146: ‘The Gordian Knot, Part 2’, with Phil Read

A second conversation with Phil Read.

146: ‘The Gordian Knot, Part 2’, with Phil Read

About this Episode:

Phil Read once again joins the podcast for part 2 of our conversation to talk about his upcoming 2024 AEC Acoustics Best Practice Roundtable event, the importance of saying ‘no’ to maintain personal freedom and creativity, how modern pressures for efficiency and productivity can stifle creativity and personal satisfaction, the impact of technology and media on our ability to enjoy and appreciate music and art, how saying ‘no’ to certain opportunities can open doors to more fulfilling and personally meaningful experiences, and more.

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146: ‘The Gordian Knot, Part 2’, with Phil Read
Phil Read joins the podcast to talk about his upcoming 2024 AEC Acoustics Best Practice Roundtable event, the importance of saying ‘no’ to maintain personal…

Episode Transcript:

TRXL Private 146: ‘The Gordian Knot, Part 2’, with Phil Read
Evan Troxel: Welcome to the TRXL podcast. I'm Evan Troxel. I have a little podcast business here before I introduce my guest. If you're enjoying these episodes, please subscribe to TRXL on YouTube and the audio podcast on your preferred platform.
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It is free. And a great way to support TRXL and remember subscribing on YouTube and in your favorite audio podcast app is equally important. [00:01:00] Besides subscribing, there are two more ways you can support the show. You can now make a one-time donation at TRXL.co/donate or consider becoming a member
To learn more about the perks of membership and to join simply click on one of the subscribe buttons on TRXL.Co. Your support is crucial for the sustainability of this show. And I deeply appreciate it. All right. This episode is a continuation of the last one with Phil Read.
So if you skipped that one. You might want to go back and listen, because this picks up right where we left off. Also, this is the perfect time to remind you that Phil and I recorded this in person in the United lounge of the Denver airport, which makes it a little more special in my mind. And when you hear the dishes clinking in the background, that's why.
Today, we kick things off talking about the upcoming 2024 AEC Acoustics Best Practice Roundtables, which is a conference for subject matter experts, solutions [00:02:00] providers, and decision makers in the built environment. It will be held at Lake Swan Camp in Melrose, Florida at the end of April. The event focuses on discussions without distractions and the best part of every technology conference, I think we could probably all agree is the conversations after the presentations. So that's all they are. There are a few round tables that have already been announced on the website, and I'm happy to announce that I'll be there and I'll be leading one of the round tables to
I've been told that accommodations at lake Swan camp are modest and comfortable. And the camp offers opportunities for a lot of really cool outdoor activities. Meals will be catered by chef Charles Samail, which I can guarantee will not be considered like any camp food you've ever had in any way. And there will be up to four round table sessions per day with open afternoon discussions and informal evening gatherings.
I really can't wait to visit Florida for the first time [00:03:00] and to meet up with a small group of like-purposed people in AEC tech. I've included two links in the show notes for this event. One for you to find out more about it. And one to register.
In this conversation, we also talk about the importance of saying no to maintain personal freedom and creativity. How modern pressures for efficiency and productivity can stifle creativity and personal satisfaction, the impact of technology and media on our ability to enjoy and appreciate music and art. How saying no to certain opportunities can open doors to more fulfilling and personally meaningful experiences. And a whole lot more.
So once again, this was a fantastic conversation. And without further ado, I bring you part two of my conversation with Phil Reed. ​
Well, let's, kick this second part off after our little break [00:04:00] there. Talk about these retreats. Is that what, how do you characterize them?
Phil Read: Um, another accident, right? It's like, uh, we're coming out of, well, actually we started to go into pandemic, and what I realized,
curious, observant, AAC space. They've worked themselves up to a position, their kids are getting older.
They're, they're just incredibly stressed out and they can't leave their job at that point because they're, they probably have a very nice house, very nice, they have all these, they're trappings in a way, and they're just stressed out with, with life changes at that
Evan Troxel: And you alluded to it earlier when you talked about the You are put in that position, when you went to work at this firm, that all of a sudden you had to deal with the people side. And you weren't equipped, necessarily Or, you didn't feel equipped to deal with that part of it. You were much more technically oriented.
I think it's, uh, and you've said this yourself, it's the same for the kind of people that you want to come to these. Because they They [00:05:00] need to hear that from other people. How have they solved it? What are they dealing with? Are you feeling like this
Phil Read: It was
an existential transition from the predictable part of dealing with technology to the unpredictable part of managing kind of people and all of that. And I didn't have a, I mean I could be friendly enough. But I didn't have that skill set, that soft skill set.
And I, I started engaging with a coach probably in late 2019.
Evan Troxel: For
this specific
Phil Read: my specific kind of
edification. And it was also kind of in the back of my mind apparent to me that there was a dozen guys talking to me about the stuff that I was talking to the same coach about. It's like your life is changing.
And the kids are growing up, like, why am I still grinding?
How do I start to decompress?
Evan Troxel: How do I work less?
Phil Read: Yeah, and, uh, and it just finally occurred to me, probably in the spring of 2020, I'm talking to ten people about what I'm talking to you about. [00:06:00] We should just get together somewhere. And, um, he said, what do you mean? I said, well, first of all, I don't want to meet in a hotel. I want to go somewhere, you know,
Evan Troxel: you know, like, kind
Phil Read: amid nature.
And as we started to describe it, he was like, oh, an un conference. I'm in. So. The first year, it's, it's more of a leadership retreat. It's for people who have, the, the accidental thing that happens is we're subject matter experts, and we're really good at what we do, we love what we do, and we get elevated because of what we do to sort of manage people that do that thing, and then we find out we're not necessarily good at managing people, and we're not, we're not good at that emotional investment to manage people.
And so How do we get better at that? And I think ultimately, for me, as I mentioned, you, you really can't, you can control technology, but you can't control people. And so they're unpredictable in that way. Even when technology is unpredictable, you sort of wrangle it out, figure out why the crash is occurring, [00:07:00] or, uh, why something's breaking Revit.
But with people, it's not, it's not
Evan Troxel: not mechanical. Debugging. Just
Phil Read: Oh man, just people that show up two minutes late to a meeting, what that, like, how crazy that makes me, and other people are like, oh yeah, I just, I'm here, it's on, I'm on time, you know, so. The expectation now for myself that I have to remind myself is, do I have a false expectation when I start to feel myself getting stressed?
What's the false expectation? And,
ultimately, I can only control how I respond to what I can't
Evan Troxel: can't
Phil Read: So, uh, Randy Ben is the facilitator, and I, and so we organized. Very ad hoc, let's get together and talk for three days about leadership stresses and, and, uh, self expectations and where you want to get to.
And so that was the fall of 2020, and we just, uh, we just had this year, fall of 2023, that would have been our fourth year.
And it's
about how you show up. [00:08:00] Cause I think if you bring that stress into the room, it's gonna shut down the conversation. And, uh, it's, it's taken a while to get there and I, I still have a ways to go, but I find that a lot of times my stress was elevated because I thought I knew why something was broken.
And I was getting frustrated by that. And usually, what happens is when I have more information, I go, Oh, that's what's going on? Oh, okay, well that's all, we'll figure that out. And then time and time again, if you'll just wait and get the information, then you're like, oh, oh, that's all it is? But getting to that point where you cannot, where you don't, uh, bit flip and just get frustrated right away, because something else has gone sideways.
So, managing my own set of unrealistic expectations, not imposing that. List of self of expectations on other people that have their own lives and their own self perception and their own issues So that's what the leadership retreat [00:09:00] was all about and we had I think we had 29 or 30 register this year at the end There was some meetings.
I think we had 24 total, but we brought a private chef, which is chef Charles amazing guy Because it's at a camp in North Florida, but the idea is that even though the accommodations are modest, we should have great food, great meetings, very good conversations, uh, and so we brought Charles, the chef, Randy Ben is the facilitator, a guy named Jerry Teixeira, who's a fitness expert that focuses on accidentally on executive fitness through body lifting, calisthenics.
