Getting Started

6 Sep 2022

I love nothing more than when someone asks what I do. My head goes, "Get ready to be dazzled and dumbfounded, I am going to say this thing that I am and you probably won't be able to wrap your mind around the spectacularity of it, you probably won't understand it, or know what it is, and I will feel a little sorry for you, because you, too, would delight in this occupation if fate had introduced it to you sooner and now I feel all superior and good." And then I say, "I'm a planner" and I wait for the above-described reaction to play out in the person's eyes. And then the person asks if that's like an architect.

I've been fortunate to work as a planner in New York and London. Not all of the jobs I've had have inspired my smug internal dialogue, but I feel that I've always maintained a faith in the power of what planning and planners can do, even when it's been hard (at times, very hard) to muster the enthusiasm. Sincerely and seriously, I do love being a planner - albeit, an imperfect one - and I naively assume that all planners have an obligation (you don't!!) to feel the same.

The discussion that's been playing out in niche media is a regrettable one: accounts of planners' frustrations in the workplace, recognition by profession leaders that morale is challenged and, more recently, a view that planning is not a desirable career choice. I personally can't claim to have experienced everything that is described in these reports and, as much as I would like to, I don't have precise evidence of the state of the planning profession. What I do have is a basic conviction that planners chose the direction because we have been dazzled and dumbfounded by its potential at some point, and if some/all of us have lost view of planning's luster along the way, we can reclaim it, even in small ways.

So, the purpose of Pinch Yourself, You're a Planner, is for planners to:

  • remind ourselves of the extraordinary value of what we do
  • revive (even formulate?) our individual core planning values
  • find our own ways of applying those values to what we do each day

I, myself, have spent a lot of time thinking about what has inspired joy in my work, and I have some initial thoughts. These are the start of a hypothesis - by no means exhaustive or scientific, but a few themes that I'm eager to test. My goal is to tap the brains of planners who have had positive professional experiences to share their top tips, aggregate them on Pinch Yourself, You're a Planner, and begin to establish a resource of good practice - for planners.

I look forward to this process of learning from you. I'm sure it will be fruitful.