Alex came to see me due to unhappiness in his working life.

Alex was a promising young architect. He was known for his incredible speed and efficiency, producing blueprints and designs faster than anyone in his firm. His colleagues envied his ability to churn out work at a seemingly unstoppable pace. However, despite his rapid output, Alex felt a lack of fulfilment in his work. Something was missing, but he couldn't quite put his finger on it.

When Alex’s company received a commission to design a new civic centre in his region, he was overjoyed to be given the lead role on the project. This project was a dream come true, a chance to leave a lasting legacy in the area where he had been born and raised. He was determined to impress his management,  the city council and his peers, so he jumped headfirst into the project, working day and night. His sketches were fast and his drafts numerous, but as the deadline approached, he felt a nagging doubt creep in. Something was missing.

Finding the passion

When he came to me, I was keen to help him reconnect with the purpose behind his work. The conversation went back and forth as he gradually came to the realisation that he just wasn’t putting his heart into his work; he was just being formulaic. I asked him to tell me of the last time when he truly felt that he was putting his heart into his work. Sadly, he could not recall it. He had been busy trying to please and impress others without allowing the space for his true inspiration to shine through.

So, I asked him to tell me of a time where he witnessed somebody else put their passion and heart into their work. He paused to think for a moment and then he told me the following story:

A chance encounter

One lunchtime, after a long morning at the office, Alex decided to take a rare break and strolled through a local craft market. As he walked, he noticed an elderly man sitting on a bench, meticulously carving a small wooden figure. The man moved slowly, his hands steady and deliberate, his eyes focused on every detail. Alex was fascinated by the man's patience and precision.

Curious, Alex approached him. "Hello there," he said. "That's an amazing piece you're working on. How long have you been carving it?"

The old man looked up and smiled. "Hello, young man. I've been working on this piece for a few months now. I am taking my time to ensure every detail is just right."

Alex was intrigued. "But doesn't it get frustrating, working so slowly?"

The man chuckled softly. "On the contrary, it's quite fulfilling. By taking my time, I immerse myself in the process. I notice things I would have missed if I rushed. Each stroke of the blade is a step towards perfection, and that brings me great joy."

When I asked Alex what he had learned from this event, he was only too happy to tell me. He realised that in his rush to complete his projects quickly, he might be sacrificing the quality and depth of his work. 

Inspired by the old man's words, he decided to take a different approach to the civic centre project.

A new approach

Since then, Alex has gone to work with a newfound determination. Instead of focusing on speed, he focuses on the process. He has spent hours researching the history and culture of the region, immersing himself in the stories and traditions that make the region unique. He has taken the time to visit various neighbourhoods, speaking with residents and gathering their input on what they envisioned for the civic centre.

When producing his drawings, Alex allowed himself to slow down. He meticulously sketched each element, considering how they would interact with the surroundings and the people who would use the space. He revised his designs multiple times, not because he was unsure, but because he wanted to explore every possibility and ensure the final product was the best it could be.

Alex's colleagues have noticed the change in him. His work is no longer just fast; it is thoughtful and inspired. They saw the disappearance of the man who was desperate to impress and saw him replaced by a man who has the dedication and patience required to do the best job possible.

When presenting his plans, Alex was nervous but confident. He presented his design to the city council, explaining the inspiration behind each element and how he had incorporated the community's feedback. This made a major impression with the council members who were impressed with both the quality of the design and the sensitivity Alex had shown in blending the needs, culture and history of the region.

The council unanimously approved Alex's design, which brought him a great sense of joy and pride.. Alex's self belief soared. He was no longer just the fast architect; he was the thoughtful visionary who had created something truly special.

At my last meeting with Alex, I asked him what he had learned from the whole process. He smiled warmly and said "It's not about how fast you can finish, but how deeply you can connect with your work. When you take your time, you allow yourself to see the beauty in the details, and that's where true creativity and productivity lie."

Alex has continued to apply this lesson to all his projects. By taking his time, Alex not only enhanced his productivity but also found a deeper sense of fulfilment and purpose in his work. He has learned the value of patience and attention to detail.

Key Takeaways

The following are some lessons we all can learn from Alex:

  • When in doubt, recall the purpose behind your work.
  • Remember the last time you were passionate about your work and draw lessons from it.
  • If you can’t do that, remember the last time you witnessed someone who was passionate about their work and ask/determine what you can learn from them.
  • Connect with your purpose and your work to find real fulfilment
  • Have patience and be prepared to work slower in order to get the best result

Clarify your purpose

Clarify and define your purpose so that you can use it to guide your most critical decisions; eliminating the 80% which does not matter so that you can focus on the 20% that does.


To clarify and define your purpose, check out 'Living Purposefully'.


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