As an Urban Planner I am often asking clients, community members, stakeholders and elected leadership to articulate their “why”. Sometimes the “why” surfaces through a series of questions or public engagement activities. In my profession, everyone I interact with has an opinion or an insight that needs to be captured, digested and turned into usable data, which eventually informs a neighborhood, municipal, district, regional plan or public space design.
When I was younger, I wanted to be a garbage man. I thought it would be really cool to cruise around town hanging off the back of the truck! I also, gave some serious thought to being a professional football player or a rock star, and when those didn’t pan out, I considered going into Psychology. However, I remembered that while I was growing up I spent many of my weekends sweeping and mopping floors at the chemical etching/metal fabrication business that my father built.
When I was an undergrad in college, I read a book that included the following statement:
The idea of social responsibility and service to others is deeply rooted in our values. National Service plays a critical role in strengthening communities across our nation. AmeriCorps members are serving in areas devastated from natural disasters, providing support in battling the opioid epidemic, working with students to improve educational outcomes, fighting hunger addressing the root causes of poverty and the list goes on.
I grew up in Amherst, NY, in the Hamlet of Snyder, where walking and riding my bike were my main means of transportation to school and work at the local public library.
Growing up, I couldn’t wait for summer. Long days, that seemed to last forever, filled with endless sports and time with friends. Then it became time to go back to school. I knew from my first day of Pre-K that it just wasn’t for me. With the exception of sports, friends, and socializing, I never would have made it. In most classes, I watched the clock slowly tick to the moment it was time to go.
Each year our company hosts a full-day retreat for everyone in the agency, which typically includes a group team building or professional development activity. Our most recent retreat featured the Everything DiSC Workplace evaluation, facilitated by a team development consulting firm (RV Rhodes, Inc.). Each of us completed the DiSC assessment prior to the retreat, and then we were able to spend a few hours that day learning about ourselves and our coworkers.
A principle in life instilled in me ever since childhood was to make positive impacts in the world I live in. A.P.J. Abdul Kalam said, “If you want to leave your footprints on the sands of time, do not drag your feet.”
Growing up, I always wanted to work with my hands, so I learned the various trades with my godfather, Brent McCalister, who also taught me the great disciplines of hard work and how to become a solid young man. I loved the skilled trades, with a preference for electrical, so I decided that was what I wanted my career to be. I began calling every electrical contractor I could find, only to realize that no one was hiring or only hiring unionized workers. With a no at every call, I was discouraged, but kept calling and eventually found someone who was willing to give me a chance.
Everyone knows that lawyers love to argue. In fact, it’s our job. While most people shy away from difficult conversations, we and other professionals see the extraordinary opportunities that lie within conflict. Confronting something head-on, like negotiating a raise or solving a dispute with a coworker, will likely feel uncomfortable and be tempting to avoid. To the contrary, however, having these difficult conversations will actually help your relationships and increase your level of trust. I learned the nuances of this practice while becoming a lawyer, but going to law school is hardly necessary for you to argue like a professional, or perfect “the triumph of dialogue.”