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  • mboettc

Sharpen Your Axe

Updated: Mar 2, 2020

Today I have advice for you that I think is so important AND that I often fail to take myself. Maybe we can remind each other to do this as we move forward in life. Just a thought.


Once upon a time, there were two woodcutters. One day, they decided to hold a contest to see who could chop and stack the most wood. They went out into the woods and starting chopping and stacking their logs.

The first woodcutter found a rhythm and worked steadily all day long. The first woodcutter's pile of logs grew and grew throughout the day. The second woodcutter would chop and stack for a while, then sit down. Then would chop and stack wood for a little while and then sit down. The second woodcutter's pile also grew throughout the day.

At the end of the day, they compared their woodpiles. The first first woodcutter was furious and asked, "How is this possible?! How could you have chopped down more trees than me? Every other time I looked over at you, you were sitting down. I chopped wood all day long without stopping!"

The second woodcutter said, "Every time I sat down, I sharpened my axe."

The same is true for us as we write, research, and do other work. It's when we step away to take a walk, appreciate something beautiful, play, and relax that our ideas fall into place. Strangely, holding ourselves accountable to taking these breaks can be even more challenging than the "butt in chair and writing" part of our process. In my opinion, however, it is just as important.

Work hard, but take the time to sharpen your axe, too.

P.S. There was a cohort a couple of years ago in the master's program. I shared this story with them. They loved it. They would often share how they had been sharpening their

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