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THE LEARNING YEARS February 25, 2009

Posted by randydeutsch in architect types.

In the midst of winter, I found there was, within me, an invincible summer.  Albert Camus

Spring is nearly upon us and thoughts of renewal are on our mind.

As the United States ineloquently teeters on the precipice of economic collapse, we look for clues in Jared Diamond’s “Collapse” why some civilizations die and others renew themselves. The book’s subtitle – How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed – implies a choice as to whether some human populations have flourished or perished, renew themselves or die.

It is hard to read that without considering the state of our profession.

How Professions Choose to Fail or Succeed. How Architects Choose to Fail or Succeed.

One senses that the architecture profession will come out of this a different profession. That firms will look different, feel different, hire back in a different manner.

Stress, anxiety, sleeplessness – we feel pressure to keep busy or just look busy in lieu of learning-on-the-job, to hunker down instead of undertaking the meaningful work of personal growth and development. Rubbing two pencils together to try to get something started. One senses architects will either rise to the challenges brought on by Revit or revert back to mechanical pencils and straight edges. Some architects will wither under the strain while others will prosper, even thrive.

There are some people whose clocks stop at a certain point in their lives, says a French writer. Preternaturally observant, architects are often so focused on the outside world they sometimes forget to look inside and self-reflect. Are you regularly functioning below your level of potential? Have you stopped learning and growing? Have you of late run out of steam? For some it is time to wind their watch.

This is a great time of year to look back and take stock before our gardens need tending to.

“Midway upon the road of our life I found myself within a dark wood, for the right way had been missed,” Dante begins his Inferno.

The middle years are great, great learning years, said leader, activist, author and reformer John Gardner in his perennially brilliant, life-altering speech “Personal Renewal.”

In these times of necessity, ask not what your country has done for you but rather, what you have done for yourself lately? What have you learned recently? Here I don’t mean software and sustainability. How about optimism? Where have you taken yourself to become inspired? We are so hard on ourselves, sometimes we forget to honor our selves. When is the last time you acknowledged that you are doing – or have done – what it is you originally set out to do? To give yourself the benefit of doubt? To let yourself off the hook? To breathe deep, take the weight off.

What are you doing right now in your personal and professional lives to renew yourself? To revive your interest in what you do?  To personally – if not financially – prosper?

Gardner continues: Learn all your life. Learn from your failures. Learn from your successes. When you hit a spell of trouble, ask What is it trying to teach me? The lessons, he concludes, aren’t always happy ones, but they keep coming.



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