Don’t simply build a wall


By: Mandy Mitchel

You may have heard some variation the simple story of three bricklayers in your life.

A man was walking along and saw three men laying bricks. He wanted to see what they were building, so he asked.
The first man said,  “They pay me to lay bricks, so I am laying bricks.”
The second man said, “I’m building a wall.”
The third man said, “I’m building a cathedral.”

You get the point. The first man is earning a paycheck while the third man sees the bigger picture. I’ve always heard this story to illustrate attitude and how a task can be viewed in very different ways through simple changes in how we look at that task.

I am currently reading the book Grit by Angela Duckworth (Highly recommended for those interested in achievement). She used this story to illustrate something else: Passion.

The second guy in this analogy is who most people in a newsroom can identify with.

He’s the guy who comes to the morning meeting with a solid story idea. He’s not all that excited about it, but it will be good enough for management and will likely be, at least a starting point, for the day. He knows he has to do the story and make slot because it’s part of “building the wall,” which in this case is the newscast. He comes in each day to build the wall and then goes home for the daily post-work beer which seems to get him ready for the next day and the next wall and so on and so on.

This will eventually get old. It’s fun to build a wall when you first start out. Eventually, 5…10 years down the road, it just feels like another wall.

The people who last in this business are the ones who identify with the third man.

He is the one who sees journalism as a calling. He is the one who finds story ideas that he truly believes in and fights to do them. He is the one who jumps at the chance for breaking news and wants to tell stories to inform and to help, not just to fill a spot in the newscast.

Does the third guy have bad days? Of course. But when he does he thinks about the bigger picture. He’s not just building wall after wall, he’s building a cathedral. He has a passion for the work that goes beyond the day.

If you don’t have this passion, this business likely won’t be worth it. You, like so many hardworking people I know, will do this for a decade or so and then get a “normal job.”

I don’t think you can force yourself to be the third guy. You either have the calling or you don’t. If you do, don’t ever lose sight of what you are really doing.

We have tremendous power every single day to create change, to inform and to hold the powerful accountable. We should never view a newscast as a “wall” simply to be built on a daily basis.





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