Who decides if I know what I’m doing?

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I know that I’ve always wanted to be an Architect and a Dad.  I don’t remember asking to be a business owner or a parent.

Being a Dad is easy!  In fact, my wife did most of the work to grant me the title.  As soon as I held my son in my arms, I was a Dad.  Anyone can be a Dad. . . well, half of us, anyway.   I love being a dad.  Dad’s get to know things like the names of all of the new cartoon characters and they get to decide that maybe it’s not too late for ice cream.  Being a Parent is much harder.  Parents have to know things like “how many teaspoons of medicine”, and “what’s the weight limit on the car seat”.  A Dad crashes in the bed after roughhousing.  A Parent lies awake wondering if they’ve done everything right.

I see the same dichotomy in my professional life.  I love being an Architect.  Architects get to work with people & come up with ideas that solve problems.  Architects get to be creative and make the spaces and places we inhabit.  Business owners have insurance and pay taxes, and have to make sure there’s a “next job” on the way.  An Architect falls asleep thinking about how to make your building work (or maybe stays awake designing it).  A business owner lies down and stares at the ceiling, worrying about cash flow.

I’m realizing that I’m attempting two of the more difficult ventures in my life so far. . . at the same time.  Don’t misunderstand this as “regret”, because these are also two of the things that bring me joy in my life.  And, “difficult” is a relative term, of course.  I’ve been fortunate enough to have chosen these opportunities for myself.  As a parent, I’m supposed to be invested in the choices I make.  The same goes for running a business.

On occasion, I am so confident that I have no idea what the hell I am doing.  How should I know what the long term effects of “timeout” are?  Is standing too close to the television REALLY that bad?  It’s just light!  Is this REALLY the best way to keep track of expenses and billing for the firm?  I went to design school, not expenses and billing school!

How will I ever know if I’m doing any of this right?!

“My family makes me happy.”

“I absolutely love the way my new place turned out.”

I suppose that sometimes, you just keep doing what you know is best. . . and the reassurance presents itself…

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Designing A Dad

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What do you say when you see a horse for the first time?  “Hi.”

I have the great fortune to be able to experience my second Father’s Day.  The past year has brought so many monumental changes to my life.  I’ve finally stopped messing around and got my Architecture license, I’ve started my own practice, and every day has brought us a few steps closer to breaking ground on our new home.  I have a few ongoing and new design projects and am so fortunate that Studio m Architecture + Design is a success so far.

All of that is great.

Amid all of this planning for the future and looking forward and preparing for what is next, the most successful aspect of the past year is the shift in my thinking about my time with my son.  Before I started working on my own, my time with Little Guy, as it is with most fathers, was limited to nights and weekends.  Maybe, if I was lucky enough, he would wake up before I left the house, but even then it was just a quick good bye without him even realizing what was going on.  This is the norm.  This is how it is.

Unless you change it.

I Realize that I am one of the lucky ones.  I know that I am one of the few who gets to dictate their own schedule.  We can’t all own our own business and adjust our lives as necessary.  It just wouldn’t work that way.  I’m not suggesting that everyone else is doing it wrong.  There is sacrifice too.  There are more and more nights that I am awake at 2 o’clock in the morning getting work done, paying bills, drafting contracts and a thousand other things that I can’t get done during the day.  It’s a trade off.  It’s balance.

What I get in return for my efforts is that I learn to be the dad that my son wants.  With the amount of time we get to spend together, I see firsthand what works.  What makes him laugh?  What makes him upset?  How can I be the best dad I can be?  Easy.  Know my son.  Not just play with him or feed him or drive him around. . . . but actually KNOW him.  The time I get to spend with him is time that he gets to let me know who he wants me to be (even if sometimes I have to be the guy who lays down the law too).  He gets to teach me while I’m teaching him.

Do the worlds collide?  Absolutely – if you want to look at it that way.  Last week I sent out a design presentation on a potential job that I am looking at.  Of course, the next day I spent the majority of my 9 to 5 with my son, so when the developer called, I had an 18 month old running circles around me while I sat on the floor spinning to keep up.  Option one:  voicemail.  Option two: stick Little Guy somewhere safe and hope he only screams a little bit until I get off the phone.  The unfortunate decision here is ‘who am I putting first?’  If I let the call go to voicemail, it’s obviously saying that my son comes first and work can wait.  If I tie my son to a chair so I can take a call without interruption, it’s because this job is important to me and I need to remain ‘professional’ during work hours.  I want both. . . so Option three was to answer the call and let my client know that today is a day with my son, but that I didn’t want to miss his call.  He’s cool with it, my son doesn’t feel abandoned, and I get to keep my life in balance.  Everyone who I work with knows that I am, at any given time, potentially with my son.  That’s why they have emails sent at 2 AM waiting for them when they get to work.  This is time that I won’t get back if I let it go.

The past year has taught me to continuously pursue this balance.  It’s not easy at times.  There are still meetings that need to exist without a child in sight.  There are still times when the phone just needs to be turned off.  Although I very much look forward to what tomorrow brings, I try my hardest to stay in today.  Enjoy the Now.  Live in the moment when I am with my son as much as I can.  Hopefully he will learn to recognize how important the time together really is.

