The Road Beyond my Crossroads (Part 2)

How I reached a personal /professional crossroads, found my calling, and designed and built a sustainable, inspirational, collaborative workspace doing work I am extremely proud of…

Getting to my Crossroads, and Past

How, beyond my crossroads, I designed and built a sustainable, inspirational, collaborative, workspace, became a leader, and found happiness.

What is the work that you can’t not do?

Entrepreneur Scott Dinsmore left a Fortune 500 company to help others do work that they love. After researching what thousands of employees truly wanted out of life, he founded the organization Live Your Legend. As the Chief Experimenter, he not only supplied practical career tools, but also connected more than 100,000 people worldwide to encourage each other’s dreams – putting community at the centre of success.



Dinsmore asks: ‘What is the work that you can’t not do?’

It’s really that simple.

Dinsmore advises:

  1. Become a self-expert. Your work will be congruent with your Unique Strengths, Values, and Experiences. You can’t find what you’re looking for if you don’t know what it is.
  2. Do the impossible. Everything was impossible, until somebody did it
  3. Surround yourself with passionate people – ideally those already doing what you want to do.

These three things are all in your control.

Now your question goes from “how can I possibly do this?” to “how can I not do this?”

Engaging with a Millennial Workforce

2009 – SUSTAINABLE.TO Architecture + Building is Born

Calling our firm ‘Sustainable’ was a gamble. We were making a statement of purpose to which we would be measurably accountable. Would there be enough clients in the Toronto area to support a business with such a dedicated focus?

What started at my dining room table, with two part-time assistants,within a few months moved to the back of a vintage furniture shop on Queen Street East, with a growing roster of full-time staff. A year later we , occupied the second floor of a 100-year-old bank building, with 10 full-time employees,and lots of part-time colleagues.

To this day I tell anyone who will listen, “I am so proud to go to work with the most amazing team of talented, dedicated and fun, young architects!”

I am also proud to say that our mentorship works both ways; it is reciprocal learning. I teach them from my years of experience in the industry, while they teach me from their youthful enthusiasm, and their general questioning of why things cannot be the way that they want them to be.

I think we have found a magic formula for engaging with a Millennial workforce.

They don’t seem to have the traditional separation of work from the rest of life that we, the older generation, were taught to expect. With digital devices, life and work happen simultaneously.

If their work lives were not meaningful to them, they would simply move on.

In many ways, they are the very people described by Dinsmore and by StoryCorps founder Dave Isay.

We, the Boomers, have a lot to offer

Now that we, the late-boomers, are running the show — those of us born in the early 1960s, and who were promised the Mother Earth-focused peace, love & grooviness that pervaded the 70s – I feel that we can (and must) deliver on that promise of a Simple, Sensitive, and Sustainable world for our children. We have the technology, the materials, and the methods. We simply need to add the will. I am heartened each time I meet a new client who tells me that it is their eco-conscious kids who are forcing them to demand more sustainable systems. I don’t care why you get on the bus, so long as you climb aboard.

SUSTAINABLE.TO Architecture + Building is dedicated to providing Affordable, Healthy, and Energy-Efficient design solutions for a “Future-Ready Sustainable Built Environment”.

We are at a point where we can do something about the energy consumption and the resilience of buildings with today’s technology, materials, and methods. We believe that ‘Simple is the New Smart’ and there are many inexpensive, readily-available solutions.

We have already implemented many of these solutions at SUSTAINABLE.TO, all the while staying ahead of the curve.

Making a commitment to put our money where our mouths are, at the beginning of 2015 STO bought a piece of land on Eastern Avenue, where we are looking ahead to constructing our own building of affordable rental flats.

STO will demonstrate to developers that “affordable” does not mean building cheaply, with no regard to durability or energy-efficiency, or to compromise residents’ health and comfort. In fact, we will demonstrate just the opposite.

Our efforts to date have garnered us an array of awards and international design competition wins …the latest of which are the NOW Magazine Readers’ Choice Award as Best Design Firm, and a personal award for me as Urban Hero for Social Issues in honour of Canada’s 150th anniversary.

I am looking forward to where this fabulous adventure takes me, and my crew of amazingly committed and talented young architects!!

Where would I be today if I hadn’t chosen this path at that last crossroads?

Yes, you can be a leader too

Along the way, I have been asked by many if I am a leader.

According to John Quincy Adams, I think that I am.


It’s now your turn …when you reach a crossroads, boldly take the road that scares you a bit …

No matter what you are pursuing. No matter your deeply held beliefs. Whatever it is that you just can’t not do: remember that Life is a Cha-Cha! — a series of positive, forward-propelling influences with occasional negative, discouraging setbacks. The overcoming of these setbacks will allow for reflection and will solidify your resolve to persevere, to revise and to continue to act.

One step back, two steps forward — Cha-Cha!

Enjoy the dance!!

Paul is an award-winning architect and Senior Principal of SUSTAINABLE.TO Architecture + Building, a leading Canadian full-service sustainable architectural practice. For ReIgnite clients, Paul mentors young professionals, entrepreneurs; advises on and creates work spaces that reflect a business culture of collaboration and innovation.

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