The Three Stonecutters

An old story tells of three stonecutters who were asked what they were doing. The first replied, “I am making a living”. The second kept on hammering while he said, “I am doing the best job of stonecutting in the entire country.” The third one looked up with a visionary gleam in his eyes and said, “I am building a cathedral.”

It is the second man that is the problem. Workmanship is essential […] but there is always a danger that the true workman, the true professional, will believe that he is accomplishing something when, in effect, he is just polishing stones or collecting footnotes.

The functional work becomes an end in itself. In far too many instances [they] no longer measure their performance by its contribution to the enterprise but only by professional criteria of workmanship.

Source: Drucker, “Management” (emphasis mine)