A Parable: John the Carpenter

Let me tell you a story about a carpenter from England named John. He had built hundreds of houses for his company over the last fifteen years, and his work was so good that the company became one of the premiere developers in the country. John worked extremely hard putting in overtime nearly every day, and paying special attention to detail on every project.

I came across this story in Burn Your Goals by Joshua Medcalf and Jamie Gilbert. I highly recommend the book, but I thought I would share this short parable from it.
One day John decided he was going to retire. So he spoke with his boss about it and they decided he would work one last week. His boss called him in the next morning and asked if he would build just one more house for a friend of his. Half-heartedly, John agreed and began work on the house.
Though he had built excellent houses in the past, this build was different. Many times in the past John had pushed through days and months where he struggled to find motivation, but he just didn’t feel it on this project. Knowing this was his last go around, John showed up each day with less focus than usual. He bought materials and supplies that were second rate. He delegated a lot of tasks without providing supervision. he only worked the hours he was “supposed to.” He showed up everyday with little joy and without the drive to be better than he was the day before.
Despite the lack of desire and motivation, the house was built on time and was up to code, although not built to the standard he was used to. Walking into the office, beaming ear to ear, John meets with his boss to shake hands and say farewell. After saying thanks, John walks towards the door. His boss calls to him, “John, one last thing.” As John turns to face him, his boss hands him a small box with a ribbon around it. John opens the box and pulls out a set of shiny silver keys. His boss says, “The house is yours. You deserve it.” He gave him the keys to the house John just built.
Immediately, John’s heart sank. If only he knew that he was building his own house, he would have done it all differently. He would have worked with the utmost passion and precision. He would have spent twice the amount of time and would have showed up every day with a clear focus on the job at hand, knowing that he was going to reap what he was sowing.
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