the mere mention of the word brings me immediately back to the Elmwood School playground—the broken pieces of asphalt under my feet, that inner boing sound those pink dodge balls make when they hit the hard surface before hitting a soft kid, the scratchy brick on my back as I lean against the school wall to protect at least one side of my body and the snickering as the class fancy pants swishes her butt by in her new Jordache Jeans…“Like gag (the OMG of the 80’s) she’s soooo egotistical” we would convulse.
As that was my foundation for ego, I thought I should take a more mature approach when invited by Paul Reidt and John Kilfoyle to speak on the B/A/D Talks panel entitled: EGO AND POWER IN THE DESIGN PROCESS, so I decided to look up ego:
e·go, ˈēɡō/ noun a person’s sense of self-esteem or self-importance.
Oh heck, okay, what is self esteem?
self-es·teem, noun confidence in one’s own worth or abilities;
Ahhhh. Worth. The level at which I am rated or valued. What is my own sense of worth? Well it may not be such a great idea to determine one’s own sense of worth by half scaring yourself to death with a new team, a new client and more than a million and a half dollars on the line. Sounds like the perfect scenario for individual egos to take a nose dive…because confidence immediately comes into question. This is what we talked about, my fellow panelists and I, Tom Catalano, Paul White, and David Nault, that there are too many unknowns at the outset of a design and build project to even begin to value worth or self-importance. While we can reach back into history in hopes of creating some kind of platform, we really have no idea of what is ahead. We hope that what we know to be true of our abilities will again come to pass but just in case, we better slap on some Jordache jeans and swish our butts around a little to make sure everyone knows our self-importance cannot be messed with. Here we are, self-actualized adults still worrying about self esteem.
But what if, instead, we help each other out a little bit? What if we circle up, no dodge balls in hand, and talk about roles, capabilities, what we know each of us has to bring to the table that has worth? What would that do for the client? For the project? We liked this notion and as the conversation went on, magically moderated by Kyle Hoepner, with the insightful comments of Kevin Legasse and Steven Favreau and John Kelsey and Christina Oliver and all of us in that room that night at the Design Center, we began to think we should insist upon it, make it a best practice; help the client get the best of all of us.
I know my own self-worth would have been elevated in an instant—ready to offer my best self—if Susie Swishy Butt had turned as she walked past me and said “no one wears those cords better than you.”
photos by Anastasia Sierra