Marywood University Keynote Address
Last weekend I gave a keynote address to an amazing group of architecture students and architects at Marywood University in Scranton, Pennsylvania. The event was the school’s Beaux Arts Ball. The entire speech was about 35 minutes and this excerpt represents the last 5-7 minutes. I had 3 goals for my speech:
Provide some advice.
Get them pumped up for their careers in architecture.
I have to admit that I am a big fan of the show the office. So I was extra excited to come to Scranton, PA: The home of the office.
I tried to think of a creative way that I could integrate the show, or Michael Scott into my speech, but everything I came up with just seemed really forced.
But this little exercise did take me to another place. It led me to George Costanza.
Are there any Seinfeld fans in the audience?
Some of the students may have not even been born when the show was on.
But all you need to know is that George Costanza was Jerry Seinfeld’s best friend and he was the lovable knucklehead that never seemed to get things right.
One of the funny story lines involved George pretending to be an architect. He would say he was an architect in an effort to impress people and pick up women.
In one scene George argues that there is Nothing Higher than architect.
In another, he says that Architect is the Highest of Aspirations.
And then there was the famous Guggenheim scene.
George meets a new women in a diner and she says: What do you do?
George replies: “I’m an architect.”
“Have you designed any buildings in New York?” She asks.
“Have you seen the new addition to the Guggenheim?” George replies.
“You did that?” She says.
“Yep, yep…it didn’t take very long either.” George confidently answers.
I actually said that same think go an UBER driver once. He loved it.
Now…Seinfeld was calledthe show about nothing, but I think it was a show about everything. It was a show about normal everyday experiences. And I think there is a something hidden in this little architect joke. Throughout your career you will notice that people do hold architects in high regards.
You will be at a dinner party, and the inevitable small talk will occur. Someone will say, “What do you do?” You will puff out your chest and say: “I’m an architect.”
The person is likely to respond…”Oh! That’s cool.” Some may say that they know an architect, like their neighbor or their father.
Many say, “I always wanted to be an architect, but I wasn’t good at math.” Or, “I can’t event draw a stick figure.” And some may even ask, “have you done any buildings I might know.”
I am telling you this because I want you to realize that you are a lucky group of individuals that get to do a job that many people dream about.
You get to do a job that you will have passion for.
When you have passion for your work, it’s not work.
Now it will not always be gravy. There will be ups and a lot of downs. Many of you will struggle and be frustrated as I did as a young intern. You will likely work long hours and work harder than you’ve ever worked before.
But it is so fulfilling.
As an architect your goal is to shape spaces that will improve peoples lives.
- Some of you will help families in the creation of the home of their dreams.
- Some will develop designs for 21st century schools that will help foster the development of our next great thinkers.
- Others will develop an expertise in healthcare design, providing ideal places for healing and environments for innovation.
- A very select group will become humanitarian architects, that will help in rebuilding efforts after natural disasters.
- And some of you will just design hotels….and that’s o.k.. Hey man…people need vacation.
You are a lucky bunch.
Back in Scranton
This is the 2nd time I have been to Scranton in the last 12 months. I was here just this past fall. I was here to attend a wedding of the guy on the left.
That guy is Jon Catania. He is an architect in Washington DC and a very good friend. We were best buds in architecture school and we still keep in good touch.
I want you to take a second to look at the people in this room. In a very short period, you have developed strong bonds with these folks. Cherish those.
Some of you are about to graduate and begin your careers. It is inevitable that you will create new friends and grow apart from the folks you have met here. But I urge you to never loose touch.
You peers, your friends, your family and even your teachers…..These are the people that will make your life. Whenever I used to here someone spout about the power of networking, I used to be turned off. Networking just sounded so corporate or cheesy to me.
But I now know that your network is everything. My network put me up on this stage tonight in Scranton, Pennsylania 769 miles away from Charleston. In fact my network brought me to Scranton twice in one year.
Now this is a party so what better way to end then with a toast.
As you slide down the bannister of life, may the splinters never point the wrong way. Cheers!
What did you think?
That was the conclusion to my Marywood University keynote. I think the crowd enjoyed it. I was happy to get some laughs and some applause and I also got some great feedback. A version of this speech is going to be one of the last chapters of my book, Breaking the Box: Explode Out of Architecture School to a Successful Career as an Architect. I would love to have your feedback.
If you have been wondering why I haven't been posting may Buildings Are Cool blogs it is because I have been vigorously writing the book and sharing the chapters through the Breaking the Box link at the top of this page. All of my writing and blogging energy is going to the book at this time. I will return to the Buildings Are Cool blog this summer when I complete the first draft of the book. In the meantime you can subscribe to the Breaking the Box newsletter in the link below.