Have you ever heard of the Internet Bubble? It was a very interesting phenomenon in the early 2000s. Basically, what generated this so called “bubble” was the fact that the value of internet startups was highly over rated, without any realistic support. Based mainly on subjective factors, in just a few years, those startups were valued incredibly high, compared with other type of businesses, in other fields.
Then, at a specific crisis point, the reality cracked in, violently. In a matter of weeks, the value of internet startups stock decreased dramatically and people witnessed, helplessly, how their investments were vanished. The “bubble” was broken and the air went out with a vengeance. Thousands of companies which were riding the “Internet wave” went bankrupt. There were only a handful of survivors from that era: Amazon, eBay and a few others. The rest are forgotten now, though only twelve years ago they were evaluated at billions of dollars.
The “internet bubble” is a very interesting phenomenon, because, believe it or not, it happens not only at a social scale, in politics or stock exchange, but also individually, in each of us. We all have our “bubbles” from time to time. We’re all over evaluating our expectations, our lifestyle, our partners, creating “bubbles” which are carrying us high, only to break at the first reality check.
To be honest, I had my share of “inner bubbles” myself. I was living in a pinky, happy-go-lucky balloon many times, and I did this in many areas, but mainly on business and relationships. Many times, in business or personal relationships, I did bold steps based on assumptions, hopes and inner projections, rather then facts and verifiable bits and pieces of reality. I’m not saying we do not have to have hopes, but that we always need some sort of reality check, a background switch that will allow us to stay on a safer course.
It goes without saying that each and any of these bubbles are in fact learning opportunities (as I strongly believe that we can never fail, we just learn) but I can really skip some learning form time to time and just live, enjoy life as it is, without hidden meanings, lessons and all that stuff. It’s true we have to learn and each challenge is a learning opportunity, but I think I came to a point where I would very much like to put the learning process on hold, and just apply what I learned so far. That’s why I decided to write a piece on how to avoid an “inner bubble”.
First of all, how these “inner bubbles” are forming? What are the factors that are creating them, how can you recognize an “inner bubble” and when they’ll explode?
The Bubble Creation Factors
As I said, the “internet bubble” was very much following a standard process, the same that creates an “inner bubble”. There were a few factors involved, which I call “pumping factors” that were all aligned and ready to blow. Here are the most important ones.
Of all “pumping factors”, novelty is the most powerful. Just as the interned exploded in a world where information was almost static, so does novelty in our personal lives: igniting a lot of energies. Like when we enter a new business, for instance, or when we meet someone new. The contrast between that business or that person, and our current environment is so strong, that we’re almost unconsciously attracted towards them, just a like a fly is attracted to the light.
Suppose you’re working full time and then an opportunity for a promotion came in. All what you did before is fading in front of this new perspective. It’s all new and exciting and almost adrenaline-driven. You wake up in the morning fresh and eager to go to work, whereas just weeks ago you were bored and apathetic.
It goes the same for partners. Suppose you’re in an “old” relationship, three years or more (in our modern world, 3 years for a relationship is a lot). Then you meet someone new. Someone who is everything but what you have now. It’s not necessarily better, or more beautiful than your current partner, but it’s just different. And it’s that difference that it’s attracting toward her or him, starting to blow some air in your “inner bubble”.
The Promise Of A New Territory
But novelty in itself is not enough. If it’s only novelty, sooner or later it will fade, because, if you stay long enough near something “new”, it will obviously become “old”. It must be something more. And that is a “promise of a new territory”.
That promise is a very powerful tool. It projects your current reality into something that doesn’t yet exist, while still keeping you on the current ground. If it’s a new promotion that it creates your “inner bubble”, then the promise of a new territory is a new lifestyle. New friends, new toys, a new house or a new car. That is something that you don’t have yet, but, if you’d persist long enough in your new position, you “may” get it.
Just as investors were lured by the promise of a “digital” and “web-based” world in the “Internet bubble”. The promise of a “new era”.
