Purpose-Driven Productivity

A woman and her small boy are walking down a cobblestone path in the sweltering summer sun. As they round the bend, they come upon three men on their knees, each with a brick in one hand and a trowel in the other. “Mama, what are they doing?” asks the boy. “Why don’t you ask them, darling?” she answers. Gingerly, the boy poses his question to the men.

The first answers: “I’m stacking one ROCK on top of another ROCK: same thing I’ve done for the last 30 years, kid!” The second says: “I’m earning an honest living, and providing a home and food for my wife and children.” The third one looks up, with a gleam in his eyes and answers: “I’m building the most beautiful chapel ever made!

Chapel by the lake

Some of us are trapped in the drudgery of daily labor, haunted by a nagging sense that our work has no meaning at all. Others have accepted the reality that sustenance requires effort, and we shoulder the burden with resolve. But a select few have taken the time to search out how their daily efforts impact the big picture.

I have seldom been the first man, but I’ve spent many days as the second: Doing what must be done, in order to make ends meet. As I’ve often said, few of us in the Technical Communications profession aspired to this career as children: We wanted to be artists, astronauts and acrobats. But lately, I’ve found myself resembling that third man. Where I work, we protect the innocent from those with ill intent. And, back when I was a kid, I wanted nothing more than to find my way into a seat on the Justice League council. Somehow, I have ended up doing that same work. My daily contribution is part of a unified effort to defend the decent from the degenerate.

Could it be that YOUR daily work is helping someone, significantly? If you take the time to figure out who and how, you just may see extra spring in your steps today. Perspective brings purpose, and purpose drives productivity.

13 Responses to “Purpose-Driven Productivity”

  1. What a wonderfully thought-provoking post. To be honest, I love what I do. But there are days when Author IT does not behave and the computer crashes a hundred times that I feel like the first man in the story. Most days I’m like the second. I find I’m only like the third man in this story when I’m asked to do something new, like document a brand new product or research trends in our field.

    Thanks for reminding me that it’s up to me to change.

    • Thank you Patty, I’m always delighted to hear from others who also love what they do. Joy is contagious! Since you mentioned self-directed change, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the Lead Change group (http://leadchangegroup.com). They share inspiring character-based leadership posts.

  2. I have spent many years as the second man also. Now I also want to have a purpose and add meaning to my life. I have found it all boils down to our intentions. The intention to be of help to others is the most noble i can think of – except for protecting those who cannot protect themselves. Thanks for the post i enjoyed it!

    • You are most welcome, Ike. If someone had told me, years ago, that I could defend the defenseless and help those in need by writing procedures, I may not have believed it. And yet it came to pass.

  3. Nice post, Tristan. A little much on the hyperbole, but the point gets made. We do try to help folks get what they need from products without getting burned by mistakes that would be all to easy to make when left to their own devices. It does us well to remind ourselves of that when the task seems far too tedious and we seem to get worn down by the battle.

    Remember, that the member of the Justice League that was most prone to discouragement became it’s tactical leader. πŸ˜€

  4. Awesome post Tristan.

    It took me three different streams and 10 yrs to finally land up in the world I belong to. And on my this birthday, I was the happiest man on the earth and for the exact reason you have mentioned in your blog. Definitely, yes! today I am the third man πŸ™‚

    Keep writing such good stuff πŸ™‚

  5. The message is clear and alluring. No doubt, that most of us has finally stepped in where we once dreamt of as children and feel like the third man. The uncertain rather unexpected projections, have given us numerous experiences, which we label as complex, treacherous, great and so on. But the essence lies in the course. I feel, to be the third man after being the first and the second (by choice or chance)places us at the vantage point. Would have we ever experienced the itinerary of the first and the second man, if we would have become the third man at the maiden attempt? I guess that is why the woman did not directly answer her son’s questions and asked him to question the three men in person.
    I am finally the third man and now after reading the passage I feel great! I hope every team and individual get an opportunity to read the passage, the sooner the better πŸ™‚ Tristan, thanks a lot for sharing!

    • You are most welcome, Dhaval! I am delighted that you identify with the purpose-driven worker. May we all find our way to such a positive situation. Have a great day!

  6. Great great story Tristan. Get out of the drudgery and start bringing life and inspiration to even the most mundane tasks! Interesting to me that I saw this post today. For I just wrote a post on inspiring nuts-and-bolts teams that are often overlooked in their daily work to support others.

    Here it is with ideas to inspire back office teams. I welcome your comments there as well.
    How to Inspire and Engage Support Teams

    Best wishes,


  1. #30Thursday Post #2! « Musings on Marketing and other Morsels - September 9, 2010

    […] Media catch! by @briansrice 11. A really beautifully written post by my friend @knowledgebishop on purpose-driven productivity 12. Beth Harte and Geoff Livingston wrote an amazing blog post – “The Meme to end all […]

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