So no weights required. And I started doing that was following Jerry and after a couple of years, invited him to kind of like come along to the retreat, just to talk to people. Um, cause when, when we're working as executives and we were traveling. We don't have time for the gym, like a concerted amount of 45 minutes.
And I just found that was just a failure. I was exhausted at the end of the day or at the beginning of the [00:10:00] day, it was just too noisy in the gym. It's too clanky. There's always the music. There's just bright colors.
Evan Troxel: You sound like my wife, yeah. She had a gym membership and it was just like, here's all the reasons I can't go to this gym. And none of it had to do with the actual
Phil Read: and when you're in your late forties or fifties and you're outta shape, it's embarrassing to go to the gym. So I don't want that either. So I started, um, and at the time we were renovating at Old Beach Cottage, so I just started doing body lifting. I was like, well, this is approachable and I can do I could do it anywhere. I've got, I've got a whole day to do it. So top of the hour I'm gonna do each thing. And that was, uh. That was a system that seemed to work. And so for executives who want to get in shape and who don't want to go to the gym and be surrounded by Instagram cameras, it, it's worked for me.
So I brought Jerry along. And I think next year we'll probably have 30 people. And it'll pay for itself. It's, at this point, still kind of meaning versus, it's meaning over money. And then, uh, we're aspiring to do a more of a [00:11:00] technical roundtable retreat this spring. But that hasn't been kind of, all the
Evan Troxel: That's an expansion of this leadership retreat idea.
I think
Phil Read: it's
I think it's in parallel to it because with, with a leadership retreat, it's usually subject matter experts who've been elevated into positions of management. And now they're having to deal with millennials and personalities and budgets. And before they were all just heads down working on their technical wizardry.
How nice is that? You know, it's because no one can touch your technical wizardry. They can't question it. But when you become. More of an elevated figure in your public. It's like in the public figure in a firm. Now you're accountable for people's emotions and HR issues and right? Yeah budgets and
Evan Troxel: And you said it's much more inwardly focused. Yeah, yeah, yeah. And so this other technical,
Phil Read: yeah, the other thing is more it's it's more subject matter expertise, but it's really for people that it's for people that make business decisions, technical decisions, and even if people that make software. So I'd love to get those [00:12:00] people together. 40, 50 people for three days, two days of round tables, and probably a day off site to kind of decompress and get ready for it.
and Talk
about what we, what we refer to is, you know, every, at every conference, you see a presentation and then you get that speaker in the corner and go, okay, but tell me the truth. If you've got this kind of situation, what do you do? And they go, Oh yeah, that's, that's kind of tricky. I would have you tried this, this, and this.
So it's the conversations after the presentations that seem to be really valuable. So we're just going to do that, and the intent is to have discussion roundtables around various topics for anywhere from an hour to an hour and a half, create a executive summary, which we'll gather together and make available for download later. but to have the conversations that occur after the presentations. And
it's, it's not a one size fits all. We know in this technology space we have to bring in disparate tools from disparate software companies [00:13:00] and figure out how to wrangle them and get them to work together. And if you're just trying to get, if you're just trying to work blind to figure it out, it's too time consuming and expensive.
If you can, if you can talk with someone who's done something kind of similar, it'll probably get you on a better
Evan Troxel: Yeah. It doesn't have to be tool specific
Phil Read: It isn't, Yeah.
I mean, part of it is, but it's like, yeah, three tools specific. Make this work with this and this other thing.
Evan Troxel: Yeah. And it's situational, right?
A lot. A lot of it has to do with, well, this is how I've approached that condition or that situation before, and it doesn't, again, it doesn't have to be software parody specific, but it's like, I've experienced that before, and you have the time and the space in a place like that. To talk to people about that.
Right. You don't have to distill it down into a very descriptive paragraph that you throw into the ether, which is a KAA forum online and hope that somebody can
Phil Read: it. Oh, go and find it.
Evan Troxel: Yeah. It just to
find How much time do people spend on
Phil Read: And you don't know if it's a right answer. I've [00:14:00] searched answers for, for questions and thought, oh, that's a really, and then scroll to the top and go, what? July, 2017. Oh geez.
That's not gonna, if things move so
Evan Troxel: Right.
Phil Read: So, the value of getting together and having a multitude of discussions, and then even conversations after the conversations, because a lot of us will know each other.
So yeah, it's not just for, it's not just for large firms, it's for people that make business decisions, um, budgeting decisions, technical decisions. I would hope, I would aspire that the companies that make the software, softwares that we'll be talking about will be there as well, both to,
both to be part of the lessons learned, and maybe to listen as well, to hear where our stresses
are, and, uh, all be part of that discussion, and good food,
good conversations.
Evan Troxel: that lubricates the, yeah, so, you know, you said earlier one of the, the most valuable pieces of a conference is the, the discussion after the presentation and
Phil Read: it always works in the presentation, right? When you're showing [00:15:00] something off, how to do
a thing. almost always, right.
Evan Troxel: But the, the idea of Networking and building relationships and kind of the, this homecoming of, of professionals that come together at these conferences and get to spend time together is a huge component of what you're talking about.
Phil Read: Yeah.
Evan Troxel: And then it's like, let's change phone, let's exchange phone numbers, let's exchange, and, and, and that lives beyond that meeting.
And that's super important too, it's just to have this network of. peers, colleagues in the industry that you can call and say, am I crazy? Right. Like
Phil Read: Well, and when we show, you know, the presentations at the conferences, if we're lucky, you know, they all come off without a hitch.
But, those of us in the subject matter expert, subject matter expert space, we know where the bullshit is too. We, like, we know where the workarounds are in
Evan Troxel: You're reminding me of this, that, that video they just, that Google just published of their new, of their new AI thing and it's [00:16:00] like, uh, you know, it's this, they, they call it what was a project? I think it's Gemini or something like that.
And, and they show this whole presentation and then at the end, I guess, and in some other channel they said. We, we edit it for clarity. We, we changed a few, and, and it was like,
just reminded me of that when you said that, because like, the presentation is one thing, the reality of it is something else, right, and, and I, it was more aspirational than realistic, or, or it take, actually takes longer than we showed it to be, and that, that's fine at some level, if you disclose that, but I think you're right, like the, the bullshit meter, it's like, I know how hard that is.
It is not like
Phil Read: or, yes, you could do it this way, but Then you will never be able to not do it that way. I, I find that technical solutions that are implementable aren't good technical solutions.
Like, it's okay to have something slightly less automated, as long as it's implementable and predictable and flexible. If you create something that's a Gordian knot, and it [00:17:00] only works if you're plugged into it, but the moment you try to show someone else how to do it, it breaks. That's not a good solution.
So, I think we can get together and have discussions around What would you do if it's not exactly, like, what would you do in this kind of scenario? And, and a lot of times I think we just have to choose good technologies. So, and the, and the business leaders that make the decisions to purchase the software, they don't always know.
They see the end product of something and they go, oh, I should buy that. And you go, well, if you buy that, you're also going to have to buy a consultant to run it. Do you want your own team to be able to use it? Because maybe there's a tool that Doesn't do everything that you see there, but it does most of it, and somebody on your team can use it, so having a discussion that's, um, kind of, kind of authentic.
Evan Troxel: Yeah.
Phil Read: And you gotta slow down for that, I mean, our events don't have any alcohol, just because it introduces complexity, cause we don't also have lanyards, we don't also have, yeah, we don't have conferences for the most part. [00:18:00] on the bodies of large water, right? This conference is on the body of a freshwater lake, and so I can't afford the complexity of people drinking and sinking,
Evan Troxel: Yeah.
Phil Read: to put it lightly, right?
And so, by not having alcohol, it just removes a bit of complexity. Um, it also allows for this spring event, it'll allow for a family friendly environment, if, if, uh, if you want to come, and I think we're sort of saying, age is six to ten. Because if both parents are in the AEC space, it's hard to find, unless you have a relative that lives in the same town, it's hard to find child care.
