Given the year we’ve had, it’s not unusual to feel like we live in a bubble.
Recently, a law student mentioned that they felt like they were living in a bubble—and asked me for tips on moving beyond it.
My initial answer was probably disappointing. I said that we all live in some kind of bubble in reality, perhaps in a different bubble at every stage of one’s life. Then I threw out the most lawyeristic thing that you could possibly say, which was “read the AFR”. For goodness sakes.
I’ve since had a bit more of a think about #bubblelife. And I’d like to put the rewind button on, thanks.
Recognising you live in a bubble
Certain professions have a strong likelihood of creating bubble life forms. Law is one of them. It’s characterised by having frequent interactions with the same groups of people, especially when you drill down further into specific practice areas. In game theory, this is the concept of repeated games—and it’s why reputation built on predictability matters to those within the bubble.
Some other characteristics of bubble life include spending a large proportion of time with the same or similar people, doing too much of the same thing, or having similar conversations revolving around limited topics of discussion. This is often noticed by people new to the group or from the “outside”.
Let’s start with the disclaimer that not everyone is unhappy with their bubble. Even bubbles that aim to be broad and welcoming can be self-selecting in some way. But if you feel like your bubble is limiting your movement, then it’s important to recognise you’re in one and the sort of bubble it is.
Does anyone have a pin?
If you’re keen on expanding your bubble, existing in more bubbles than one, or simply bursting your bubble, then… nope, I don’t have a pin for you. However, a couple of things that I’ve found helpful.
A lot of things boil down to mindset. I’ve found that when you start looking for things, new doors and opportunities open up. To all the law students out there, never be afraid to make that call or reach out to someone to make a connection—what’s the worst that could happen?
The biggest source of outer-bubble inspiration comes from what we can get at a very low cost these days. Books, podcasts, newspapers, even Reddit forums. The choice is pretty overwhelming. For some reading inspiration and tips on getting into the habit, check out my previous blog post, “The Life-Changing Magic of Reading”. (P.s. Fiction is a great way of getting out of your bubble.)
Well, this is tricky at the moment especially if you’re looking at overseas travel. But wanderlust will always exist and it’s one of the best ways to get out of your bubble. Travelling to a different place is always a great way to expand our worldview. The best part is, you’ll almost always come back with a great bunch of stories to boot.
Volunteering tends to drop off when we move into full-time work. If you find the time to take this up, all kudos to you! Being part of something bigger is a rewarding way of giving back and getting to know people outside of your usual bubble.
Join a group outside your usual bubble
Whether it’s joining a Meetup group or a bunch of hobbyists, this is one way to meet people outside your bubble. The Melbourne-based Folio Collective, which I was previously involved in, was recently formed with the purpose of drawing together a diverse collective of thinkers and doers based in Melbourne to explore new ideas, perspectives and issues. Check them out at www.folio.org.au.
This isn’t something that one can change by snapping your fingers. Real-world experience, preferably in many different contexts, is helpful. For law students, I would say that all this will come along in time. You just need to be ready to absorb like a sponge!
Always ask “why”
One aspect of bubble life is falling into assumptions and set ways of thinking. It’s seriously unfunny trying to deal with anyone who refuses to contemplate life outside of the bubble. It is also something that many lawyers are guilty of. The phrase “because we’ve always done it this way” sums up bubble life. The anecdote to this is asking “why”. Asking why can throw up uncomfortable truths. It’s one reason we don’t do it as often as we should. So, ask why and then ask why again.
At the end of the day, stepping outside of your bubble is all about challenging usual and easy modes of thinking. It’s funny how childhood is defined by broad exploration, and adulthood by an obsessive desire to specialise. In many ways, the latter isn’t so different from what happens in the legal world.
An important comment I recently heard from a leading mind in design thinking was the importance of moving away from being an “I-type” individual to a “T-type” individual—one with not only depth in your field of specialisation (vertical) but combined with a broad understanding (horizontal) of the world around us. Better still, if you’re a “𝜋-type” (pi) individual with more than one area of specialisation. And that’s what it means to step outside of your bubble.