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Option B: A Primer for When Life Falls Apart

Option B: A Primer for When Life Falls Apart

When Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In debuted, I was in seminary with a newborn baby and an hour and a half commute. People in my life who did not have children at home were telling me to read her book right and left. “Its so insightful!” the empty nesters told me. “Women really can have it all!” well-meaning, but childless people insisted.

Admittedly, I did not buy the book. I saw Sandberg interviewed a handful of times and thought, “I spend most of my nights getting a baby to bed. And then I fall asleep into an account of the…

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Designing Justification: A Conference Talk Preview

You would think that having a full belly, a good night’s sleep, love, and shelter is the bottom line. But it’s not. Things disappoint. Promise thrills, and expectations rise.

I wanted to play. I wanted to start. Then captain. Then Harvard (got Cornell). Then Alison, Helen, Jane, Barbara, finally Liz. Marriage became babies, then Great Kids, then adults. Degree became license, became firm. Building became awards, lectures, writing.

Now I receive justification I did not ask for. But then kicked ass to get. I never wanted to be a part of the American Institute of Architects. I helped make places to live for 25 years then my publisher made me join at 48 to sell the next book.

Then the world had a decade that said my last 25 were part of economic salvation: homes were the way everyone could be great again: forever. I helped make a place for architects who did that: and the instant I joined they asked to get me in ever deeper, running a tiny piece of the AIA.

No, I said.

I always had had my own obsessions – and soon the balloon popped. I kept on doing what I do for the last decade, but there are, now, 50% less of us doing it – like it was 20 years ago. Between 3 or 4 other booms.

But now, in 2 weeks or so, I get to be one of 3,000 of 111,000. First you need justification enough to get licensed (down to the 200,000 who have degrees), then pay $700 a year to be a member of the AIA (down to 60,000). Then a branch has a committee who reviews nominations (are you kidding?) or as per me, that committee, one of a hundred, finds the Fellow in their midst.

So, at 61, but only just after the AIA decade required for nomination, I get the verification I never sought – but always wanted, and that can never be had and go to Florida to wear a robe – 9 hours on the ground.

Doing is not satisfaction. Getting things done is not verification. Swimming to push air over your gills is not breathing.

There are infinite measures, goals, achievements: but, really, there is only one: living – being given everything – Everything – by a simple, completely unknown, Faith.

I do not think that guy asked to have his last 3 years become billions of humans 2,000 years ago. I do not know if he, in this last week, felt verification. I doubt it.

To hear Duo’s full talk, “Architect: Fellow & Failing,” join us Saturday morning, April 29, at the 10th Annual Mockingbird Conference.

As you may have read elsewhere, we have officially reached capacity for dining at the NYC conference. If you have yet to pre-register but would like to eat, please purchase your tickets ASAP and send us an email at info@mbird.com to reserve a spot on the waiting list. We’ll do all we can to accommodate everyone and will let you know as soon as your plate(s) is guaranteed. Thanks for understanding! Please note: there’s still plenty of room for those who want to attend the sessions. Last-minute walk-ins are always welcome.

The Church Built on the Rock of Hypocrisy

The Church Built on the Rock of Hypocrisy

The New York Times posted a video last month of an interview they conducted with Ray Dalio, the founder of the largest hedge fund in the world (Bridgewater Associates), and the captain of one of the more terrifying work cultures ever. Bridgewater, which manages $150 billion worldwide, preaches a work culture euphemized as “radical transparency,” a culture so monomaniacally focused on fact-checking and honesty that it goes beyond the work itself. Dalio was featured in a 2011 New Yorker profile, which introduces him in a standard weekly investment meeting with his subordinates. During that meeting he publicly upbraided a junior employee for speaking…

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I Did Not Build Me: Politics, Fragility, and the Self-Made Life

I Did Not Build Me: Politics, Fragility, and the Self-Made Life

“Look, if you’ve been successful, you didn’t get there on your own. You didn’t get there on your own… If you’ve got a business — you didn’t build that. Somebody else made that happen.”

– Barack Obama July 13, 2012

When I heard President Obama utter those words I just about lost it. Usually I view the entire freakshow of politics as an insane sidebar — but this statement, made during the 2012 presidential campaign, marked one of those moments when a candidate inadvertently got up in my kitchen. All politics is local, but in this case it got personal. For…

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Time Precious Time: On Unread Emails and Productivity Panics

Time Precious Time: On Unread Emails and Productivity Panics

Our phones were piled on top of each other on the table near the charger. Not just mine and my wife’s but those of the four friends who had dropped by for dinner. People had been showing each other photos earlier in the evening and someone had suggested we leave our devices in the kitchen while we ate. How disciplined of us!