So we don't just bring them. We've got a counselor who will do counselor led activities in nature and learning for that, for those days. And then in the afternoon and evenings, you can come all to dinner. But we're trying to do it in a way that's cost effective and flexible and enjoyable. And we can't do that at a hotel where we're locked in all day.
So we'll start, probably arrive On a Sunday. On a Monday, we'll have an offsite before, before the two days of round tables [00:19:00] and then those two days round table and leave on a Thursday. Yeah. And keep it very cost effective.
It doesn't have to be expensive if you do it, if you do it right.
Evan Troxel: you do it early. going in my mind is this idea of, I mean, you touched on it a minute ago, but I think it also kind of fits this event, which is like you slow down intentionally, you go slow to go fast.
Picking technology that is not Just whatever the, like you said, if you just look at the marketing material and you think, oh it can do all that Under perfect conditions, right? That's the
Phil Read: right, right. It's like a, it's like a financial performer who says, you know, uh, future conditions may not apply. Yeah, that's right.
Evan Troxel: right, but this idea of Authenticity, slowing down, relationships, coming up for,
Phil Read: Coming up for a bit of air. We don't have, I don't know the value of technology if it makes you have to rush faster, because I don't think we can rush any faster.
I would prefer to let an idea gestate, think about it, meditate on it, [00:20:00] and then make a decision and know that decision is going to run itself through a Revit project, to move a window, to move a door, to move a piece of furniture, to change something. And when you change it, it's kind of downstream implications taken care of.
You know, the old, the old yellow legal pad I used to keep through a set of red lines to write things down. If you change something, you had to then go and find out where that was being represented somewhere else. The freeing of that, well, why would I want to rush around and do five projects in Revit simultaneously if Go slower.
Go slower. Don't Sometimes rushing to do things If you rush to do something three times,
it's not enjoyable. You know, because you've
Evan Troxel: The idea of technology was always to free us to have more time. That was the promise.
Phil Read: Try to turn it off. It's hard.
Evan Troxel: is.
Phil Read: The thing is in my little lizard brain that I've done to try to do it is that. So, grayscale on the
Evan Troxel: so what are we looking at here?
Phil Read: So,
this [00:21:00] is Oh, yeah, that's true. Nobody can see. So, you
can set up I've got an iPhone.
Evan Troxel: Yep.
Phil Read: With accessibility services, you can set up three clicks of the power button to set you into grayscale. And for me
Evan Troxel: That takes away this, like,
Phil Read: Well, after you look at this for a while, and then you look at that
all full color, it looks like a bowl of breakfast. It looks like a bowl of Froot Loops. You look at that and go, that's not real food. Why are you subjecting yourself to that? Whereas I can look at the grayscale, and then the rest of the sky vault is what's really
Evan Troxel: interesting.
Phil Read: Um, or if I look at it at night, because I'm still, you know, the phone's there and it's 2 a. m., and I just happen to wake up. If I read the email, I'm not getting full color sparklies in my Brain at 2 a. m. You're right. So I'm just seeing I don't know. I wonder I mean you and I probably both grew up in black and white TV And so the thing is with three channels [00:22:00] in black and white after a while you sort of look up and you look outside You know, yeah, it looks more interesting outside and you would go out and
Evan Troxel: Well, yeah, and now the incentive is to keep you there longer
Phil Read: colors don't exist in nature and so I don't know that Like, our brain loves these colors, they're flavors that don't exist, and so we're so attracted to these sparkly colors.
And so I'm trying to, uh, desensitize myself to getting used to all these bright colors all the time, like, try to keep it
Evan Troxel: I try to do all
Phil Read: Oh, they're all turned off.
Um, except, I think with, uh, so I typically keep the phone in, uh, do not disturb mode, but certain people can come through. Or if you, I think if you call twice, it might come through.
Yeah. I can't, like even with a watch, it's always tapping you. You gotta turn that
Evan Troxel: Yeah, I have a Garmin watch because I do a lot of outdoor activities and I want to track my cycling tracks and stuff and I had to turn all of the notifications off completely [00:23:00] because It's one thing to have this thing down in my pocket, and I can ignore it, but it, when it's on my wrist too, it was
Phil Read: it's too
not to ignore
Evan Troxel: it just, it's right there, I can just flip my wrist and look at it, and I felt like, I can never get an Apple Watch, I say that now, but, but the point is, is like, I don't,
Phil Read: you don't want to be annoyed all
Evan Troxel: don't want that,
Phil Read: It's too
nice. But, at the point where you're, you're on a paddle board, and then the phone rings, you're like, I don't want to answer my watch for this, so you have to turn it off.
But then, um, it's hard to turn it off, because I think there's, there's something in the brain from way back, you know, You guys, there's a dinosaur outside! Let's go get it! Like, what are the dinosaurs and dragons in our existence now? It's constantly being kind of pressured to keep up with the news. It's all things we can't do anything about, but we have strong opinions about.
It's like, you have to somehow turn it off. So during pandemic, I had to uninstall Facebook. Uh, I just had to take it off the phone because [00:24:00] it was people that I love annoying me at 6am. So I was like, why am I letting myself be annoyed? I should just not look at it. But it's hard not to look at it because you're going to get a little dopamine hit.
I think they know to figure out what you like and don't like really quickly, so they only serve that up to you. So the things that annoy you or give you pleasure, uh, are the things that constantly are in your,
Evan Troxel: Yeah.
Phil Read: in your space. So you just have to turn it off. So that's part of what the leadership retreat does is.
I mean, there's Wi Fi, there's connectivity, you can still get to your email, but we try to put the phone down and try not to, you know, try not to immediately respond to things. Sometimes, actually, even back in the Revit days, I would try to answer a question right away, and then I realized sometimes that there aren't bad questions, but sometimes the questions are a little Unconsidered or maybe a little lazy like the answers out there.
So I started waiting 15 minutes to answer the question or half an hour to answer the question. And then I, before I could respond, [00:25:00] the customer would email and go, Oh, I figured it out. And that gives them the freedom and flexibility of, of going, or either would figure it out and go, I saw this. Is this a good way to, what do you think? Yeah. Instead of just kind of feeding them
Evan Troxel: It also changes the expectation about how available you actually are.
You, and you get to set that expectation to them, right? And, and I think a lot of people are. Inadvertently setting expectations of themselves from other people's
Phil Read: hard not to do it. Like, as a subject matter expert, if a customer, if I wake up at the 2am, and I see an email, and I know that person's in Australia, that's a stressful, they don't, all they need is a URL to show them how to do that, I'll answer the question.
Cause it just keeps them up to speed, but sometimes, you, you can't subsidize, uh, You can't subsidize a lack of discipline, like, sometimes the answers are out there, so you can wait a little bit, but, but,
waiting is hard.
Evan Troxel: hard. But through [00:26:00] experience you learn what, which ones are worth responding to immediately versus over time.
Phil Read: Yeah.
Evan Troxel: I think I, earlier on in your career it's like you want to, you want to show your value, you want to please people, you want, and so you're quick to, but then you build that expectation that you're always available and that you have the answers. Uh. Architects are often in that position, aren't they? Of having to know the answers
Phil Read: Oh, and it's a multitude of things you have to juggle.
Evan Troxel: And not saying, we'll figure that out, or, good question, let me think about that.
Phil Read: think The artist
is afraid if they don't show up and they don't know the answer, that they won't get asked to come along the next
Evan Troxel: come along Feast or famine kind of, it's a, it is kind of a evolutionary lizard
Phil Read: It'll be okay. Yeah, lizard brain.
So I think with the leadership retreat is more inward looking. It's more managing self expectations, management of self and others, and how you show up. The roundtable, um, I don't know, roundtable conference, it's more of discussions
[00:27:00] with peers, and how to come up with an answer that may not be right, but it's on vector.
Evan Troxel: the book. And you, you are going to have multiple tracks at that one,
Phil Read: I think if we have 50, we can't do more than 50 people just to keep it sort of structurally manageable, and then rough math is, well you have, Roundtables of 8, so you can have 6, up to 6 simultaneous discussions, 4 times a day. And then decompress in the afternoon and come back the next day and do it again.