In a personal relationship this is even more obvious. It’s the old “we’re together in this one” promise. And, in the beginning, this may hold true. But, as the events unfold and your bubble is starting to get bigger and bigger a slight divergence will start to create between you. The initial promise will disappear from reality, because your partner may have other plans, but it will continue to hold true in your “inner bubble”.
The Followers Support
That’s the third factor and sometimes may kick in, sometimes may not. By “followers support” I mean increased blowing power from some of your closest ones. If you’re the only one blowing your bubble, it may go just as big as you can make it. In order to be really big, you need outside support.
If your bubble is a new promotion, the followers support may come from your new colleagues or employees. For various reasons, they will start to blow in your bubble too. They may attract you to their new lifestyle, or they may start telling you stuff that’s too good to be true, especially about yourself. But because you’re in a bubble, you start to believe it, to take it in, adding it to the blowing power of your own.
If your bubble is a personal personal relationship, your friends may start to chip in. Some of them may like your new partner for their own reasons, while some of them may just want to see you “happy and relaxed”. So, without too much checking of the facts, they start to be happy for your new status. Before you know it, they’ll start to blow your bubble as strongly as you do.
The Crisis Point
But sooner or later, the bubble will come to a crisis point. That’s what I call the “zero moment”. The moment of truth. The moment of the bubble explosion. In terms of “internet bubble” that was the moment when the stock value started to sharply decline. So fast and so powerful that nothing and nobody could stop it. All that hot air that was pumped in thousands of dreams started to get out, with a big noise.
But what causes this? What’s the trigger of the explosion? And why some are bubbles and some or not? Remember I told you that some of the highly valued companies at that time did survive, like Amazon or eBay. What was the difference between those survivors and the losers?
Well, I think the moment of truth is when the pressure from the inside is too much for the reality to sustain. When your expectations from the inside are so high, that reality can’t obey them anymore. It’s like a pinch you take when you’re dreaming. Just to check in if you’re still dreaming. Alas, you’re not. This is the real thing. And the pinch is so hurtful that you can hardly stand it.
For instance, if your bubble is a professional promotion, you start to claim your benefits. Bigger wage, more holiday, bigger office. But at the meeting with your manager you get confronted with the numbers. And it looks like you didn’t do as well as you thought. The numbers are lower than your expectations. And so, the cold shower is all over you.
In a relationship, more often than not you’re confronted with some tough situation. Either financial, or some other type of test. And, although you thought you’re both prepared to go through, it appears that only one is willing to go through, and that’s you. Alone. Wow, the shock and the horrible confrontation with reality.
As a matter of fact, reality was always the same. You were not fit for that promotion or you were not supposed to be in that relationship from the beginning. But you kept blowing hot air into your balloon, hoping it will get off and take you to the “next level”.
But, if the confrontation takes you down, what it would really take for the balloon to actually take you higher? In other words, how can you distinguish when you’re in a “bubble” and when you’re not.
The answer to this is: a closer relationship with reality. A closer position to the facts. A little bit less dreaming and a little more pragmatism. In other words, less pressure from the inside and more checking of the outside. That’s exactly what the survivors from the “internet bubble” did.
They did have the same positive and “dreamish” outlook on business, but at the same time they were always checking the facts. They had real customers. They were taking money from them too, not only from the VC’s. In other words, they weren’t taking just hot air, they had real engines that could support their ascension. They had their stuff in good order.
The After Math
Going through an inner bubble is very though. It strains the hell of you. It’s a growing crisis, but it’s very treacherous, because it doesn’t use pain, it uses pleasure. It lures you into an illusion paradise, where you are a completely different person from who you really are. It gives you everything you think you need, just like the young entrepreneurs from the early 2000s were getting money from the VCa, almost without any effort. It gives you a sense of comfort and security. But, the moment you expect it the least, it also confront you with the reality. A very, very tough confrontation. If your inner stuff is in order, you’ll survive, just like Amazon or eBay. As a matter of fact, you’ll emerge even more powerful after this test. But if you inner stuff is not in order, if you keep lying to yourself, if you cling on to that fake paradise, you’ll get hit. You’re gonna experience a personal bankruptcy, on all levels: financial, emotional, social.
Are you ready for this?