Responsibility: Don’t Be a Dunce

September 16, 2013 — 24 Comments

Did you know that the word “dunce” is meant to refer to someone who is a slow learner? It is slightly less disparaging than being called dumb or stupid but no matter how you look at it, it’s not a compliment.

I spend a considerable amount of time worrying that I am a dunce, or at least that I might come off as one here on Life of an Architect. I didn’t start worrying about my mental abilities until January 14, 2010 otherwise known as “the day I launched this website”. Let me tell you, it can be debilitating to put yourself and your opinions out into the public forum for scrutiny and evaluation. In the early days, I agonized over every topic, every phrase, how was my grammar?!? It was a frightening moment every time I went to hit “publish” … even after spending 4 to 8 hours on every single post I wrote.

Eventually I got over that. Maybe it was out of mental self-preservation … I don’t think I could have continued with this site if I didn’t learn to stop worrying and love the blog. [for the record, I despise the word blog, I prefer the term “Outlets for Creative Interpretative Letter Arrangement”]

About 30 minutes before I sat down to write this post, I received a phone call from a television production company who is interested in having me participate in a new program they are putting together. Sounds pretty exciting, right? After my initial “wow” wore off, my brain got busy trying to ruin things by thinking:

What if I suck and I’m exposed as an incompetent nincompoop?

I’m way too heavy for the camera [I hear it adds at least 40 pounds]

Don’t they know that I have white hair? The lighting and camera guys are going to complain constantly 

The list of insecurities that bubble up to the surface whenever you decide to step outside your bubble can be staggering. I don’t think I’m alone in feeling this way, I’ve just decided that it would be more interesting to see what would happen if I did decide to remove myself from the protective cocoon of people who have decided that they either like or tolerate my obvious deficiencies.

Dunce Cap

So now that I’ve thrown caution to the wind – and the site has experienced inexplicable growth and visibility – I have started to think more and more about the responsibility I have to the architectural profession about how I carry myself online. No pressure … uhm, have you met me? I am the most immature 45 39 year old you might ever meet in your life.

Make no mistake, I am not particularly special, I am just observant and have good timing. I am surrounded by architects who constantly amaze me with how smart, funny and talented they are … I want to be like those people! But wait, that’s right … those people don’t have blogs. In a moment of brutal transparency I am going to admit that the reason I get more attention than those people is not because I’m smarter, funnier, or more talented, it’s because I’m easier to find. And since I am so easy to find, should I be thinking about how my behavior might reflect upon the people in my profession? Really?!?

Okay, If that’s true, that’s a lot of pressure … don’t screw that up Borson, you could ruin this for EVERYBODY. It probably doesn’t help my state of mind to know that for the second year in a row, I have been asked to run the Digitial Communications and New Media Committee for the Texas Society of Architects. What makes me qualified to chair this committee? It’s because of ‘Life of an Architect’ and the fruit of what I started January 14, 2010.

Wow – I had no idea that’s what I was signing up for when I started blogging three years ago. It’s possible that nobody cares … I mean, it’s not like every architect even knows who I am and therefore has an opinion about me and what I’m doing, For all they know, this online form of communicating is a fad. Back in December of 2012, Architectural Record said this blog was one of the 10 Architecture Firm Blogs to Watch in 2013 – their exact words were:

Even though we’re staring into the gaping maw of 2013, it feels like the early aughts on Life of an Architect. [ … ] Bob Borson treats his digital diary in the confessional and modest manner that the blog format originally intended. The Dallas-based architect’s discussion of materials, the occasional existential dilemma, and other day-to-day scenes should be relatable to most working professionals.
Architectural Record Dec’ 2012

I suppose this post falls into the “existential dilemma” category but it’s one I think deserves some for consideration. I’m not trying to suggest that blogs outlets for creative Interpretative letter arrangements are important, since you are reading this post, that would be me preaching to the choir. I do however think they serve a purpose – and my purpose has been to add some transparency to what this architect does, help people understand why I think what I do is important, and why I think working with me should be a rewarding experience.

So in the end, what this all comes down to, is that putting yourself out there for possible embarrassment and ridicule is also the same path as exposure, opportunity and enlightenment. That’s right, the single biggest negative reason to putting yourself out there is also one of the best reasons for putting yourself out there. What to do … it should be obvious by now.

Happy outlets for creative interpretive letter arrangement!

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  • Marilia Reis

    It seems like you give life everything you can; as an architect, as a human.
    Being an undergraduate student, to pay attention to someone who shows himself so sincerely is very reassuring about the path I want for me.

    You write in a way that is very pleasant to read!
    And what I think is most beautiful is to notice how many people would like to work with you, instead of showing a distant appreciation for your designs. I think this means a lot.

    Nice! I am happy to have read all this.

    • Thanks Marilia – I appreciate you taking the time to leave me such a supportive comment.


  • Dans Skelli

    Hi Bob! I found you today because of your post on “how to pick the right paint finish” and here I am. Thank you for that 🙂
    Your blog is super! I am an architect and I must say that we are far too serious, at least every architect I know is too set up to remember the fun way of embracing architecture.
    So I like your style! And I would enjoy lots working with you.
    Keep it like it is with no fear, transparent and simple.