Evan Troxel: you have flexibility maybe to pick different topics as an individual to explore in there? Or is it you pick a track and you're on it?
Phil Read: I don't, I don't know. I think ultimately you do whatever's kind of most interesting and best, but for the first pass, we probably have a list of topics from people to choose from, and it's instead of, we might do a call for topics where people want to facilitate things, but we also might, if we get enough people just reach out to.
To a few people that we know are coming and who are interested in those things and ask them, Would you facilitate this? There's nothing [00:28:00] due at the end of it except for a 1 2 page executive summary. So the
point is there's not, it's not a 40 page technical paper that I would prepare for like an AU presentation in the past.
So it's discussions, and even the facilitator might show up thinking they know the answer, but the answer is often very contextual. So I don't know, like a, in a, if I was, if, if it was real time rendering, how far do round down the rabbit hole, do you want to go? Do you want to use the Unreal engine because you need a certain end product, or is scape gonna be great for most use cases, but you don't get animated objects?
But it's having that discussion. So if we're just subject matter experts, we might know the answers or a, a variety of answers. But if we also have representatives that make the software. business decision makers who have teams that use the software, they can hear all of this honest discussion. Yep, and not making it complex in terms of, there's no software [00:29:00] sales, there's no exhibition, there's no lanyards, and it's, it's, I mean, north central Florida at the beginning of May will be 85 degrees during the day, so it's not too hot, and 65 at night, so it's not too cold, and um, so we'll, and we'll be outdoors a lot.
It's not being locked in a conference hotel for a couple of days. So hopefully that also draws people in because they enjoy that kind of environment.
Evan Troxel: Or if they don't know they enjoy that kind of environment because they're in the cube or in their office so much, it'll give them a different experience of what a conference could
Phil Read: I hope so because we all, you know, those of us who go to these conferences a lot, we enjoy that, we enjoy the high impact artifact of, of the loud music and the And the flashing lights, and then other times we like, I just need to decompress a bit, and so this is more of the decompressed version, or sort of the, we're calling, we're calling it in sort of a metaphor terms, uh, AEC acoustics, cause it's the acoustic [00:30:00] version of the rock and roll event, and uh, or you could say, you know,
BIM unplugged, or AEC unplugged, it's that quieter conversation after the presentation, where you go, okay, tell me the truth, is that really gonna work on this kind of situation?
And if it doesn't, point me in the right direction.
Evan Troxel: And
Phil Read: And, I don't know of any, you know, I don't, there is not a lot of that in the AAC space, and I think as we elevate in our careers, and we get older, and we get more experienced, we need these kinds of conversations. We don't just need technical presentations.
Evan Troxel: presentations. Right. Right. Yeah, I think, uh, introspection, it's still introspection at some level, right? it, it's, It directly what you do at your day job, potentially, right? So, less on the, what you do after hours between, Between work days and more, uh, but still, still at a personal, in a very personal level of talking to other people who are
Phil Read: well, I like, even at au,[00:31:00]
know there's 50 people that I really want to see. Yeah. And there's a lot of strangers in the crowd, but I'll go because I'm gonna see something interesting, have an interesting conversation.
But I'm also gonna be able to duck away to Starbucks and have a chat with someone, you know, off the show floor away from the noise. And so there's. There's still value with, with that, but I can't have conversations about all the various technologies that we use because that's their party
Evan Troxel: Yeah.
Phil Read: And
that's how it should be.
Evan Troxel: Yeah, yeah. I, I'm interested what you think, so, I guess we'll change subjects here, because I, I want, I'm interested in, I think I read something that you had written about Imagine
Phil Read: Imagine it, why would,
Evan Troxel: Um, but the, but the idea of, of, of, What do you think is the biggest thing holding us back as an, as an industry? Because there's this, if we, if we rewind or step back a little bit and think about the, the, we talked about this a minute ago, the true potential of what it could do. [00:32:00] Um,
Phil Read: You mean in terms of the technology? In terms
Evan Troxel: technology and just the evolution of the practice.
Uh, we spend a lot more time on projects now than I feel like we ever have before because buildings are more complex, the software that we use to draw them and model them is a lot more
Phil Read: Yeah, rightfully complex, I mean it,
Evan Troxel: agencies are more complex to deal with, bureaucracy, organizations are more complex now, we have a lot more positions in organizations to deal with, and the bigger the organization, the more positions there are, and HR, and all, but, but, the thing that really, I guess I'll, I won't bury the lead here, but people are difficult.
And you talked about this with this leadership retreat, like, I don't necessarily
Phil Read: yeah. I'm not difficult. Other people are
Evan Troxel: Yeah, it's always
Phil Read: it's always that,
Evan Troxel: but, but this idea of adoption versus innovation, right? Adoption, I, we've, I, I'm curious to hear what you think about like that, that productivity chart that we've all seen in every, that McKinsey graph that's in everybody's presentation, who's outside [00:33:00] the industry that shows.
Construction being way down here for the last 50 years, and everything else going up like a rocket, and I don't feel that in our industry, but
Phil Read: I think the, I mean, people talk about, okay, I don't want to sound jaded, but there are a lot of technologies that kind of become flash in the pan, and they become buzzwords, and, you know, AI in that sense is a buzzword right now. I think once we realize it's just the carbon based architectural intern, it's not that big of a deal.
I don't know that
we're really held back. I think it's just incredibly complicated logistically. To build buildings. And so it doesn't matter how far you rush ahead during the pandemic. If, uh, so this beach cottage. Which is only a little, it's a little cottage on the coast of North Carolina. Try getting plywood, because the additive to the glue that they use to make plywood isn't available.
So now you have to go, okay, well what else can we work on, because I don't want people leaving the project.[00:34:00]
Evan Troxel: They won't
Phil Read: Yeah, they might be on something else, and then logistics get more complicated. So, I don't know how much faster In a way, how much more efficient we can do it. And there, I was um, well only, you know, this idea that well if we only do pre manufacturing of a building, then it won't, you know, that'll make it hyper efficient because of all the waste that occurs on site.
Contractors are not incentivized to waste. They want to build the building and get off the project just as fast as the owner does. So I don't know that the butterfly flapping his wings in the Uh, Manufacturing Space is gonna solve the problem. Because creating problems that are hyper efficient but inflexible creates other problems. It's, it's a logistics Gordian Knot.
[00:35:00] And, you know, it
Evan Troxel: Yeah, the Gordian
Phil Read: Gordian Knot
of the, the idea that you have this, the, I think it's a Greek, a Greek parable. There's this knot of rope and he's trying to Ask people, how would you know, test their wisdom?
How would you untie this knot? And the king takes a sword and cuts the knot in half.
So the Gordian knot is this. You've gotten to this point of irre recoverable complexity.
I don't know how you could make it less
complex. Maybe at the domestic level. You could make it less complex if you hyper centralized utility.
in the residence where it's, you know, you're connected to utility for houses, right? Electrical production, water, you know, cleaning water, how you, how you treat water, all of that kind of stuff. There's technologies to capture water, to treat water, to treat waste, and kind of centralize all of this from a technical [00:36:00] aspect.
But at the commercial aspect,
how could you? I don't know that there's a way right now. I don't know that we're seeing that. You know, you see the, there's a lot of stuff on, on LinkedIn, uh, you know, the, the hotel in China that gets built in a day. Well, or a hospital, or, or an apartment complex. But do people aspire to live in complex, in, in, in apartment buildings that can be built in a week?
I even would use them, I would, I would, um, if we could, so, so let's go to the extreme of efficiency and imagine a system where the client could want a building today and tomorrow that building would exist. Would we do that? And I don't think we would because on the third day the client would go, you know what?
Market forces have changed and we need more unit B and less unit A. Keep the unit C's about where they were. And now you've done something so quickly that it was inflexible and it couldn't respond to market [00:37:00] demands, which you would have learned had the project.
there's just the ability to do things efficiently while still allowing for flexibility is just part of the,
it's, it's part of the design to construction
Evan Troxel: And
just the, the ideal, uh, or the idea behind what the value of design is tends to go away in that equation, right? Because customization, unique things that, you know, my life is different than your life. And I need different things than you do. My family's like this, yours is like that. It's very hard to solve for all of those variables with a common output, right?
