Strategic Vision: Work Is In The Eye Of The Beholder

I found this story last night, and found it apropos to yesterday's presentations and my current project. It is a paraphrase, as best I can remember, of an excerpt from The Gold Bug Variations by Richard Powers. Enjoy!

An itinerant wanderer is traveling through 13th century France. On a dirt road in the middle of nowhere, he encounters an exhausted man pushing a wheelbarrow full of stones. When the traveler asks the man what he’s doing, the man replies, “Wouldn’t I like to know. They’ve got me hauling these rocks back and forth all day, I’m worn to the bone, and they barely pay me enough to keep a roof over my head.”

Further down the road, the traveler meets another man pushing a wheelbarrow. When asked the same question, the second man says, “I was out of work for a long time. My wife and children were starving. Now I haul these rocks around, and the work is killing me, but I’m grateful for it.”

Just before nightfall, the traveler finds a third man hauling stones in a wheelbarrow. When asked what he is doing, the exhausted stone-hauler smiles and says, “I’m building Chartres Cathedral.”

This story illustrates the importance of formulating and communicating an overarching strategic vision that lends personal meaning to human endeavor. The focused dedication of personal effort in passionate pursuit of a desired vision (as exhibited in our stone-hauler's exhausted smile) far outstrips, in terms of efficiency, any other behavioral driver that may be foisted upon an individual from an external source. Not to mention, of course, the psychic benefits in terms of a more ineluctable and general happiness that tend to accompany an individual's feeling of purpose and awareness of a tangible, meaningful achievement.

Antoine de Saint Exupery said it best in The Wisdom of the Sands with this stunning strategic vision-cum-management philosophy:

"If you want to build a ship, don't drum up the men to gather wood, divide the work and give orders. Instead, teach them to yearn for the vast and endless sea."

Syndicate content
Content © Beal Institute for Strategic Creativity.