A recurring question I’ve been getting is “What is your most valuable advice for someone beginning or already in Architecture School?”, or something along those lines. So I thought I’d address it in this 2nd parcel of Q&A.
Getting right down to it, my own personal take on this has nothing to do with software or taking a special class. I think that a raging focus on skills training can only take you so far.
Surprise surprise, my most valuable piece of advice for anyone that wants a meaningful time in architecture school is a principle, an attitude that can actually be applied to all aspects of life.
In a nutshell, you could say that it’s become a sort of life philosophy in working towards my life-plan.
It took me over 20 years to really commit to it, but once I did – I never found more fulfillment in all my endeavors.
Related Post: As Promised – My Personal Life Plan at Age 23
“Be process-oriented, with your eyes solely on yourself”.
Process Oriented: Considering not only the goal, but also your state as you work towards it, the long-term ramifications and significance of sprinting towards them today, the value of human life, and embracing your potentials for constant growth.
Eyes Solely on Yourself: Discovering your own internally-sourced self-worth, and seeking not to compete with or live to please others, but to genuinely grow with them.
Here are some 9 realizations about finding happiness and peace, from my two years of seriously embracing this mindset.
1. Being process-oriented allows you to pace yourself for long-term success.
What am I leaving out with this obsession to achieve this one goal? What other things can I develop alongside this goal if I just slow down a bit?
Being process oriented doesn’t mean you aren’t setting goals – it means you’re being being smart about achieving them. When you’re set on a long-term life goal, it’s not something you can just sprint towards with reckless abandon. You are going to crash. You are going to burn out, and all the potentials to make the most out of other important things whoosh past you in your haste.
Life isn’t all about material awards or accolades – because they too have costs: the expense of your time, well-being, and relationships with important people. Being process oriented makes you question the important things you are willing to give up for short-term success.
And everyone has their own personal value of the things they will not compromise on a regular basis. As I’ve discussed before, mine is health.
Being process-oriented is a life-long exercise in investing in your greatest asset: yourself.
2. You’ll get to know yourself on a deeper level.
Being process-oriented entails a lot of little pit stops where you take a moment to think about what you’re doing, and how you’re doing it. You’re meta-thinking.
And during these regular self-excursions, chances are you’ll discover valuable things about your motivations, your inclination to take needless risks, or your tendency to play it safe such that nothing gets done.
When you’re too caught up in going full-speed forward, you don’t make time to pull the cogs out of your engine, which could be the difference between a finish line and a crash & burn.
You might ravenously pursue each succeeding trophy or distinction, in order to fill up your trophy cabinet. But if you don’t truly know the person whose name is etched on that goal is, how fulfilled will you really be?
Do you want to be “successful”, or do you want to achieve the personal fulfillment a successful person experiences? There’s a difference.
Tim Ferriss, in his iconic book “The 4 Hour Work-Week”, describes a sort of paradox for those who live to work ruthlessly all their lives, climbing the corporate ladder, driving in a BMW, getting to the top..
Only to realize too late: All their lives, they didn’t want the material things rich people buy – they wanted a feeling of personal abundance, and an enjoyment of life.
Who are you? What are you living for?
Related Post: On Death, Cancer, and Living for Others: Never Take Anyone for Granted
3. You won’t be pressured to live for others.
One of the biggest tragedies, I feel, is falling into the trap of living to please. Becoming everyone’s yes-man. Being so scared to say no or go against the flow in fear of being scorned, ridculed, and ostracized.
Naturally, we all want to be liked. I know I do. But when that comes at the expense of your well-being and not being able to express who you really are, it becomes a self-eating virus.
The biggest loser when you care too much about what others think – is yourself.
You can’t live life afraid to make enemies because of what you believe in.
Don’t be afraid to be a misfit. To be weird. To be someone who thinks differently, so much so that it isn’t in-keeping with the ways of the world.
He wasn’t perfect himself, but the words of Steve Jobs are immortal in his iconic manifesto.
"Here's to the crazy ones, the misfits, the rebels, the troublemakers, the round pegs in the square holes... the ones who see things differently -- they're not fond of rules... You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them, but the only thing you can't do is ignore them because they change things... they push the human race forward, and while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius, because the ones who are crazy enough to think that they can change the world, are the ones who do" ~ Steve Jobs
You are your own person. Do you want to waste away to mediocrity, or do you want to break away to something more?
