I spend a lot of time in the shower, it’s where I do some of my best thinking. I’m not really sure why, my shower isn’t all that relaxing (Master Shower: You Displease Me), and finding time to be alone with my thoughts isn’t hard either; I don’t have any problems getting inside my own head (I think I spend a little too much time in there). All I know is that 90% of the posts and presentations I have prepared over the last 4 years have come together while standing in the shower, staring at the cinnamon toast crunch colored tile patterns opposite the shower head.
Lately, most of my thoughts have been focused on the idea of integrity. When I was thinking through a presentation I recently gave on Leadership, the idea of integrity came up a lot and I kept circling back around to the question “What does integrity mean to me and does my being an architect influence my own understanding of the word?”
Generically speaking, ‘Integrity‘ is about honesty, character, virtue, morality, etc. and then building your own moral code surrounding your understanding of those principles. I think we all know the difference between right and wrong, good and bad, but when “hard” and “easy” get introduced into the mix, things start getting tricky for most people – present company included.
Frequently, my blog is at the center of my presentations I give – mostly because that’s how everybody seems to know me – and there is a wealth of information on this site that has taken me 4 1/2 years to think through and assemble. During my last presentation on Leadership, I spoke about how important it is to be yourself. In the early days of writing this blog, I realized I couldn’t pretend to be something I’m not despite my fear of looking like an idiot to my family, colleagues, and extended peer group. I didn’t come to this decision for any altruistic reasons, I just know that I’m not clever enough to maintain that sort of charade and that pretending to be something you’re not will eventually be discovered … and what happens that moment finally happens? [shudder] No, better to present yourself as you are and hope that things work out for the best. It starts with being honest with yourself and then extending that out to others – sort of “say what you mean and mean what you say and then do what you say” manner of moving through life.
I have wondered if personal integrity has to do with a person’s predisposition – you either have it or you do not. Maybe it’s just a matter of your character, although I sort of doubt it. Is integrity something you can teach? I’m more likely to lean towards the idea that your personal integrity starts through the exposure and observance of your role models – your parents, your social groups, your faith, etc. These days, I am of a mind to think that self-awareness and accountability will most likely highlight any areas where you are lacking, whether or not you feel compelled to make a change. All people have integrity, it’s just a matter of how important it is to them that they maintain it.
I have long thought that architects are within a profession that is highly associated with personal integrity. More times than not, most architects will make a decision to their own personal detriment, and will step away from a process that will yield an undesirable result, or at least one that is in conflict with their own beliefs. Most architects aren’t motivated by financial rewards to the same level as other highly educated individuals, and most architects endeavor to leave the world and their environment in a better place then how they found it.
So are we predisposed to tilt our predilections this way and as a result, find ourselves in the profession of architecture? I knew I wanted to be an architect from the age of 5 … so did the way my brain is wired somehow determine how my life and career would unfold? Probably.
So, the question I ask myself a lot is: Am I making things better? So far I haven’t been able to answer that question in such a way that I’ve stopped asking it of myself.
My behavior now is extremely public and while I will always be myself, I’d be lying if I told you that I share the bad stuff that’s going on as much as the good stuff – I try to keep things upbeat around here, or at the least, somewhat productive. I am very proud of the Life of an Architect Playhouse Design Competition and what we’ve been able to do … but could I be doing more? Of course I could. I try to answer as many questions and respond to as many emails as possible but could I do more? No question … but I still like watching TV and reading books, going out to eat with my family, playing in the pool with my daughter, all sorts of things that take me away from doing things that others could benefit from … but there has to be some sort of balance, right? I don’t think that anyone would begrudge me spending times on these activities, and I don’t think that these sacrifices for self interest are eroding my self respect.
Waste no more time arguing about what a good man should be. Be One
– Marcus Aurelius [from the book ‘Meditations’]
So I’m still where I started off, asking the question “Am I making things better?”
Maybe that is the most important question we all could be asking of ourselves.