In 2005, my wife and I embarked on an adventure to Italy.  We had planned the big trip knowing that we’d want to start a family soon.  And…well…I love my kids, but we knew once we had them, all ‘big trips’ would be placed on hold until empty nesting would occur decades later.  We knew the biggest trip we’d take while our kids were young would be to the zoo or grocery store.  So, we booked a Tour of Italy through a travel company that would land us in the northern part of Italy (Milan) and take us through a two-week itinerary to the southern region of Capri.  We’d then travel back to Rome for our last leg of the tour to see the Vatican and for all those Gladiator fans out there, the Coliseum.

We made stops at Sienna, Pompeii, Venice, Florence, and everywhere in between.  It was a fun, but exhausting trip as there was no down time, just touring.  The trip came with a tour guide who was fun to get to know and did a great job explaining the architecture and history of each place.  Florence was especially beautiful because of its unique brick architecture.  Our tour group had dinner one evening up on a hill overlooking the city.  Most of the roofs of the major buildings of the city were made of bricks, mainly to match the largest structure in the heart of the city…the Florence Cathedral.  The Cathedral rises from the city’s center, distinguished by its enormous and incredible dome that pierces the skyline.

The Florence Cathedral was begun in 1296 and was structurally completed in 1436, with the dome engineered by Filippo Brunelleschi.  The dome was the last section that was constructed, starting in 1420 and taking 16 years to complete.  At the time of its construction, it was an engineering marvel and was the largest dome in the world.  To this day, it remains the largest brick dome ever built.  The vision of Brunelleschi would never be seen by him as he died in the course of the long project.

While there is no ‘official’ count, it is estimated that the dome is comprised of over 4 million bricks.  Brunelleschi’s vision made real by laying bricks for 16 years.  No cranes, no skid loaders, no electricity, no modern-day tools.  Just plain ancient labor making bricks, transporting them to the site, hoisting them in the air, and laying them in place.  One after the other.  Each one placed securely and permanently in its spot.  Brick by brick.  For 16 years.

Kinda sounds like life, doesn’t it?  Each 24-hour day built on top of the previous.  Each decision, each spoken word, each action.  Brick by brick.  Discipline is like laying bricks.  The first few laid isn’t sexy and doesn’t invoke a lot of curiosity by people looking in.  It’s laborious, it’s hard, it doesn’t feel good.  But in the vast expanse of the sky, you can see what others can’t.  You can envision the dome.  You can envision your bigger future, your purpose in action.  You don’t see just the few bricks laid that day, you see the 4,000,000 that fit together to comprise your masterpiece.

But, lest you miss it…you can only lay one brick at a time.  You can only make one decision, speak one word, take one action at a time.  But each decision, each word, each action…like bricks…add up.  They build something.

So, what are you building?  What bricks of purpose and future and significance and discipline are you laying today?  Are you committed to 16 years of labor to make your vision a reality?  That might just be what it takes to build your dome, your mosaic, your magnum opus, your future, your desired reality that would pierce the skyline as beautifully as the Florence Cathedral.

Today, lay some bricks.  Envision a future that’s bigger than your past.  Build your dome.  Do the work.

The time is now.