Why You Should Sharpen Your Axes

Once upon a time, a very strong woodcutter asked for a job in a timber merchant and he got it. The pay was really good and so was the work condition. For those reasons, the woodcutter was determined to do his best.

His boss gave him an axe and showed him the area where he supposed to work.

The first day, the woodcutter brought 18 trees.

“Congratulations,” the boss said. “Go on that way!”

Very motivated by the boss words, the woodcutter tried harder the next day, but he could only bring 15 trees. The third day he tried even harder, but he could only bring 10 trees. Day after day he was bringing less and less trees.

“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.

“When was the last time you sharpened your axe?” the boss asked.

“Sharpen? I had no time to sharpen my axe. I have been very busy trying to cut trees…”

How exactly do you sharpen the axe?

We overwork ourselves amidst the overwhelming tasks at hand. We feel drained, exhausted and our productivity declines. Do we simply take a break, rest and relax? That isn’t sharpening the axe—that’s just putting the axe down. The blade will still be dull after your break. Yes, the woodcutter needs to rest, but it’s only when he sharpens his blade, learns new techniques, trains up his strength and stamina, that he becomes more productive.

Dr. Stephen R Covey defined “Sharpen Your Saw (or Axe)” to be: increasing your personal productivity, by having a balanced strategy to renew yourself in the four aspects of life: Physical, Social, Mental, and Spiritual.

  • Physical: Eating well, sleeping well and exercising well.
  • Social/Emotional: Having a good social life. Building meaningful connections with others.
  • Mental: Learning something new, reading (books are your mentors), and writing.
  • Spiritual: Expanding spiritual self through meditation, spending time relaxing in nature.

Feeling good doesn’t just happen. You need to take the necessary time to create growth and change in your life. Arianna Huffington urges us to sleep our way to increased productivity, happiness, and smarter decision-making. Warren Buffet credits his great money decisions to his voracious reading habit (80% of his time is spent on reading). Toyota invests time and money into their employees, developing a continuous improvement culture—a true model for a learning organization.

Remember that every day is a brand new opportunity to recharge, renew, and refine yourself. Devote some moments into sharpening your axe instead of chopping away doggedly: start working smarter instead of longer.


Our Trading lives are like that. We sometimes get so busy that we don’t take time to sharpen the “axe”/Trading Skills. In today’s world, it seems that everyone is busier than ever, but less happy that ever.

Why is that? Could it be that we have forgotten how to stay “sharp”? There’s nothing wrong with activity and hard work. But we should not get so busy that we neglect the truly important things in life, like our personal life, taking time to get close to our Creator, giving more time for our family, taking time to read etc.

We all need time to relax, to think and meditate, to learn and grow. If we don’t take the time to sharpen the “axe”, we will become dull and lose our effectiveness. 

Author: Stephen Covey
From: 7 Habits of Highly Effective People

Leave a Reply