Feast Day 2013: You are Unlimited

Today the Patron Saint of Architecture celebrates three years of helping bring inspiration and creativity to the forefront of what we do as architects.  What started as a personal need to affirm that architecture could and should be so much more than the professional opportunities that I was experiencing has now become a worldwide network of people who share that same purpose.  Each year, I build on the original intent and expand the content offerings; going from this blog to a facebook page, Pinterest account and, in this past year, a book.  As I challenge myself to experiment with new media and outreach efforts, I hope to not only build a community of creatives, but to encourage all of us to stretch outside of our comfort zone. 

I’ve come to realize that the comfort zone is a pretty deceptive place.  It’s what we know.  So we operate within a set of self-imposed constraints that limit our thinking about what’s possible.  Many of these constraints come from our education and professional experiences, and have permeated our understanding about what it means to practice architecture.  That’s why this year’s novena will be Shattering the Meme.  We’ll spend nine weeks exploring things about the profession of architecture that we just assume “have” to be that way and work to stop accepting the limiting premise of each one. 

In conjunction with this novena, I am launching my first ever series of teleclasses.  Based on my book, Career Crisis, which launched in April, the teleclasses begin next week with a free introductory session.  I am excited to bring the theme of applying your passion and purpose meaningfully to your career alive in an interactive way.  It’s one thing to read something, but nothing compares to actually being able to work through issues in a more direct way.  As architects, we often feel that we can and should be able to do it all, from graphic design to marketing to management, so it is natural for us to  think we can be our own coaches as well.  But coaching by its very nature is not a DIY endeavor. A coach can help you to understand your unique situation in a whole different way.  You need someone to encourage you to think beyond what you think is possible and challenge you achieve things that you really want (because that's the scary stuff you won't ever push yourself to do).  Someone who will tell you when you are allowing yourself to get distracted by being “too busy”  or when you are losing focus. 

You can begin to experience what it's like to work with a coach in the teleclasses, where we will spend an hour on each career theme and also do some individual “laser coaching,” where I will take questions from participants and provide targeted advice live on the call. 
Eventbrite - Overcome Your Career Crisis
If you want more, you can always work with me one on one in my career coaching program, which is a three week long intensive process.  I’m also pleased to announce a new coaching offering this year:  I Need a Quickie is specifically tailored to architects who really want to seek out coaching, but are still afraid to invest in themselves in this way.  While nowhere near as intensive as a coaching program, this new offering will let you buy an hour of one on one time with me to talk about career issues important to you.  I’m hoping that by offering this bridge to coaching, many of you will see how valuable it really is to work with me or another coach to up your game.  Wherever you are in your career, however much or little you have accomplished, you can always set your sights higher and achieve even more. 

We kicked off last year with the Change the World Novena, where I profiled architects who have taken it upon themselves to make the world a better place through the built environment.  Many of you viewed those architects as people who were somehow different from you.  You thought, “What they’re doing is great, but I can’t do that.  Who am I to think I can change the world?”  This year I’m not accepting that excuse- you are a gifted, creative, person, or you wouldn’t be an architect.  Who are you not to use that talent?  Get unstuck and shatter all those memes that are convincing you otherwise!

Avoiding the Architecture of Fear

Wow.  My post on the limiting beliefs of architects grew legs, stood, up and ran out the door. It was being chased.  While I never expect that readers of my blog will agree with me wholesale, reactions to this post fell very strongly into two camps.  The camp that agreed with me and said "Right on,  we need to overcome these limiting beliefs," made me feel that I had written about a meaningful and timely topic.  The camp that threw cold water on the very premise of the post confirmed it.  I noticed a very specific pattern that emerged among the naysayers.  It was fear.  Fear of being irrelevant,  seen as extravagant or uncooperative by clients.  It is this very fear that is being manifested as a reality in our profession.  Therefore, I have taken these comments, condensed them into some major themes around fear and share them with you today.  Since most of the discussion was generated on the American Institute of Architects Linked In Group, you can visit this page if you want to see the comments and discussion chain firsthand.

Fear: I will play into their worst stereotype

This one is tricky because no one wants to be typecast as the black clad ideologue with funky glasses who is using their client as a vehicle for their own artistic license.  Many comments I received were concerned that architects are our own worst enemy and that by pursuing a higher level of design, we were alienating our clients, showing them that we weren't listening to them and running up the costs.  It wouldn't be a stereotype if there were not some grains of truth here, mostly born out by Starchitects and their wannabes.  However,  being an advocate for solving the right problem and innovative solutions instead of being a waitress is not the same as being out of touch.  If anything, it shows you are more in touch and are providing the service they hired you to perform, instead of being a rubber  stamp.

Good design is too expensive, or too risky
Maybe it's because the design magazines are filled with examples of exotic materials and systems.  Maybe it's  because we don't really believe that you can be creative on a budget.  I was astounded at the number of people who lashed out at the very idea of bringing a higher level of design to their projects.  It truly saddened me to see architects with the mindset of a low level developer, believing that they were  providing value to their clients by delivering the staus quo.  Rather than meeting client expectations for adequacy, meet their expectations for a truly amazing space that meets needs they were heretofore afraid to state. Good design is carefully considered and responsive, and can absolutely be done with basic materials and on a budget with only the premium of creativity on your part.  A better thing to consider is how much you are paying to play it safe and add to the already bulging inventory of unremarkable buildings.

The profession can't afford this
Talk about fear-based thinking.  These commenters thought they were taking the high road by adopting a lofty, philosophical position about risk management and responsible architecture.  No wonder our profession is struggling.  What a limiting mindset to meekly take a backseat,  hoping to just be of some usefulness.  This only buys into a developer driven mentality and frankly, shows you already believe that architects are obsolete.  What the profession cannot afford is a bunch of synchophants who are afraid to be creative.  I had to chuckle that the most controversial comment in my post was a quote, "If you know it will work, it isn't creative,"from Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic.  This quote to me captures the very essence of creativity: being unafraid to take on a new challenge, to think outside of the box, to stop recycling ideas from past projects.  Isn't this what our profession needs most?  Yet, many took that comment to mean that taking a risk meant abandoning functionality.  True, form should follow function, but how to best house that function is what the act of creating architecture is all about.  It's called a practice because it is an experiment.  Otherwise, we are just drafters.

To me, these fears underline the reason so many of us feel we are in a career crisis.  We have accepted the premise that we are lucky to have work and therefore we had better not rock the boat.  We are playing it so safe that it becomes doubtful that we are actually producing architecture at all.  I can empathize with my post-dissenters because I have worked for firms that propagated these fears and the limiting beliefs that spawn them.  I felt completely demoralized in my work during those years because I felt like I was not making anybody better as a result of the projects being produced in these conditions.

There is a better way and I have made it my mission to help other architects find it.  You can choose to follow along with my blog posts and facebook community, but if you are looking to get on the path to career transformation, you need to look at a more immersive experience.  I invite you to consider one on one career coaching, or to take part in my new telesminar series.  Based on my book, Career Crisis, the teleseminars will explore themes of finding your passion, understanding where you are in the creative cycles of your life,  and how to best position yourself to work in the way that is most fulfilling to you.  It is time to stop practicing an architecture of fear and move forward into producing meaningful, enriching spaces that allow us to work at our highest creative potential.

Eventbrite - Are you having a Career Crisis?