Waymaker Program Self-Study

The Story of Two Woodcutters

Mar 24, 2020
Scaling Within

Two woodcutters were in a competition to see who could cut down more trees by the end of the day. The first was an experienced woodcutter older in years and the second was a younger, stronger man eager to prove his ability.

Both men set out to chopping. After about an hour or so the more experienced man paused, sat down to take a break and invited the other to join him. The younger, stronger woodcutter replied, “No way! I’m going to keep chopping and I’m going to beat you.

“Suit yourself,” said the experienced man. 

This pattern repeated itself several times throughout the day. Every so often the experienced man would pause his chopping to rest, while the younger stronger woodcutter kept chopping away.

At the end of the day when the two woodcutters compared to see who had chopped more wood, the younger & stronger woodcutter was astonished to find that the older woodcutter who kept taking breaks had chopped a significantly greater amount of wood. He said, “How is that even possible? You spent far less time chopping than I did. I’m stronger and never once stopped cutting down trees. What is your secret?

The experienced man said, “every time I sat down, I was sharpening my axe.”


In the fast-paced high-growth high-performance business world, we often think that we have don’t have time to slow down— I just have to respond to those emails, I just have to cross off one more to-do, time is money, etc.

The things is, you can accomplish so much more in a shorter amount of time from a fresh and focused mental state than spending hours trying to push through from a place of mental survival.

If you can recognize you’re starting to leave your window, it can often be more efficient to pause what you’re doing and employ strategies to return, then trying to plow through.

And in the midst of what we are experiencing on a global level with the COVID-19 quarantine, you might just find yourself with a particularly poignant opportunity to sharpen your axe. May you utilize this time in whatever way you most need and return sharper than ever!



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