Sharpening Your Axe: The Key to Achieving Lasting Success in Your Career and Life

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

“We don’t rise to the level of our expectations; we fall to the level of our training.” – Archilochus.

These two quotes may seem enough to make a point, but let’s dive deeper. While powerful quotes inspire us, it is reflecting on their meaning that can lead to actual growth and understanding.

We constantly face expectations, deadlines, and urgent tasks in our professional and personal lives. It’s easy to feel compelled to jump into action immediately, with no time to plan, set the stage, or improve ourselves.

However, this mindset can be counterproductive in the long run. By hastily making assumptions, we are more prone to mistakes, which can lead to additional problems and perpetuate a vicious cycle.

In software development, success hinges on clear requirements, comprehensive user stories, thorough documentation, well-defined criteria for completion, and rigorous testing. By investing time in these areas, software engineers effectively sharpen their axes, leading to a more efficient development process and fewer mistakes.

In the book “Accelerate: Building and Scaling High-Performing Technology Organizations,” Nicole Forsgren concludes: “High performers understand that they don’t have to trade speed for stability or vice versa because by building quality in, they get both.”

While this advice applies to teams and organizations, it’s also crucial for individuals to invest in personal growth. Embracing challenges and putting ourselves in uncomfortable situations can lead to meaningful development.

Despite our busy schedules and seemingly endless responsibilities, prioritizing self-improvement is essential. A valuable piece of advice is to “pay yourself first.” Dedicate the first 30 to 60 minutes of your workday to learning something new, deepening your expertise, or refining your existing skills.

As a people manager, encouraging your team members to invest in themselves has numerous benefits for team performance:

  1. Broad knowledge leads to diverse perspectives in discussions.
  2. Deep expertise enables the implementation of more efficient solutions.
  3. Proficiency in tools boosts overall efficiency.
  4. Keeping up with industry and market trends gives your team a competitive edge.
  5. Knowledge fosters critical thinking.
  6. People are happier when they feel they are improving, which promotes retention.

We can achieve significant progress when we strive for personal growth and adhere to best practices as an organization. It may be slow initially, but as we build momentum, we become unstoppable.

In conclusion, take the time to invest in yourself and encourage your team to do the same. Embrace continuous learning and growth as both individuals and organizations. Start by dedicating a portion of your day to improving your skills and knowledge. Watch the ripple effect on your personal success, team performance, and overall organizational achievements. So, don’t wait any longer—begin your journey toward self-improvement and excellence today. Remember, every step you take towards sharpening your skills and tools will bring you closer to realizing your full potential and achieving lasting success.