“If I had six hours to chop down a tree, I’d spend the first four sharpening the ax.”
I love this quote by Abraham Lincoln. The man was a walking tweetable moment. I’ve chewed on this quote in the past, pondering how to best prepare myself for whatever challenges or opportunities that awaited me in the future. The more I’ve thought about this quote, the more I realize that its application needs to be much more focused that I had originally thought.
Trying to prepare for anything that might come in life can be really exhausting. There are so many possible challenges that the future might spring on us, that it’s hard to know how to best prepare. We end up wearing ourselves out by trying to prepare for all possible outcomes. In the end we are tired, and still feel unprepared for whatever might lie ahead.
Once we realize that we can’t focus on everything, we often choose to focus on our weaknesses. Our weaknesses are always more visible than our strengths, often creating shame and doubt inside of us. So, we frantically jump in and try to get better at things that we are no good at and probably don’t enjoy. The time we spend on weaknesses though is very often wasted time. We can spend hours and hours of work on something we are not good at. The reward we get for all of that hard work? We are ok at something we hate doing. No thanks.
What if, rather than trying to become good at everything, we focused on the few things that we are already gifted in and passionate about? What if we sharpened the tools that we used the most and that we most enjoy? Time spent trying to improve in things we are passionate about is always more enjoyable and more productive.
So, the question is: what gifting or skill are you actively sharpening? What passion or talent is it that makes you feel alive when you are doing it? Are you working to maximize those strengths? If not, how can you begin to “sharpen the ax” that you use the most?
You were made with a unique set of talents and skills. You have experienced a collection of moments in life that no one else has. You bring something to this planet that no one else can bring. So, instead of trying to be everything, why not just be you? Be the best you possible, and look for ways to grow in that every day. You'll never regret time spent "sharpening the ax".