Sharpen the Saw

There is an old Irish legend, a story of two lumberjacks.  Both men were skilled woodsmen although the first was much bigger, welding a powerful axe.  He was so strong that he didn’t have to be as accurate for he still produced due to his sheer size.  He was known far and wide for his ability to produce great quantities of raw material. Many hired him just because he was bigger.  After all, his customers reasoned, everyone knows that bigger is always better!! 

In spite of his size, the second woodsman’s fame was spreading for his skill was in his accuracy.  There was very little waste in his efforts so his customers ended up with a better product for their money. Soon the word spread that his work was even better than his larger competition! 

Upon hearing this, the larger man became concerned.  He wondered, “How could this be? I am so much bigger that I MUST be better!” He proposed that the two compete with a full day of chopping trees to see who was more productive.  The winner would be declared “The Greatest Lumberjack in all the land.” The smaller man agreed and the date for the bout was set.

The townspeople began talking.  They placed their bets.  The larger woodsman was the favorite to win with a 20 to 1 advantage.  After all, bigger is better!  The evening before the bout, both men sharpened their blades.  The smaller woodsman strategized to win the bout.  He knew he would never win because of his size. He needed a competitive advantage. Each man went to bed confident that he would be declared the winner. 

Morning broke with the entire town showing up to cheer on the lumberjacks.  The competition started with a the judge’s shout, “GO!” The first woodman, strong and broad, leaped into action.  He sawed vigorously and continuously without stopping knowing that every tree he felled brought him closer to his coveted title. 

The second woodsman, wasting no time and jumped into action as well, attacking his trees with every intention of winning the distinguished title.  But unlike his larger competitor, this man stopped every hour to sharpen his blade. 

This worried the townspeople greatly.  They murmured among themselves.  Surely, he could never win if he didn’t work longer and harder than his competitor.  His friends pleaded with him to increase his speed, to work harder but to no avail.  This pattern continued until the end of the day when both men heard the judge yell “TIME!”, signaling the end of the match. 

The larger man stood, winded and exhausted but proudly by his pile of trees knowing he had given his best.  Surely, he was the winner! The smaller woodsman also stood by his pile of trees though, unlike his competitor, the smaller man was still fresh, ready to continue if necessary.  He also stood confident of his efforts having toiled mightily for the prize.

When all the trees were counted, it was announced that the second woodsman had indeed felled more trees and had won the title of “The Greatest Lumberjack in all the Land!”  He happily shook the judge’s hand gripping the new blade that signified the win. The larger man, and most of the townspeople, stood in stunned silence at the announcement for he was, after all, stronger with the larger axe!

But the smaller woodsman, well, he was not surprised.  For he knew all along that in order to win especially against a larger competitor, his instrument had to be continually sharpened.  His axe was smaller and therefore each swing must be more accurate in order to produce the better product. By stopping the sharpen his instrument, he had proven, once and for all, that he was the better man for the job.

The moral of the story:  Continual improvement always delivers the best results.   

The Capstone Advantage

Capstone Media knows that keeping up with emerging media trends is what sets us apart against our bigger competitors.  Capstone Associates practice the habit of “Sharpening the Saw” with continuous training through daily monitoring of market intelligence and weekly education via webinars and seminars.  Contact us for a list of some of our favorites.


In The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, author Stephen Covey lists ”Sharpen the Saw” as the seventh most important personal habit.