The Story of Three Bricklayers

A Parable About The Power of Purpose

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The story of three bricklayers 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 world’s most 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, the most productive of the three and the future leader of the group, 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. From this story, many analogies and applications can be drawn. Some of these include the importance of:

Big Picture Thinking – Being able to see the end result and how your work contributes to that end.

Attitude – A positive attitude and pride in what you are doing will show up in your work and your motivation.

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.

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