Why We Work – Louise Bush-Brown on Sir Christopher Wren

“Perhaps you have heard the story of Christopher Wren, one of the greatest of English architects, who walked one day unrecognized among the men who were at work upon the building of St. Paul’s cathedral in London which he had designed. “What are you doing?” he inquired of one of the workmen, and the man replied, “I am cutting a piece of stone.” As he went on he put the same question to another man, and the man replied, “I am earning five shillings twopence a day.” And to a third man he addressed the same inquiry and the man answered, “I am helping Sir Christopher Wren build a beautiful cathedral.” That man had vision. He could see beyond the cutting of the stone, beyond the earning of his daily wage, to the creation of a work of art—the building of a great cathedral. And in your life it is important for you to strive to attain a vision of the larger whole.”  – Attributed to Louise Bush-Brown, director of the Pennsylvania School of Horticulture for Women, via Wikiquote

If you visit the sites in London it should be virtually impossible to have escaped the name of Christopher Wren, whom many of the short histories attached to various monuments would have you believe single handedly rebuilt London after the fire of 1666. I was curious about the man, having recently returned from the city, and found this little story attributed to his life.

How we see what we do has a tremendous bearing on how we hold its importance, as Ms. Bush-Brown tells it. Our small roles in greater ventures can be one way we see our lives and define who we are. It is alluring to want to be part of a great endeavor, to tie our own accomplishments to events and projects that will be remembered long after we are gone.

Anyone who works within a company, government, or organization takes on this type of agreement – one’s individual efforts funneled into the glory of the greater work. It is how great projects succeed. Yet, surely, Sir Wren, if he carved and laid each stone himself, would still be working on the project 400 years later.

The names of the of stone carvers, the carpenters, and other skilled or unskilled laborers are lost to us, just as the names of programers behind the expansion of Google or Facebook are known by few, just as the names of administrative assistants and bankers are lost in the annual financial reports of MorganStanley.

Most of us will not achieve the notoriety, or the longevity, of the projects we dedicate our time, skill, and energy to. Our reasons for working may be as simple as supporting our family or pride in our skill shaping stones.

Its where I disagree with Ms. Bush-Brown. The greater endeavor is a fine justification for the work we do, but no less important are the contributions of any of those involved. A worker who loves to cut stone, who takes pride in their work, will cut every stone with precision and focus. A worker who cuts to feed their family will make every effort to excel to care for the ones they love. One who cuts with a the desire to be part of a greater work may risk seeing their role as small and give less to it.

As a coach, many of the clients I have worked with don’t look for some connection to their role in the glorious achievements of history, they look for ways to connect with their work in a way that engages and excites them, that meets their desire to give to their loved ones, and gives them the freedom to express themselves fully alive and awake.

It is often inevitable that our lives are those of the masons and not the architect. As much as we may desire to be remembered by history, we are more likely to be remembered by family and friends, by those we interact with with integrity, who are impressed by our dedication and skill.

Real meaning is found by doing what we love, by being with who we love, now while we are alive. The monuments and achievements we contribute to may stand for a while. They may fail miserably. None of that does you much good if you are dissatisfied with what you have chosen to do with your life.

We all work for different reasons. Aside from greed, there is not one which is significantly more noble than the others.

It is how you see your self, your success measured against your joy for life that matters now, to you, while you are alive. Contribute to the greater good as you can.  Remember that what drives us to do our work well doesn’t need to be an immortal monument. Love, joy, dedication to our skill or craft, will help us carve better stones regardless of if they are used for cathedrals or tenement houses, for boulevards or back alleys.

Business and Organizational Coaching

Below is an section of text originally located on an older, more convoluted, version of my website from a page focused on work I offer for organizations and corporations. I do still offer the programs listed below, though the purpose they serve here is more as a general description.


Every organization, public or private, creates a kind of ecosystem within which its employees (their attitudes, productivity and attention) impact the health of the whole system.

I offer both one-to-one and group workshops for organizations and businesses of all sizes. As a Master Integral Coachtm, I have developed a wide variety of tools that can support executives, leaders and the institutions they serve.

All of my individual coaching methods can be tuned to provide support for your managers and staff, including:

  • Improved time management,
  • More effective communication methods,
  • Work/life balance,
  • Personal goal setting,
  • Managing distractions and invasive technology,
  • Managing teams,
  • As well as many other challenges faced in organizations and businesses today.

My professional experience includes time working in businesses small and large, local and international. From managing customer accounts, owning a small business, leading teams, and managing technology, I have the training and breadth of experience to understand your challenges and work with you to find solutions that work for you and your staff.

I currently offer 3 basic seminars that can be tailored for your organization. Included in each is up to 3 hours meeting with key personnel toward creating a more targeted workshop and up to 4 hours toward followup coaching and implementation. The seminars themselves are typically are 3-4 hours each, though can be combined or more fully customized toward specific issues in your organization.

Personal and Corporate Values

Our values, what we believe is right or wrong, can have a major impact on our level of energy and commitment. Much as each individual’s values are impacted by their family, education and experience organizations have values, imparted by their founders, their directors, and managers, and their relationships with clients and customers.

For both individuals and businesses there are the values we put on paper, what we believe we believe, and those that get carried out in our day-to-day lives. Disconnects can be disastrous.

This seminar is designed to discover and build awareness of the organizational principles that a business is founded on and examine the values implied in how the company treats its customers, it suppliers, and its staff.

Additionally, the seminar will provide opportunity for the attending staff to examine their own values and belief and how they connect with the organizations. By finding alignment between personal values and the values of the businesses we work creates an added synergy that can be felt in the daily exchanges with customer, co-workers, and managers.


Often, within a business or organization this is one of the greatest challenges. How do we find ways of motivating and inspiring people who have their own unique perspective, motivational drivers and goals.

“Why” we work, what underlies our motivation, is also connected to how we as individuals see ourselves in the world. Various tools like Myers-Briggs and the Enneagram seek to find ways help identify the uniqueness of an individual personality, and while they can give us basic tools for working with varied personality types they are useless unless the environment we create for our work includes and supports them.

Communication, the “How”, in our relationship to others if fundamentally important. Taking the time to speak to an employee and understand what motivates them is valuable, and save a company 100’s of hours in productivity.

Yet, if you don’t have the tools to implement and and effectively use that information, its all a wasted exercise.

Based in the well-respected human developmental system of Integral Theory, I have developed some simple and effective tools that can help clients understand and more effectively communicate with each other, their clients and staff.

The language we use is almost more important than motivations we give.


In most organizations the bottom line of accountability is “your fired.”

While this can be an effective motivator it doesn’t always solve what could be a larger issue.

In our personal lives and in our professional lives the long, endless march of task after task keeps moving whether we delegate them or not.

Much like communication, how we hold ourselves and our staff accountable for the work we take on has a major impact on the organization’s ability to function effectively.

Companies spend thousand of dollars on time management software. Managers spend wasted hours trying to get work out of ineffective staff. Staff waste time and billable hours because workflow is poorly organized, or they don’t recognize their value.

My Accountability program is focuses on 2 challenges almost all companies face – “How do I get employees to be accountable for their work?” and “How do I get managers to take accountability for their teams?”

The aim of this program is to help employees own their work. By generating “buy-in” work becomes a choice, not a chore. We get managers and not task masters.

Working closely with staff and managers I will help your organization create a highly customized method of accountability, one each person takes responsibility for implementing for themselves.