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Disaster Planning for Architects

My name is Rachel Strickland and I am not an architect. I’m a circus performer who’s made a living hanging 20 feet in the air for 15 years, and today I bring you a message about disaster. More specifically, how to count on it.

Plan for Disaster

Don’t misunderstand me, I don’t mean “plan for failure.” I mean plan for disaster.

When we undertake something that tests our very mettle, something with the air of greatness to it, (something as big as becoming a Registered Architect), we make plans.

As The Event (The test) gets closer, we plan more closely.

And we frequently plan for the best case scenario.

This scenario is possible, but then on the day of if the wind blows from the north or your bagel is burnt or traffic sucks or you can’t find your lucky trinket, suddenly your plan- which was born out of intelligence- ceases to support you.

I’m speaking directly to your animal nature. With Your brain and your knowledge, you know how to prepare. But your brain lives inside of a meat suit, powered by electricity and vulnerable to the elements. Much of the elements are outside of your control, so I’d encourage you to focus on what is directly under your control.

Things you can control:

Your blood sugar being stable, your gas tank being full, and your clothes being clean are three tiny, stupid human things that seem not worth mentioning.

However, tell that to someone running exactly on time (according to the best case scenario plan) who realizes too late that the gas tank is empty, they forgot to eat breakfast, it’s dumping rain and the only sweater they own smells like feet.

[Mark: One exam I forgot my glasses, and had to take the entire exam without the ability to focus my eyes (and therefore my brain).]

What are the elements under your direct control that you can prepare for, in the event of disaster? What creature comforts can you provide for yourself in terms of time, food, and ease that would support your success in the event of a disaster?

Yes, I learned this the hard way- more times than I’d be proud to admit. I tended to plan for a performance believing all external factors would be magically working in my favor; my costume would be perfectly adequate, the music would start correctly, and my hands would be strong.


Now I know to always pack a backup costume (because one little strap can be the difference between a great performance and an unintentionally adult-themed show), have my music backed up on three devices, and bring sticky rosin in the event of sweaty palms.

[Mark: I suggest bringing a beverage and a snack to the testing center, even if you never partake. Nowadays, you are allowed to bring your notes for a quick refresher (though the benefits of studying during the occurrence can be debated). Wear your most comfortable shoes, and dress in layers in case the testing center is hot, or cold. Listen to your “hype song” and walk in confidently as you enter the testing center door.]

What measures can you take to support your success in the worst case scenario?

What ease can you give yourself within the order of events that would make your animal body more inclined to purr happily along? What factors, under your control, can you remove from the “possible disaster” equation?

If your nervous system isn’t on board, no amount of academic preparation will save you from yourself. Aspiring to greatness is hard enough without being sabotaged by unnecessary suffering.

Rachel Strickland is a working artist and business coach to artists and creative entrepreneurs. She is director of The Audacity Project- an 8 week mentorship course to equip creatives with the tools necessary to be working professionals- and has worked with hundreds of creatives worldwide to launch their brands and turn their passions into a paycheck. You can sign up for her email list here

Photo by John Cornicello

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