“The only person you are destined to become is the person you decided to be.” Ralph Waldo Emerson
While we all have the opportunity to meet people throughout our daily lives, a common link can sometimes instantly turn strangers into teachers. The possibilities are limitless when people have the courage to connect with others. Conversations can open the way to amazing journey’s, broader roads and higher mountain tops. It’s the people we meet along the way that make life the rich, vibrant experience that it is.
In April 2014, I was introduced to architect John Coplen at a social event in Washington, D.C. During our conversation, I learned that he grew up in a family of real estate investors. Thus, John developed an early understanding of the dynamics necessary to bring great ideas to life.
After earning two degrees, he turned his enthusiasm for design toward areas as diverse as custom homes and international planning. It didn’t take me long to realize that not only was John a successful architect, but he also had a talent for coaching people in communicating their visions and helping them achieve their goals.
His excitement for making someone’s dream home a reality drove him to be a successful architect. His passion was creating a plan to make this happen. We both saw rather quickly we were speaking the same language.
I became intrigued by the powerful ability of the design process used in his industry. As I continued to learn more, it occurred to me that the architectural process was the art of intentionally creating solutions for places and products. Its elements could also be the foundation to create solutions for designing plans to fuel the visions and goals we have in our personal and professional lives.
This process went hand in hand with my desire to educate and inspire professionals. I wanted to elevate their career path to the next level by creating a blueprint of what someone would desire their success to look like and then how to build that potential into reality through self-awareness, planning and dedication.
I asked John more about the step-by-step process of building a home. He told me that the location of the home is fundamental to its long-term success. With that in mind, leaders can equate the process of building a physical structure to the process of creating an environment where one’s passion can flourish. Just as a neighborhood is master-planned, leaders can develop a place where they can pursue their passion.
John said that an architect must consider the terrain and the structures nearby. If the home is to be built near a pond, do owners want to see it from a large living room window? If the home is to be constructed among trees, how can the design of the home best capture the natural beauty surrounding it?
As leaders apply this assessment to pursuing their passion, they can begin by asking, “Where am I now?” This is simply assessing one’s work and their excitement and energy toward that work. It also brings us to the perennial question, “Are you living up to your potential or with your potential?”
I learned that an architect will next listen and learn from the homeowners exactly what they want in their new home. It’s at this point where dreams begin to take shape on paper as the initial plans are drawn.
Likewise, leaders must ask, “Where do I want to go?” and “Does my environment allow me to reach that destination?”
Leaders can create an environment in which their goals will be achieved. The environment must include other leaders and mentors who challenge and encourage them and is void of those who stand in as “energy vampires,” deterring progress.
These deterrents can often be people, but also excuses, fears and the feelings of not being good enough. Letting go of all those things that say, “No, you can’t do that,” opens the way for true success.
By taking our focus off what’s on the outside and taking an intense look at the inside, we can grow as leaders and realize what lies beyond the boundaries of the proverbial comfort zone.
John suggests creating a “vision board” that depicts both the current state and the desired outcome with the steps in between on how to get there. He even displays his personal vision board in his home as a constant reminder of his goals.
However, John’s is more like a “vision wall” as both black and white and color photos are beautifully framed and strategically balanced from floor to ceiling. As he showed his creation to me, he explained, “This is an excellent way to stay on track with my goals and reminds me not to take detours.”
Photos that symbolize goals that he’s achieved are replaced with color images, while those that still remain are in black and white.
Just as a blueprint for a home provides a rendering for the structure to be built, a vision board should depict the ultimate dream, providing direction and establishing purpose. It provides an image when external forces threaten its success.
It should be simple, clear and visual. It’s not intended to be the typically heavy and verbose visioning programs that strategic planning consultants script in great detail for large corporations.
This vision is personal and unique. It is meant to be a bold map that displays one stepping stone to the next before reaching the ultimate destiny.
An architect invests time, creativity and resources to bring a project to fruition, so must a leader be willing to take into account all that is required to achieve their purpose or vision.
It does not happen by accident no more than a house appears out of nowhere. John explained to me that drawing up plans for a home is only part of the process. It’s a piece of paper that shows what is desired. How to get there is where the heart of the project lies.
The design development phase raises the questions, “What do you need to get there?,” “Who will help you?” and “How much will you invest?” One of the most important pieces of this phase is a timeline that links the design elements together.
As John and I laid out a plan for relating the architectural process to leadership, we had taken the process of designing a home and incorporated it into a program we called “Architecting You.” The program provides the building blocks for finding one’s purpose by following their passions and tuning into one’s true calling. Nothing is more rewarding than discovering the awareness of how we are to use our talents and energy to make a greater impact.
John can now offer this program as a life design coach in addition to his architectural career. When we first met, he discovered that his true passion was getting people from where they are now to where they want to be, whether by building their dream home or developing a personal or professional plan of action. His ripple effect became much more powerful when he discovered his full potential and talents from a meeting that some could say was destiny.
Leaders like John build an environment, just like a master-planned neighborhood, where growth can thrive. This is the setting where true leadership can develop, making a long- lasting and powerful impact.
Life is filled with strangers who leave a piece of themselves with you and often we don’t realize it until much later on.
Although, I have had the amazing opportunity to experience so many amazing places in my travels, they are largely irrelevant in comparison to the people I’ve encountered who have made my life better. It’s a reminder that a simple “hello” can turn into a million things that not only can impact ourselves but so many others, as well.