Seeking "YES"

 
 

by Bob Loversidge, FAIA

 

 

I would like to tell a story about design and teamwork. The focus is on the simple word, “YES.”  I remember a number of years ago, when Friedl Bohm (Chairman Emeritus of NBBJ) received the AIA Ohio Gold Medal; he explained that when he came to this country and had to learn the language, he never really grasped the meaning of the word, “NO.”  Of course, he told the story in that wonderful accent that I’m sure he works hard not to lose... but he credited this lack of acceptance of the word “no” for much of his success.

As architects, we hear this word a lot. No, there isn’t enough money; No, the code won’t allow it; No the budget won’t permit it; and the ever popular No, I don’t like it. I have a friend who occasionally reminds me that “NO!” can be a complete sentence.

I recently read a book that I recommend to all of you. It is a short, easy read—I refer to it as a one-plane-ride book. The title is Yes Lives in the Land of No: A Tale of Triumph over Negativity. The author is BJ Gallagher. It starts like this:

 

The Land of NO
is a discouraging place—
populated by frowns
            and shrugs
                        scowls and
                                    furrowed brows.
Everyone is so solemn,
            so somber,
                        so deadly serious,
you’d think they were expecting
            the end of the world.
If you have an idea,
           Naysayers point out.
                        how “it will never work.”
If you’re looking for opportunity,
            doors are politely but firmly
                        shut in your face.
If a project excites you,
            a wet blanket is promptly dispatched.
And heaven forbid
            you should dream of new possibilities!
There are more than enough
            Soldiers of Stagnation
                        to trample your spirit.

 

The story begins with a naïve and enthusiastic new employee, who is determined to find “YES” in the Land of No.  Along the way he learns a lot from a variety of characters, like Mr. N. Thusuiam. He also encounters Don Rock de’Boat, Wynot Now, May B. Later, B.A. Skeptic, Nomo Money and Stan S. Quo. And even Why Trye, the shy guy with good ideas that was afraid to share them for fear of “No.”

Eventually he begins to forge alliances with other workers... like Percy Verance, and Tea Nacity and Wilby Patient, and Addie Tude and Bea Prepared.

Working together as a team they were able to find “YES,” in the land of “No.” They learned that the secrets of success are all hidden in plain sight—if only we will open our eyes to see and our minds to learn. They also learned that it is hard work.

This reminds me a lot of the design process in pursuit of excellence—it is a team effort and it requires hard work. But it is worth it. It also reminds me of our obligation to young people—we must work ever harder to give them the chances we were given... so they can find their own “YES.”

 

 

-Excerpted from acceptance remarks for the AIA Ohio Gold Medal by Robert D. Loversidge, FAIA, Youngstown, Ohio