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Read our rants and raves about all the ways that much of our current lighting approaches do more harm than good.  But we’re not all Debby-downers on lighting and the lighting industry. There’s a lot to be discovered, experienced and celebrated in and through light and lighting. We’re excited to explore this path together and we welcome engagement from other fellow travelers on this lighting journey.

The Journey

Journeys are not trips, and they are not vacations. Trips are quick, short jaunts to known and familiar destinations—kinda like a trip to the hardware store or to your relatives’ house for a birthday celebration. There and back, lickety-split. Little investment of time, effort, or money. Vacations then, by extension, involve a bit more effort and always cost more than you planned. Our family went on a vacation last summer along Route 66 from Arizona back to our home in Central Illinois. My wife, three kids and I, took in as much of the “Mother Road” in our rented van as we could handle while we drove across paved and unpaved sections, hunting any “Historic Route 66” signs like they were easter eggs. We spent way more than we expected (but isn’t that expected?), and we created memories for ourselves and our kids that will hopefully last a lifetime. Journeys, on the other hand, often involve more uncertainty, more risk, and more distance traveled. There are often few fellow travelers to join you on a journey, unless the really loyal ones show up to support you along your path.

I’ve been on a journey, of sorts. It’s been somewhat of a lonely path, filled with uncertainty and peril, but it has also been full of discovery, wonder, life-lessons and growth; and I’ve met a few fellow-travelers and made some friends along the way. My path into lighting design, and becoming a self-styled “lighting sherpa”, qualifies as a journey. I feel as though this territory is largely uncharted, because lighting design professionals and custom integration professionals don’t necessarily partner together to disrupt a well-entrenched market model for lighting homes. They might co-labor on a given project, but more as fellow subcontractors, each doing their own part, rather than as an integrated team. Custom integration professionals are themselves at various points of confidence and trepidation along the continuum of lighting expertise. Some have jumped in with both feet, while others are too apprehensive to even dip a toe into the waters. The lighting and building markets aren’t exactly sure what to do with these CI Dealers either who want to “enter into this growing new category”. The lighting design community might variously see these emerging players as either anomalies, threats, disrupters, or essential evils in navigating the complexities of an integrated experience that only sophisticated controls expertise can truly deliver. I have placed myself squarely within the nexus of these worlds.

Because I am positioning myself as a "lighting sherpa” means that I have chosen to embrace the paths these CI professionals choose, even if they lead towards a certain degree of peril—kind of like Jiminy Cricket sitting on the shoulder of curious Pinocchio as he compulsively follows Lampwick on his way to Pleasure Island. In certain cases, try as I might, the CI dealer might lose a lighting job that we were already engaged in due to their own negligence and mismanagement of the client, process or timelines. Under such circumstances, the sherpa escapes alive even as the deal dies. On other paths, the dealer might bring the sherpa on board to help them make the lighting sale through design. Things seem to be going well until the client, who was never properly groomed on actual costs of the lighting and controls package, decides everything is way too expensive. The dealer then abandons their foray up the lighting summit and walks away because they aren’t willing to meet the client half-way on cost of product. This either-use-this-package-or-get-no-package-at-all approach leaves the sherpa scrambling to get decent product on the job without direct advocacy from the dealer, even as the “hostile forces” of the electrical contractor and general contractor sweep across the plain like an avalanche, actively trying to subvert any efforts to provide better lighting through design on the project. Still other times, the sherpa tries to guide the CI party through the haze of ignorant assumptions about lighting products and design, fighting against the opposition provided by clients, contractors, and other would-be “lighting professionals” who think that recessed downlights are equivalent to percussion instruments (hi-hats) or drinking containers (cans). Every step the sherpa takes to try and provide a better experience is met with resistance.

The thing about resistance, though, is that it produces resilience if you are resolved to persist. You grow as you go. I have learned a lot through these journeys into this territory. I feel stronger and more confident with every step. The CI professionals I have been privileged to walk with into this territory, that really get what I’m trying to accomplish, are just as persistent to figure out the best routes ahead, because there is just no one way to successfully ascend this mountain. And a mountain it is. It is a mountain of status quo thinking and operating. It is a mountain of market trends that require market disruption. It is a mountain of sophisticated technology that has only a narrow margin for mistakes. It is a mountain that is filled with challenges, but isn’t it the challenge that drives us onward? Journey on.

P.S. Holy cow! I just realized that it’s been two full years since my last Light Talk blog post. It has been a steady and consistent pathway ahead as I continually look to position myself to better support and assist CI Professionals who are both eager and apprehensive to take their next best step into lighting. As a design professional, consultant, coach, educator, and lighting sherpa, I am constantly looking for ways to connect with and try to leverage the momentum dealers have in order to advance their position in the Lighting and Building industries. To that end, the best is truly yet to come. Stay tuned. I've got a bunch more posts that I'm excited to write this year.

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