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Are you Building a Castle or just Hauling Rocks?

personal excellence like building a castle

There’s an old story about a man who walks by a construction site and sees three workers, each pushing a wheelbarrow holding one enormous stone.

Out of curiosity, he asks one of the workers what they are doing. “What does it look like?” he says with a sneer.  “I’m just hauling rocks.”

Unsatisfied with that answer, the man asks the second worker with a wheelbarrow the same question. Without even bothering to look up, this man says “We’re putting up walls.”

Frustrated, the man tries one last time. “I say there,” he asks the third worker, “can you please tell me what you men are doing here?” Unlike the other two, this man stops, puts down his wheelbarrow, wipes the sweat from his forehead and says with a big smile, “We are building a castle and it’s going to be magnificent .”

Perception makes all the difference

Here are three different men; all doing the same work, but one says he is hauling rocks, one says he is putting up walls, and one says he is building a castle. This story says a lot about the attitude that each of us bring to our lives, or could bring to our lives if we were willing to change our perspective.

For example, I help people create positive change through writing and coaching. One of the reasons I do these things is to meet my financial overhead and to put food on the table. So, viewed strictly from that perspective, you might conclude that I’m just hauling rocks.

At the next level, my objective is to build up my coaching practice, increase the traffic to my blog, and sell more books. The more successfully I  do those things, the more readers and clients I attract. This, in turn, increases the performance of the various aspects of my business. When viewed from this perspective, you could say that I am putting up walls.

But the real motive and objective of my writing and coaching is to help people from all over the world to achieve and maintain a very high level of personal excellence. When I stay focused on that, I feel like I am building a magnificent castle while also meeting my lesser goals at the same time.

Don’t settle for mediocrity

Idealists might say that achieving and maintaining high levels of personal excellence has nothing to do with building a castle. They are mistaken. Oh sure, you can improve yourself, express your opinions, or rally around a cause without a commitment to excellence. But you won’t affect much meaningful change in the world or create a life that’s comparable to a magnificent castle.

That’s because personal excellence is not about showing off or beating the competition. Excellence is about having high standards and a healthy sense of self-esteem.  It’s a personal commitment to become the best you can possibly be. It liberates you from the crowded field of mediocrity allowing you to stand out, rise to the top, and shine!

You simply can’t reach your potential or live your life to the fullest if you spend your days making excuses, living by low standards, and doing just enough to get by. No one ever achieved excellence by exhibiting mediocre behavior or by accepting it from the people they surround themselves with.

Choose personal excellence and create your magnificent castle

A commitment to personal excellence in every area of your life is a great equalizer. It doesn’t matter if you are a man or woman, black or white, young or old, handsome or homely, educated or not. If you focus on personal excellence, and never make an exception, you will rise to the top.

Personal performance excellence creates a sense of freedom, security, and peace of mind. It allows you to inspire and help others, to do and be what you want. It enables you to follow your dreams, to use your life the way you choose, and to live and work on your own terms.

A commitment to excellence gives you dignity and fills you with immense personal satisfaction. That’s why every man and woman has the right, and I believe the responsibility, to pursue excellence and to become the best possible version of themselves.

When my work empowers people, when it gives them direction, comfort, hope or peace of mind, I feel a great sense of satisfaction. It makes me feel like I’m building my castle.

Apply this same line of thinking to everything you do!

Here is a very special opportunity to make some real progress on your own magnificent castle. Grab your Goal Setting Toolkit and let’s make something wonderful happen!

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22 Comments

  1. Evan January 16, 2012 Reply

    I sort of agree. However, excellence has to do with how each brick is placed. So I think the big vision is essential but it needs to come down to how the details are done too.

    • Jonathan January 17, 2012 Reply

      Hi Evan, yes, each building block certainly matters. There is something interesting about building with stone. Since each stone varies in size and shape, great care is needed to assure a tight fit for each one in order to support the rest of the structure. Any negligence with regard to the individual stones would undermine the integrity of the entire project. Obviously, anyone attempting to build a castle without understanding this basic fact would soon be forced to realize the importance of details.

  2. Galen Pearl January 16, 2012 Reply

    Great story! Next time I start a sentence with “I’m just….” I’m going to remember this!

