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Back To School. What have we learned?

It’s that time of year again!

Labor Day Mattress Sale time?! No.

National Chicken Boy Day?! No.

Herry Monster’s Birthday?! No.

It’s Back to School time and this marks the 21st edition of #ArchiTalks.

Back To School

Since this month’s topic is “Back to School,” I started thinking about this transition time, what it means to kids and what it means to parents and really, what in the world we should take from all this. What have we learned?

If you have kids, they’re getting older. If you don’t, they’re not. Seems pretty simple. Is there something we can all take away from Back to School sans kids or not?

Our kids are in middle school now, so the start of this school year seemed like it would be pretty anti-climatic … but it wasn’t, really. There are always new experiences, new things to learn, new things to worry about. At least that’s what our minds tell us. Have we learned anything?


All this contemplation, that and the severe dehydration from coaching two baseball games in 90 degree heat and 85% humidity, got me thinking about … baseball.

I work with a lot of pitchers and batters. By the time these players get to high school, they think they know what they’re doing … but they don’t. Well, they do and they don’t. That’s the problem.

It’s just like that first day of school where all the new experiences and lessons and worries weigh on our minds.

These players I coach get frustrated when they can’t throw strikes or can’t hit a curve ball. To be honest, I get frustrated when they can’t throw strikes or hit a curve ball too! So, I take another trip to the mound or pull another batter aside.

I have a pretty standard question for these times: “What are you doing?”

Now, if you’ve never played baseball, the laymen’s translation to that question is something along the lines of “What have you changed? What are you doing now that’s different than when you were throwing strikes or hitting the curve ball?”

A perfectly good pitcher or hitter can go completely off the rails by thinking they need to change something. Maybe they saw something on tv or maybe one of their friends told them to try something or maybe they started compensating for something.

It doesn’t matter. They changed something and now it’s not working. It’s amazing how deep a hole they can dig.

Just yesterday, I had a frustrated pitcher tell me: “It feels like when I hop like this I’m losing a little bit of my control.” Now, I don’t want to sound like Mr. Obvious, but …

The remedy for whatever the answer to “What are you doing?” is often: “Let’s forget all that and get back to the basics.”

Let’s Get Back To The Basics

First day of school jitters can often be remedied by getting back to the basics; remembering that we’ve done this before, that we have the friends and skills and bravery to get us through.

Whether you’re an Architect (maybe like you) or you help Architects market their services (like me), we can dig some pretty deep holes (pun intended).

How many times this year have you chased a shiny object, taken your eye off the prize, forgotten what got you to where you are?

Don’t get me wrong, there’s always room for growth and improvement, but what have we learned?

In my little corner of the profession, there are endless conversations about Facebook and joining the Builder’s Association and “How do I convince someone that our firm is the best?”

What ensues are always questions like:

  • Why do you do what you do?

  • Who do you do it for?

  • What do they care about?

If you’re designing projects or leading a firm, maybe you get bogged down in figuring out what the best BIM software is or how to structure your proposals or whether barrier wall or rainscreen is the best option.

Maybe it’s time to take a step back and remember why we do what we do. Then we can take a fresh look at what we’ve learned.

Let’s get back to the basics.

Who ever heard of a hopping pitcher anyway?

This is my latest installment for the monthly #ArchiTalks series.

Every month, someone (usually Bob Borson of Life of an Architect) throws out a topic and a growing number of us in the architectural profession wax poetic (more or less) on the subject.

You can find a complete list of everyone participating in this month’s #ArchiTalks challenge below.

Did you miss last month’s articles? My latest contribution was “Architecture and a Future Without Architects

Here’s the rest of this month’s #ArchiTalks Crew and their riffs on ‘Back To School’:

Tim Ung – Journey of an Architect (@timothy_ung)
10 Things I wish I knew about Architecture School

Keith Palma – Architect’s Trace (@cogitatedesign)

Adam Denais – Defragging Architecture (@DefragArch)
[ArchiTalks #21] 10 Things Architecture Students Say Going Back to School

Jim Mehaffey – Yeoman Architect (@jamesmehaffey)
Back to School? It Doesn’t Stop there for Architects.

Jared W. Smith – Architect OWL (@ArchitectOWL)
Back to School…

Kyu Young Kim – Palo Alto Design Studio (@sokokyu)
Back to School: Seoul Studio

Jarod Hall – di’velept (@divelept)
Back to {Architecture} School

Eric Wittman – intern[life] (@rico_w)
getting [schooled] again

Sharon George – Architecture By George (@sharonraigeorge)
What’s better than architecture after school?

brady ernst – Soapbox Architect (@bradyernstAIA)
Back to the Cartography Board

Brian Paletz – The Emerging Architect (@bpaletz)
Back to School

Michael LaValley – Evolving Architect (@archivalley)
#ArchiTalks / 15 Ways to Make the Most of Your Architectural Education

Michele Grace Hottel – Michele Grace Hottel, Architect (@mghottel)
#architalks 21 “back to school”

Cormac Phalen – Cormac Phalen (@archy_type)
Back to School Again

Lora Teagarden – L² Design, LLC (@L2DesignLLC)
4 Tips As You Go Back To School

Enoch Sears – Business of Architecture (@businessofarch)
Back to school!

Bob Borson – Life of An Architect (@bobborson)

Matthew Stanfield – FiELD9: architecture (@FiELD9arch)
Designing Back to School

Marica McKeel – Studio MM (@ArchitectMM)
ArchiTalks: “Back To School”

Lee Calisti, AIA – Think Architect (@LeeCalisti)
good to go back to school

Mark R. LePage – EntreArchitect (@EntreArchitect)
Back to School: Marketing for Architects

About Jeff Echols

Jeff Echols is the creative Storyteller for Award-Winning architecture firms and the Social Media Campaign Manager for industry professionals. He is a graduate of Ball State University with over 20 years’ experience in the marketing departments of firms ranging from three to three thousand employees.

Jeff spends countless hours studying, developing and implementing strategies for insuring marketing success for Architects and other business owners in the online arena. He documents the good, the bad and the ugly in Social Media at Architect of the Internet and speaks about Conquering Social Media in venues ranging from the Board Room to the Convention Stage.


  1. Great reminder Jeff. It is easy to get caught up the latest craze without fully understanding it’s implications. But if we can keep the basics in mind and understand how changes affect the why and who, we will probably get much further with our efforts.

  2. A great reminder to get back to basics and remember why we are choosing to do what we do. Thanks Jeff.


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