‘The power of Purpose’

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12th June, 2023

Whenever I think about the role of, ‘Purpose in my life,’ I am reminded of a parable – The story of three bricklayers which is a multi-faceted parable with many different variations, but is rooted in an authentic story.

After the great fire of 1666 that leveled London, the famous architect, Christopher Wren, was commissioned to rebuild St Paul’s Cathedral.

One day in 1671, Christopher Wren observed three bricklayers on a scaffold, one crouched, one half-standing and one standing tall, working very hard and fast.

To the first bricklayer, Christopher Wren asked the question, “What are you doing?” to which the bricklayer replied, “I’m a bricklayer. I’m working hard laying bricks to feed my family.”

The second bricklayer, responded, “I’m a builder. I’m building a wall.”

But the third brick layer, when asked the question, “What are you doing?” replied with a gleam in his eye, “I’m a cathedral builder. I’m building a great cathedral to The Almighty.”

Online you will find many variations of this story, but each version tells of three people working on the same wall, doing the same work, but with totally different perspectives.

This story has many lessons for the reader.

  1. Big Picture Thinking – Being able to see the end result and how your work contributes to that end.
  2. Attitude – A positive attitude and pride in what you are doing will show up in your work and your motivation.
  3. Connection to the Organization’s Mission – Employees who are rightly connected to the organization’s mission, vision, values, and goals are happier, more engaged, and more productive employees.

While these lessons are true and insightful, I find this story has another potential application – ‘The Power of Purpose.’

The story of the three bricklayers is also a metaphor on the power of purpose, where the “cathedral builder,” demonstrates a personal expression of purpose that transforms his attitude and gives a higher meaning to his work.

For the first bricklayer, building the wall was a job. For the second bricklayer it was an occupation, but For the third bricklayer, it was a ‘Calling.’

A ‘Calling’ reflects our universal need to matter, to influence, and make a difference in the world around us.

Victor Frankl made this clear in his book, ‘The Meaning of Life.’ where he wrote about how some people survived the holocaust, but so many didn’t.
One of the things he identified was those who had a purpose or reason to continue to live, that was beyond themselves tended to survive, while those who were focused primarily on themselves did not.
Those who survived found some meaning in their painful circumstances which was in caring for and helping others in this horrible experience.

The story of the three bricklayers also illustrates the responsibility of leaders to encourage others to find their “cathedral,” and to help and support others in pursuing and building their “cathedral.”

We are all uniquely created by God for a specific purpose at a particular time in history that no one else can fulfill but us.

We all need to wrestle with the question, how do I move people in my team from where they are to ‘cathedral’ builders?

How do I help my team discover their God given purpose at each juncture in life’s journey?

Find your true purpose of life, your ‘Calling’ and help people find theirs and
as Martin Luther King, Jr. wrote: “If a man is “called” to be a street sweeper, he should sweep streets even as Michelangelo painted, or Beethoven composed music, or Shakespeare wrote poetry. He should sweep streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth will pause to say, here lived a great street sweeper who did his job well.”

You were not born to earn your wages & live an ordinary life, Find your ‘Calling’ – the real purpose of life and Stay blessed forever.