4. Your ego is replaced with self-worth.
I admit, we don’t live in a perfect world. Far from it. And in competitive environments that run on creativity and merit (like architecture school), it can feel like a dog-eat-dog world. Pressures like these are a breeding ground for insecurity and repulsions.
Related to number 3, when you get weird and choose to be who you believe you are, there will always be backlashes. A lot of them.
Society will sense that you’re different. It will bite back and try and tell you what it wants of you. And society never knows what it wants. They’ll tell you contrasting things, demanding you to change.
You’re so fat today. Oh, Gain some weight will you? You’re a stick.
Look at her, why don’t you just try to be like her?
What are you wearing? You look like a slob. What are you wearing? What a try-hard fashionista.
Everyone thinks you’re a loser you know. Better not show your face anymore.
Keep it up, and you’ll never have any friends.
Just give up. You’ll never be good enough.
These rumors will never die. You can count on that. Your reputation is ruined until you submit and become my emotional slave.
“If you don’t design your own life plan, chances are you’ll fall into someone else’s plan. And guess what they have planned for you? Not much.” ~Jim Rohn
Who are they to demand anything of you? Do they even know you, or do they only have this jaded idea based on the most superficial of things they think they perceive of you?
People will judge you because of personal biases. They’ll make up their mind about you without even talking to you once – just because it’s the cool thing to do, or because the friend of the friend of a friend shared this story of you.
Some people just criticize due to force of habit. More often the not, these people who impulsively choose to judge others are the most insecure ones of all. It’s a terrible defense mechanism, and you can’t help but feel sorry for them.
In my youth, like all teenagers and young adults, I really did get affected by the trash that society spewed at me.
And then I discovered the awesome things I could achieve if I just closed my senses to the needless banter and focused on investing in myself.
It was a long and slow process, but over the years, my care for the whims of people who really don’t matter has dropped to nil.
I’ve fully absorbed that you’ll never be able to please everyone. I’ve learned to shrug my shoulders and just move forward. To remain proactive, deflect the blows, and continue on the road. And now that I think about it, some of my best personal successes were actually on things toxic people discouraged me from doing.
I love this quote from José Micard Teixeira.
“I no longer have patience for certain things, not because I’ve become arrogant, but simply because I reached a point in my life where I do not want to waste more time with what displeases me or hurts me. I have no patience for cynicism, excessive criticism and demands of any nature. I lost the will to please those who do not like me, to love those who do not love me and to smile at those who do not want to smile at me.
I no longer spend a single minute on those who lie or want to manipulate. I decided not to coexist anymore with pretense, hypocrisy, dishonesty and cheap praise. I do not tolerate selective erudition nor academic arrogance. I do not adjust either to popular gossiping. I hate conflict and comparisons. I believe in a world of opposites and that’s why I avoid people with rigid and inflexible personalities. In friendship I dislike the lack of loyalty and betrayal. I do not get along with those who do not know how to give a compliment or a word of encouragement. Exaggerations bore me and I have difficulty accepting those who do not like animals. And on top of everything I have no patience for anyone who does not deserve my patience.” ~José Micard Teixeira
It’s a life-long struggle I’m sure, but once you start embracing your personal self-worth, the joy is really something else.
The daily contentment is amazing. And the positive energy will drive you forward to do productive things – like working towards your goals that will benefit a lot of people.
5. You’ll discover the joy of private victories over public victories.
Howard: "You’ll get everything society can give a man. You’ll keep all the money. You’ll take any fame or honor anyone might want to grant. You’ll accept such gratitude as the tenants might feel. And I--I’ll take what nobody can give a man, except himself. I will have built Cortlandt." Peter: "You’re getting more than I am, Howard." - From the Fountainhead by Ayn Rand
I may not agree completely with Ayn Rand’s objectivist philosophy – but I owe a lot to her book. I read the Fountainhead nearly three years ago, split over the course of a month. Why so long? because I would quietly put it down every page or so and reflect.
If there is one valuable lesson I was able to reflect on through the classic novel, it was my concept of being fulfilled first-and-foremost by private victories.
Any award that the world gives can be tainted by politics, statistical errors, and oversights. Recognition is fickle. It comes and goes. But no one can take away your sense of personal achievement. Not only in the public commendment itself, but also in its intimate value to you.
Working 5 years for a candy and seeing someone get one by chance may seem tragic – but only you will truly taste and remember its sweetness.
