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HomemilastwordLessons From a Lumberjack

Lessons From a Lumberjack

Here is a tale of two lumberjacks…

It was the final of the annual lumberjack competition. After days of chopping, only two competitors remained; an old lumberjack and a young lumberjack, 20 years his junior, who had the strength and speed to beat him in a head to head contest.

They were sent into the woods to see who could cut down the most trees in eight hours. The young lumberjack threw himself into the challenge, working tirelessly all day without stopping, while the older lumberjack took a 15-minute break every hour. With all that extra time the younger lumberjack was confident he’d win.

At the end of the work day, the felled trees were counted. The older, more experienced, lumberjack had cut down nearly one third more trees than the younger man. This made no sense to the young lumberjack. How could the old man have cut down more trees in 25 per cent less time?

He approached the older man to congratulate him and asked, “How did you beat me? I didn’t stop working all day, but you stopped every hour. How did you work less time and cut down more trees?”

The older lumberjack said, “I stopped for 15 minutes every hour to sharpen my axe so that my work would be more productive”.

The lumberjack story is a great metaphor for life. On the one hand, it can be viewed as simply making sure you work with a sharp axe because you’ll struggle to be productive if it’s blunt.

In optometric terms, that can mean investing in the latest equipment, which helps you get the job done more precisely and in half the time it would take using outdated equipment. It can also mean that to produce better patient outcomes, you need to take more hours away from your business for professional development.

For me, the main message I take from this story is that rest and planning are just as important as hard work. We need to work smart, as well as work hard.

In the 1930s, Allan F. Mogensen, the ‘father of work simplification’, coined the phrase, “Work Smarter, Not Harder”. This maxim forever changed the way people thought about work.

Over the past century that phrase has become a well-worn business maxim but are “working hard” and “working smart” mutually exclusive?

If we work smarter and more efficiently does it necessarily mean we’re working ‘less’ hard? Work takes perseverance and time to produce the desired results. Sometimes, work is a hard graft.

For me, the two statements are mutually inclusive: we need to work smart and work hard. Of course, we should work smarter by taking time out to rest, plan, educate ourselves and invest in the latest technologies, but to get the job done, we should also work harder.

Another way to look at it, is that ‘smart work’, without ‘hard work’, just isn’t ‘smart work’. Like the lumberjack’s axe, we need to stay sharp and look for ways to improve ourselves.

When you take time away from your business to sharpen your axe, the hard work will pay off.