There was once a builder who had worked for years and was tired. He told his employer he wanted to retire. After all the years they had worked together, the employer was sad to see his worker leave, so he pleaded with the builder to do one last job before he left.

This was not what the builder had expected. It was a Friday, and he had hoped for a clean break, so he could immediately start fishing that weekend. But instead, he was going to start building a four-bedroom house on Monday.

All throughout that final project, the builder moaned and groaned and grumbled. His heart was simply not in his work. All he could think about was all the time he was not spending on the bank of the peaceful river behind his house, casting his rod out to the obliging fish. He really didn’t want to be digging foundations and mixing cement.

He took out his frustrations on the job, cutting corners and using inferior materials, just to get the job done quickly and go home. Whomever ended up living there would certainly be in for some nasty surprises, but the builder would be long gone by then.

Eventually, the house was built, and his employer, the contractor, came to inspect the work. After a quick walk around the property, the builder handed the keys to his employer. To his surprise, however, the employer handed them right back to the builder and said, “this house is my gift to you. For all your years of service”.

You can certainly imagine the sense of horror that overcame the builder when he realised that all that shoddy work he had done was for himself. He wished with all his heart he had known in the beginning that he was building for himself. Now, he would have to live in the hastily constructed death trap he had built for himself.

My friends, there are far too many of us living the life of the Builder. We approach our work with such a lack of care, mainly because it’s not our own company. We treat customers anyhow, because they are not our customers. We abuse office equipment, write on furniture, desecrate communal toilet facilities, abuse, misapply and misappropriate funds, abuse staff, all because none of it is ours. 

We complain about our jobs, no matter how high we climb the corporate ladder or however much we’re paid. As far as we are concerned, there are better things we could be doing with our time, so we don’t want to spend an hour longer than we have to at work.

What we haven’t yet realised is that we are actually doing this damage, all the shoddy work we’re putting in, is going towards building our own deathtrap.

Whenever we put up a poor performance at work, when we’re stealing money from the coffers, when we’re being rude to the customers,when we’re turning up late, when we’re on facebook instead of on task,whose company are we collapsing?

And whose country is this anyway? Isn’t it ours? So when we’re littering, when we’re defecating on the beach, when we’re driving above the speed limit through red lights, when we’re insulting people just because they have different beliefs from us, when we’re threatening each other’s lives just because we want them to vote like us, whose country are we destroying anyway?

Or, are we thinking, like the Builder that the problems we’re causing will not manifest until after we’re long gone? Think again, my friends, because we are not destroying someone else’s life or company or country by not being our best. You can’t destroy what you don’t first possess.

It’s our own lives that are about to come crashing around our ears if we don’t wake up and take ownership of our own mess. 

For me, the rule is simple: It’s better to do it right from the very beginning, because one of these days, someone is going to hand you the keys and tell you to occupy your own mess. 

My name is Kojo Yankson, and I own this, so I handle it with care.