And even, even in the example of a hospital in a day, you can't tell me that the design process didn't get a hell of a lot longer.
Phil Read: Oh, or maybe the hospital doesn't accommodate the next medical emergency because it was done quickly, it wasn't flexible.
Like, trying to [00:38:00] predict how something is going to be used is really tough. And in the architecture, in the construction, or let's say in the manufacturing space, most things that are manufactured are able to leave the utility of where they're manufactured. So there's ships and airplanes and
Submarines and cars, they all leave under their own power, whereas buildings, it's hard to do that with buildings, so there's all of this efficiency that occurs, well, allegedly, by building something and then transporting it to the site, but when you do that, you ship a lot of air, on the other hand, and you risk things breaking under transport, and now you have to repair them, as opposed to the present system, which is, get all of the pieces and parts together in bundles as tight as possible, and ship those to the site, And then get people to assemble it.
Evan Troxel: Yeah.
Phil Read: So it's still manufacturing. Um, I don't know how we could do it any more efficiently. Then we're doing it now, and certainly other places do it better. Like if you look at construction in [00:39:00] Singapore or construction in Germany, like the way people are showing up to the site, there's head eye protection, ear protection, foot protection.
I see a lot of construction out on the coast. That's maybe not all OSHA compliant people that just, no, no.
Evan Troxel: Southern Oregon, it's like that as
Phil Read: People up on roofs without proper, uh.
Proper safety measures. So, I don't know that we're doing it. I think we're doing it as least inefficiently as possible because
Evan Troxel: I like that.
Phil Read: because economies, because otherwise you're wasting money.
And so it's always measured in terms of are you gonna waste money? And if you try to figure out everything, I think it overwhelms a customer. Even if you could say pick your house, pick your fittings, pick your furnishings. And then we're going to, that's going to get delivered to the site as opposed to the flexibility and the serendipity of going, Oh my gosh, that window from this location and that view, we need to move the window over two feet.
Can you guys reframe that? It's like, yeah, you'll love it.
Evan Troxel: Have [00:40:00] you ever designed like that before? Have you
Phil Read: So on the cottage, I'd never in all of my career. I've never done my own project. And then during the pandemic was able to design my own project for the first time and experienced the serendipity of going, Oh my gosh, that's an incredible opportunity.
We should take advantage of it. And we even had Revit and we had Enscape and I could see where the sun was setting on my birthday. Like all of this stuff was amazing, but then you actually get into the space. And, um,
Evan Troxel: You're always designing, right? You're always
Phil Read: thinking about it. You're inhabiting
Evan Troxel: right. You learn as you go. You, you can't not learn as you go, because you, you see opportunities that weren't, that wasn't, right,
Phil Read: You didn't know it was there. So the builder that I worked with was, uh, one of the builders that I worked with, is an immigrant from El Salvador, amazing guy, Omar Flores.
And he did the kitchen in Charlotte, and he [00:41:00] has very careful attention to detail.
amazing guy to get to know him. So he comes out to the coast and uh, I said, look I don't want to do the walls in gibboard, I want to use half inch maple. for all the walls except for like the wet walls and baths, right? And instead of this, instead of the, the half inch maple ply abutting it, I want to leave a gap and I want the gap to be about a quarter wide like a coin.
So just leave a gap. Next, the first time we start putting these Panels up and Omar comes and goes, Hey, look at this. And he's got a panel up with a quarter in it and a quarter is being pinched by the two panels. And he's got another panel up with a dime and he goes, I think a quarter is too much. I think we should do a dime.
The guy was right.
these kinds of things happened all along the way. that I thought I had it figured out, but it wasn't. Or I thought I had it figured out, but old houses settle, and this is like a 30, 40 year old cottage that we were renovating, and so [00:42:00] we had to come up with a method to accommodate.
How the house had settled and yeah, I thought I had it figured out going into it But that was perfect where everything was plumbing square latex. No, we did so it's I call it a reverse crown
Evan Troxel: Okay.
Phil Read: We put a strip of ply at the top Where the ceiling was to take up right and then a strip of ply at the bottom same material and then three strips centered and The ply would attach to that.
So at that point we were no longer dependent on the locations of the studs to place the plywood so things could be lined up nicely. And the other artifact was that reverse crown creates an art rail. So,
Evan Troxel: things wherever you
Phil Read: I don't have
Evan Troxel: to
Phil Read: I'm not putting a screw in the
wall. Yeah, yeah, yeah, so you get these art cables and you hang things with that.
Evan Troxel: yeah, you can't patch that very easily. . Yeah. It's no
Phil Read: And Omar was always looking for opportunities. Like, he would [00:43:00] get the metaphor of how we want to be careful about how things align and where they align. And then he would go, I know what you're trying to do here, but what if we do this? And I'll go, oh my gosh, Omar, that's amazing.
Evan Troxel: Yeah.
Phil Read: So, yeah, I thought I had it figured out, and even then, yep, just be ahead of the design.
There's a, there, the, we were able to add a third level that didn't exist because we added decks to the south side that didn't exist, and a deeper deck on the north side that did, it was only like seven feet, and when we did that I realized it creates a greater roof volume, so instead of storage, it's now the executive level.
And, I think it was on a FaceTime call to Justine over video, kind of, it's like the sun sets and I'm up on the roof and she goes, Oh, this is a really nice view, we should have another deck up here. And I thought, oh no, no, no, we don't need another
Evan Troxel: deck. We've
Phil Read: We got all these decks out of the house. So, but, I said, okay, well what if we just take the center structural bay and just make a smaller deck, so it's like 10 feet wide.
Evan Troxel: The crow's nest,
Phil Read: Yeah, and it's, we call it, uh, yeah, Executive Lounge, [00:44:00] and from that level, you can't see it from the street, and you get up there, and you can see the sunrise and sunset, and, um, it was an accident that I hadn't designed going in, because I thought, we've got level, we've got enough decks, but that area, that's a, a nice reveal at the top, and it was all, it was all the serendipity of going slow.
It was being able to take advantage of that opportunity, whereas if you design it somewhere else, and it comes, and it gets plonked down on the site, you just, it's, You don't have time to take advantage of those happy
Evan Troxel: and being involved in that process is a key piece. Right.
Phil Read: incredibly stressful and I hated it.
but at
Evan Troxel: the same time, that wouldn't have happened if you didn't.
Phil Read: No, it would have been more stressful. I lived in the house during reconstruction. The alternative was coming on Friday and realize plugs are all
place and this is five, five inches off. But what does it matter? It's only five inches. I would have been mental.
But living in it was stressful, but that was the, that was the lesser bad way to do it.
Evan Troxel: Yeah,[00:45:00]
Phil Read: And then also going to sleep and thinking about what happened has to be done the next day and kind of just playing the mental math, not even doing it in Revit. Just like, think about it, think about it, think about it, and then do it.
Evan Troxel: Right. Measure three times, cut once. I've done a kitchen like that, and I live there at the same time too, so I was cooking in the garage on the camp stove while we were remodeling the kitchen, or cooking on the barbecue outside, or whatever.
But building a soffit over this really weirdly shaped Kitchen island that I did because I tore out a bunch of walls put a stainless looking stainless steel It was steel that I just spun to look like stainless and then clear coated it to hold up a beam that took the place Of those walls and then I had this island that kind of like jogged around that so they were separate and And then I was like, huh?
Well, I want to build a soffit over this And I didn't draw any of this. I mocked it up with furring strips
Phil Read: as
Evan Troxel: as I went and [00:46:00] I would, Nope, this needs to be a little bit wider here, a little bit narrow here. I'm going to cut this off here and just treating it like a study model, in the real space, at full scale, in the moment and making those decisions then, afforded design and, I don't know, it was It was an incredible freeing way to work as an architect who was trained to, like, figure it all out ahead of time, right?
Phil Read: Yeah, under the punishment of being liable for things that you have to have, you have to so much foreknowledge of how something's going to work. How stressful is that? So I, I don't know how.
