Monday, July 5, 2010

The Secret of Maintaining Your Cutting Edge

We all admire super heroes -- Superman, Wonder Woman, Batman, Spiderman, Wolverine, Professor X and more. In our most vulnerable moment, they come and rescue us from our tormentors. In real life, we do need support one way or the other.

We all need to constantly sharpen our ax, not just to cut more trees, but to do so while preserving our sanity.
Photo Credit: 'Hatchet' by John Lewis

A very amusing anecdote about this matter has stuck in my mind in almost similar fashion as the song "I have two hands" or "London Bridge is falling down."

Let me share it with you.

Two axemen, Paul and Robert, went about their work of cutting trees. To inject some fun into their work, they decided to compete on who among them could cut the most number of trees. The loser would cook dinner for both of them for one week.

Paul went about cutting all the trees that he could all day. He stopped only to eat lunch or to relieve himself. He observed that Robert stopped thrice than he did. He also sounded like he was working slower. Because of that he was sure that he would win this little contest.

When the day was over, they counted the logs. Paul was shocked to learn that Robert cut more trees than he did by a wide margin.

Almost bursting in frustration, Paul demanded to know how that happened. With heavy breaths, Paul asked Robert, "You were whistling all day. You were stopping and sitting down more than I did. How in the world did you cut more trees than?"

Robert looked at Paul and smiled, "My friend, while I was whistling and sitting down, I was sharpening my ax!"

Are you sharpening your ax? Are you making sure that you maintain your cutting edge? If you do, then you would know that you need support to do that.


1. De-clutter

Our physical environment needs to be conducive to getting things done. Is it free of unnecessary noise? unnecessary stuff? unnecessary activities?

Are the things you constantly need within arm's reach and the things you need only once in a while tucked some place else? Sharpen this part of your work life by getting the cooperation of your work mates.

2. Delegate or Eliminate

Working too hard? Doing everything is not the efficient way of achieving things. You're familiar with the Pareto Principle or the 80-20 rule, right?

If you see yourself doing things that do not directly contribute to the results you want, then delegate or eliminate those tasks. Otherwise, you'll end up feeling working too hard and accomplishing little. To do this you would need the support of those of your superiors, peers and subordinates.

3. Study

There are always better things of doing something. All of us breath air all our life and we think we know everything about breathing. Yet some people pay handsome money to learn about new ways of breathing. Unbelievable, you may say.

If that is true about something as basic as breathing, then certainly that is true in everything that we do. To do this you need the support of mentors.

Reality check....
  • In which area of your life do you score farthest from the "Perfect 10"?
  • What support do you need in this area?
  • Have you sought the support that you need?

Related Post:
Ten Tough Questions To Ask When the Going Gets Tough

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