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Sharpen Your Axe

photo of axe on wooden log

So many people work hard on the wrong things. It is vital to not just work hard but also to prepare well. 

If you were going to chop down a huge tree with a butter knife, you could work hard all day and not accomplish your task. If you planned well and hired a chainsaw, you could get the job done in minutes. 

There is more to just working hard. Sometimes we need to work smart!

The Enthusiastic Woodcutter

This reminds me of a story I heard from a friend about a woodcutter who got a contract for a tree-felling company. The pay was good, and he was determined to do well. 

On his first day, the woodcutter took his axe and set off into the forest. He worked tirelessly, cutting down 20 trees. This seriously impressed his manager. 

The next day the woodcutter set out to cut down another 20 trees, but he could only manage to cut down 15, although he did his absolute best. 

The following day, the woodcutter tried even harder. He was determined to beat his record and cut down more than 20 trees, but although he did his absolute best, he only managed to cut down 10 trees. He was gutted. 

He asked himself, “What am I doing wrong?”

He was despondent and went up to his manager to apologize for his poor performance. His manager took one look at him and asked, “When was the last time you sharpened your axe?” 

The woodcutter responded, “I haven’t had any time to sharpen my axe. I have been too busy cutting trees to waste time sharpening my axe!”

This story illustrates the importance of good planning and working smart. 

Preparation is key. This enthusiastic woodcutter was so busy chopping wood. He could have been more effective in taking time to sharpen his axe.  

King Solomon had the following to say…

If the axe is dull and its edge unsharpened, more strength is needed, but skill will bring success.” (Ecclesiastes 10:10)

If the axe is blunt, and you do not sharpen the edge, you will need to exert more strength, work harder and sweat more, but working smart and using godly wisdom will help you succeed.

The Two Woodcutters

Let me tell you another story of two woodcutter friends: Bob and Ben.

They took their jobs seriously and both were highly skilled. They were extremely competitive. They were often at loggerheads over who was the best woodcutter in the village. 

The mayor of the village decided to hold a competition to determine who was the best woodcutter. The rules were simple: whoever produced the most wood in a day would be declared the winner. 

So early the next morning the competition got underway, and the two competitive friends set off into the forest, each with his axe, ready to prove who was the “GOAT” (greatest of all time), and they got busy chopping wood. 

After an hour of frantic chopping, Bob suddenly stopped. 

When Ben realized that there was no chopping sound from his opponent’s side, he thought: “Oh yes! Bob must be tired already!” 

This spurred Ben on. He pushed on. He continued to cut down his trees with double the pace.

15 minutes later, Ben heard his opponent chopping again…

Ben started to tire, but he just kept chopping. Meanwhile Ben kept taking a 15-minute break every hour.

Ben thought he was way ahead. He was sure he had won the battle. After all, his good mate Ben kept taking breaks while he tirelessly kept chopping wood. 

Finally, as the sun began to set, the mayor rang the bell. The village gathered to see who the champion was. 

Ben was convinced he had won! After all, he had not taken any breaks while Bob only seemed to work 45 minutes out of every hour. 

The mayor counted the wood bales, and the winner was declared.

Bob had chopped nearly twice as much wood as Ben!

Ben was shocked and frustrated.

He burst out loud, “How can it be? I worked tirelessly all day without any breaks while Bob took it easy. How is it possible that he chopped twice as much wood as me? Impossible!”

Bob responded, “I had a simple plan. Every 15 minutes while I took a break to refresh, I sat down and sharpened my axe. Not only was the 15 minutes every hour a good rest for my body, but the sharp axe made it easier and help me chop more wood!”

The Moral of the Message

Ben worked a lot harder than Bob. He labored more and was under more stress, yet he accomplished less.

Bob had regular breaks and used his rest time to sharpen his axe. He worked smarter. He was better prepared, worked less, yet accomplished more.

Take Time Out to Sharpen Your Axe

“If I had six hours to chop down a tree, I would spend the first four hours sharpening the axe.” – Abraham Lincoln

Sometimes it is important to take a step back, to think through your strategy, and to prepare well.

Smart planning can be the difference between success and failure. 

When it comes to your finances, the are many ways you can “sharpen your axe”…

Plan. Prepare. Strategize:

What is my goal? What do I need to do? How can I get this done easier? What is working? What is not working? What tools do I need? What mistakes am I making? What can I change? What is my plan? What must I prepare? What is my strategy? Where do I want to be? Where am I now? 

“Good planning and hard work lead to prosperity, but hasty shortcuts lead to poverty.” (Proverbs 21:5)

Get Coaching or a Mentor:

Who can I learn from? Who will inspire me? Who is going to drive me forward? 

“Iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.” (Proverbs 27:17)

Get Quality Advice: 

How can I achieve my goal realistically? How can I fix my problem? How can I implement a solution? 

“Plans go wrong for lack of advice; many advisers bring success.” (Proverbs 15:22)

Commit Your Plans to God:

Lord, please help me. Please help me to align my plans with your purposes. Lord, please strengthen me. Lord, please grant me success.

“Commit your actions to the LORD, and your plans will succeed.” (Proverbs 16:3)

In Conclusion

Hard work is good, but without planning and preparation, hard work can waste a lot of time and stop you from achieving your goals.

It is vital that you work on the right thing. Be smart.

Take time out to sharpen your axe.

Plan well. Prepare well. Be diligent. Don’t take shortcuts.

Good planning and hard work lead to prosperity, but hasty shortcuts lead to poverty.” (Proverbs 21:5)

Don’t try to chop down a tree with a blunt axe. It is time to sharpen your axe. 

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