In the 1970s, there was an electrician in Philadelphia. The man’s job was to install freezing cases in supermarkets where you can usually find your frozen pizzas and milk. To set up his own little workshop while he was carrying out the job, the man bought an old bakery.
One summer, he decided to rebuild the front wall. It was going to be quite a monumental task at about 16 feet high and 30 feet long but he knew two people who would be perfect for the job. After he had torn down the old wall, he called his two sons to the site. They were just twelve and nine years old. He told them that it was their job to build the new wall at the front of the bakery.
The first thing that the boys had to do was to dig a six-foot hole for the foundation. Then, they were instructed to fill it with concrete which they had to mix by hand. For the next year and a half, every day after school, they went to their father’s shop to build that wall. Unsurprisingly for a couple of young kids, it felt like forever. Then one day, they eventually laid the final brick.
When their dad came to see the finished product, the three of them stood back and looked at the wall. There it was in all of its glory. The man proudly looked at his sons and said, “Don’t you ever tell me that you can’t do something” — and then he walked back into the shop.
The electrician’s name was Willard Carrol Smith. He gave his eldest son, the 12-year old, the exact same first name. Today, he is known to most people as Will Smith.
When Will recounted this story on Charlie Rose in 2002. He said:
You don’t try to build a wall. You don’t set out to build a wall. You don’t say, “I’m gonna build the biggest, baddest, greatest wall that’s ever been built. You don’t start there. You say, “I’m gonna lay this brick as perfectly as a brick can be laid. There will not be one brick on the face of the earth that’s gonna be laid better than this brick that I’m gonna lay in these next 10 minutes.” And you do that every single day, and soon, you have a wall.
This endeavour that Will’s dad put him and his little brother through created a valuable lesson for them both about the value of hard work. However, it also taught them about happiness and perspective, because Will also had this to add:
I think, psychologically, the advantage that that gives me over a lot of people that I’ve been in competition with in different situations is: It’s difficult to take the first step when you look at how big the task is. The task is never huge to me. It’s always one brick.
We should always choose to focus on whatever is right in front of us – the next brick – not the end result. Because of this, Will never feels overwhelmed. And it can be the same for all of us.
Rome wasn’t built in a day, but they were laying bricks every hour.