 

Happy Father’s Day to all of the dads out there!  No matter how you’re doing it, make sure to enjoy the minutes. . . because they do run out.

 

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Building your Baby – Guidelines for Success

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“Build a Baby Kit” – ACME Archives Direct

I’ve heard many business owners refer to their creation as “their baby”, in relation to the amount of time and effort and care that goes into creating and maintaining its existence.  I’m fortunate enough to be nurturing two babies at the moment – my Little Guy and Studio m Architecture + Design.  Both need lots of attention.  Both of them bring me great joy.  Both of them have the potential to bring wonderful things into my life.

I’ve poured over approximately 4.2 billion books, articles, forums, blogs, videos, and legal documents about my babies.  Some of the information is helpful.  Most of it is gibberish.  I’ve distilled some of my new knowledge down into a few points.  You decide what baby they apply to!

1. The first steps are the toughest – hang in there.
You will never be fully prepared ahead of time.  Something will happen that feels like you’ve been thrown off course and maybe aren’t ready.  What were you thinking?!  You’re probably going to mess it up. . . and you believe it.  It’s happening.  Step up.

2. Things may go to s#!t.  It’s what you do next that matters most.
Despite your best efforts, some things are out of your control.  The inevitable will happen and make things more difficult – and that stinks.  Each time, you learn to accommodate and become more efficient.  Deal with what you’ve been given, and try your best to make the change.

3. Make sure to set the tone early so that you have something to live by.
Rules are made to be broken, but if you don’t have them, you won’t have anything to gauge the progress.  Decide what is important to you and stick to it.  It may be the foundation for the future.  You’re allowed to change the rules.

4. Every day will bring something new to deal with.
Prepare all you want, but you have no idea what you’re going to be dealing with tomorrow.  Welcome it.  Learn from it.  You’ll find that you’re slowly building your toolbox to deal with anything that comes along.

5. Don’t underestimate how much time it will consume.
Seriously. . . . . don’t.

6. Expect some negotiations to break down.
Sometimes holding your ground works.  Sometimes it just makes things way worse.  Pick your battles.  The ones you pick, you still might lose.

7. Nobody will care as much as you do.
It’s true.  When you go to sleep at night, you try your best, but sometimes everything ends up in bed with you whether you want it to or not.

Who is this guy? A new identity emerges

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“The Son of Man” by Mike Stimpson

This morning was one of those days when you look up and think “Who is this guy?!”. . . . twice.

Little Guy is fast approaching 13 months old and will be at a nice age for the holiday season.  He’s beginning to show excitement for different things, remembers what to do with various items (comb goes on my head, socks go on these feet, and if I touch that thing over there, everyone will freak the hell out).  After we had our morning ritual of looking out the window to see the day (there’s snow today!), played with a few toys while listening to new music (this morning was Christmas Jazz), and ate some fruit and oatmeal, Little Guy walked over to the steps, turned around, and reached out his hand with a summoning “Daaad” so that I would come over and assist him with the climb. . . . then nodded his head in excitement as I started to make my way toward him.

Who is that guy?

After the “hand off” so I could get to work, I sat down, made a priority list, and dug in.  Time management is paramount with the new business Studio m Architecture + Design.  Snap your fingers and I am now a business owner with a laundry list of things to do (including. . . literally. . .  the actual laundry) to make sure I am starting off the right way with the business while maintaining the role of Dad at home.  Spring into action, sit down, bang out some drawings, and I can take a break to write a blog post if I get enough finished.  I have a proposal to write.  I wonder what we’re going to make Little Guy for lunch today.  There’s some consulting info that I need to reach out for.  Is the Holiday Train coming tonight or tomorrow?  There are 3 draft emails that need to go out today no matter what.  Oh, and I started running again – and I love it.  Pause. . . breathe. . . and we’re back.

What just happened?  Who are these new identities that have very mischievously emerged as we built our block towers and formed our new companies?  Don’t misread what I am saying, this is not a complaint.  The “hustle and bustle”, the changes, the transformation really, that both Little Guy and I have (and are going) through is not a bad thing.  It’s just very interesting to realize it as it is actually happening – and the realization may actually assist with the process.  We are changing as people and if I see it and if I know it, then I can react to it and make sure that the good things, the desirable traits and habits, don’t change too.

Who are these guys?

Although it’s been over a year since our son joined us on our journey, my wife and I still look at each other and say things like “we’re a family”, or “we have a son”, in a kind of amazed, sudden realization.  Actually, we take turns being amazed while the other is thinking “Yes, that’s great, now could you please figure out how to feed him without it looking like a food explosion just occurred. . . and change his diaper while you’re thinking!”.  I didn’t know that is what they meant when they said “The only thing that’s constant is change!”

