Are you building a cathedral?

An old story: A man came across three men working side by side laying bricks. He asked them what they are doing. The first man said: “I’m laying bricks”. The second man said: “I’m constructing a wall”. The third man cheerfully said: “I’m building a cathedral. When this is done, it will be one of the most beautiful cathedrals in the world, serving thousands of people.”

The three men are doing the same job, yet their attitudes are very different. The third man sees the vision of his work and understands its purpose.

As you are going to work today, do you know if you are building a cathedral? Do you understand the vision and the purpose of your work? What will it be at the end? Who will it serve? And, what difference does it make because you do it?

Why do we need to build a cathedral?

1. You will be happier if you love your job and understand its purpose.

Maslow, an American psychologist, shared a theory about the stages of human motivations and growths. This is described as a ladder called Maslow Hierarchy of Needs.


At the basic level, we need to have food, water, warmth, rest, security and safety. Once those needs are met, the next level is psychological needs. Psychological needs are the needs to have friends, to be loved, and to feel accomplished. The final level of needs is self-fulfillment needs, which are being able to achieve one’s full potential, understand one’s life purpose, actualize it, be a part of something larger than self.

The higher we operate on the ladder of needs, the happier we become. When we believe we are working to serve a larger purpose, we are in a state of flow. We forget ourselves, we overcome challenges, we seek learning and new information, we believe in doing all we can to achieve the end goals so that our project can come to life and serve more people. In the process of trying, of doing one’s best, giving it all we have, we become more fulfilled, more confident, and joyful.

“When you are inspired by some great purpose, some extraordinary project, all your thoughts break their bounds. Your mind transcends limitations, your consciousness expands in every direction and you find yourself in a new, great and wonderful world. Dormant forces, faculties and talents become alive, and you discover yourself to be a greater person by far than you ever dreamed yourself to be.” – Patanjali

Given a choice, would you rather have a job that just pays bills, thus fulfilling only the basic needs, or would you rather have a job that allows you to be a part of something bigger than yourself, thus fulfilling not only the basic needs but also psychological needs and self-fulfillment needs? The answer is obvious. “Choose the job you love, and you’ll never have to work a day in your life” – Confucius

2. It’s your duty to humanity to find a job you love. It’s your duty to find the meaning in the work you do.

We are only here on this earth at the maximum 100 years, and probably only 80 or less of those years are truly productive. The earth has been around for billions of years. Our time on earth is a really short time compared to how long the earth has been around. We are only visiting the earth for a brief time. What can we do to make this short visit a worthwhile one, one that will benefit others and help the generations after us?

“What counts in life is not the mere fact that we have lived. It is what difference we have made to the lives of others that will determine the significance of the life we lead.” – Nelson Mandela

Only when we love our job, we are able to put our heart and soul into it and do it well. There is a difference between a person who only goes to work to get paid, and someone who loves her work. As you love your work, you will invest time and energy to go above and beyond what is required of you, to learn new skills, to look for new ideas and knowledge to do it better, to produce not just a piece of work but a masterpiece.

“Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do.” – Steve Jobs

We don’t have to be a Nelson Mandela or a Steve Jobs to find the job we love or to discover the higher purpose of our work. All of us have unique talents, giftedness, and our own vocations. Whatever our work is, we are responsible to ourselves to discover its purpose, to do it with our greatest efforts, to find a way to lift others up and serve them, to fulfill the mission of making the world a better place for ourselves and for the future generations.

“If it falls your lot to be a street sweeper, go out and sweep streets like Michelangelo painted pictures. Sweep streets like Handel and Beethoven composed music. Sweep streets like Shakespeare wrote poetry. Sweep streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth will have to pause and say, here lived a great street sweeper who swept his job well.” – Martin Luther King, Jr.

In summary:

We spend a majority of our time at work. Let us be find our cathedral and put our heart into building it. By doing so, we will feel happier, and at the same time, fulfill our duty to humanity to make this world a better place because we have done our work well.

“In order to really find happiness, you need to continue looking for opportunities that you believe are meaningful, in which you will be able to learn new things, to succeed, and be given more and more responsibility to shoulder.” – Clayton Christensen

I hope this article serves you!

With loving heart,

Thanh Nguyen

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