  • Mark Mc Swain

    Life has a way of reminding me I’m a dunce on a regular basis.
    Sometimes this is for the better; sometimes it is for the worse.
    Today was a bit too much of the latter than the former–one od the wages of expediency. I really need to be back in architecture proper, where I actually might be useful from day one in an office. Where the learning curve would be more about where the supply closet is, and how the billable hours diaries are kept and the like.
    Instead, I’m a dunce for not yet knowing the intircaies of a custom casework shop and the twenty years they have been refining those idiosyncracies.

  • Paul Scharnett

    “I am just observant and have good timing.”

    Aren’t those the key ingredients in 99.9% of life, Bob? Good luck on your program!

    • Thanks Paul – considering that you left this comment 4 months ago, maybe I’m NOT that observant and my timing is questionable …


  • Julie Howard

    I agree with MarvinOne… It seems to be an existential day. But then I never seem to feel 100% confident on anything… I’ll Dunce with you anyday Bob! and BTW – we are the same — age… lol! Keep up with the crazy/fun/real blog!! I love what you are doing honey!!

    • Very kind of you to say, but I am at the same mamturity level as I was in 1986 – I’m sure you’ve moved beyond me a substantial amount. It’s been so long since we’ve been in the same room I regret not being able to steal a few moments last time I was in Paris. I think the work you are doing is terrific

      • Julie Howard

        Nope Bob… Unfortunately my maturity level in unenhanced…Nobody ever really tells things as they are. Unless over a bunch of super bon vin!! So If you want the REALDEAL… you will have to come over one of these days and chew the fat a bit over yummiesandbubbles!!

        • we’ll make that happen – hopefully sooner rather than later. We looked at flights to come to Paris this winter but tickets were crazy!

          • Julie Howard

            Tell me about it! I’m coming to Texas with the WHOLE family this Christmas!!!! YIKES! Can I write it off as a buisness trip if we meet up to talk about MY life as an architect??!!

  • MarvinOne

    Bob – I feel like a dunce every single day. And today’s worse than most, so thanks for once again writing a very timely blog to help me through the rest of my day!

    • Either I am able to channel the kosmic chi and coordinate these posts just for you or we’re on the same cycle with one another.

      right – probably one of those two

  • Tamra Arch

    Well then, Congratulations on this blog and you know, all the glamour and fame you are awarded, it’s nice to have a blog isn’t it ? I’ve always thought of starting my own blog, but I’m thinking it better be more personal than related to my life as an architect, even though the architect has no life outside this field, am I right ? however, I don’t know how or where to start, It’s seems hard, somehow you do realize that you can always guilt free postpone lunching your blog, “tomorrow” and “next spring break” sound tempting and comforting, why the rush ?

    • Part of what makes all this work is that you have to push yourself – HAVE TO.

      The hardest things in life once accomplished are always the most rewarding. If it’s something that you can push off, then there’s no importance assigned to the time spent doing whatever it is. It’s hard coming up with things to regularly post on the site but I have made it a priority to publish twice a week. I managed 3 times a week for the first two years and once I hit that milestone I decided it was okay to slow down.

      You just have to do it … so do it. I know you can.

  • Roxanne Button

    Phew, so I’m not the only one! It’s precisely that fear and self-doubt that keep me from posting more often on my own blog. OMG, what if someone reads it?!! I have dozens of unfinished (and a few finished) blog posts, and most will never be put “out there”. I keep second-guessing myself every time I’m about to hit the “publish” button.

    • hopefully this post will be the gentle push you need to put yourself out there. It has never ceased to amaze me how people people are out there that think just like I do – discovering that was one of the ways that helped me push through my concerns and hit the “publish” button.

  • It’s these thoughts that keep me from posting my content in other places such as LinkedIn where I know my peers will be reading it. Out of a hundred plus blog posts, maybe only a dozen have been advertised in other places other than twitter.

    I show confidence of my knowledge and experience in everyday face to face actions, however when it comes to publishing and advertising my content, I hesitate and question everything.

    • Gotta take the plunge. One thing that I am fairly proud of is that the community of people who comment on this site are generally very warm and keep things positive. I think that sort of environment lends itself to people putting their thoughts out there for others. Generally speaking, nobody gets baked for leaving a comment here.

  • Kat

    Love the photo! Did Kate help you with the hat? (although it is completely devoid of glitter)

    • I took that picture by myself when nobody else was in the house … taking a picture of yourself as a dunce actually contributes to the “dunce” feeling.

  • Amen Bob well said! I’ve heard this called the “imposter syndrome” – the self doubt that plagues each and every one of us. I’ll wager that each day when Barack Obama gets up and looks at himself in the mirror as he adjusts his tie he questions his right to command the authority of the US. The key is to not give in to that little voice – obviously you don’t.

    As for the white hair, those camera guys are pros.

    • let’s hope they’re pro’s, I would need all the help I could get in the “appearance” category. I have a face built for Morse code.

      Thanks for the comment