Once upon a time, there were two lumberjacks named Sven and Joe. Sven was a vibrant young man with striking good looks and a physique befitting his Viking heritage with wash-board abs, muscular arms and powerful legs. Joe on the other hand was the polar opposite. A diminutive frame and completely unconcerned with appearances and dress as he neared the tail end of his lumberjacking career. Once a year they competed head to head for good sport in the local lumberjack contest seeing who could chop and cut logs in the shortest amount of time.
As you would expect, Sven took great delight in humbling Joe in this one-day competition using his natural gifts and age advantage. However, when it really counted day in and day out in the forest, Joe’s production was always higher than Sven’s and so too was his pay cheque. Naturally, this ate at Sven.
One day after a particularly hot summer day, Sven spotted Joe at the bar after work and offered to buy him a drink. Joe graciously accepted. “So Joe”, Sven started, “I don’t get it? I beat you every year at the competition, I am younger and obviously stronger than you, but your daily production for the rest of the year is ahead of mine. What’s your secret?” Sven asked.
Joe looked at Sven and a gentle smile formed on his weathered face. “Well Sven, I only chop wood for 50 minutes each hour.” Sven’s brow furrowed, perplexed by what he’d heard.
“Wait a second Joe, I chop wood for the full hour and you only chop for 50 minutes and yet your output always out strips mine, how is that possible?” Sven said, clearly confused. “What do you do with the extra 10 minutes?”
“Simple”, replied Joe, “I Sharpen my axe.”
At the Bigwin Group, we love this parable. It reminds us that the best way to get results is not always to “work harder or more”, but rather to step back and take the time to think…to be creative. Taking time out to be strategic and sharpen our tools is the only way to take performance to the next level.