Is Where You Live a Home Field (Dis-)Advantage?

Winning at life can be easy or darn near impossible depending on whether you optimize the field you play on (i.e, where you live).

Updated:

Down! Set! HUT!

The quarterback takes the snap and stumbles back on the steep, unstable slope.

His center somersaults backward, bowled over by the defense’s nose tackle immediately after snapping. Poor guy didn’t stand a chance.

The quarterback scrambles to the right, slipping on the mountainside’s loose shale. He ducks. A linebacker who took a running jump from above flies over his head.

The QB looks upfield—uphill—for an open receiver. His low vantage point makes it harder to see. Plus, the blitzing safety avalanching down on him eclipses his view.

Just before getting crunched, the quarterback hurls a hail Mary toward his star tight end—or at least where he should be according to the play.

The ball barely makes it over the safety’s fingertips…

…it floats high…

…and bounces off a boulder twenty yards away from its intended target, who had tripped on a root.

The best uphill football game image I could wrangle from DALL-E 3. Are those lions?!

Home-Field Disadvantaged?

Imagine your life as a football team.

Each part of your life—relationships, career, fitness, finances, mental health, diet, etc.—plays a different position. I’d argue relationships are your quarterback, given their paramount importance to winning the game of life.

But you know what’s even more important?

The field you play on—your home, who you live by, your neighborhood, and your environment.

Because even if you have Patrick Mahomes-ian relationships and the rest of your team is stacked, your team will have no chance of performing to its potential if, instead of driving down a perfectly manicured field, you have to go up a mountain. The defense, let’s call them the Status Quo Suckers, will have an easy time tackling you over and over.

And that’s what the game of life is like for many of us. We face uphill home-field disadvantages.

On the bright side, if we change our priorities, we can tilt the field in our favor.

A metaphorical hat to put on when you're fantasizing about the perfect living environment
Put this on for a sec to imagine a downhill playing field.

What’s Your Field of Dreams?

“So, what are you trying to say, Chris? You want me to move to some Shangri-La? Are you concussed or something? What about my job? What about my kids’ school? What about money!? Where I live may not be perfect, but it’s good enough. It’s certainly not my biggest problem.”

Whose team are you on? The Status Quo Suckers’? 

Put on your fantasy cap for a minute and ask yourself: 

What if you could play the game of life on a downhill field? 

This would make it easier for all areas of your life—health, social life, career, and wellness—to excel and contribute to a winning lifestyle.

What would this dream home-field advantage look like? 

In my case, I imagine a dense but quiet, car-free neighborhood. Lots of trees and gardens. Parks and beaches nearby to play in. I’d be able to walk or bike everywhere. Many friends and family would be my neighbors. 

I would spend more time out and about doing things with and around people, and less time alone on screens, being swayed by media and global worries that don’t affect my day-to-day. I wouldn’t be as interested in personal development, either, because I’d have better things to do. 

Back to boring, practical reality.

Is Your Helmet on Too Tight?

Ok. You can take off your fantasy hat. Replace it with a rational one. 

Does such a downhill home-field advantage have to remain a fantasy?

In the short term, probably. But if titling your playing field were your top priority, you could make major improvements.  

Priorities are the problem. We focus our efforts and strategies on the wrong things.  

Take it from Robert Waldinger and Marc Schulz, the leaders of the Harvard Study of Adult Development. They’ve been studying nearly a century’s worth of game tape from hundreds of people’s lives. In their book, The Good Life, they write, 

“We tend to think we know what makes us feel fulfilled, what is good for us, and what is bad for us. No one knows us, we think, quite like we know ourselves. The problem is we’re so good at being ourselves, we don’t always see that there might be another way.”

The Good Life

We think we need more money, so we move to different cities to make it, where we associate with other people who value the same. We think we need space so we move to the suburbs. We think we need more freedom and convenience so we buy cars to go where we want, when we want, and as fast as we can without breaking a sweat. 

The consequence? An uphill playing field. We spend more time indoors and alone or around people we don’t know or care much about doing things we don’t like to do, trying to make more money to buy more stuff we don’t need and pay for coaches, therapists, gyms, entertainment, and vacations.

And we scoff at the fantasy of having a downhill home-field advantage. 

Every Inch Counts

In search of the perfect home-field advantage for my game of life, I’ve lived in eight cities in seven countries on four continents and traveled to countless more.