 

Architecture/Design Products:

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A good friend of mine recently gave my son these cool foam blocks by Edushape for his birthday.  (Side note: this morning he was actually sorting the blocks by color – which I thought was a fluke until I messed them all up and he did it again!).  He has been all over these blocks (my son, not my friend) since he got them and absolutely loves knocking over the architectural masterpieces that I create for him.  Perfect gift for an Architect’s son.  Edushape – My Soft World-City 

Where to begin – a search for work

With the new company up and running, the conversation quickly turns to “Now what?”  Up until now, I have been operating under a direct cause and effect mode of operation.

I should have a business plan or some goals – done.
I need to form an LLC – hire a lawyer.
I need a website – build a website (www.studioM-ad.com).
Business cards, bank accounts, software – check, check, check.
I need some work. . . . . . . hmmmm. . . . .

You can absolutely make the case that this last item does have its own cause and effect relationship.  Marketing, word of mouth, donating time:  all of these things will, no doubt either directly or indirectly, lead to work, but aren’t necessarily energizing those new bank accounts that were so easy to open up.  Some days I already question whether or not I should have taken “the leap” – not in defeat – I think that’s just the way it goes.  It takes time to get things moving.

In the DesignAdad spirit, I have found some design projects to keep me busy!  Last week, Little Guy and I broke ground and immediately cut the ribbon on the LRCC project (that’s the Living Room Chair Castle in case you were not aware).  The completed project captures the constant draw to venture under the dining room table with the safety of a tensile fabric roof to alleviate potential head trauma on the previously referenced table.  Unfortunately, plans to demolish the structure were immediately carried out as dinner was being served.

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But what am I really looking for?  Although LRCC may be a bit on the “smaller side” of projects, it is the definitely the case that I am more able to handle the smaller now that I have my own firm.  I hear it often that ” I can’t afford an Architect”.  It’s all relative, but the chances are that I can take a look at your home renovation or maybe have some advice for your small modification.  I’m also willing to expand the job!  Just because I own my own firm doesn’t mean I’m looking to create the next architectural monument.  Architectural consulting (to other firms), drafting, shop drawings, peer review – all viable sources of work.  Ego aside, I’m here to work and spend time with my family.  The big projects are out there.  I welcome them.  But I realize that there are a lot of people out there who just need some help.

About Studio m Architecture + Design

Of course I am looking for larger projects as well.  I am fortunate enough to have worked in all aspects of many different project types over the years and that gives me the advantage of being to handle larger projects on my own.  It’s unfortunate that some professionals get categorized within a very narrow realm of responsibility while working for a firm.  Luckily I was able to gather a wide array of experience.

So, the “Now what?” is here!  Let me know how I can help you.  In the meantime, I will be exploring the qualities of the various fortbuilding materials that Little Guy and I find around the house.  Maybe we’ll venture into cardboard next….

Architecture/Design Products:

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I have not purchased this product yet, but if you’re looking to step up your fort making, this may be the way to go.  I’m sure there is an ongoing global Architectural debate about maintaining the integrity and the spirit of the home fort and utilizing local materials from the living room may be the way to go.  However, the only thing that is constant is change.  I support both the old school way of thinking and the new wave kit of parts.  www.crazyforts.com

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First Steps

Things have been quiet for a while. . . . in terms of blog posts anyway.

In order to get anywhere, you need to take the first step.  It could be absolutely terrifying when you realize there is not anyone there to hold you up anymore.  Sometimes, just that realization makes you fall.

Take Little Guy, for example.  He recently took his first steps. . . 4 in a row to be exact, and the sudden realization that nobody was holding on anymore squashed all hopes of step 5 (although it was probably his mother’s shreek of excitement that knocked him over!).

And like I often do, I’m following in his “footsteps” and taking some first steps of my own.  In September, I left my position of Associate at the firm and I have been working on getting things up and running with my own practice.  Every bit as terrifying when you see that nobody is holding on.  And where are we going?  “Taking steps” implies that you are going somewhere, right?  There’s got to be a goal, of course, or what’s the point?

I don’t think Little Guy has a goal other than to just keep going.  He was fine when he was rolling over.  Even better when he started crawling (a whole new world opened up!).  And now, with this new, quicker mode of transportation, there’s sure to be a ton of more things to get into.  How fun (and how terrifying in itself. . . )!

My “goals” related to this new business are quite. . . unique. . . for a business.  The catalyst for the whole thing was actually my son!  Now, I know that starting and running a business will take some time – probably more time than I was spending at the firm I left. . . but it will be my time on my terms.  There were increasing days when I missed my son – leaving the house before he woke and getting back when he was asleep – and it killed me.  So, the business goals:

1:  See my family more (already a success.  I’ve seen my son every day so far).
2:  Keep doing what I love to do.
3:  Get paid for it.

I’m still working on #3. . . . .

Honestly, that’s it.  Of course with each project I will have goals and milestones that are related to bettering the Client’s business, growth, etc., but I love what I do for a living and I love my family. . . and as a true Libra. . . I demand balance.

And we keep on walking!  Little Guy is finding his own balance (ha!) and starting to get confident.  I’ve been getting a good response from starting the company and hopefully things continue to move the right way!

Away we go!

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