Pens & Fizzy Drinks: Or How to Set Measurable Career Goals


I always knew I would be highly successful in life. I didn’t know exactly what I would be doing for a career, but the easiest way to come to terms with impending richness is to envision it.

“Where do I envision myself by age 30? Who knows,” my younger self would often ponder. But I did know that I would undoubtedly be sitting in a large corner office, behind a big desk.

However, I never seemed happy in this destined outcome. Sure I would be wealthy, but the corner office seemed recluse and devoid of interaction. The large oak desk, with a personalized name plate, was too cumbersome for drawing. Even though this destiny was inevitable, the space was barren and lacking of inspiration. Thus, I began searching for tokens that would fulfill my personal whims and provide measurables for reaching my goals. And that is when I began collecting pens.

I already had a plethora of drawing utensils. But I needed a symbol that bridged the schism between the creative artist and the corporate businessman – the Business Pen.

Even though I didn’t know what I was going to do in my corner office.1 I did know that I wanted to have a really nice pen on my desk. So, I began buying fancy pens in fancy cases. I was even receiving fancy pens as Birthday presents.

Even though all of these fancy pens had a façade of elegance, the operation of writing was often clumsy. The ergonomics of holding the business pen were clunky and the ballpoint ink flow was often choppy. Many times, I would have to scribble on a scratch piece of paper just to get the ink flowing. This was absurd! When I’m a fancy businessman, I’ll undoubtedly need a reliable pen to sign my name on countless forms.

Therefore, regardless of the size of the large desk, I vowed that the first measurable indication of achieving my dreams will be when I have a stockpiled drawer of the greatest writing pen.

That was, until the day I first tasted an IZZE® Sparkling Blackberry Flavored Juice Beverage Blend from Concentrate With Other Natural Flavors. This bubbly elixir in an 8.4 fl. oz. can was the greatest beverage to have ever graced my pubescent taste buds.

Therefore, I added a second requisite desire deserving of any established businessman: a mini-fridge stocked with IZZE® sparkling sodas.

Whoa, whoa, whoa! Don’t deduce I would be a miserly businessman hoarding IZZE® sparkling sodas in my personal mini-fridge. Yes, IZZE® drinks are expensive compared to soda. But I fully expected to be benevolent and allow others to occasionally have a Sparkling Apple flavored drink – but only if I found them for sale again at Albertson’s for 5 for $5.


Today, as I take stock of my current career and gaze around the architecture office – my measurable goals have been achieved. There is not 1 drawer stocked with Staedtler pens and Sharpie Markers, but several drawers, several plastic bins, and several shelves filled with boxes of pens. While some people prepare for doomsday by hoarding ammunitions, or stockpiling non-perishable dry goods in their cellar – our architecture office is preparing for an even worse outcome! A shortage of pens.

Perhaps our office manager is worried about current trade deals breaking down with Germany, because my current calculations of Staedtler pen inventories will last for the next 43 to 47 years – dependent upon current usage patterns and how often people leave the caps off – regardless of global warming.

Also, down in the kitchen cupboard are 2 palettes of IZZE® sparkling juices that nobody drinks.

I should be ecstatic. My two measurable goals have been met! I have succeeded in life!

Could I have been fulfilling my lifelong goals, but just never realized it? Or, perhaps, pens and fizzy drinks are fucking lame measurables.

But, what if Nietsche and the concept of “Eternal Return” exists? Perhaps, time is cyclical and we have a predestined fate. Without even realizing it – what I sought in life and where I ended up is the same place.

Goals constantly evolve, and one’s personal career will always be compared to their peers. What once seemed like living the good life with a mini-fridge of IZZE® fizzy juices and an endless supply of pens now seems commonplace – since everyone has achieved my individual status of success.

Maybe I just need to set better measurable goals…
Hmm. I do have the nicest pencils in the office.



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1 Probably draw pretty pictures?

This post is part of the #ArchiTalks series in which the multi-faceted architect Bob Borson, of Life of an Architect, selects a theme and a group of us other (architectural) bloggers all post on the same day, on the same topic. This month’s theme is Then & NowWhere everyone tells their story of what they thought they were going to be doing when they graduated architecture school versus what they are actually doing.

Bob Borson – Life of An Architect (@bobborson)
Then and Now – Architectural Design or Accounting

Matthew Stanfield – FiELD9: architecture (@FiELD9arch)
Where It All Went Right

Marica McKeel – Studio MM (@ArchitectMM)
From Then to Now…Residential Architect

Jeff Echols – Architect Of The Internet (@Jeff_Echols)
Well, How Did I Get Here

Lee Calisti, AIA – Think Architect (@LeeCalisti)
then and now

Mark R. LePage – EntreArchitect (@EntreArchitect)
The Biggest Surprise of My Life as an Architect

Lora Teagarden – L² Design, LLC (@L2DesignLLC)
Then & Now…and the middle

Nicholas Renard – Renard Architecture (@dig-arch)
15 Years of Architecture

Jeremiah Russell, AIA – ROGUE Architecture (@rogue_architect)
then and now: #architalks

Eric T. Faulkner – Rock Talk (@wishingrockhome)
Then-Now: A Schematic Story

Michele Grace Hottel – Michele Grace Hottel, Architect (@mghottel)
then and now

Stephen Ramos – BUILDINGS ARE COOL (@sramos_BAC)
Big Ass Buildings

Brian Paletz – The Emerging Architect (@bpaletz)
How did I get here?

Michael LaValley – Evolving Architect (@archivalley)
Reflection on My Wonderful, Unexpected Career

Emily Grandstaff-Rice – Emily Grandstaff-Rice FAIA (@egrfaia)
Being the light in darkness

Jarod Hall – di’velept (@divelept)
The Joys of Being an Architect

Anthony Richardson – That Architecture Student (@thatarchstudent)
Then and Now

Kyu Young Kim – Palo Alto Design Studio (@sokokyu)
Career Path: Follow Your Heart

Nisha Kandiah – TCDS (@SKRIBBLES_INC)
Then & Now : Still Chasing the Dream

Jim Mehaffey – Yeoman Architect (@jamesmehaffey)
The Reluctant Code Guru

Tim Ung – Journey of an Architect (@timothy_ung)
10 Lessons Learned from a Young Architect

Mark Stephens – Mark Stephens Architects (@architectmark)
#Architalks 22 – Then and now


  1. Brady, another fun post! I’d agree about our goals needing to evolve with us. At the same time, if you never had the goal for a business pen and Izze, would you have reached the same place you’re at now? Probably, but it’s fun to guess what parallel existences we passed on because of our choices.

    • brady ernst

      Well, when you set shitty tangible goals all parallel existences lead to the same conclusion – dissatisfied contemplation.

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