Evan Troxel: How do you get back to that master builder? Like, that's, that's kind of what you're talking about, right? Because a, a, a sheet set for, I don't know, like, pick a Frank Lloyd Wright project, right?
Like, uh But Unity Temple, it was like 11 sheets.
Phil Read: A lot of stuff is figured out in the moment by someone who knows. And I don't know that we have to get to master builder. I think it's a nice metaphor, but I don't know that Frank Wright actually ever wanted to work construction. He hired the right
Evan Troxel: he [00:47:00] wanted to be out there and he wanted to tell people how to do it though.
Right? Because,
Phil Read: And that part of it, of being able to have the conversation?
Evan Troxel: is how he
Phil Read: the person building it is focused on, does it function to such an extreme detail that sometimes, well why don't we just move that over a couple of inches, well why would you do that?
Because of this? Oh, that'll look great. So someone who's thinking about, you know, the macro to micro,
Evan Troxel: for
Phil Read: I
don't know that we have the freedom to do that on commercial projects. It's, it's, it, that's, what, what did, what did they ask, uh, when they started the dome in uh, Florence Brunelleschi's dome in, in that book?
They started the proportion of the cathedral not knowing how they were going to build the dome That's an expensive mistake Because once those proportions are set everything else is derived and the response was well when it's time God will help us figure it out I don't know that we could build football stadiums like that.
Oh It's a yeah, [00:48:00] we'll figure out that Ruth. We'll figure out the truss truss trusses later Yeah, God will help us figure it out. No, you'll go to prison
so I, I don't know that we can do it any more any more efficiently,
Evan Troxel: hard,
Phil Read: which makes it hard, but I think what we can learn to do is when the contractor is yelling the F word on a, on a Monday morning and you're a part of that conversation, you learn to detach and not. Take it personal and that helps the contractor sit down or settle down because even though that's that's first thing out That's that's just a language modifier when things aren't going right
Evan Troxel: going
Phil Read: you can get wound up and
get frustrated And then that's not fun
Evan Troxel: learn
Phil Read: But if you you can if you can learn a proper method of quiet confidence that gives a client confidence go Yeah, we're this is gonna happen
Evan Troxel: And this is kind of an ethos of that leadership conference, right? It's like learning how [00:49:00] to react in situations where you're not in control, or just, just being able to control your reaction is a, is a key component to leadership.
Phil Read: It doesn't mean you know the right answer. Yeah. There's uh, uh, Marcus Aurelius meditations, which were his, just his private. Journals of Stoicism that weren't meant to be for public consumption, but after he passed, they were published.
I still refer to them regularly. I still, I'll just, I just keep it there all the time and I'll read a couple pages and put it back down again. Because he was, yeah, his experiences from being a Roman general to being effectively the, the Caesar. Um, and having to deal with annoying people that were always trying to come and get an angle.
Like he just talks about it in such modern terms of people annoying him all the time and things are annoying him and he can't manage and predict things. Um, and I, I think maybe earlier in my career, I was more of the mindset that if I could just predict what could possibly go wrong, it would [00:50:00] help me relax because I had figured it out ahead of time.
And then you realize it's just too complex. It's better just to let it go and engage a team of smart people who might not do it the way you do it, but Hey, if it doesn't work out, we'll do it a different way. And that's the, um,
that's a better way to approach it. It's hard as a subject matter expert to do that, because to your point, you want to rush and give the answer
But after a while, things are too complex, and you just have to find the right people to work with, and it's more interesting.
Evan Troxel: with. And
What is something that you've either added to your life, or removed, that has had a huge impact?
Phil Read: It's usually taking away. it's usually being in a position of being able to
More and more and more say no to things that aren't interesting, and I used to do, uh, I used to do investment, um, I used to do a lot more, uh, investment advising for technology companies, and the hourly rate, [00:51:00] compared to what I would have made in an hour when I was in architecture school working for a civil firm, was like a multitude more per hour, but I say no to it now, because it's not worth it.
I'd rather, um, No, who is it? Uh, I look at it this way. Anytime you're going to spend time doing something, imagine you had to pay your hourly rate to do it.
And if you wouldn't, then don't do it. So, I don't watch TV anymore. That's probably something that I've just, except, uh, I, I, I will indulge in South Park and Rick and Morty.
Uh, there may be a couple of things, but it's deliberate. I don't just turn it on for the noise.
I turn off the TV. I probably don't have music playing in the background.
By choice, it's
a lot more quiet.
Evan Troxel: me
Phil Read: And, uh, it took me a long time to get comfortable in that kind of space because you end up getting in your own head and you end up
thinking about uncomfortable things because you're not distracted, but on the long term, I think it's better.
[00:52:00] So what I've taken out is, I don't watch TV, I read a lot more books, I don't listen to music, I don't watch the news anymore. And that was just a series of, probably in the last 10 years, the news was just irrecoverably.
And now that I've, you know, when you're in airports and places where you have to watch screens, you notice, I notice now that in, on these, like, particularly in news, there's always a background that's moving, it's hyper color, uh, the way that American news channels present news, uh, once you turn the TV down, watch the eyebrows of the presenters, and it's, it's very exaggerated.
The eyebrows are always moving, the facial effect is always moving.
Evan Troxel: yeah.
Phil Read: Yeah, and I think that's part of the way to attract your attention, uh, you know, from emergency through commercial break to the next emergency. And then I realize I just can't do anything about that. And I think it's, I think actually it's overwhelming our sense of empathy.
So [00:53:00] as humans, we're empathetic people and we understand, you know, death and tragedy and all of this, but it's just constant now that you're, you just, and so what it does is I think it overwhelms our sense of empathy that we feel that we have to do something about it, but we really can't. But it's happening in our living room, why aren't you doing something about it?
And so it's hijacking our empathy. And so turning off the news, Still, I still skim the news, but I skim the headlines. Turning off the news, turning off the radio, turning off the TV, And just trying to be in a more quiet place.
though it's uncomfortable, Um, I still haven't, I, I, I talked with Randy last time about this at the leadership retreat, Because he always asks, he asks, Are you happy?
And I always say, Randy, happiness is indulgent. We have to get our shit done. Who, who gets happiness? And, uh, yeah, Omar, the guy I was working with, uh, the builder, I asked him what he, what he aspired for his [00:54:00] daughters to do when they got older, and I was thinking, like, lawyer, you know, architect, engineer, what kind of, what do you want them to do?
And he said, I want them to be happy. So I haven't nutted that out, Evan, this idea of being
Evan Troxel: I haven't nutted
Phil Read: I think sometimes We just have to find something to sustain us between periods of
Evan Troxel: greed. Yeah, you
Phil Read: Yeah, you know, as we get older and you have friends that pass and you have
Evan Troxel: that pass. Things that you
Phil Read: you have things that you can't control.
So kind of just, we just have to.
Evan Troxel: just have to quietly
Phil Read: we just have to quietly find something to sustain us between periods of tragedy. And maybe that's my best happiness, kind of. It's the small things. Um, the thing that I aspire to now would be a good meal with
Evan Troxel: Yeah.
Phil Read: That's like
I do the cooking less, I probably eat out a lot less because during [00:55:00] pandemic, you're sort of learning to cook everything's online.
You want to cook amazing steak? Wow.
Evan Troxel: it's there.
Phil Read: It's there. Amazing chicken, like amazing whatever you want to cook. There's amazing recipes. And so being able to have an artifact where you're actually preparing a meal with friends is, um, that's an uncommon pleasure. So those kind of quieter, quieter moments, instead of just going to a restaurant, standing in line, getting your table, getting your drink order, kids next to you, like rolling his truck through his vegetables, he's got a car at the table, it's all that noise, and then an hour later you've eaten and you've tipped and you've had dessert, and you're I don't know if I was actually able to relax, so meals with friends, quiet,
and uh, quiet is probably, as we were talking before, quiet's probably a luxury,
Evan Troxel: luxury. Nowadays.