When it was time to go, the first guest grabbed the one on top, clicked it on and… nearly jumped out of her skin. The little number next to the email icon read “2448”. Needless to say, it was…

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Never-Ending Performance Measurement & The Pitfalls of Taylorism

Never-Ending Performance Measurement & The Pitfalls of Taylorism

This one comes to us from our friend Matthew Wilkins.

I first learned about the work of Frederick Taylor in a Public Administration course I took as an undergraduate. His book, The Principles of Scientific Management, first published in 1911, signaled a seismic shift in the way companies and organizations thought about workplace efficiency.

I remember being particularly fascinated by Taylor’s project. Think about it: here was a man who took the emerging disciplines of social science and applied them to the real world. For me as a burgeoning political scientist this meant better, more efficient government and therefore better services, better…

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Playing it Safe with Consumer Reports

Playing it Safe with Consumer Reports

It’s taken a while to write this love letter. Consumer Reports has for 80 years now provided its readers with solace from the fear of getting it wrong. Its slogan, “Smarter Choices for a Better World,” says it all. Who doesn’t want to make smarter choices? And when it comes to consumer products, who doesn’t want to get a deal—or at least not screwed? When an entire display wall at the Walmart gives you 148 different plaque and tartar removal toothpastes, when your kitchen remodel is stuck between electric smoothtop and pro-style dual-fuel ranges, when you wonder whose frequent flyer…

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Flannel Antinomians and a Satisfaction Guaranteed

Flannel Antinomians and a Satisfaction Guaranteed

If the pattern keeps going, we’re going to need Ethan Richardson to write volume two of This American Gospel. Ira Glass and crew at This American Life have given us some of our favorite stories and sermon illustration over the years, and episode 591’s exploration of LL Bean’s return policy joins the ranks. If you need a frank discussion about the role of antinomians in 2016, look no further.

Check the glossary for a fuller treatment, but the short spiritual definition of an antinomian is someone who, after encountering the Gospel of love and forgiven sins, “goes rogue” with the “un-Christian…

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Hollywood Teaches Us How to Be Good Friends: A Much-Belated Review of The Intern

Hollywood Teaches Us How to Be Good Friends: A Much-Belated Review of The Intern

I inwardly sighed last week when my wife suggested that we watch the 2015 Robert De Niro and Anne Hathaway comedy The Intern on HBO Now. One has to admit there are problems with the film’s setup.

Robert De Niro plays Ben Whitaker, who is a retired, widowed, 70-year-old who spent 40 years climbing the corporate ladder at a telephone book publisher. He applies for a “senior internship”* offered by a hip start-up, About the Fit, which has set up its open-office, iMac- and MacBook-heavy workplace in the building where Ben’s factory used to make the now-obsolete phonebook. Ben gets assigned to the company’s…

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Smells Like (Dream) Team Spirit

Smells Like (Dream) Team Spirit

The first Summer Olympics I remember being fully invested in were the ’88 games in Seoul. Carl Lewis and Florence Griffith Joyner dominated the track, while Matt Biondi and Janet Evans ruled the pool. It was an exciting time to be an American, especially a pint-sized one. My nine year old self looked at these people and saw honest-to-God superheroes. I resolved that when Barcelona rolled around in ’92, I wouldn’t miss a moment.

In the weeks and months leading up to the opening ceremonies that year, one story overshadowed all others: the advent of the Dream Team, AKA the USA Olympic Men’s Basketball team. For…

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Mind Like the Raging Sea: Thoughts on David Allen’s Getting Things Done, Second Edition

Mind Like the Raging Sea: Thoughts on David Allen’s Getting Things Done, Second Edition

I’ve started reading the second edition of David Allen’s Getting Things Done, mostly because I’m due for a productivity update. If you haven’t heard of Allen’s system (abbreviated and trademarked as GTD)—well, then, you’re clearly not as efficient as you could be. I’ll pray for you.

I won’t bore you with how, specifically, GTD has allowed me to triage emails and projects and documents and presentations and travel and (shiver) networking and (throw up a little in my mouth) PowerPoint slide decks. I will say this, though: I have never successfully used my precious system outside of work. Never. I installed…

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From the Magazine: Heavy Loads in the Happy Workplace

From the Magazine: Heavy Loads in the Happy Workplace

Another look back at the Work and Play Issue. This one covering the history of happiness came from Ethan Richardson.  

“It wasn’t just about building a business. It was about building a lifestyle that was about delivering happiness to everyone, including ourselves.”

So says Tony Hsieh, internet entrepreneur, venture capitalist, and CEO of Zappos.com. Hsieh is the author of the bestseller Delivering Happiness: A Path to Profits, Passion and Purpose and has just spent the last three years on his most ambitious venture yet. It is called the Downtown Project, a redevelopment ‘Techtopia’ in the middle of downtown Las Vegas—a $350…

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