On Building for the Long Term

Elif Shafak, the Turkish writer, talks about the three types of temples built by humankind: “those that aspire to reach out to the skies, those that wished to bring the skies closer down to the ground and those that did both.”

St. Peters Basilica is one of the rare buildings that did both. Pope Julius originally wanted this church to represent the grandiose of Christianity in Europe. It took 150 years to complete and multiple architects — one of them was Michelangelo.

Today, St. Peters is one of the must-see attractions in Vatican City. The current Pope performs several liturgies throughout the year, and it is common to have thousands of people within the square at any given time (at least pre-COVID-19).

The building has stood for hundreds of years and has fulfilled the original goal of Pope Julius. Despite the hardships in construction, St. Peters is perhaps one of the clearest symbols of a previous time. A time where Christianity was the dominant force in Europe and the Pope had absolute power.

It’s sometimes hard to think about doing something on a similar scale today. We struggle to think beyond a few months, let alone a few years. The exceptions are notable in our culture: going to Mars, a thousand-year clock, and others.

In business, we should take some time to think about the long term. I mean, truly think about where we want to be in 10, 20, 50 years. Is our company still going to be around in the next century?

Perhaps we all need more symbols of what we can accomplish when we forget the troubles of the present, the regrets of the past, and focus on the future. 

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