” (whatever normal is). When we go to a new country, we not only bring a fresh perspective to the country we are visiting, but we also bring back home a new way of thinking. We start to question why things are the way they are. It’s why immigrants start such successful ventures. They can see problems and think of ways to fix them.

We should incessantly ask questions, just as children do. The first question we need to ask ourselves is, “what is water?”  Then, let’s go find out.