Chopping With a Dull Axe

“I don’t have time to sharpen my axe. I need to chop this tree down.”

Most people encounter some version of this problem. I understand it completely. If you value the sentiment “you don’t have to be great to start, but you have to start to be great” (as I do), then you’re usually pressuring yourself to get started. At the same time, lots of other people are pressuring you to do that same thing!

See, this is part of the problem. “Sharpening the axeabsolutely is starting, but it doesn’t look like starting. It’s less visible to others, and it’s less visceral to you. If you spend four hours of a six-hour project sharpening the axe, then at the three-hour-and-fifty-nine-minute mark, it doesn’t look like you’ve made any progress at all. Because people are looking at the tree, not the axe.

Getting paid only further complicates things. If someone pays you to chop down a tree and they’re a particularly short-sighted person, they might actually be upset to check in on you and find you sharpening your axe. After all, that benefits you (since you’re sharpening your own axe), and they’re paying you to work for them! They’re not paying you to sharpen your own axe!

You have to stand firm against this sort of short-sightedness. You have to remind people on occasion that chopping with a dull axe makes you a bad investment. You have to remind yourself sometimes, too.

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