Is your calendar this week like mine? Loaded up with all kinds of webinars and on-line meetings. All of them seeming to be valuable and important. But how many of them will really help me? Why am I watching and participating in all of them?

This line of questioning causes me to reflect on a very important principle: “Take the time to sharpen your ax,” as the saying goes.

Or, in my case, my chisels. Let me explain.

Our History Sometimes Defines Us

I grew up working with my Dad and brother in my Dad’s woodworking shop. We had a lot of tools in that shop and, as you can imagine, most of them had to have sharp edges. None were sharper than our chisels. No tool required the sharpness of the chisel and the hand plane. The reason was simple: these were, generally, the last tools to touch the wood. They had to be sharp enough to do the job without a lot of force and they couldn’t leave any extraneous marks.

The Satisfaction of Sharp Tools

To this day, when I do any woodworking, there is nothing more satisfying, I’d even say spiritual, than using a sharp chisel or plane across a beautiful piece of wood. As the tool cuts there is a clean shaving and a sweet sound as that shaving comes off the wood. This can only happen with an extremely sharp and perfectly honed tool.

We learned how to properly sharpen our tools through a series of finer and finer grit stones and then through a stropping process that created super sharp edges. This, however, was not a one-time procedure. Every time we pulled a chisel out to use, we examined the blade, stropped it, and made sure it was ready for use. We never assumed that it was ready right out of the drawer. We were always testing the blades before they were used.

The Right Tool, Constantly Sharpened

You can’t do a job worthy of true craftsmanship if you don’t, first of all, use the right tool, and, second of all, make sure it’s sharp enough to use. Our leadership skills, our management skills, and our technical skills all have to be constantly sharpened. We can’t assume that they are as sharp today as when we first learned them or pulled them out of the box. All of these – let me correct that – some of these webinars and online training sessions offer us the opportunity to do that.

How About Now?

Right now is a great time to be honing your chisels, your skills. You can’t do everything that’s being offered. However, I’m willing to bet, just like me, you’ve been wanting to get better at something and just have never found the time or dedicated the time to learn that new skill. Well, since you’re not spending two hours a day commuting, how about spending that time getting sharp?

Consider All of Your “Tools”

Take the time to do it. As an extra benefit, you’ll be setting an example for your team. By your example, your team will see the benefits of learning something new and you’ll have a company full of sharp chisels ready to do their best.

Dave

(Updated from a blog post that initially appeared on January 13, 2018)