I’m sure you’re familiar with the expression “sharpen the axe” or “sharpen the saw”.
It was made fashionable by Stephen Covey in his book The 7 habits of highly effective peopleand refers to the importance of taking care of our most precious asset: ourselves.
That is, taking time regularly to…
- Eat a balanced diet, rest adequately and play sports
- Reconnect with ourselves and our value system through religion, meditation or nature
- Continue learning and exercising our mind through reading and writing
- Enjoy the company of our family and friends
On top of that, “sharpening the axe” also means that we need to be smart in pursuing our goals and not just “do, do, do” but also take time to plan and stop from time to time to reassess our strategy and the tools we are using, because in the long run that will make us much more effective.
Personally, I agree 100% with both senses of the expression.
I think it is important to spend time taking care of ourselves and continuing to develop as human beings, and also to find the most effective way and means to reach the destination we have set for ourselves.
However, lately I see many people who, with the excuse of sharpening the axe, spend their lives taking courses, reading books, testing tools and organizing their dashboard from Notion, and they never create or publish anything or go out looking for clients in the real world.
I must say that on the one hand I understand them: it is much more comfortable to be warm in your cabin, sharpening that sharpens you, than in the forest hacking in the cold and rain…
But I think it’s good to remember that the purpose of having a sharp ax is to use itnot to contemplate its edge and how well cared for it is.
In the end, the trees are not going to cut themselves down, and even if you have the sharpest ax in the world, the wood will still be hard and you will have to work and sweat.
On the other hand, to be a good lumberjack you need not only a chopping axe, but also good technique and powerful muscles, both of which can only be achieved by felling trees. There is no other way.
In this sense, I think that the famous quote attributed to Abraham Lincoln has done a lot of damage and says:
“Give me 6 hours to chop down a tree and I’ll spend 4 hours sharpening the axe”
With all due respect, Mr. Lincoln was wrong here.
According to ax expert YouTubers like thisspending 4 hours – 66% of your time – sharpening yours is outrageous. 10-15 minutes is more than enough.
Therefore, if you only have 6 hours to cut down a tree and you already have clear which is the correct treeI think it is much more intelligent to dedicate a maximum of a quarter of an hour to get your ax ready, start felling and from there re-evaluate.
When you notice that no matter how hard you hit the trunk, the ax has a hard time getting into the wood, then yes: you make a break and sharpen.
But until then, what you have to do is grit your teeth and continue in the forest hacking away, even if it’s uncomfortable, exhausting and you have to hide from time to time because a bear is coming to bite your ass.
Because in the end it is those ax blows that will bring you closer to your goal and that will allow you to acquire the necessary strength and technique to be able to cut thicker trees the next day.
P.D. The only situation in which the previous rule does not apply is if you are not sure what type of tree you need to cut because you still do not know what you are going to build, and there is even the possibility that it is more convenient for you to use another material .
In that case, you should stop and spend as much time as it takes to figure out what you want, as there’s no point in sharpening any axes or logging only to find out a few months later that you didn’t need wood.
Image: ax and nature
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