I’m No Longer the Golden Boy

April 16, 2014 — 75 Comments

Today is my 46th birthday – which in and of itself isn’t particularly interesting – but as I am now officially on the downward slide towards the big 5-0 there is a phrase that has been coming to mind a bit more often:

“You’re the ‘Golden Boy'”

Most people have probably heard some variation of this phrase but if you haven’t, it basically means that you are favored. This was something that I heard a lot during my first job when I was in my 20’s and professionally, things were looking pretty good. I could seemingly do no wrong and opportunities were getting handed to me left and right when the people around me were stuck doing less desirable tasks. I was the golden boy and for the life of me, I couldn’t tell you what I did to get myself in that position.

But then, something changed …

I got older.

No longer was I doing things at an age where people went “wow” … I was just doing my job. People expect me to do the sorts of things I’m doing now – I’m not special anymore … I’m certainly not “golden.” So what happens when you’re doing the things you’re supposed to be doing, the things people expect you to be doing and it’s perceived as “whatever?”

Luckily for me, I don’t care about being golden anymore, maybe having a family will do that to a person. My priorities have changed, I have life insurance now (nobody who’s “golden” has life insurance) and I spend time worrying that I’m not saving enough money to pay for an Ivy League college. Being “golden” when you’re in your 20’s and 30’s is awesome but I have to confess that I’m a lot happier now than when I was the golden boy.

Architect Bob Borson at 6 years old

I don’t see old when I look in the mirror, I see past the white hair and the wrinkles and I still see myself as that bad-ass little kid. I still love being an architect and I’m almost always excited to go to work. I come home and eat dinner with my family, we go on interesting vacations, I read books with my daughter every other night (I have to share with my better half) … there are all sorts of things that get awesome when you get older.

So, with that in mind, I’ve put this together just for you:

Top Ten Things that are Awesome about Getting Older

1. I don’t care what other people think of me as much
I’m not willing to change my opinion just because someone else disagrees with me. My need for the approval of others is now restricted to a very small ring of individuals.

2. People assume I know something
“Son, I’ve been doing this a long time …” [BARF] I heard this a lot in my early career. My opinion was discounted because I was young and lacked practical experience. The good news is that I actually do know more. Now when I chime in with something to say, people typically listen.

3. I only need 5 pairs of shoes
Brown and Black dress shoes, 2 pairs of sneakers (do people call them that or did I just date myself?), and a pair of flip-flops. Done.

4. I don’t live for myself anymore
My personal decision-making process follows a different path, one that considers if it’s good for my family and does it benefit my community. Life’s been good to me so far so I think giving back is an obligation. The only thing I was obligated to do when I was in my 20’s was to buy a round of beer every now and then.

5. My career is more stable
Well, at least as stable as a job in the architectural profession can be. I am a principle and an owner in the firm and I don’t think I’m going anywhere any time soon. Is this the goal of every working architect? It was for me and now I’ve done it.

6. I’ve figured out who I am and more importantly, who I’m not
I have accepted who I am and what I do and I’m under no delusions that I’m ever going to be a stand-up comedian. Understanding who you are is an important step in the personal development of an architect, maturity and self-awareness allows you to follow a consistent decision-making process and it’s at that moment when you finally start to develop some consistency in your work.

7. You pick your friends using different measures
I know lots of people and I consider most of them friends … but my “real friends” go above and beyond the call of duty. Those folks have to be willing to get me out of jail, loan me money, or “move the body.” Pretty happy to know that I have about 4 people who meet those requirements.

8. I brush my hair using my fingers
… Who am I kidding, I’ve always done that but unlike my 20’s, I don’t have any dippity-doo in the bathroom. At least now it’s not quite as weird that I have white hair … you try pulling that off in your 20’s, it’s hard.

9. I’m getting close to retirement
Okay, just kidding. Do architects ever retire?

10. I forgot what number 10 was.


So, happy birthday to me. Getting older is awesome. Yep … totally, totally awesome

Bob AIA signature


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  • pandix

    As an almost 40 year old, I agree with most (# 3 NEVER), #5 is a work in progress… I see myself as a 25 year old with 15 years experience (I saw that somewhere and makes sense to me)

  • Julie Howard

    Happy Birthday Bob! You may no longer be “the Golden Boy”… But you sure do have “Silver” down pat! You look better than ever! Cheers honey!

