Do you take time to sharpen your axe?

Posted by Alex Elliott - 20/02/2020

Do you see yourself combating the same problems daily, weekly, monthly? 

Can you hear yourself using the same pitch on the phone day in day out, yet expecting different results?

Do you feel that you take enough time out of the daily routine to focus on development and improvement?


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In line with our values, at Strive we recognise the importance of continually developing ourselves and learning new skills in order to offer the best service possible to our Clients and Candidates.

Yesterday, the Strive team took two hours off the sales floor, to ‘sharpen their axe’.

For those who have no idea what axes have to do with sales performance, please read on….


 ‘The Story of Two Woodcutters’

“Once upon a time, there were two woodcutters named Peter and John. They were often at loggerheads over who chopped more wood. One day, they decided to hold a competition to determine the winner. The rules were simple—whoever produce the most wood in a day wins.

The next day morning, both of them took up their positions in the forest and started chopping away in their fastest possible speed. This lasted for an hour before Peter suddenly stopped. When John realized that there was no chopping sound from his opponent’s side, he thought: “Ah Ha! He must be tired already!” And he continued to cut down his trees with double the pace.

A quarter of an hour passed, and John heard his opponent chopping again. Both of them carried on synchronously. John was starting to feel weary when the chopping from Peter stopped once again. Feeling motivated and smelling victory close by, John continued on, with a smile on his face.

This went on the whole day. Every hour, Peter would stop chopping for fifteen minutes while John kept going relentlessly. So when the competition ended, John was absolutely confident that he would take the triumph.

But to John’s astonishment, Peter had actually cut down more wood. How did this even happen? “How could you have chopped down more trees than me? I heard you stop working every hour for fifteen minutes!”, exclaimed John.

Peter replied, “Well, it’s really simple. Every time I stopped work, while you were still chopping down trees, I was sharpening my axe.”


If you don’t buy in to a ‘fairy tale’, perhaps you’ll trust a previous president more? As Abraham Lincoln said:

“Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.”

A much more modern reference was delivered by Brad Shackleton at the Recruitment Agency Expo just earlier this month, where he discussed stopping at least monthly as a business for ‘Smart Time’, advising

 “You cannot become who you want to be by staying the same”

He discussed an analogy between a sales consultant and a boxer – if you want to win that opportunity next time you are ‘in the ring with a prospect’, how are you training and improving outside of the ring.

And finally, for those who prefer a text-book reference, in Stephen Covey’s famous book ‘The 7 habits of highly effective people’, the 7th habit is (you guessed it) ‘Sharpen the Saw’ and he discusses this across the four areas of your life


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 So, to ask again:

Do you feel that you take enough time out of the daily routine to focus on development and improvement?

 At Strive we work in partnership with our Clients and Candidates – reach our to see how we can help you sharpen your axes.

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