    • Jonathan January 17, 2012 Reply

      Hi Galen, sometimes we use the term “I’m just…” with reference to something very simple like “I’m just going to drop this in the mail.” In that context it is a description of the task rather than the value or greater meaning of that task. But if what you were dropping in the mail was a check to pay off your home so you could own it free and clear, that simple act would have huge consequences attached to it. Life gains greater value, and we gain greater perspective when we take notice of how each task contributes to the big picture.

  3. Nancy January 17, 2012 Reply

    I love the story of the 3 men and I will share this story for it’s all about perspective in life. You are either hauling rocks, building walls or building a magnificent castle.

    I picked a word for this year and now you confirmed it – it is SHINE!

    Thank you, I really enjoyed this article, Nancy

    • Jonathan January 17, 2012 Reply

      Hi Nancy, I know that you gave careful consideration to your choice of that particular word, “shine.” And that shows that you realize how a simple descriptive word can influence your life. Put another way, the terms we use to describe our role in life will exert a powerful influence on our perspective. That, in turn, will influence our actions and how others respond to those actions. You chose wisely!

  4. Nea January 18, 2012 Reply

    I absolutely love this.I think it is so important for people to have a sense of purpose and that is what I get from this. A lot of people hate their jobs for this very reason…they feel like they are just hauling rocks. It makes all the difference in the world to look at the big picture and see how what you’re really doing is having a positive impact that you can be proud of. Great post!

    • Jonathan January 19, 2012 Reply

      Hi Nea, I so agree. Many people feel a distinct lack of purposes in their lives. Often such feelings are the result of a very narrow field of perception. I think it’s important to acknowledge that sometimes those seemingly mundane efforts make the biggest contributions. For example, a stay at home mom might begin to feel that she sacrificed her career to become a full time babysitter. In reality, her contribution is shaping the personality, education, values, and outlook that her children will carry for the rest of their lives. Could there be a more meaningful castle to build?

  5. Jonathan January 19, 2012 Reply

    Yea great post. You embody that the essence of life is growth..
    As long as one feels one is advancing, then one is building their castle..

    • Jonathan January 19, 2012 Reply

      Indeed Jack, perception makes all the difference!

  6. Adam January 19, 2012 Reply

    Very good post. Committing to excellence is also committing to enormous responsibility. As you won’t be understood on your way there and you won’t meet lots of people on the top, once you’ve build your castle you become responsible to show other people way to build their own (something you’re already doing).

    • Jonathan January 20, 2012 Reply

      Hi Adam, indeed, it requires that we accept full responsibility for ourselves. That means we no more excuses and no more blaming circumstances or other people for who we are. What a relief.

  7. duby January 19, 2012 Reply

    LOVED this post! What caught my eye was the opening bit — building castles or hauling rocks. Really beautiful and meaningful stuff. So happy I’m following your blog.

    • Jonathan January 20, 2012 Reply

      Thanks Duby, so glad you liked it.

  8. Dan January 20, 2012 Reply

    This simple story really inspires me. It has opened a part of my brain to bigger things. Indeed there are more splendid things than to settle with mediocrity. I will try to focus on the big picture now with the small things I am doing.

    • Jonathan January 20, 2012 Reply

      That’s great Dan, remember, all castles are built one stone at a time. Every stone plays an important role.

  9. Hi Jonathan,

    I appreciate this story. It reminds me to inspire myself with a bigger view!

    • Jonathan January 21, 2012 Reply

      That’s good Sandra, that way you can keep the rest of us inspired. :)

  10. Hiten January 22, 2012 Reply

    Hi Jonathan,

    What a brilliantly written post. What you described about helping others reach personal excellence sounds like the highest value for you. I’m of the same opinion. Our highest value(s) are like building our castles. It’s also interesting, how for us coaches its serving others. I guess that’s why we’re in this game. :-)

  11. Kennedy January 23, 2012 Reply

    I totally agree with the third point. I find that by targeting one thing that hundreds of other things happen simultaneously. I am running a construction company and understand the nice feeling of building a house or a castle.

  12. Steve January 30, 2012 Reply

    Powerful allegory. Thanks for sharing it. This was a poignant reminder that the small actions I take each and every day contribute to the “castle” of my life. Reminds me to be mindful of every stone that I pick up. :)

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