These experiences have taught me that small changes can make a significant difference, just as Al Pacino said in his famous Any Given Sunday speech:

YouTube video

For instance, this year we rented a cottage in Cape Town only 500 meters away from last year. But it’s 500 meters uphill and farther away from the shops, parks, and attractions we used to live beside. That extra hurdle means we spend more time at home than before and less time out and about. It’s also further from the ocean breeze, which means a more uncomfortably hot apartment and more mosquitos, which means poorer sleeps and naps, which means less energy to get out of the house for adventure. 

Another example: In Vancouver, my parents moved from 3.5 kilometers to 3.5 blocks away from us. We see them 3.5 times more often. Similarly, in Vancouver, we frequently get together or bump into our good friends who live within a few blocks of us. I wish we could see our siblings and best friends that often, but they live in other parts of the city—or the world. 

Some of those best friends grew up beside me. We had sleepovers most weekends, went on joint family holidays, and bused/biked/carpooled to school and practices together. My parents say having that family next door was worth more than the literally, thanks to Vancouver’s real estate boom, million-dollar view in front of our houses. 

And my parents might be undervaluing the benefit. According to Matthew Lieberman’s reporting in his book, Social:

Having a friend whom you see on most days, compared to not having such a friend, had the same impact on well-being as making an extra $100,000 a year. 

Matthew Lieberman, Social

Just seeing your neighbor regularly is like making an extra $60,000.

Matthew Lieberman, Social
Cover image of man winning at life thanks to living in an optimal environment, aka a downhill home field advantage.

Nobody Wins the Super Bowl By Accident

So what’s my plan for creating a formidable home-field advantage?

Make $100M. That way, I can buy a city block in Vancouver’s Kitsilano neighborhood for my family, friends, and family! Live there nine months of the year, then head to Cape Town when the weather gets crappy.

Oops. I forgot to take off my fantasy hat. Sorry.

That said, I suspect that in the coming years, as VR/AR and remote everything permeates our lives, the ultimate wealth flex will be living close to friends, family, and peers in friendly, walkable neighborhoods close to nature. 

Can I make that happen without making $100 million?

If I prioritize it over the long term, I think so. 

I’m inspired by companies like Culdesac. They’re creating home-field advantages by building neighborhoods for people, not cars. In Tempe, Arizona, they’re close to validating their model. As suboptimal as Tempe is for my home field, this proof of concept opens the door for huge opportunities elsewhere. Could I play a part? Working in this industry would help me accumulate the know-how, resources, and connections to lead similar projects in places I want to live. 

Sadly, Culdesac has rejected all my inquiries to date, so another idea Kim and I have begun batting around is moving somewhere more affordable, but still walkable—a beach town in Mexico, for example. We could get a place big enough to host friends and family for extended visits. And we could earn some money hosting guests to experience the pleasures of playing life on a favorable pitch.  

Most realistically, we dig our roots further into Vancouver, which has most of the home-field advantages we want. Maybe we can convince Kim’s parents to move as close as mine. Convince other friends, too. Create a center of gravity that attracts other family members and close friends. Simultaneously, we can work to befriend neighbors who might become second families like the one I grew up beside. And we can get involved in community planning to proactively tilt our home field downhill. 

Too optimistic? Maybe. But I think it’s too important not to prioritize. 

Your Turn: Down! Set! Hut!

Put your fantasy hat back on to re-envision playing the game of life on your perfect playing field. 

  • If you were in such a position, how much money would someone have to pay you to abandon it and go back to your current playing field?
  • How much smaller of a home would you be willing to occupy in exchange for a larger life outside of it? 

Then put on your practical hat to ask yourself, What shorter-term changes could you make?

  • Invite neighbors you say hi to but have never hung out with over for drinks.
  • Rent out your home and experiment with living somewhere else that more resembles your ideal home field.
  • Replace some of your information consumption consumption time with scheduled pre-fun to devise other practical ways to tilt your home field in your favor. 

There is no guarantee, no ultimate formula for success. It all comes down to intelligently and relentlessly seeking solutions that will increase your chance of prevailing. When you do that, the score will take care of itself.

– Hall of Fame football coach Bill Walsh.
About the author

👋 I'm Chris. Everything you read on TheZag.com is my fault. This site is like a gym for your comfort zone, full of challenges to make your status quo sexier. Join my 'Consider This' newsletter for a fun new challenge every 10 days. Try it!

Leave a Comment

Latest Articles

Welcome!

The Zag shares my adventures off of the boring beaten paths of life and ideas for finding your own unfollowable path.