Winston Churchill was a bricklayer

“We shall never surrender!” – Winston Churchill

The other night I had a dream about being at a celebration honoring a bricklayer for his work. As we gathered around him, he demonstrated his craft, laying his bricks and smoothing the cement with skill, speed and a silent grace that filled me with joy.

It got me thinking about the persistence a bricklayer or mason has. Each brick needs to be placed one at a time. The focus needs to be on one single brick in that moment. The end result needs to be planned and kept in mind yet it’s not helpful to obsess over how much has to be done yet before the wall is complete.

My father has this kind of persistence and it’s no accident that two of his favorite things to do are paint detailed water colors (an incredibly painstaking process) and build stone walls.


Winston Churchill laid bricks as a hobby, the perfect past-time for the “British bulldog”, known for his persistence. In his first report to the House of Commons he famously said, ““I have nothing to offer, but blood, toil, tears, and sweat.” He rallied England with his declaration, “we shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender.”

What large project are you involved in that you care about? Are you frustrated with a lack of progress? What brick can you lay down today? Lao Tsu said, “the thousand mile journey begins with a single foot step.” See if you can let go of the desired end today and just take one step forward, lay one brick. Never surrender.

Here is a longer excerpt of Churchill’s “We Shall Never Surrender” speech for inspiration:

Even though large parts of Europe and many old and famous States have fallen or may fall into the grip of the Gestapo and all the odious apparatus of Nazi rule, we shall not flag or fail. We shall go on to the end, we shall fight in France, we shall fight on the seas and oceans, we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air, we shall defend our Island, whatever the cost may be, we shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender, and if, which I do not for a moment believe, this Island or a large part of it were subjugated and starving, then our Empire beyond the seas, armed and guarded by the British Fleet, would carry on the struggle, until, in God’s good time, the New World, with all its power and might, steps forth to the rescue and the liberation of the Old.

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  1. Laura
    Posted February 8, 2010 at 4:14 pm | Permalink

    Very inspirational and helpful! 🙂

  2. Posted February 8, 2010 at 8:10 pm | Permalink

    Thanks for the comment, I’m glad it helped!

  3. Kevin
    Posted February 9, 2010 at 3:00 am | Permalink

    The tough part about laying bricks is that it can get pretty damn tedious and boring. How do you recommend working through that?

  4. Posted February 10, 2010 at 3:50 pm | Permalink

    Great question, one that has inspired a future post.

    Here are five things that help me when anything gets tedious:
    1 – Slow down
    2 – Move on when it gets boring
    3 – Find out what’s most interesting and do that
    4 – Play the tedious work
    5 – Use your strengths

    I’ll write more about each of these, so stay tuned.