Phil Read: I think about it in terms of, you know, it used to, not that long ago, people would have been able to just exist without a lot of noise. Because music was something that you had to go and listen to [00:56:00] live, or you either had to play. There was no recordings, but now we can have recordings of conversations, recordings of theater productions, it's television, radio.
I don't know that we're evolved yet for all of this constant, um, constant hum.
Evan Troxel: I was just watching this, uh, recorded live stream of one of my favorite YouTubers yesterday. His name's Rick Beato, and he's a musician, he's a producer, music producer. And he has a series on his channel called What Makes This Song Great, where he breaks down all the tracks, and he's a Theorist.
He, he's a theorist. He knows music, and he can tell you why that song is great from a technical point of view, but it's not what the artist was thinking when they made that song. Right? And so you, he's, he's weaving these together and sh letting you hear things that you have never heard in a song before, that you will never.
Not here the next time you hear that song [00:57:00] and the live stream was on 90s music. So this is my thing, right? I I this is when I my coming of age was, you know during the 90s and it was very much a time when Especially as he went through this playlist that he literally made in like five minutes and there it was probably 60 or 70 songs on it that he just threw into a playlist and started playing them and saying This one this one this one.
These were all great songs And at some point, music stopped being that good, and I'm just generalizing right now,
Phil Read: No, I don't think you're
Evan Troxel: could pick any, you could pick any decade, probably, and especially when you, when it was formative for you, like that's your decade, right? Um, but,
Phil Read: I would add it's, it became less when they stopped playing their own instruments when it became a performance
and they weren't playing their own
Evan Troxel: Well, he
Phil Read: when it kind of
Evan Troxel: he asked the question, he said, when did we stop listening to music with our ears?
Phil Read: Mm-Hmm.[00:58:00]
Evan Troxel: And I thought that was so insightful, right? And you said the screens aren't going away.
Phil Read: Right.
Evan Troxel: We, the news Music is a video, it's a production, it's a performance, it's, it's, it's visual and audio, right? It's like, I thought that was just so insightful and it was, and it was a live chat because it was a live stream and people are throwing on there like what, it was autotune, it was the, it was people not playing their own instruments, it was producers writing songs for artists that were then performing those, it was the phone, it was the iPod, it was Napster, it was, and there was a lot of things that all I think play into this idea of being overwhelmed by media, um, and not actually, like, like, you remember the good old days of list, having listening rooms, and having listening parties, and listening to your hi fi, and putting on your, your headphones, and just, like, my dad sitting in a room listening to a record play.
The [00:59:00] whole thing, all the way through.
Phil Read: I don't know
that It's interesting.
and I think those recordings.
I don't think they're music. I Think the music is the experience and so when you I grew up around Athens, Georgia in the 80s and 90s So going to downtown Athens scrubbing through the flagpole picking Probably going to the Downstairs, which was a little club at that time, or going to the Rockfish Palace and seeing a band.
As a matter of fact, one of Rick's, uh, one of his presentations is talking about a guy named Rob Aldridge. If you go back and find that, cause Rob and he had, they had a band called Holly Faith. And he was an extraordinary songwriter and musician. They never quite got the trajectory, but um, beautiful songwriting. But you would go and see it, and I remember driving down, getting something to eat, standing in line, getting into the club. You feel the music, you anticipate it, where now it, it's [01:00:00] not, that's like it's so immediate. It's, it's a recording, it's something that you hear, it's not something that you feel. And so I'm a big advocate of going to see live music.
If you ever get a, I don't know if it will come to Medford, um, the best live performance I've seen in a long time was the Book of Mormon on
Evan Troxel: Oh wow.
Phil Read: Amazing production.
Evan Troxel: Yeah.
Phil Read: I can listen to it. Uh, on CD. It's, it's the recording, but it's not like the experience of it. Oh my gosh. Amazing. Live music. And so we should, you know, as a best practice, get back to more of that.
It's hard now. I mean, the big, you know, the performers that you aspire to go and see, it's, can be thousands of dollars for a ticket. But live music in small towns? Yeah, it's pretty good.
Evan Troxel: But don't you think this applies to architecture? Like, there is this immense pressure to become more and more efficient and productive and go faster and change things. And then there's this,
Phil Read: this
Evan Troxel: theme that we're talking about, which is like, what is it really
Phil Read: But what about the
acoustic version of architecture? what
Evan Troxel: the experience? [01:01:00] of the architect and the client together in the
Phil Read: I think it's an artifact of how architects, you know, even 20 years ago, if you wanted to design, I don't think it's a coincidence that the companies that designed football stadiums grew up in the
So you're talking about Kansas City.
HNTB, HOK. Those firms, well, later Populous, but they had to be in a place, because you're, all your designers are co located, and they all had these big drafting boards, so you need space that's not expensive. If you're gonna design a football stadium, that's where you go do it.
artifact of big spaces to design buildings still exists. I don't think it's necessary. But the big firms are such that they're, they're compressed under their own weight. And the revenue per employee, I don't know, maybe once you get to thirty four. 30 people, you start having middle management, but now you have to pay for positions that don't generate revenue, so now you have to grow again, which creates more middle management, and then it's irrecoverable.
So I don't [01:02:00] know how firms grow without proportionally, you don't want to proportionally grow the complexity, or the, yeah,
complexity, Because
at the point where you start having to have
meetings to discuss issues that are irrecoverable, then that's Not billable work. It's not necessarily in, in, in value to the customer. So I think long term how these large companies are going to survive unless they have Unless they bring some kind of unique and particular value that only large firms, so you've seen this, right? The, the large companies buying other large companies, and there's been consolidation in the last 10 years, but they have to have very particular industry expertise to survive. If you want to build a football stadium, you're kind of limited, but for a lot of commercial projects, do you need office space? Do you need the complexity or? [01:03:00] Our large firms, a lot of small teams, and those small teams don't need large firms anymore.
Evan Troxel: It does seem like you're advocating for small, nimble teams who have the ability to say no, but leverage technology to do big things. Like that,
Phil Read: As long as they have their customer's confidence, right? I mean, why would you If I was a customer wanting to design a building and kept getting voicemail every time I wanted to talk to the project manager, I would get frustrated. Yeah. I don't know that the artifact to create a large commercial project
It requires
that you have an office space full of people that are co located and they have desks. I mean, the space we, the space we park our cars in are larger than the space that we have to work in, right? Our cubicles, our 8x10 cubicles are half the size of our [01:04:00] 10x20 parking spaces.
So, I don't know, I think we have to come together and have meetings like we're doing today. We could have done this over, over a Zoom meeting or something, but it's not as enjoyable. So, you need to come together sometime and have that compression. But then a lot of it is just let me be quiet and when I need to speak to people, I'll speak to them.
We don't have the flexi Well, maybe the pandemic taught us a bit about that. You know, the, the value of being able to be quiet and work in a concentrated way and then come together as you need to.
Evan Troxel: So you talked about that idea of removing things, improving the quality of, of life, and you also talked about having to, you know, deal with your own thoughts.
So I'm just wondering, overall, net positive, but, but in which, in what way for you?
Phil Read: Ooh. Uh, well over the last, I would say the last five to 10 years of turning off the tv, turning off the radio, saying no to things. It, it feels very indulgent. Um, 'cause I've got friends that still go into the office and they're showing [01:05:00] up before the sunrises and they're leaving after the sunsets.
And, um, that's the decisions that they've made. But, uh, I just didn't want to make decisions that you couldn't I don't like irrecoverable complexity. So if you make a decision that you can't back out of, realizing that it's too complex, you have to be careful about those kinds of things. So if you want to work for a great company, good.
But if you work for that great company, and then buy a house that's a little too expensive, and a car that's a little too new Now you can't say no, and it's very stressful if you show up Monday and you're told that your position's been eliminated. So the freedom of not having that worry is, for me, I prefer that more.