You know that you were the one that made that great contribution, and no one can take that away from you.
Now this doesn’t mean you should be pushover and let everyone constantly gyp you. But it does mean you’ve got a glimmering trophy cabinet stashed in a place no one can access or – your own mind. Program your thinking, and your mind will never forget to remind your heart about what you’ve achieved.
6. You’ll see the bigger picture.
Who would have thought a “take-me-as-I-am-as-I-work-on-becoming-more-awesome” attitude could also breed some of the most meaningful perspectives of humility.
In your little moments of reflection as you meta-think about your trajectory, you’ll discover sincere remorse for your previous wrongs.
Then you’ll eventually come across a realization that the world is so much bigger than your past mistakes.
You’ve probably don’t a ton stupid things in your youth. Irresponsible things. Lazy things. Horrible oversights and moments of cowardice. habitually lacked discipline. Was insensitive to the well-fare of others. Hurt a lot of people.
There’s nothing you can do but move forward. In the grand scheme of things, your youthful mistakes are nothing compared to the long road ahead. And in this long road, you can work towards growth and rectifying the wrongs you’ve done.
Don’t dwell on yourself at your worst. Acknowledge what you did wrong, and take the first few steps in the winding but beautiful road ahead.
“A successful man is one who can lay a firm foundation with the bricks others have thrown at him.” ~ David Brinkley
7. You’ll see the beauty in mundane things.
Being process-oriented is a beautiful exercise in stopping to smell the roses while you jog towards your checkpoints and destinations.
And when you stop to notice the small, beautiful details, you’ll learn to cherish the things people tend to take for granted.
I’m going to go all parental-mode here, but who cares – it’s important that you find meaning in the contentments of life.
Chances are, if you’re reading this blog post, you are truly fortunate, friend.
With the meals you can afford to eat on a daily basis. People are starving in ways that are heart-breaking. Mothers are defiling their bodies just to put food on the table in other parts of the world. Still feel like complaining about eating the same food for two meals in a row?
With your health and your lack of disability. Imagine if you woke up the next day finding out your lifestyle earned you cancer, or you suddenly got involved in a freak accident that severed off your arms? Still fuming that your gym partner’s biceps are more swole than yours?
With the bed you sleep on, the roof on your head, where you can rest comfortably every night. Just outside your gated subdivision, a pair of orphans is in for another rough night under an overpass, where crazed drug users rampage after their hits. Still enraged about the air conditioner being too hot?
With the family, friends, mentors, and extended family who have given you so much. In the Middle East war zones of today, you could literally witness all those who have loved you perish in a flash of metal and blood. Still wish that your annoying brother would just go to hell?
With the unpredictability of fate, you could lose all of these things in an instant. Where will you be then? In a pool of suffocating regret?
Don’t wait until tragedy strikes for you to cherish the blessings and people you overlook in the hustle and bustle of daily life. Don’t get blinded in your ambitions. Chances are, you have more time to achieve them than you have to tell your parents you love them.
Sure, the fleeting ecstatic moments in life are wonderful. But only in contentment and valuing what is important is there long-lasting peace.
8. You’ll be genuinely contributing to communal growth.
This works two ways.
First, being process-oriented will make you realize just how much of a garbage thing crab-mentality is.
Once everyone starts trying to pull each other down in order to be on top, no one will thrive, and only those on top of the mountain will thrive – until they are ruthlessly pulled down. Are you going to be part of the toxic culture of jealous vengeance, or a beacon of slowly getting everyone out of the pit together?
Second, remember those people I mentioned in the previous number? The suffering souls of the world who have experienced terrors you would crumble under? Do you have any plans on helping them once you’ve amassed success and influence?
Once you truly embrace the precious value of life’s simple joys will you truly give a damn about those whom fate has left with nothing. The mark of someone fully human is his work to give a voice to those who are victims to their own poverty.
The world doesn’t revolve around you. Sure, your our life is your own joy, but it’s also your own gift to everyone else. It’s a stunning paradox.
9. If the world were to end tomorrow, you’d look back at a great ride.
On your death bed, will you be thinking about all the accolades and awards you received, or about how happy you were in actually living?
I leave this post to end at that, for us to ponder on.
What is your honest idea of a happy life?
Life’s a beautiful game, and we’ve got ways and means to go in this long road.
Stay hungry, and let’s grow together.