  • Rafael Gomez

    Happy Birthday Bob…46+one day…What a life !… I hope they “don’t move the body” until “…the fat lady sing” or “all your chores are finished include being an architect on our time”

  • Solange Guaida

    Happy Birthday from a regular reader! I am a couple of days from putting my second foot sqaurely in my 40’s and I like your list. I only reject #3 because… 5 pairs? Could never ever pull that off. Or want to. 😛

  • Obie Uno

    Yes! Happy Birthday to you Mr. Bob! ” you almost always like going to work?!” Yea that’s me right now. Hahah I’ve had a situation similar to your 20s and strange thing is … I’m in my late 20s. Nothing seems to wow my supervisor now. Now it’s like this” you can do the work, let’s give you more and I know you can figure it out. Draft monkey draft! (CAD drafter). I think it’s just that season. My child Is being formed right now (wife is prego) and I need a better job (firm job) cuz this isn’t cutting it. But you’re right- the older you get the more you know. Experience on resume CHECK!

    Blessings for you and your family in this comming year !

  • Deepa Jagwani

    Happy Birthday Bob! Your blogs bring sense to my life! And we’ll let the contractors figure out how to insert those 46 candles on that piece of cake! Cheers!! All the way from Abu Dhabi, UAE.

  • wjb

    Happy Birthday Bob!

    Being of the same vintage, and at a similar stage in my journey, I always read your thoughtful posts with interest and compassion. I take many things away from your random musings on Life as an Architect, and find them to be motivational and inspirational… Thank you for sharing.

    The next round’s on me!

  • rvalenz23

    Happy Birthday Bob, I have a close friend, and a boss who’s birthday is today, so I know that we could be friends as well. Your not that old….really, you always look back to see how young you really were. I’m 53, feel like a kid, and still have black hair. Bob My Friend… I’ll buy you a beer also!

  • Happy Birthday Bob!!!

  • just george

    Happy Birthday Bob!!! By gosh, in the scheme of all things architectural you’re just a young pup…like fine wine stored on its side with a real cork, architects just get better with age…that is, when they remember to nap on their side and avoid snoring with mouth open. The clarity of mission only gets better, more profound actually. The numbers will matter little, but what will really count is that turning point when you happen to view one of your early projects and wonder what in the heck was this guy thinking…
    Many cheers

  • Alexandre Catulle

    Happy Birthday from Luxembourg! Thanks you for all your advise and the inside you give to all of us, golden or silver, on the job. Keep on being yourself, don’t let the bad comments affect you (too much) and I wish to you and your family all the best.

  • Brad Feinknopf

    Happy Birthday Bob! I agree with your 10. Turned 50 in December and must admit, it feels a whole different level of old. I never have felt numbers count but, sadly they seem to. I feel much younger knowing you are merely 4 years my junior. Now you probably do feel old.

    • I am so ridiculously immature that I haven’t ever felt old. I think that’s my secret … that and limiting the amount of time I look into a mirror.

      Happy big 5-0, I’m sure that’s an interesting one. Congratulations

  • Happy birthday old friend!! And not “old friend” because we have known each other for a long time. Sorry I am not around to buy you a beer. I must disagree with 5 pairs of shoes. Really? That is just not acceptable. But I suppose that makes packing very easy.

    • I’m not a shoe guy … and since my wife has taken up the mantle of buying my clothes for me, I’m apparently not a snappy dresser guy either.

      I’ll get that beer from you sooner or later. Thanks

  • Michael Voit

    Best wishes Bob – Happy Birthday. Thanks, as always, for sharing your thoughts. This was a good one for reflection on my years (closing in on 47)…your writing brought a smile to my face, then a sudden memory brought a cringe…in the end, I settled with a bemused smirk. Such is life, I think.

    • smirk is my normal face I think, glad to hear I have a brother in smirk

  • AlmostJane

    Happy Birthday, Bob! Agree wholeheartedly with your list, especially 1, 2 and 6. Oh, and I may have a #10 for you. “I appreciate my parents exponentially and every day realize how right they were about so many things…” Have a terrific day.

    • Your right about appreciating my parents differently with every passing day. At the very least, I understand them better.

      Thanks Jane – I appreciate it.

  • Richard Q

    Happy Birthday, Bob! Turned 50 last year…not much different from 46. it keeps getting better! Enjoy your blog. Thanks for putting yourself out there.

    • glad to hear 50’s not much different than 46. By that time, I’ll probably spend more time thinking about whether or not I’ve been saving enough money.

      C’mon lottery!!

