Building Connections with Q&A

Have you been to Quora

Last week I discovered the question and answer network that allows both curious minds to endlessly question everything as well as industry experts to share their experiences and advice via a simple, tailored social site. 

The Silicon Valley based platform, who's office happens to be just a couple blocks down from my firm, put together the smart space centered around shared knowledge in 2008 and I dig it. The endless abundance of solid answers spans from ridiculous to technical to existential and everything in between. The thought leaders sharing their tips and tidbits are reason alone to get involved. I'm starting to think about this space as a great networking tool - hunting out those with the best answers and thought-provoking questions in the architectural realm. I found this article to be helpful: 10 Tips on Using Quora for Business. 

I've also used this as a platform to get myself writing again as I gear up for 2016 goals. I'd like to share a couple of my favorite interactions of the week (answers are mine):

Q: What should I do if I find life a meaningless pursuit?

A:  There are a lot of really great answers here and while I generally agree with many of the sentiments, I'd like to offer something different.

Life is meaningless. In the grand scheme of all that is, you mean nothing. You will die and be forgotten. In a universe so old and large, infinite, our blips of life virtually don't exist. Even if you achieve the highest level of infamy in this life, who you are and what you do will always be irrelevant.

That could be very depressing, discouraging, and disabling news. 
Or maybe it's the most freeing acceptance of absolute truths there is.

If there is no beginning and no end and everything will be regardless of you, then what's left? Nothing. And yet, everything. You have no limits, no rules, no expectations, no formulas, no boundaries. You need no validation or permission. You are free.

What should you do? I think you already know. Do whatever you want, or nothing. It doesn't matter, it just is.

. . .

Q:  What made you want to pursue a degree in architecture?

A:  As a high school student I wasn't very concerned about picking a major. I'm not sure why but I'm glad that was the case. It allowed me to listen to the suggestions of those wiser than me, and spend time understanding myself without overwhelming pressure.

My path to architecture, when I think back, began very young. Since I could hold a crayon I've been sketching homes, landscapes, dreamscapes, etc, and I spent every day of my childhood building elaborate forts. I remember asking my mom if we could build a real playhouse in the backyard. When she said yes I presented her with my design which turned out to be a full 2-story residence. She proposed a vinyl tent instead. We never came to an agreement - maybe it was then that I subconsciously decided to pursue architecture so I could build whatever I wanted. I was a stubborn child.

Senior year I was fortunate to have an amazing physics teacher, Mr. Hoffman. He held extra classes on Monday nights with giant pizzas for us nerds who were curious about things like how much damage we could do with a ray gun made from the compressed energy of an elephant. We would dry ice skate down the halls and visualize music (sound waves) with flames. I was inspired by his child-like love for what he did and his own unending quest to learn. I still have profound respect for that man.

One day in class he noticed me drawing. I was in a phase where I did these strange, surreal pen and ink pieces inspired by my nightmares. He walked over and complimented my work, and asked if I had read The Fountainhead. I picked it up that day and didn't put it down until I was done. It wasn't so much the book, though I really did identify with Howard Roark in a way (probably that stubbornness again), but the man who suggested it that hit a chord. I still have no idea what he saw in that moment that made him think architect, but he was right.

Everything after that moment led fairly directly to where I am now. Like Tammy, I took a career test and architect was at the top. I started to remember the moments like I described above from when I was young. I recognized my unique talent for both art and science was a perfect fit for the profession. I started thinking about the influence and impact I could have as an architect. The funny part is, I hated buildings. But that's another, long story. 

I suppose what I'm saying is find a mentor. It might be through asking to shadow a practicing architect, or just listening to the wisdom of someone you respect, someone that has made a career out of doing what they love. You could read books, visit cities, watch TED talks (highly recommend), but ultimately, someone who knows you and can help you make the connections is the best way to go. Trust in the guidance of others, and listen to your gut.

. . . 

Sign up if you're not on it yet. And hey, while you're at it, I have a question I'd love answered....

How would we design differently if time weren't perceived linearly?

Never stop asking questions.