The parable of the two lumberjacks

On upskilling; productivity and compouding

I recently revisited the parable of Sharpening the Saw.

This was a lesson I came across when I was 12 years old from the book 7 Habits of Highly Effective people.

Once upon a time, there were two lumberjacks.

One was a young and strong man. The other was an older experienced one.

They decided to hold a competition to determine who could cut more wood. The one who produce the most wood in a day wins.

The younger lumberjack started in immediately and worked tirelessly.

While he was working, he noticed that the older lumberjack took a 15 minute break every hour.

The young man smiled and was confident that he would definitely be able to win. He was stronger after all.

When the results were out, he was dismayed to learn that the older lumberjack had chopped down almost three times more trees.

“How can this be? I heard you stop often and I worked continuously through the night, once more I am stronger and fitter,” he wondered.

The wise, older lumberjack smiled and told the youngster: “I stopped for 15 minutes every hour to sharpen my axe.”

I could relate to this story as I realized I have been doing quite a lot of meetings after meetings.

I did not take time to reflect on ways I could do better and improve my skills. This led to me experiencing a bit of burnout in November.

The older lumberjack was successful because he took time to rest and sharpen his blade; train up his strength; skills and stamina. The combination of all of these makes him a lot more productive.

We see this in real life examples. Warren Buffet and Charlie Munger credit their great decisions to having a voracious reading habit.

Toyota invests time and money into their employees, developing a continuous improvement culture. 

Dr. Stephen R Covey defined “Sharpen Your Saw” to be: increasing your personal productivity by improving yourself in four aspects of life: Physical, Social, Mental, and Spiritual.

4 Ways to Sharpen Your Saw | Image by Stephen Covey

⚒️️ Physical: Regular exercise, eating whole foods, getting enough sleep

⚒️️ Social/Emotional: Deep meaningful relationships with others

⚒️️ Spiritual: Expanding spiritual self through reflection, solitude, spending time relaxing in nature.

⚒️️ Mental: Improving our skills; reading books; writing; not being distracted by social media

In my case, I could have focused more on mental development. 

This means not just doing calls and meetings but also dedicating time to plan; think; strategize and refine my approach for better outcomes.

To put this in action, I tidied up my calendar for January. I will create time blocks for deep work; preparing for meetings and coming up with strategy for deals.

In my job, it is important to hunt like a Falcon with focus, precision, accuracy and speed versus just mindlessly striking.

Reminder: Everything compounds

I chanced upon Chris Orlob’s news letter recently and felt this was a timely reminder:

I can predict your future bank balance with just three pieces of information:

#1 The books, online courses, and professional development you’re consuming (and how often you do it).

#2 The people you spend most time with

#3 How you use your time, in ½ hour increments, for a full week.

These three things compound.

Many people’s income and careers progress slowly and linearly. This is due to many factors such as:

❌ Having the wrong kind of close friends and partners: Not growth oriented; unhealthy habits; misaligned values

❌ Wasting time scrolling on social media; destroying my attention span or being a slave to notifications

❌ Having a minimal or declining rate of soft and hard skill acquisition i.e. not enough to compound

This is how we end up with many mediocre people with several years of experience. They do not have 10 years of enterprise sales experience. They have one year repeated 10 times.

On the other hand, if you compound and grow your skills, each hour of work you do will generate more and more results. This is how you get leverage.

Your choices today are a vote for the future you want. Everything compounds in life. Always play the long game in work, health and relationships.

Life Update: Heading to Taiwan 🇹🇼

I am headed to Taiwan for two weeks.

My goal is not only to see attractions but also to develop a deeper cultural and historical knowledge of the Greater China region.

I realized I get a lot of exposure from a business perspective to Asia since I have been in regional roles mostly. However, I do lack the historical and cultural perspective.

During my time in Hong Kong as a news reporter, I covered local businesses; strikes and labour movements and other local news. This really gave me a deeper understanding of Hong Kong history and current affairs.

Another reason why I am heading there is for language immersion. I intend to speak Mandarin only for two weeks to improve my spoken mandarin.

I have only two colleagues to practise with at work and my customers. That’s not enough!

I intend to do solo trips every year mostly for language; historical and cultural immersion.

There will not be a newsletter this Sunday as I still have not done lots of planning and need to use the rest of the week on this. I am efficient for most things in my life but when it comes to traveling, I am often last minute!

Follow my journey on Instagram. Please hit reply if you have any recommendations for Taiwan. 🙂 

I am a Singaporean Millennial who covers work; money; relationships and balance. Enjoyed this post? Ask your friends to subscribe here.