  • Mark McSwain

    Happy Birthday Bob! You have 7 months on
    me. Funny how age or the appearance of it seems to help Architects. At times in
    the past I wished I had more grey hair so clients might take my advice more
    readily (i.e. so I’d have more control over the project). And as I get
    older I feel less need to give advice and have control so hair color becomes a
    moot point. Haha. I still work on the self-acceptance part daily. And I
    too have always wanted to be an Architect since I was about 9. My first
    home plan book purchased at the grocery store had me hooked. I used to cut up the floor plans and combine
    my favorite parts into new plans. Getting my license was one of the
    greatest moments for me….when I could finally legally say I’m an Architect.
    Hope you have a great birthday. I appreciate that you put yourself
    out there with this blog. I know that takes courage. Take care.

    • Thanks Mark – passion for what we do is a common thread that so many of us architects share, at times it feels like a giant fraternity/sorority since we all have had such similar experiences. All we need know if a secret handshake!

  • EnergyVanguard

    Happy Birthday, Bob! It’s not bad after 50. In fact, I really like it.

    • Thanks Allison – glad to hear it, gives me something to work towards … and then 60, then 70, 80, etc.

      Cheers my friend, thanks for taking the time.

  • denesebottrell

    Here’s to life getting better and better, Bob. Love that you’re still inspiring and teaching and encouraging the best Life of An Architect imaginable.. the one that comes from the heart. Happy Birthday!

    • Hi Denese!! So glad to see you here, it’s been awhile. Thanks for the birthday wishes, please do some meditation and yoga and send positive vibes my way!

  • Benedikte Ranum

    Gratulerer med dagen, Bob! I’ll be 46 myself in a few weeks’ time, so I’ll bear your observations in mind for then 😉

    • Takk så mye! Jeg tror du vil håndtere 46 helt fint!

  • Heather Mackin

    Happy Birthday! Great post today…thank you!

    • Thanks Heather, I’m so glad you liked it – and thanks for the birthday wish.


  • Today is the Boss-Man’s 50th!

    And I agree with 1 and 7 whole-heartedly.

    • #7 is righteous – having some of those folks around makes all the difference in the world.

      Give the Boss-Man a high five for me

  • Congrats Bob and “Happy Birthday”!
    I’m about 7.5 laps ahead of you so I can speak authoritatively; life just keeps getting better with age! ~ You’re still golden. Keep up the good work!

    • but you look at least 15 behind …

      Thanks Collier, I appreciate you

  • Charlie Burris

    Great insights….I always said I’d die at the drafting table! Might happen at the computer these days. When my father had a stroke and became partially disabled and unable to work, I realized that there are worse outcomes. I’m good on the shoes too….sneakers? I never used that term but preferred “tennie shoes”! No hair to brush but what little there is is white! I do know more but I also know how much more I don’t know!

    • I wondered about the “knowing what you don’t know” but all the other stuff I do know makes me so much better at guessing.

      I called them tennis shoes my entire life until my wife finally got me to update it to sneakers. I think my daughter calls them “kicks”. That’s the stuff I really don’t, the new stuff. I hear songs and have no idea who it is but when I play music in the studio, nobody else knows who I’m playing. It’s all relative I suppose.

      Thanks Charlie

  • Van Bennett

    Happy B-day Bob! I turned 43 in December, and I am only now really seriously considering being an architect. I really appreciate what you said about getting older, and I believe it only gets better as one gets older. Please continue to blog. Your post are so important to us who want to be architects. Keep it up and Happy Birthday!!!

    • Thanks Van – and good luck if you decide to pursue becoming an architect. I obviously think it’s a great profession and I would gladly welcome a new member.

  • Jim Kollaer

    Happy Birthday! Many more!
    In the 60s anyone over 30 was an idiot.
    Just heard about face lifts and botox on 30 year olds in Silicon Valley because if you look over 30, you are thru in the tech world these days.
    And about knowing something…as a very wise sage once told me…The more I know, the more I know that I don’t know! Keep writing and blow out those candles while you still can without calling in the fire trucks…

  • aMa Architecture Inc

    Happy Birthday Bob! I am a year older than you and right there with you on the same page.

  • Pablo

    No boots!??? Any self-respecting Texan… lol!

    • There might be some truth to that ..
      I read recently that Fort Worth is the most country city in the entire US and that Dallas is the least country city in Texas – and they are only separated by a 25 minute drive. Next time I am riding the range or walking among the rattlers, I’ll be sure to have some boots.


  • bungalowdweller

    Happy Birthday, sir! Health, wealth, and peace of mind! Thank you for sharing you life and work so magnificently!

