What piece of advice were you glad you ignored?

I've seen variations on this topic many times, but hadn't really seen anything architecture related. I've got two instances where I ignored advice that was given to me, and I think I'm better off because of it. 

  1. During school we had professors assigned to be our advisers who were to help us select the right classes, and approve our ability to register for the next semester's courses, etc. In one of my regular meetings with my adviser I mentioned that I had gotten engaged and would be getting married at the end of the next semester. She advised me to consider postponing the marriage until after graduating as she had seen too many students get married, spend too much time at home and away from studio thereby causing their work to suffer. I chose to assume she meant well, but I enthusiastically ignored her advice and got married anyway ... I wasn't about to postpone my wedding for ~4 years just to follow her advice. Ultimately, I believe getting married was one of the things that forced me to prioritize my time better which led me to be a better student, and now a better architect.
  2. I was moving to a new city where I didn't have much of a network. A few months prior to moving, I had an interview for a job with a firm that went really well, and they expressed interest in hiring me, but due to timing it wasn't going to work. They needed me right then, and I wasn't able to move for a few more months. I stayed in touch with the interviewer and after moving I asked if he might be able to connect me to any one he knew at some other firms that I had applied to. He took a look one of the postings (it wasn't exactly for the same type of role that he had interviewed me for at his office) and said he didn't think I would be qualified for it and advised me to look at some of the other positions and gave me some names of people to reach out to. The other positions and contacts didn't work out for me, but the one he said I wasn't qualified for reached out for an interview. After some interviews they offered me a position which I reluctantly took (I had to convince myself that they wouldn't offer the position if they didn't think I was qualified for it). It has without a doubt been the most formative position I've taken so far in my career. It was challenging and has opened up a number of other doors and opportunities to bring me to where I am now professionally.

Do you have any experiences where you ignored someone's advice and were later glad you did it?

Oct 11, 19 2:26 pm

In high school I applied to MIT as a longshot and - to my total surprise - I got in. A friend's dad tried to convince me to go to a regional engineering school instead because (& I'll never forget this quote) "The people there are not like you." He honestly thought I'd be alienated and miserable because I'd be a black sheep among math olympiad champs and well-groomed prep school rich kids. 

Obviously I ignored his advice, but what stuck with me is how totally off he was. It turns out there were more people there "like me" than there were in my hometown. 15 years later, my freshman suitemates are still my closest group of friends. All 6 of them were my groomsmen. ...& I barely talk to anyone from high school.

Oct 11, 19 2:52 pm

I feel like a version of this story is quite common. For me, my high school guidance counselor almost did a spit take when I told him where I wanted to go to college. During the application, he was less than helpful, often reminding me of his 'advice' to apply to lesser schools. When I got in to my first choice, he didn't believe me. Similar to you, I remember exactly where I was when I told him and the look on his face.

My version of this story isn't quite the same, but had a poignant moment of shock expressed on someone's face. The school I was planning on going to had a bit of a reputation of being a "party school" in my hometown, and one of the nosy old ladies at my mom's church took it upon herself to alert my mother of this when she heard I was going to attend the school. My mom let her go off for a bit and say what she wanted to about how "the only thing [I'd] learn there is how to drink and sin," or something to that effect. When she was done, my mom thanked her and casually mentioned that she was an alumna and thought that I'd be ok. I wish I would have been there to see the look on her face.


When I was in architecture school I was a student member on the exhibitions and lectures committee, and sometimes we'd outsource some work related to the exhibitions.  Once we contacted a recent alum, who had a particular interest and some experience in lighting design, to see if he was interested in doing the lighting for one of the shows.  When he came to meet with us all went well, and he tried to wrap up the meeting by leaving a contract for us to review.  At that point the professor who was the head of the committee got angry and told him "never give a client a contract for such a tiny project, especially not when they're people you know. All that does is annoy everyone and it's very rude.  A project like this should always be on a handshake basis - you don't discuss fees - you trust that you'll be compensated fairly." 

The lighting guy sadly but understandably decided not to take on the project at all, and ever since then I've ignored the professor's advice and always have a contract for any work I do, even (maybe especially) for family and friends.  Discussing contracts and money can be a little awkward, but not as much as the misunderstandings that could come from not discussing them!

Oct 11, 19 4:58 pm

Don't eat the brown acid.

Ate it and I've never looked back.

Oct 11, 19 7:28 pm

the advice I ignored?

