Thursday, February 3, 2005
Once upon a time a very strong woodcutter ask for a job in a timber merchant, and he got it. The payment was really good and so were the work conditions. For that reason, the woodcutter was determined to do his best.
His boss gave him an axe and showed him the area where he was supposed to work.
The first day, the woodcutter brought down 18 trees.
"Congratulations," the boss said. "Go on that way!"
Very motivated for the boss’ words, the woodcutter try harder the next day, but he only could bring down 15 trees. The third day he try even harder, but he only could bring down 10 trees. Day after day he was bringing down less and less trees.
"I must be losing my strength", the woodcutter thought. He went to the boss and apologized, saying that he could not understand what was going on.
"When was the last time you sharpened your axe?" the boss asked.
"Sharpen? I had no time to sharpen my axe. I have been very busy trying to cut trees."
It remains the perennial analogy. We never seem to take the time to "sharpen our saw." Stephen Covey spends one entire chapter and one habit in his book Seven Habits for Highly Effective People on this very analogy. It is the very process of self renewal. So, what is it that we are encouraged to renew?
Mr. Covey goes on to break down our needed renewal into four dimensions: physical, mental, social/emotional and spiritual. Broken down even further, the dimensions concern the following:
The dimensions and the analogy make sense to me. And yet, we all tend to ignore the warning signs of a saw that is reaching maximum bluntness. So what will it take?
a final note, it always intrigued me that Mr. Covey focuses on self renewal
and the proverbial "sharpening of the saw," but never seem to
address in his book our need to cut down so many trees. Perhaps the reason
our saw becomes so dull so quickly is our incessant need to cut down more
and more trees in our lives; more projects, more deadlines, more obligations...
Perhaps it would behoove us to stop and reflect on our timbering goal
and ask ourselves if that is truly realistic and healthy for us in the
first place. My guess is that if we did this, we could all save a few
more trees, complete a few less projects and save a few more saw teeth
in the process.
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