The freedom and flexibility to be curious so that when something interesting comes along If I had seen Enscape working for a company, I could have bought it and used it. But I wouldn't have had the experience of actually helping those guys go to market and seeing the company grow from, you know, at the time, I think we were 8 to 10 [01:06:00] people to now, Chaos is probably 800 people. Yeah,
I, I, I don't know that I would be good at, I'm, I'm good at being part of it and helping to curate it and direct it. I'm not good at being an employee of that. Or an, yeah, of an employer, like an employer, and I, of 800 people, I, I don't know if I could manage
Evan Troxel: I heard Jensen Wang recently say that, uh, if he was gonna do it all again, he wouldn't. Because it's been so difficult. So difficult. Harder than he could have ever imagined to do something like NVIDIA.
Phil Read: yeah.
So if you do that, once you say yes, you can't say no. A lot of people depend on you, so you have to be careful what you say yes to. Uh, there's one of the first engineers I worked for coming back. Uh, lived in New Zealand for a while and came back and worked for a guy named Boney Dawood with Dawood Engineering.
He's still the sole owner. Um, probably plus 200 people, maybe there were 300 at a time. And he was one of the [01:07:00] We had a roundtable discussion or, or camp, um, a fireside chat with him at the leadership retreat to talk about how he grew his company. And I even had a follow up conversation. How do you grow the company without growing the complexity? And he admitted that that part's hard. You have to choose the right people. Because ultimately what you do is you're only managing 10 people and everybody's managing 10 people. And that maintains, that allows you to manage complexity. So he has a team of 10 people that he trusts and they manage groups of each of those manage 10 people and then that scales.
But, uh, I wouldn't want to be involved in a situation.
have, I, I, I'm fortunate in that I have the freedom that I could say no if a company wanted to hire me to pay me more money. I don't think I do it, Evan, because at that point you c at that point, they own you, you, you can't say no to other things that might be cur might be interesting.
You c you're not [01:08:00] being paid to be curious at that
Evan Troxel: that point.
Phil Read: As a matter of fact, when I left Autodesk to go to work for the large and e firm, one of the first meetings I had with, with a senior executive as I sort of laid out the strategy, which I thought was a strategy for the quarter, and he said that's a good strategy for the year.
Evan Troxel: Slow down.
Phil Read: that really surprised me. I thought, well, what am I going to do here that's valuable? But the, um, the other thing is I said, well, you know, is there anything I didn't mention that you need from me? And they said, um, we don't want you talking at conferences anymore or sharing anything we learn. Like, that's just for us.
And for me, that of being able to kind of discover something useful and share it with people was very important to me. It's kind of where I'm wired. And being told that I couldn't do that. I just had to say, well, I guess I can't do that anymore. And it was, it was dispiriting.
Evan Troxel: I know exactly what that, what that's like. Yeah. And I, I feel like, it's weird nowadays with social [01:09:00] media, and, uh, followers, and audiences,
Phil Read: Yeah, what can you talk about, what can't you talk
Evan Troxel: And all of a sudden it just becomes this weird nightmare of management, of, I can't be me anymore. Right? I am now, like you said, owned by that
Phil Read: And that's what you sign up for.
They own you 24 hours a day.
And so, if you say yes to that, just go and wise up, you know, with eyes wide open. Um, or don't, and go lean and work on the projects that you care about. And, I don't know that, I don't know that you necessarily won't make as much money, but you'll have a lot more left over. And what I found was making the most money that I'd ever made working for a company, I never enjoyed it.
Even when I was on vacation, because I knew at the end of two weeks I had to go back to the thing that I didn't enjoy. And so that was a very dispiriting. Kind of experience and I'm wired to not give up So even though I I felt like I should probably should have called my old director [01:10:00] back at Autodesk and said hey I got to be honest.
I think I've made a bad decision here. I'm not good at managing people But I didn't know how to do that, and I didn't know how to, I didn't know how to quit, or I didn't, it felt like quitting if I stopped doing it, so I didn't know, I was very, being very binary about
it, and, and so I think the hard part is, as subject matter experts, going back to the original thing is like, we get really good at something, you get recognized, you save the company a bunch of time and money, oh, you should manage a team, oh, yeah, that sounds great, I'll get paid more money, and then now it's like, oh my gosh, I'm managing a team, I really miss the thing I used to do.
So being told flat out, we don't want you speaking at conferences anymore, you don't write any more technical best practice articles, everything you learn we're only going to share internally. And it just kind of went, it just kind of a, a, a flame went out. But I thought, well, you're paying me a lot of money, I guess that's what you have to do when you, it's adulting.
Evan Troxel: Yeah,
Phil Read: That's what you do. And um, Yeah, so I probably learned a bit hard, you know, learned from bad lessons. The good thing with bad lessons [01:11:00] is that you pay attention.
Evan Troxel: pay attention.
Ha Bad
Phil Read: You're hyper attentive to the bad thing happening. Yeah, um,
Evan Troxel: we're kind of wired for that too.
Phil Read: but I don't think that a young, you know, going back to the, you know, the initial bookend of a young person that wants to be an architect now.
If you go to the expensive school, it's probably because you, you aspire to the status of going to the school and then working for the high profile firm. But if you don't aspire to that, if you want to have interesting customers and do interesting work that no one has ever heard about, you'll do really well.
Evan Troxel: yep, you can make a decent living being an
Phil Read: Oh yeah. Looking after, just solving the customer's problems. Give them a good experience. There's a guy in New Zealand named Val McQuarrie. And I don't think anyone listening has ever heard of him. Go look up Vaughn McQuarrie, uh, in New Zealand.
He's won House of the Year multiple years. He does incredibly precious work, and, uh, he uses a bit of SketchUp, a bit of Revit, a bit of Enscape, lives on an island off the coast of [01:12:00] Auckland. Uh, you have to get back and forth by ferry. Incredibly approachable, interesting guy, and He doesn't need the overhead, and customers are coming to him now, but he said no to a lot of things.
Evan Troxel: That was the sacrifice.
Phil Read: that was a sacrifice. You say no to the up front, fancy firm, fancy paycheck, but you kind of, you get to hold on to your freedom a little bit
Evan Troxel: little bit. Yeah.
Phil Read: Yep, and that's the, uh, I think that's the long term. Ultimately, what I was trying to do was find a job or find a path where I could do it my whole life.
And I think, I think in that way I did, you know, architecture and technology.
And not saying yes to everything. Being careful about what you say yes to because you can't, you often can't go back.
Well, I didn't know it at the time.
Yeah, well, saying no to things, yeah, just saying no to, you know, the new car is great. New car should have [01:13:00] three day waiting periods, you know, you go back.
Um, yeah, don't buying the new car. don't make decisions that you can't get out of. And the new car locks you down, you know. If I think if I, if I borrow money to go to school, and if I Bought a new car and I had other debt. I would have never been able to say yes to taking a chance with this little company in, you know, Waltham called Revit Technology.
I'd be an architect in Charlotte, which is noble.
Um, but I wouldn't, you know, I wouldn't have had the experience of hopping on a plane to come to Denver to chat with you, to fly back, you know, to be curious. Yeah.
Evan Troxel: Fun adventure. This has been a fantastic conversation. I feel like there's, there's a lot of wisdom, shared wisdom, in this
Phil Read: Well, you've had a lot of this experience too. Yeah.
Evan Troxel: Yeah, yeah, definitely. I mean, part of it is a shared experience that you weren't, didn't know you were sharing, and, and I, that's important to capture, I think, because there's so much in there that other people can glean from, I hesitate to [01:14:00] say learn from.
It's our experience, right? It
Phil Read: Well, I think you and I both said no to certain things, or have, or we were told no, right?
So we had to figure something else out. But once you learn to say no a little bit, and you find up this, and you find the sun still comes up the next morning, I think I'll say no again. And then pretty soon you're at a point where you can say yes to really what you care about and be hyper focused. And, um, it's freeing.
Evan Troxel: Yeah, definitely. I think that's a great place to Put a cap on this
Phil Read: Okay.
Evan Troxel: Yeah, this has been an incredible adventure flying and meeting in the middle of the country for a day for to record a conversation and then to go home and I hope, I hope people enjoyed it as much as I did because I got a lot out of it.
This has been great.
Phil Read: Thanks, Evan.