"give it up, you'll never be an architect"

Oct 11, 19 9:18 pm

“You may want to set more realistic expectations for your future” High school math teacher. I struggled in her class. I told her I wanted to be an architect.

It turns out the way she taught wasn’t a good fit for me. I also worked 35-40hrs/wk in high school to help my mom get by. Don’t do that if you don’t absolutely need to.

Years later, it all worked out. Got my stamp. It also turns out I’m not half bad at math.

Oct 11, 19 9:53 pm
Happy Anarchy

"lie to your clients like you should lie to women, like when picking them up at a bar."

I just don't do it.  

Oct 11, 19 10:29 pm

Yeah I don't lie to women, so I guess this advice holds?


An occasional present I give my dad is a "you were right about that, too, Dad" concerning some piece of (usually conventional) advice I regularly ignored when I was younger.  Money, jobs, cars, manners, you name it. 

Of course, he wasn't right about everything.  But he enjoys getting a bit of overdue respect long after watching me bump through my youth, and I like to honor him with it.

Oct 12, 19 5:10 pm

1. Be an engineer. (I'm not interested in engineering. Engineers think too narrowly.) 

2. You can't learn by reading books. (Of course hands-on experience is best but books are good stuff too.) 

3. Don't move away from your hometown. (I did and couldn't imagine if I had stayed.) 

4. Don't buy that house in the city, you should live in a nice suburb. (I bought it and love it.)

Oct 12, 19 5:26 pm

Oh boy, #3 - did that really happen? In a thread full of egregious tidbits of advice, this one takes the cake for me.


Still happens. I get told I need to come home. But I have lived most of life elsewhere by now.

Chad Miller

Five years ago I move to a new part of the country and took a position with a firm.  After a year I was let go because 'you don't think like an architect' and 'maybe you should look into another field'  I knew this person was wrong as previous nine years of experience said otherwise.

I took a position with the firm I'm at now and they started out telling me the same thing but to a lesser degree.  I didn't change my process and proceeded to land the firm several large school projects because the school district liked the way I thought about things and the designs that resulted from my thought process.  

Oct 14, 19 12:36 pm

What is the way to "think like an architect" they were hoping for?

Chad Miller

I have no idea. I know they didn't like me asking 'what if' questions and thought when doing conceptual design I needed to know exactly how it was going to be detailed. Oh and collaborating on a project was asking for help and that meant you where stupid.  This included needing to have someone QC your drawings.


good riddance to that place

Did the dress code include capes?

Chad Miller

No, it was shorts and flip flops if you didn't have to meet with clients. That was because the office was on a second floor and with 110 degree temps in the summer the evaporative cooler didn't really get things below 90 degrees.


"Maybe you should think about a different major.  You don't seem to be enjoying this." - From a kid in architecture school who tried to give me redlines for my studio project without me asking for his help.  I did struggle in arch school, but mostly it was because I wasn't interested in my studios.

"She'll never need advanced math; everyone in this town ends up being a farmer anyway." - My fourth grade teacher from my tiny rural hometown when my parents went in for a parent-teacher conference when they saw I was suddenly unmotivated in school.  Fortunately my dad is good at math and chose to teach me geometry after school.  I ended up one class short of being a math minor in college, but couldn't swing it with studio.  I took 5 math classes in college; three of them being calculus.  For the record, this is the ONLY time my parents ever had any discussion with any of my teachers outside of the generic meet the teacher night.  

Oct 14, 19 2:34 pm

"Have you ever used algorithms?"
P. Schumacher

No, I've never resized an image in photoshop.

Oct 15, 19 6:54 pm

1.  Had a grad. professor tell me "You're not a researcher, you're a designer. Stop wasting your time researching 'X'---so many people have proven that wrong..." This professor had never had me as a student, neither in studio nor seminar....anyone's guess to how they came to that limited assumption. I ignored them, wrote that paper for seminar taught by a widely published professor and got top marks doing the exact thing I was advised was ill-advised. If I ever teach, I will never assume the limits of a student's potential...Past performance is not the sole indicator of future performance.

2. "Find one thing to be really good at, and you will be successful / go far." This wasn't bad advice from a mentor, but I look back and can say I am not the type to pigeonhole myself. I relish in nuances, balancing different sources or avenues, and use it to test my designs. I will never be the "hedgehog" / "style" architect. It's just not me. 

Oct 21, 19 10:16 pm

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