A Landscape Architect’s Reflections

One of my favorite quotes comes from a great mind from my youth, Ferris Bueller, “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it”. At JWZ we’ve been working towards improving ourselves and our business. We are accomplishing this by implementing the strategies and systems we’ve learned from our business coach, Nathan. I personally have had several recent learning opportunities which have helped make me a better landscape architect, a better employee and manager, but most importantly a better person.

I had the opportunity to attend the ASLA national conference in Phoenix, AZ. I appreciate the opportunity to learn from those who have paved the way to bring credibility and recognition to my chosen profession. At the conference, a few of the notable lessons I was reminded of include:

  • Expectations don’t define themselves.
  • Human capital is the core of our business.
  • Create a good, solid plan, then TRUST THE PLAN.
  • Surround yourself with those that have strengths that you don’t have.
  • Focus on who you are – don’t try to be everything to everyone everywhere.
  • Maintain your level of quality and don’t compromise relationships.

I became a landscape architect, in part, to contribute to the improvement of the environments in which we live. I find great satisfaction in seeing children explore play areas or families having a picnic in a park in which I was a part of the design; or seeing a moment in someone’s life when they are reflecting in the quiet solitude of a meditation garden at a local hospital. In the past few years, on multiple occasions, I’ve spent many hours in the gardens and courtyards I designed at Spring Valley Hospital, not as a designer, but as a patron.

I’ve learned several new strategies and techniques through our business coaching sessions. Recently, I was reinvigorated and motivated by Brad Sugars presentation at the Business is Booming seminar. One of my favorite quotes of the evening was “If you motivate an idiot, they just do stupid things faster … education is the key.” Other lessons learned included:

  • The difference between those that have written goals and those that do not is about one hour.
  • If you don’t take the time to celebrate your successes, with your team, all you will see are the fires and problems – eventually you will hate your business.
  • Work harder on yourself than you do on your job.
  • Build a great team. If you train your people they might leave, but if you don’t train them, they will stay.
  • Stop wishing things were easier, and start making yourself better.

The lesson that stuck with me the most was that we are all in the business of relationships. Creating and improving relationships is the key not only in business, but in every aspect of our lives. I’ve spent a significant amount of time with my extended family, including my 90 year old grandmother. While it is difficult to see this hard working, vibrant, strong woman now in her later years – her health declining; I know she has lived a full, meaningful life. She has made a difference in the lives of those who know her, especially mine. After spending considerable time with her, I’ve come to more fully realize the value of living a life which embraces each of the moments we are afforded to their fullest – to not take the opportunities we are given for granted.

Reflecting on each of these unique events it has struck me how these lessons are truly intertwined. It is not about living each day as if it were the last, as that would lead to wanton disregard for the future; rather embrace each given opportunity and be present in the moment, maintaining perspective on the bigger picture of what really is important in life. I am grateful for the relationships I have with those around me, and for the perspective I try to keep as the barometer for not only the decisions in my life, but how I respond.

-Chris L.