One of the reasons I enjoy taking on hosting this blog for November is the opportunity to do something… different… particularly around the national holiday we just celebrated. It usually borders on whimsy or sentimentality, and this year we’re going with sentimentality.
This month I celebrate my 10th year with TSP, and this year is my 12th year since graduating with my architecture degree and entering into the professional world. I’ve been blessed to have a number of successes – finding a job in small market in what was still a tough architecture economy in 2011 to kick it off. I’m thankful to Brad and the gang at Van De Walle for the opportunity to get my foot in the door of architectural practice and learn just how much I didn’t know.
I’m thankful for the opportunities I’ve been blessed with at TSP to demonstrate my perspective, my skill, and my dedication to our clients and our projects, and thankful that it has been recognized to place me in a position of leadership within the firm.
I’m now (too quickly) approaching 40, and while that is still counted as young by many, I count a vast number of professional failures as blessings as well, as they are the experiences that have taught me the most, given me some grey hairs and, more importantly, developed a certain wisdom. They are what has helped me learn quickly and, while I’m still considered a “young” architect by the profession, I’m cognizant enough to realize that the quality (not quantity) of my experience is different than others, and it puts me into a more senior role than many 30-somethings.
While this post isn’t intended to pronounce some climax or culmination of my career in any sense, I must constantly remind myself that I am blessed to have achieved success. In this world of social media, the temptation to compare is ever present. A quick looks at what some of my classmates are doing and its easy to lose vision of how I’ve defined success. I’m not running a company, I’m not the best designer out there, I’m not the highest paid architect, I’m not at the biggest firm, not working in a major city, nothing like that, but I’m successful. How do I measure that? Sure, I have fulfilling purposeful work/projects. Sure, I am able to provide enough for my family. Sure, I have even helped guide some projects to achieve some juror’s approval for a design award or two. Sure, I have clients who really enjoy working with me and are really happy with their buildings
My biggest success is my family. My riches are my children, my rock my wife. And included in that success is the blessing of life-work balance – the ability to be involved, frequently, with the upbringing of my children and presence with my family. I read too often that success (or at least what is deemed as success) and life-work balance in architectural practice aren’t complementary. The challenge there is to redefine success. I purposely write “life-work” as opposed to “work-life” to give emphasis and priority to life, rather than work. Success is good work-planning so that you can go home at night, not consistently putting in 60 hours weeks. Success is helping clients understand that we have lives outside of the office as well. Success is towing the line between excellence in the profession without your life becoming ONLY the profession. Or, in another sense, success is being “in” the world but not “of” the world.
So, I’m thankful for the processes and people at TSP that allow us all to spread the load and achieve a proper life-work balance. I’m thankful to my wife who keeps our young family on track so I can take the time to provide for us, and then seamlessly jump back in to family life when I’m done at the office. And I’m thankful for my children, who have provided me more purpose than any career aspirations could ever provide.
Now, I leave you with some words that echo the same sentiment, said by a guy who apparently has it figured out too – Harrison Butker, kicker for the Kansas City Chiefs. It wouldn’t be November if I didn’t mention football in one of my posts! Butker kicked the game-winning field goal in last year’s super bowl. He also hasn’t missed a kick yet this year. He’s on my work-league fantasy football team because he is excellent at his role in life, even though he isn’t the “highest-scoring” kicker (at least for Fantasy Football purposes). If you haven’t experienced the video below, he talks about the “ring” that is most important to him, and – spoiler alert – it’s not his super-bowl ring.
“…I would have you wise as to what is good and guileless as to what is evil” Rm 16:19c
Chase Kramer, AIA, is the Director of Design for TSP Inc. in Sioux Falls. He received his M.Arch from ISU where he focused on urban design and sustainability. Before that, he received a degree in Art from Augustana University. He lives in Sioux Falls with his wife and four children. Beyond Architecture, he is an AI early adopter, musician, art lover, and fan of cheese and beer.