Sharpen Your Axe

Written by: Steve Marks

Forgive me if you have heard this story before but I have a twist on its lesson. There is a legendary story of a lumberjack contest between two men. The first man in the contest was your stereotypical lumberjack; young, muscle bound, bearded, clad in plaid weighing in at 250 lbs. and standing 6 feet, 5 inches tall.  The second lumberjack was new to the occupation of lumberjacking; he was young, only 5 feet, 8 inches tall and 150 lbs. dripping wet.  They both had identical equipment and techniques.

The rules of the competition were straight forward.   Each man would have 4 hours to chop down as much lumber as possible.  Whoever had the most cut lumber at the conclusion of the 4 hours would be the victor.  The whole village gathered to watch the seemingly lopsided competition.

At precisely noon, the contest began.  The first lumberjack, our conventional lumberjack, aggressively chopped with a skillful and precise technique and pace while never losing velocity.  He was strong and consistent.  The crowd marveled at his level of effort and demonstration of strength.  The second lumberjack also had excellent technique and effort chopping away with the same enthusiasm and drive. However, every 45 minutes or so he would stop, go into his cabin for 10 minutes only to return to start chopping again.

At the conclusion of the 4 hours, the officials tallied the amount for each lumberjack.  To everyone’s astonishment, the smaller, younger lumberjack had amassed more lumber and was proclaimed the victor.  Many members of the crowd approached him wondering how this was possible?  What was his secret?    What did he do for that 10 minute break?  Now here is the twist in my story. As this story is typically told, the young lumberjack replies, “I was sharpening my axe”.  And the crowd goes crazy.

While this is a great story and a valuable lesson to be learned, I contend that it would be more appropriate in this day and age for him to have said: “I was napping”.   I say this because I have incorporated a nap, a scientific nap if you will, into my daily work routine for the last several years.  When I first began napping, I felt some guilt.  I wasn’t sure where this guilt was really coming from as I always worked hard at my job.  Perhaps I was thinking that the time spent actually working would be more beneficial than “secretly” snoozing in my office.  Over time, I refined the process, experimenting with various techniques and processes to arrive at the perfect nap.  I tried different dayparts and methods of waking myself up.  I eventually learned that taking a 23 minute nap after lunch allowed me to wake invigorated and to work the remaining hours of the work day with a productive energy that was usually lacking in the afternoon. So I now proclaim to the world that I am a proud napper and recommend this to anyone wanting to sharpen their axe.