  • Robert Moore

    I understand that the Ford Mustang turns 50 today. I’m not sure that has anything to do with your blog but since I am way older than you “2. People assume I know something”. Happy Birthday!

    • I’ll take that, and since you’re older I’ll go ahead and concede now that you know more than me, it’s only fair (and consistent) that way.

      Cheers Robert, thanks for taking the time, I appreciate the birthday wish.

  • Patti Lynn Sharp

    You’re still a golden boy. You brighten our days with your blog so you’re still delivering “wow”. Happy Birthday!

  • Elise Moore

    Happy Birthday Bob! I turned 55 yesterday and Google gave me a special doodle. Likely you will have one as well so go Google something. Every year past zero is better than the alternative. Keep designing, keep being creative, keep on truck in’, keep on keeping on.
    Have a good one!

  • Cosmin Miron

    Happy Birthday Bob!!! May you live at least the same number of years that you proudly turn on today… I’m a big fan of your hand drawings and sketch style!

    • Thanks Cosmin! I wonder how different things will be when I’m 92? That alone is a good reason to try and stick around

  • Ken Weinert

    Happy Birthday. It’s all in the attitude. Back when I turned 50 people asked me how it felt to be a 1/2 century old. I just replied that I figured I was about 1/3 done with my life so I was just getting started.

    • hah! 1/3rd!! Somehow that seems slightly plausible with you.

      Thanks Ken – I appreciate it

  • Tim Barber

    Happy Birthday fellow Aries (04/11/56 here). As Little Feat sings “You know that you’re over the hill, when your mind makes a promise that your body can’t fill”. The solution is “STOP making those promises!”. No, architects do not retire!

    • I thought about adding a reason that mentioned that as you get older, you start paying other people to do the work you used to do … but that sounded slightly depressing.

      Happy belated birthday Tim – hope you had a terrific day!

      • Tim Barber

        As a 58 YO one man office, there is no one here to pay to do what I use to do. Currently measuring a 56,000 SF building. There are no interns here to send to do it. Thank goodness for technology for without a laser measure I would not be able to do it by myself! Life is good. I strongly suggest everyone listen to “Just another day in Paradise” by Phil Vassar to put one’s mindset in the proper perspective of dealing with life! Great song, better lyrics!

  • happy birthday bob, i share your sentiments. don’t burn down the house with that many candles…it’s bad karma for an architect (and I don’t believe in karma).

    • the office here used two candles – a 4 and a 6 because “the Fire Marshall required it”

  • joe

    happy birthday bob, so glad to hear that you are enjoying your life and your work & getting old & that’s what im going to do also !! thanks for sharing !!

  • David Conley

    Happy birthday, Bob!! I’m 54 and am going back to college to study architecture. It’s the most fun I had and especially when I’ve found that I, 1) know more than some of my teachers, and, 2) get to laugh at these youngsters and say things like, “When I was your age…” The best thing about getting older, though, is to not to forget what it was like when I was their age. Though the body grows older, the mind is still young and fresh as ever!!

    • I think you are right – my mind is still very young (some might call it immature but potato pahtahto)

      Good luck in school, glad to hear that your having fun

  • Afterdark

    Happy birthday Bob, your blog is truly inspiring!

  • Kerry Hogue

    Great post Bob. Some comments though:
    about number 1: strike “as much”. my skin is too thick and I really do not care what they think about me. I live my life of integrity and that is enough for me.
    about number 3: no flip-flops for me. Trade those for hiking boots. those and a fly rod are indispensable.
    about number 9: I am a lot closer than you. While you are still in your 40’s it is hard to visualize. I did not even take it into consideration. Once you hit the 60’s it becomes a lot more real, and then questions and doubts start chiming in.
    about number 10: there are lots of things that can fill this spot. I don’t work weekends any more, so that time is more relaxing. Coffee on the front porch reading the newspaper with the wife and dog is a great kick back. I could ramble more, but long responses are not justified.
    As always, thanks for the insightful post.

    • Kerry Hogue

      happy birthday too. Birthdays are a like a collection: the more the better.

      • both responses are great –
        I still do care what some people think, it may just be my wife, child and business partner but they REALLY count

        • Kerry Hogue

          those I agree with!

  • Andrew Q

    Happy Birthday! I am a young architect and posts like this give me hope as I deal with a lot of the things you talk about from early in your career. Thanks for sharing!

  • Doug Kuchta

    Happy Birthday!!!

  • Bill Woodhams

    Happy Birthday Bob! My start of the uphill to 40 was yesterday (31).

    • that sooooooo doesn’t count – you are still in your golden boy years!