Charles Schwab and The Three Little Pigs

Bill Abbate

Are you at the stage where you are working hard on your career and life? While the work on life never stops, at some point, your career will. You have about 40 years to do what you can to make a good life for yourself and your loved ones.

What kind of career and life are you building? For whom are you building it? What will it look like in the end?

Let’s look for some possible answers to these questions and more.

What are you building?

Are you building a life and career that will thrive and endure in the world? With some forethought and effort, you can.

Do you remember the fable of the three little pigs from your childhood? If you recall, each built a house of different materials based on their patience and willingness to work hard. In the end, the lesson was about the importance of discipline in building something that will last.

How patient and disciplined are you when building your life and career? Of what are you building them — straw, twigs, or bricks?

The Three Little Pigs

Following is the short version of The Three Little Pigs to refresh your memory (now is a great time to use Medium’s listen feature at the top of this article):

Once upon a time, there were three little pigs who lived with their mother in a meadow. One day the mother pig said to the three little pigs, “You need to go out into the world and make your own way.” So they waved “goodbye,” and out into the world they went.
The pigs decided to build houses near the woods. A big bad wolf lived in the woods. He was not happy when he saw the three little pigs building houses nearby.
The first little pig was lazy. He made a house of straw. The big bad wolf huffed and puffed and blew it down.
The second little pig worked a little harder than the first little pig. He made a house of twigs. The big bad wolf huffed and puffed and blew the house down.
The third little pig made a house of bricks. The big bad wolf huffed and puffed and huffed and puffed. But the house did not fall down. This made the big bad wolf very, very angry. He went up on the roof and tried to get into the house through the chimney. He climbed into the chimney and slid down into a pot of boiling water. He ran out of the house and never came back!
James Halliwell-Phillipps (1820–1889)

In this metaphor, if you are in a hurry, do not wish to work hard, and lack discipline, you build a life and career of straw or twigs.

If you want to build a life and career that will be more enduring, more secure, and safer, you will do things differently.

It takes effort to remain protected from the elements and all life can throw at you. You need to work hard to build a solid life and career that can’t easily be blown down and disappear. You can do this if you are thoughtful and careful. Plan your life and do what is needed to achieve your goals.

How will you fare if the wolf of the world shows up at your door? Are you building, or have you built, that strong, solid life and career?

“Big things are built one brick at a time. Victories are achieved one choice at a time. A life well lived is chosen one day at a time.” Lysa TerKeurst (1969-present)

The Bricklayers

Adding to the three little pigs fable is a conversation Charles Schwab had with three bricklayers. Like the three little pigs, the first two were not thoughtful about what they were doing. They were simply doing the work to earn their pay.

The third bricklayer had a completely different attitude. I imagine his skill set was far superior to the first two and that of a master mason. He could see the bigger picture. He knew his work was essential to building a great structure instead of just laying some brick.

“Three men were laying brick.
The first was asked: ‘What are you doing?’ He answered: ‘Laying some brick.’
The second man was asked: ‘What are you working for?’ He answered: ‘Five dollars a day.’
The third man was asked: ‘What are you doing?’ He answered: ‘I am helping to build a great cathedral.’
Which man are you?” Charles M. Schwab (1862–1939)

Which are you? One of the first two bricklayers, or the third? You can determine which by looking at your life.

It is your choice to remain an apprentice and continue getting by, earning what you need to live, laying brick for a wage day by day, month after month, and year after year.

Or you can become like the third. You can become that master mason who sees the future of what he is building. One of the few who understands they are constructing the great cathedral of their life.

“We build our character from the bricks of habit we [lay] day by day.” Zig Ziglar (1926–2012)

Final thoughts

Using these two metaphors, think about what you are building as a life and career. Are you just trying to get by, or have you taken the mindset of the third little pig and the third bricklayer? Why not build your life into the solid structure of a beautiful cathedral? Start by developing the attitude of those two.

You can do it. All it takes is discipline and hard work, with a vision of what you want!

Ask yourself, “Am I building a life made of straw or twigs?” When the first windstorm in life comes along, will you have to start all over again?

Or is what you are building that sound and solid structure, that great cathedral that can withstand the elements of time and life? All it takes is some integrity, character, thoughtfulness, and willingness to put forth the effort to make it happen!

“Belief in oneself is one of the most important bricks in building any successful venture.” Lydia M. Child (1802–1880)

Choose to believe in yourself, and you can do it. And don’t forget; you are doing it not only for yourself but for all those you love and care for as well!

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Semi-Retired-Leadership/Executive Coach -Personal & Career Growth Expert -Editor and Leadership Writer at Illumination -Author

Richmond, VA

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