The phrase, “It’s better to be a big fish in a small pond” always struck me as rude. I didn’t know exactly why, until recently. Living in Chicago for three years, and coming back to Denver has been an interesting experience so far. It’s only been a week, but my time here so far has seemed charmed in some ways. I don’t think that it’s a factor of me somehow being a “bigger” fish. I consider myself egalitarian, and I like to think that there is no such thing as a big or small fish, just everyone working hard trying to make a living and do the best they can for themselves and others; interestingly enough I find this to be even more true in some respect in Denver, which is considered a smaller market than Chicago, but probably should be considered just as viable if not more so in some ways. Let me tell you why.
Hard Knock Life
One of the hardest things about living in Chicago was how cutthroat the professional landscape could be. Words like loyalty and strategy were thrown out a lot in regards to inter-professional relationships. Chicago has a lot of competition, and even though there is a fair amount of employment and available jobs, the likelihood of you facing off against someone more qualified and harder working than you is high. In Denver the same is absolutely true, but I feel that the employee/employer fit is more focused on growth of the individual, than growth of the company per se.
Denver has a culture of cultivating individual empowerment through career advancement, and there doesn’t seem to be as much concern if the 20-something or 30-something hotshot is going to stay with the org or company, because everyone assumes that they won’t. The solution to this problem seems to be to cultivate many professionals, and when they take flight to wish them well and stay in touch. Maybe they’ll come back some day. I’m not saying that this method is better, but for me it leads to a a greater quality of life.
School of Fish
One of the traits that Chicago and Denver share, but Denver seems to be losing a little bit, is the sense of city-based kinship and camaraderie. There are a lot of demographics represented in Chicago, and increasingly more in Denver, Chicago has had a long time to adjust to it’s growth, and to build a sustainable economy. That can be a definite advantage long term to the flux and growth of a boom town like Denver. However, something that unifies both cities ideologically is a “We’re all in this together” mentality. Denver is a bit friendlier from person to person, but most people in Chicago will become friendly after a bit of conversation and a shared meal. Ultimately both cities have as school of fish mentality, you’re able to swim forward with like minded individuals yet go off on an independent tangent.
Denver is growing, fast, there’s no doubt about it. The census hasn’t been done, but there are estimates that in the past three years Denver has doubled in size. Real Estate values have gone up. According to www.FortuneBuilders.com, “Over the last year (2014), homes in Denver were the beneficiary of a 10.4% increase—that is more than twice as much as the national average. Perhaps even more surprisingly, homes have gained an average of $61,100 over the previous seven years, whereas the rest of the nation actually saw a loss of $11,500. It is safe to say that the recent recovery has extended the trend of positive price growth.” Chicago meanwhile is recovering strong, but is faced with the challenges that come with being the 3rd largest city in the United States. A great summary of this can be found through the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
Ultimately the choice to move to Denver was more personal than economic. I love this city, just as much, and probably a bit more than I love Chicago. And at the end of the day, I’m from Denver, I have friends here, I have clients here, and the economic boom is an added bonus, even if it does make purchasing a home impossible for us right now. When we finally started unpacking boxes, I realized that Denver is the best place for us to be right now. It’s not perfect, but it’s pretty darn good, and it’s now home. A pond that I love, and will be swimming in for the foreseeable future.