The Meaning Behind “Sharpen Your Axe”

Many have asked about the Bigwin Group t-shirt with the “I’m not Sven” emblazoned on the front…well, this is its’ genesis:

Once upon a time, there were two lumberjacks, named Sven and Joe. Sven was a 35 year old, 6’3’ strapping Viking of a guy who had wash-board abs (not Photo Shopped), huge biceps and massive, tree trunk legs. Joe on the other hand was slight 5’6”, 58 year old, at the tail end of his lumberjacking career.

Every year, they competed in the local lumberjack contest seeing who could chop and cut logs in the shortest amount of time. As you might imagine, each year, Sven beat Joe hands down. However, strangely enough, during the rest of the year outside the competition, day in and day out, Joe’s production was always higher than Sven. Naturally, it drove Sven crazy!

So one day, Sven saw Joe at the bar and walked over to him and asked if he could 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 pleaded.

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 and now he was really perplexed. “Wait a second Joe, I chop wood for 60 minutes each hour and you only chop for 50 minutes and yet your output always out strips mine, how is that possible?! What do you do with extra 10 minutes each hour?

Joe replied, “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 drive the work to the next level and increase creativity, productivity, ideas, results or whatever other metrics make sense. We have institutionalized a daily “Sharpen Your Axe Session” and made it part of our web site and an integral part of the culture at Bigwin Group. Each and every day, we are striving to be more like Joe and keep Sharpening our Axe.