Sharpen Your Axe
July 22, 2020
An unemployed man in a village goes to a Timber Merchant seeking a job. Seeing that the person to be strong and fit, the Merchant offers the man a job to chop trees with a target to cut down 15 trees daily. An Axe is handed over to him. On Day 1, the young man approaches the job enthusiastically, and he cuts down 20 trees. Super excited, on Day 2, he comes back with great vigor and cuts 18 trees. Day 3, the count goes down to 15 Trees. On Day 4, despite his best efforts, he manages to cut down only 13 trees only.
Disturbed that he missed the daily target set, he goes to the Merchant and asks, “I don’t know what is happening. I have been putting the same energy and focus every day, but the number of trees I am cutting is going down!! Why is this so?”
The Merchant asks the young fellow, “Did you sharpen the Axe?”
As individuals, we depend on our physical fitness, mindset, intelligence, relationships, and energy to deal with our day-to-day affairs productively. Each of these elements is like the proverbial Axe, contributing to our output and the value we create.
But, like it was for the woodcutter, intention, and effort alone do not suffice. It is also crucial to sharpen the Axe, to be efficient and productive.
What is the equivalent of sharpening the Axe when it comes to your Body, Intelligence, Skills, Energy, Relationships, etc.? You getting to the workplace and working tirelessly, is like chopping the tree. Beyond a point, your productivity will drop, no matter what, unless you invest time and effort to enhance and hone your capabilities.
Some examples of Sharpening the Axe-
- You have been in a job for 15 years. Beyond the experience gained, have you developed any learnable skills or competencies? The equivalent of sharpening the axe is in consciously developing new skills.
- You are on a desk-bound job 12 hours a day. If you don’t scientifically manage your posture, you will develop creaks and pains that impact your efficiency. So, sharpen your axe by taking time out to stretch and strengthen your muscles.
- You are busy managing your Job Description and you neglect meaningful relationships that help you maintain an emotional balance. You sharpen your Axe by renewing and nurturing your relationships. As the saying goes, “dig your well of relationships much before you get thirsty.”
- Your workweek is so hectic that you hit the weekend exhausted. So, when the weekend hits, you sleep your way through. You sharpen the Axe by observing role models or exploring personal productivity tools. You manage your weekdays efficiently, full of energy.
A fake quote attributed to Abraham Lincoln says: “give me six hours to chop down a tree, and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.”
You are your own best instrument. Invest time and energy in keeping yourself sharp and shipshape.