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Ideas. Insights. Inspiration.

The Value of a Sharpened Axe


Once upon a time, there was a very strong wood-cutter. He asked for a job from a timber merchant and he got it. The pay and work conditions were both very good, so the wood-cutter was determined to do his very best. His boss gave him an axe and showed him the area in the forest where he was to work.


On the first day, the wood-cutter cut down 18 trees. His boss was extremely impressed and said, “Well done. Keep it up. You are our best wood-cutter yet.” Motivated by his boss’s words, the wood-cutter tried even harder the next day, but he only cut down 15 trees. On the third day, he tried even harder but only cut down 10 trees.


Day after day the woodcutter cut down fewer and fewer trees. His boss came to him and told him that if he did not chop down more trees each day he would lose his job. The wood-cutter needed the job, so he tried harder and harder. He worked during his lunch breaks and tea breaks, but still, he could not cut down enough trees. “I must be losing my strength” the wood-cutter thought to himself. He worked over-time, but still, it was not enough.


Eventually, his boss came to him and told him he was fired. The wood-cutter was really upset, but he knew that he had worked as hard as he could and just did not have enough time to chop more trees. He sadly handed his axe back.


The boss took one look at the axe and asked, “When was the last time you sharpened your axe?


“Sharpen my axe?” the woodcutter replied. “I have never sharpened my axe. I have been too busy trying to cut down enough trees.” ***

A version of this fable appeared in my social media feed last week*, and since many people in North America are celebrating a holiday today, I thought it was appropriate to share it. There are two important lessons to take away from this story:

1. You should work smarter before you work harder.

2. Taking a break to recharge isn't lazy, it's smart. I hope today you find some time to sharpen your axe. - do

* I couldn't find where this story appeared on my social media, so I had to search Google for "sharpen your axe"; here's a hat-tip to Claire Newton for having this available on her website.

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