At one time or another you were probably aware of where your children fell on the “growth chart.”
Naturally, as parents, we wonder (or worry) if our children are normal. Are they falling behind? Or, are they jumping too far ahead of those curves? We think up horror stories of how they will not fit in… or measure up.
At the same time, we are thanking God that they are simply healthy. And sometimes they are not. That's when the real soul searching begins. All of these things change our lives, and (almost) always for the better.
For children, Growth is inevitable. It does not always happen when and where you want it (or expect it), but it is there all the same. And most importantly, growth is never limited to size.
“When I grow up I will be tall enough to reach the branches that I need to reach to climb the trees you get to climb when you're grown up.” – Tommy (When I Grow Up, lyrics by Tim Minchin)
I remember that day, vividly. The questions…
“So, tell us why we should select a larger, busier, more established firm? We see your projects everywhere. How are you able to handle so many jobs at once? Who would really be doing the design work on our home?”
I was sitting across the table from a couple (who also happened to be a prospective client). We were in the sales office at Palmetto Bluff. There was nothing unusual about the day. The weather was not notable. The setting was very familiar. The time of day was normal. The introductions went the same way they always do. Even the coffee tasted, well… as I had expected.
The clients’ had their usual, familiar mix of questions about design, planning, budgets, and local knowledge. Every one of my answers was honest, and came easily. In all regards, it was the perfect interview.
Right up until then, the moment those questions came, the realization that followed. We were no longer the small, hungry, upstart company that we once were.
It is not as though the questions weren’t valid, or fair. They were. And the perspective clients were well within their right to ask them. Still, for some reason, they had hit me much harder than I expected.
In fairness, we had (by then) been practicing as Court Atkins Architects for years. We had developed a great team. No, it was an amazing team. We had successfully navigated the recession better than most. We were fully back on our feet. We had been blessed with fantastic clients. We had developed a beautiful portfolio. We had a sound business plan. We were very proud of our accomplishments. In fact, we had… become the “larger, busier, more established firm.”
We had Grown.
We lost that job. As an aside, I hate losing jobs, especially good jobs. But this one was a blessing. This job had taught us to look at our surroundings and understand what (or more importantly, who) are strengths truly were.
“When I grow up I will be smart enough to answer all the questions that you need to know the answers to before you're grown up.” – Tommy and Reginald (When I Grow Up, lyrics by Tim Minchin)
This past summer my children (like many others) traveled. They traveled without their parents. They attended amazing summer camps. And more importantly, they learned from people who were not their teachers, or their parents.
My eleven-year-old daughter is roughly the same age as our studio. She left a week before the end of her school year in May and did not return to her own bed until August, roughly a week before 6th grade started.
She (like many others) was nervous, and shy, and at ease, and outgoing… all at once. She had experienced life (both planned and unplanned) all without the safety net we normally provide.
She returned home… different. She had Grown.
“When I grow up I will be brave enough to fight the creatures that you have to fight beneath the bed each night to be a grown-up.” – Jenny (When I Grow Up, lyrics by Tim Minchin)
A studio is very much a living thing… Each year it is different. It changes, it grows.
For example, the make-up of our current studio is often very similar to that of a 6th grade classroom. We are (at times) nervous, and shy, and at ease, and outgoing… all at once. As we grow, we have developed a personality, a juvenile sense of humor, a rich culture, and a sense of vibrancy that cannot be duplicated.
We have team members that range in age from 20 to 75 years. Each of us is still growing, and that growth is unmistakable. The truth is, at Court Atkins the “studio” is no longer just about William (Court) and James (Atkins). In fact, it has not been for a very, very long time.
For our clients… It is about the Project Managers that stay late on Fridays to make sure every last weekly report gets emailed. It is about the Project Leaders and Designers that obsess over the details and coordinate with consultants to make sure our clients and contractors have what they need in real time. It is about the Design Directors and artists that help shape the character of every project we touch. It is about the best Administrative team in the world, scheduling tirelessly, offering friendly advice, answering questions, finding directions, and (sometimes) even making reservations for dinner.
Oh, by the way, our studio also has feelings (boy, does it ever have feelings).
“When I grow up I will be strong enough to carry all the heavy things you have to haul around with you when you're a grown-up.” – Eric and Alice (When I Grow Up, lyrics by Tim Minchin)
Fortunately, or unfortunately, I think all parents are (at least a little) OCD. I am by no means an exception to this rule. If anything, I am its poster child.
We worry, which seems to come quite naturally. We read books on what to expect and when to expect it. We rely on our parents for advice and our friends for counsel. We pray for guidance. And when all else fails we either “Google” for the answer, or simply make it up as we go along.
With our children, we lose our tempers. We act irrationally. We raise our voices. We make bad decisions. We don’t listen to advice. We hurt feelings. And then… we often Learn more from the experiences than they do.
And still, our children want to learn from us. They hunger for information. They want to understand what lies ahead. When everything seems unreasonable, or everything is stacked against them, they need something to ground them. They need something that is bigger than the world around them appears to be. They want to know that there is someone who is smarter, more capable, and more loving. And they want it to be us.
This is the harsh reality of Growth. They want to grow (ALWAYS too quickly) and we want to slow the process down (usually too much).
I do not want to leave you with the impression that I am somehow the “grown up” in this parable, or that I am the one teaching. It is very much the opposite.
Whether it is when we are acting as a Father, or as a Mother, or as a Son, or as a Daughter, or as an Employer, or as an Employee… I hope we are still growing. I hope we are still learning. But it is hard work.
“Most people don't grow up. Most people age. They find parking spaces, honor their credit cards, get married, have children, and call that maturity. What that is, is aging.” – Maya Angelou
This month we are officially opening the doors of our new Interior Design studio. The 501 South Studio is a beautiful space and it is a reflection of the ongoing design talents of Deb and Adrienne. We are very proud of it, but… we are more proud of them. You see, our “studios” are not really about the physical spaces, or their locations. They are about the people that occupy them.
For that reason, this month we are also going through a bit of a name change…
We have the greatest Group of dynamic, creative energy one could hope to find, anywhere. Sometimes it is hard to step back and absorb how we have grown. I will leave you with this:
The definition of synergy is the interaction of multiple elements (people) that produce an effect that is FAR greater than the sum of their individual parts. I honestly believe that is how our group has been able to “grow up”.
If you have not already met us, I would like to introduce you to the Court Atkins Group.