Episode 010: The Woodcutter
Once upon a time, there was a very strong woodcutter looking for a job. He ran into a timber merchant who was hiring and the woodcutter got the position. The pay depended on how much wood was cut down. So long as the woodcutter cut a lot of wood, he would get paid a lot of money. The work conditions were also great as were the hours. For those reasons, the woodcutter was determined to do his best.
His boss gave him an axe and showed him the area where he was supposed to work.
On the first day, the woodcutter worked diligently; cutting as many trees as he could. Drenched in the sweat of his determination and hard work, he brought 18 trees to his boss!
“Congratulations,” the boss said. “Keep going on that way and keep up the great work!”
Very motivated by the boss’ words, the woodcutter came back the next day invigorated and determined to cut down more trees than he had the day before. Although he worked harder and longer than he did before, he could only bring 15 trees that day. He went home confused, and disappointed.
The third day he woke up for work and tried even harder to cut down as many trees as he could. At the end of the third day, he looked at his pile of trees and was hit by a sense of failure. He only cut down 10 trees. Day after day he was bringing less and less trees and he couldn’t understand why.
“I must be losing my strength”, the woodcutter thought. He went to the boss and apologized, saying that he could not understand what was going on.
The boss looked at his discouraged and fatigued employee and asked him one question. “When was the last time you sharpened your axe?”
Confused and out of breath, the woodcutter replied, “Sharpen? I had no time to sharpen my axe. I have been very busy trying to cut trees…”
The Insights and Takeaways
The story of the hard working woodcutter… What “wood” you do differently? Haha Oh man I need to stop with these puns haha. But seriously, what would you have done differently? I was motivated to share this story in particular after talking to a handful of my friends and family. Reconnecting with friends and bonding with family is a blessing. BUT one thing that was common throughout a lot of my conversations, was the fact that there is so much pressure in our society to work. It’s all work work work and I think this story of the woodcutter provides some great insight to better combat the pressures of working and to enable us to perform at our best!
The first take away I get is from the woodcutter’s clouded vision. He is so focused on his task of cutting down trees that he never notices his own tool, the axe. Day by day, tree after tree, the axe gets duller with each swing. It doesn’t matter how strong he is, trying to cut down a tree will take significantly longer with a dull axe.
Think about it. You will never find a professional c hef who doesn’t take the time to sharpen their knives. You won’t find a business owner who doesn’t consistently read up on their industry. You won’t find success without sharpening your tools.
Now you may not be a chef, a business owner, or a tree cutter, but I know for a fact that there is one tool that each and every individual has that needs to be taken care of; your mind.
The other lesson I learn from the woodcutter, is that over-working yourself is detrimental. The woodcutter worked hard every day for hours on end, but because he didn’t give himself the proper rest coupled with not taking care of his axe, his performance plummeted.
You can’t expect to perform at the highest level if you are exhausted and fatigued. For example, I know for a fact that I did not get nearly enough sleep as I should have in college. Unfortunately, I was notorious for falling asleep in my classes. My exhaustion caught up to me and I definitely did not perform as well as I could have in many classes. Fortunately, as I enter the working world, my sleep schedule is getting better, but I fear that I will fall due to overworking myself.
I’m trying to work on taking a step back, taking a break, and treating myself every now and then… We are so hard on ourselves and truly are our own worst critics. I am guilty of this and I’ve struggled with it my entire life. I always feel like I am not working hard enough, or I’m not doing enough, or that I don’t deserve something, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. The same applies to you all. I truly believe that.
This week, I’d like to challenge you with two tasks. The first, is to take the time and care to sharpen your tools. Not only physically if you work with tools or have equipment you use, but also mentally. Our minds are so powerful and if we don’t take the time to keep them in tip top shape, it’ll be our downfall. Read a book. Try out meditation. Practice listening and reflection, or even do some of those cognitive and critical thinking exercises. Strengthen your mind.
The other challenge I want to leave you with is to be kinder to yourself. Take a step away from your work or your stresses, and take the time to show yourself some love. The world was blessed by three simple words on an episode of Parks & Recreation: “Treat Yo’ Self.” Sleep in. Go adventure. Eat your favorite food and a lot of it! Work is important, but rejuvenation and self-care are just as, if not more important.
Don’t forget about one of the most impactful individuals you will ever meet; yourself.