There is this well-known story about John F. Kennedy about that time he went to visit NASA. During the visit, he saw a man mopping the floor and asked him about his job and the man proudly answered, “I’m helping to send a man to the moon.”
These words delivered a very loud and clear message about the perspective of that person and how he didn’t look at his work as the mere source of a paycheck, but how he believed himself to be a part of a bigger picture and as a contributor to a larger noble purpose.
These sentiments are found in abundance when people are rallying behind a large cause and behind the charismatic leader who has a vision that people believe in. This is why leadership matters a lot.
The three bricklayers parable shines a bigger light on the importance of having a vision and a sense of purpose. A traveler came upon three men who were working together and he asked each one what he was doing there. The first man answered that he was laying bricks. I would think that he probably said it with a foul attitude and a grimace of annoyance at the man asking the stupid question. The second man answered that he was putting up a wall. I could see him saying that with the self-assurance and confidence of a professional who takes pride in his craftsmanship and a job well done. The third man answered that was building a cathedral to the glory of God. And that man most probably had a wide smile, a sprinkle in his eye, and he probably carried each brick with the love and care he would give to a baby, did the work tirelessly regardless of the compensation, and went above and beyond the call of duty.
The first man has a job that he hates, the second man has a vocation and career that he respects, and the third man is a man of vision and purpose who will always find a way to achieve his mission and calling in life.
It’s not the same thing to wake up in the trenches of a muddy war every single day with nothing but your daily toil to look forward to and not venturing with your thinking further than that into an uncertain future, as opposed to seeing the battle as only a step towards winning a war. That’s the difference between having an eye that sees through the tactics and immediate short-term efforts all the way into the overall strategy that governs every move and the consequences of each action.
If you’re in that trench simply just holding a shovel not knowing what it’s all for except that you were put there and you have to do a certain job, then your life is miserable. But if you’re there to build defenses for your unit to help your people win a battle in a war, then you’re on your way somewhere, and that makes it a different story.
This is why people who understand anything about motivation will tell you as Simon Sinek says: “Start With Why.”
You’ve probably also heard the famous quote by Friederich Nietzsche: “He who has a why to live can bear almost any how.”
Do you see yourself as a person of purpose or you only see the things you do as chores you have to suffer through until you can indulge anew in your favorite escape from reality?
It’s long-term thinking that helps you get out of bed, pick up your own feet, and put one in front of the other every morning. vs looking down at your own feet.
There was this study that was done at Stanford University, ‘The Marshmallow Test.’ It basically claims that the best indicator of future success is the willingness to delay gratification and see beyond the present moment, plan for the future, and anticipate further rewards down the road.
Some would call it the scarcity mindset versus abundance mindset, optimism, trusting the universe has your back or having faith in God. I think these are all names for the same thing, and that concept is your best tool and weapon against the overwhelming forces of chaos and uncertainty in the world.
How we get there is the real question because when all you see are disadvantages, impassable obstacles, and gatekeepers, then you’ve turned off your problem-solving mind and you stop looking for options, which keeps you stuck exactly where you are.
So, when the odds seem to be all stacked up against you, and when you see there’s no obvious way out, the best solution is to pick a destination and go for it. You will have to find the leader in you who will make plans, arrangements, and preparations, rally the troops, create the vision, point the way, and then get going.
All you need at the beginning is courage. That’s it, just that: courage. It’s about making the hard choices with courage and faith.
The famed personal trainer Jerzy Gregorek says it best: Easy choices, hard life. Hard choices, easy life.
So, step one may include some form of bricklaying. Some monotonous work that is thankless and boring but it affords you the chance to figure out your next steps.
Step two could be all about building walls or rather starting on a path towards mastery. That’s when you can choose to find a wall you want to build and work on your skills as a master mason, building that metaphorical wall of skill and competence.
Step three could be your personal evolution into a person with a grand vision of the world you want to create for yourself providing great value to others.
Past that, you would be concerned with passing along your legacy, teaching people to do the same things you mastered, helping and mentoring others, and trying to make the world a better place.
No matter where you stand in life, you should examine your long-term vision and what you see life is like in your future, and plan accordingly.
Just be careful that your mission is worthy before you embark on that long journey. The Count of Monte Christo was a man on a mission, and it sustained him for years, driving him and pushing him forward, but it was one of bitter revenge and destruction.
Holding on to anger about how your life started out, how injustice was done to you, and how people offended, disregarded, and underestimated you, is heavy baggage to carry around. You’ll tread much faster once you rid yourself of it.
“Get active in your own rescue.” -Marcus Aurelius
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