Are You Thriving Or Barely Surviving? Career Inspiration for the Slacker

An elderly carpenter was ready to retire. He told his employer-contractor of his plans to leave the house building business and live a more leisurely life with his wife enjoying his extended family. He would miss the paycheck, but he needed to retire. They could get by.

Courtesy of StockVault

Courtesy of StockVault

The contractor was sorry to see his good worker go and asked if he could build just one more house as a personal favor. The carpenter said ‘yes’, but in time it was easy to see that his heart was not in his work. He resorted to shoddy workmanship and used inferior materials. It was an unfortunate way to end his career.

When the carpenter finished his work and the builder came to inspect the house, the contractor handed the front-door key to the carpenter. “This is your house,” he said, “my gift to you.”

What a shock! What a shame! If he had only known he was building his own house, he would have done it all so differently. Now he had to live in the home he had built none too well.

So it is with us. We build our lives in a distracted way, reacting rather than acting, willing to put up less than the best. At important points we do not give the job our best effort. Then with a shock we look at the situation we have created and find that we are now living in the house we have built. If we had realized, we would have done it differently. — Author Unknown,  a post from the Inspiration and Motivation blog.

I came across this story as I was checking out a fellow inspirational blog. It definitely had me thinking about my own work ethic.

So let me ask you . . .

  • How do you compare to the elderly carpenter?
  • Do you resort to shoddy work when no one’s looking or you’re on the outs?
  • Do you rest on your laurels each time someone asks you to complete a new task, project, or task, or do you consistently give your very best effort?

I’ve found in my own career that the more I invest time and due diligence into a project or job, the more gratification I feel and more value is added.

What about you? If you’ve become more and more discontent and unhappy with where or with whom you’re currently working, it’s likely that it’s because you’ve stopped giving one hundred percent or you’ve lost sight of the reasons why you embarked on your professional journey.

The above parable is a case example on the importance of devoting all of your energy and giving concerted effort to each and every opportunity. Like the elderly carpenter, what you produce or create could potentially be something you have to live with (literally) or quite possibly cost you a more profitable or more fulfilling opportunity ahead.

And if that doesn’t convince you to give your best, would you really want to be known for the shoddy house on the left? Nah.

Keep the Discussion Going

What do you consider to be your “best” on the job? Do you notice when you start to slack and are you quick to shape up? Do you squander your time on the job? How would you feel if you were an employer and you discovered one of your employees constantly watched the clock, surfed the net, or delivered services or products that were half-baked?

What inspires you to keep going? Keep that in your mind’s eye when you’re feeling low. Let your personal inspiration be your guiding light as you continue to put your best foot forward.

About the Author

Emily Brown is the key contributor and creator of, a blog that delivers articles and posts about job industry trends; plus motivational, retrospective stories about career exploration and discovering one’s passion. A former business journalist at Bloomberg News, her work has also appeared in  The Wall Street Journal,  The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, and others. Emily lives and works in Washington, DC. She can easily be reached at Feel free to drop her a line to say “hello,” suggest an opportunity, or provide news of your own.



  • sandra742

    Hi! I was surfing and found your blog post… nice! I love your blog. :) Cheers! Sandra. R.

    • Emily Brown

      Thanks for stopping by Sandra! :-)