Sharpening the Saw

The lumberjack story has been made popular by a reference to it in Stephen Covey’s best Selling book The 7 Habits of Highly Successful People due to all of the metaphorical messages about life contained within it.

The Lumberjack story.

It was the final of the annual lumberjack competition, only 2 competitors remained, an older experienced lumberjack and a younger, stronger lumberjack. 

The rules of the competition were quite simply he who could fell the most trees in 24 hours was the overall winner.

The younger lumberjack was full of enthusiasm and went off into the wood and set to work straight away, he worked all through the day and all through the night, he felt more and more confident with every tree he felled that he would win, because he knew that he had superior youth and stamina than the older lumberjack that he could also hear working away in another part of the forest. 

At regular intervals throughout the day the noise of trees being felled coming from the other part of the forest would stop, the younger lumberjack took heart from this thinking that this meant that the older lumberjack was taking a rest, whereas he could use his superior youth and strength and stamina to just keep going.

At the end of the competition the younger lumberjack felt confident he had won, he looked in front of him at the piles of felled trees that were the result of his superhuman effort.

At the medal ceremony the younger lumberjack stood on the podium still confident and expecting to be awarded the prize of champion lumberjack, next to him stood the older lumberjack who he was surprised to see also looked a lot less exhausted than he did.

When the results were read out the younger lumberjack was devastated to hear that the older lumberjack had chopped down significantly more trees than he had, he turned to the older lumber jack and said,

“How can this be”?

“I heard you take a rest every hour whilst I worked continuously through the night”,

“and I am younger, stronger and fitter than you old man”!

The older lumberjack turned to him and said;

“Every hour I took a break to rest and sharpen my saw”

– Stephen R. Covey



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