Have you ever heard the parable of the bricklayers? It goes like this. A traveler comes across three masons, working together to lay bricks and asks what they’re doing. The first says, “I’m laying bricks.” The second says, “I’m building a church.” The third says, “I’m on a mission from God.”
Believe it or not, the parable of the bricklayers is something we all grapple with daily when we set goals for ourselves. Think of this as “task vs. job vs. mission.” Writing ad copy is a task; advertising is a job; bringing solutions to people looking for them is a mission. At JXM, we strive to keep this hierarchy in mind, lest we fall victim to the “mission accomplished” fallacy.
The mission accomplished fallacy is the idea that once you’ve accomplished a big goal, the work is over. The goal is so impressive—the feat so incredible—that nothing you do beyond it is even worth attempting. But this is where the fallacy comes in.
Let’s go back to our bricklayers: task vs. job. vs. mission. Tasks and jobs have conclusions—they’re designed to be finished so you can move on to the next one. A mission, however, has no end. It’s enduring: a calling that you’ll forever and always strive to work in service of. There is no mission accomplished; there’s only mission furthered.
The mission accomplished fallacy represents a disconnect between what someone is doing and why they’re doing it. Obtaining a goal is hard enough; knowing what to do after you meet a larger objective is harder. Harder still is linking tasks and jobs to an overarching mission. So, people tend to do the opposite—they focus on a big goal and break it down into tactical tasks to help them keep the momentum going. Unfortunately, when they ultimately achieve that goal, they’re faced with the void of “mission accomplished.”
What do you do when you’ve accomplished the incredible? If you don’t have a mission, you’re likely to face confusion.
Lean, mean, and mission-driven
Avoiding the mission accomplished fallacy means defining your overarching mission. If you don’t have a framework that links tasks and jobs to mission-driven strategic objectives, you need to give yourself permission to stop and assess. Why do you do what you do? What are your tasks and jobs in service of? What concept do you measure your goals against?
It’s okay to lay bricks and build churches, but you need something bigger to justify your efforts—lest you get caught in the trap of moving on to some random tactical execution that lacks strategic forethought.
At JXM, we’re constantly reflecting on ourselves as bricklayers: both philosophically and in practice. If every piece of marketing collateral is a brick and every campaign is a church, we’re always asking ourselves how they support our mission: to bring solutions to those seeking them. having this high-level, mission-driven focus has allowed us to align ourselves and everything we do around a clear purpose—no matter the client, their expectations, the audience, the market, or any other variables. We always know what we’re doing because it’s our mission.
Distilling a mission into action
The beauty of having a mission—something to forever set your sights on—is that it distills down into jobs and tasks in a way that enriches them. When you can look beyond the task you’re doing right now and see how it connects to the bigger picture, there’s incentive to accomplish that task with pride.
Thoughtful, mission-driven action is a cornerstone of what we do at JXM, whether it’s creating collateral or interacting with clients. Our mission is to help, and we’re constantly seeking ways to do that in everything we do. It shapes how we approach opportunities or address problems, and it’s at the core of our thought processes and intuition. It’s why we take an Account-Based Marketing approach and why we meet clients on neutral ground, to better bridge our abilities to their needs and expectations.
Avoiding mission impossible
The mission for a lot of ad agencies is to provide maximum ROI on client budgets. But that’s not actually a mission: it’s a goal, rooted in a job. As a result, these agencies often find themselves faced with the mission accomplished fallacy: they work hard to keep the momentum going, but end up spinning their wheels. It becomes mission impossible.
If you’re sick of laying bricks day after day, seemingly to no end, it’s time to define something bigger. Reach out to JXM and let us help.
In the words of Elwood J. Blues, “we’re on a mission from God.”