Happiness at TEDˣ and RDM
September 1, 2011
by Rick McDermott, Principal
After attending the TEDˣ - KC event at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art last month, I couldn't help but reflect on many of the fascinating speakers and their not-so-ordinary perspective on ordinary subjects.....like happiness. The subject kept me thinking for weeks after the event was over (no doubt their goal).
The talk was based on the book, Delivering Happiness. A Path To Profits, Passion and Purpose, by Tony Hsieh, the CEO of the ultra successful Zappos.com (sold recently to Amazon for a mere $1.2 billion). Regardless of the many differences between an online shoe company in Nevada and a Kansas City-based architectural firm, there must surely be some common ground.
Looking back over my 30+ years in business, I can see the origins of happiness coming from a number of directions, but three BIG areas jump out at me.
First, I love to make our clients happy. Their happiness blossoms when we design a space that alters their lives. Whether it is a screened in porch that extends their living area, a laundry room eked out of some unused space, a dream home designed from scratch, or a commercial property that helps our clients meet their business objectives - architecture has the power to make a difference. And that makes me happy.
Secondly, mentoring young architects continues to give me great pleasure. As they say, you can't take it with you. So the knowledge I have acquired over the years is best shared --- from how to listen to what clients say to working with municipal organizations (Architectural Review Boards, Historical Landmark Commissions, etc.). I almost never turn down the chance to interview eager young minds, hungry for work and passionate about their own abilities to shape their communities. As President of the Kansas City Architectural Foundation Board, I have participated in the awards process for college scholarships, and was rewarded by the experience of setting other's careers in motion. I hope this next generation of architects pay it forward - and find happiness in helping others when the time is right.
Thirdly, I am proud that my profession makes such a positive contribution to our environment. Architects across the country are leading the way in sustainable design and development, in both big and small ways. The U.S. Green Building Council's Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification program has helped formalize and fuel architects' contribution in this area in the past decade. Industry leaders, such as Bob Berkebile from the Kansas City firm BNIM, have also made tremendous contributions to the green movement and inspired RDM Architecture to follow suit. Solar panels, harvesting rainwater from rooftops, geo-thermal heating, re-using or donating unwanted building materials (see Heartland Habitat's ReStore), are all ways the RDM Architecture projects help make a difference. And that makes us happy.
So thanks TEDˣ - KC. For forcing me to take some time to reflect on the purpose of the firm, the passion that continues to drive me and my staff, and the HAPPY factor that has helped RDM Architecture be a profitable and personally rewarding place to work.