What I Do Is Bigger Than Who I Am

I believe I have found my purpose. What I do, is bigger than who I am.

This past week I was scheduled to be in Chicago for AIAS Forum 2013, the American Institute of Architecture Students national convention. I was invited by the host chapter, Illinois Institute of Technology, to teach a workshop on business fundamentals for architects and to participate on a keynote panel to discuss emerging trends in the profession. The panel was scheduled for the event’s first of four General Sessions.

One day before leaving, I received an email from United Airlines. My 7 AM flight from New York was canceled on December 30th and they automatically rescheduled the flight for January 2nd. Well… that was not going to work. My presence was expected on the panel at 4:00PM on December 30th. Flying to Chicago on January 2nd would have me missing the entire event. They would need to find a way to get me to Chicago on December 30th.

After negotiating with a pleasant customer service representative and waiting on hold for about an hour, I was rebooked on an American Airlines flight leaving New York at 9AM on December 30th. Before heading to bed that night, I checked the flight and yes, it was rebooked again. I was schedule to leave later in the morning.

No problem. I would still have plenty of time.

When I awakened, another message was waiting to announce another rebooking. I would arrive on time, but now I was pushed right up against the scheduled time for the General Session. This was going to be an interesting day. I no longer had flexibility in my schedule. Everything would now need to fall into place with no possibility for additional delays.

The flight was uneventful and I arrived at O’Hare on time. I grabbed a cab, which then needed to work its way through early rush hour traffic. The clock was ticking, but as we approached the hotel it appeared that I would make it to the event with no time to spare. I retrieved my luggage and dragged it directly past the front desk and down two levels to the main ballroom. As I stepped out from the elevator, the clock struck four. I had made it.

I had been texting my progress to the Programming Coordinator, Tyler Baldwin, and he met me at the registration desk. From the look on his face, I knew something was wrong. Maybe he was tired. The first day of such a large event must certainly be overwhelming.

As we shook hands, he explained to me that there had been a miscommunication. I was not going to be participating on the panel.

Disappointment and frustration rushed through my brain. I had just turned my life upside down in order to keep my commitment and arrive at the event on time. Tyler explained that the organization’s CEO had an alternative plan and suggested that I check into my room, settle in and come back to meet with the CEO.

I returned just before the session was to begin and the CEO was there to meet me. He apologized for the confusion, thanked me for attending and presented his proposal. He requested that I speak at the second General Session as a special presentation. He would give me the thirty minutes prior to the New Years Eve keynote presented by Katherine Darnstadt of Latent Design and I could talk about anything that interested me. I jumped at the opportunity. Thirty dedicated minutes on stage to spread the word of Entrepreneur Architect to more than a thousand enthusiastic architecture students.

Things happened as they should be.

If you read my Christmas Greeting a couple weeks back, I shared my personal mantra;

Find your purpose. Have faith. Live with certainty. Work hard and success will be yours, if only you believe. Believe you can.

When Tyler told me that the plans had been changed, I was disappointed and a bit frustrated, but I was not angry. I did not resist the situation at all. I had faith that things would be worked out and I was certain that my time was not wasted.

There are many times in our lives when life takes us in unexpected directions. It is often that when you look back and review what had happened, you see that things happened as they should be. When you find your purpose, what you do becomes bigger than who you are. When you live with certainty, there are few reasons to push back or get upset… and your life involves many fewer days of stress.

I have much to learn about how life works. I still have many days of anxiety filled with stress. Today I am returning to the studio after two weeks of holiday. It’s difficult to remember my purpose and have faith that my many waiting clients will be patient and understanding. As I work to match the progress that occurred in our absence, stress will no doubt be pumping through my veins.

I will start my Monday as I do each Monday. I will plan my week and schedule my tasks. I will work hard to keep our clients happy and I believe our success will continue to grow.

I know that during the past few weeks my posts have been filled with personal philosophy and metaphysics. I hope you don’t mind. Each week, I write what fills my mind. I write what motivates me in hopes that it will motivate you as well. Posts filled with strategy and actionable tactics will be back. Have no fear. If you want specific information on how to launch or grow your firm, stay tuned. You’ll love what’s coming in 2014.

Until then, I’d love to know your thoughts on my post above. Have you experienced a time in your life when you were pushed in an unexpected direction that brought you to amazing places? Please share your story in the comments below.


  1. says

    What a great story. I especially like the lesson; “Often that when you look back and review what had happened, you see that things happened as they should be.”

    Steve jobs, after a life of great success, heartbreaking setbacks, and life threatening medical conditions said, “You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future.”

    But now I’ve got to ask, Mark; is there a recording of your thirty minutes speaking to the students?

  2. says

    Mark, that’s a great life lesson! I believe that things happen for a reason, but then it’s up to us to look for opportunities and to be courageous enough to follow a new path we may not have considered before.

    Studying for my architect’s registration exam (in Australia) was a huge challenge for me in 2013. What I did not expect, however, was learning just how important communication skills are in order to be a successful architect. So this led me to starting a whole podcast dedicated to the topic, which has been (and continues to be) an amazing journey of discovery.

    So yes, always keep an open mind, learn to trust your instincts, and seek out opportunities in unexpected places!

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