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

Once upon a time there was a young but strong wood-cutter.  He was given the job at a premier wood-cutting operation and was paid well for his labor.       He was working alongside a much older and seemingly weaker man in the field.

On his first day, he was given a beautiful new axe and asked to give his best effort.  He chopped down 18 trees that day and his boss was very pleased, especially since the older man was only chopped 16 trees a day on average.  Motivated to do a great job and show that his youth was more valuable than the experienced old man, the youth came in the next day ready to work even harder but his numbers dropped to only 16 trees.

The next day, the young man was determined to outpace the old man.  From morning till noon, both men steadily chopped and chopped.  By noon they were neck and neck, but then the older man took a break and stopped chopping.

The young wood-cutter saw this and thought to himself: “The lazy fool, he’s probably taking a break for lunch because he’s tired.”  No wonder they hired me.”

A while later the older man was seen chopping wood again, but his trees were falling faster than the young man.

By the end of the day, the older man had chopped twice as many trees as the young man, who was exhausted and hungry.

How are you outpacing me?  ” he asked puzzled. “You were lazier than I and even took a break for lunch!”

“Ah,” said the older man, “You are correct, I did take a break, but it was during that break, that I sharpened my axe.”

Moral of the story:  Taking time out to sharpen your axe is worth many hours of hard toil.

“If the ax is dull, And one does not sharpen the edge, Then he must use more strength; But wisdom brings success.” – Ecclesiastes 10:10


It means that you take time to practice your trade, improve your skills, update your systems, improve your software, advance your tools and invest in the growth of YOU!

Why does it seem that some people make certain jobs, tasks or even careers look so simple?  Is it that they have natural talent that we will never be able to attain or could there be something that actually provides hope for even the “talent-challenged” souls in the world?

How does Serena Williams, LeBron James, Cristiano Ronaldo, or Roger Federe get to the place where they are the most highly paid athletes in the world?  It’s because they sharpen their axe DAILY to ensure they execute their skill with precision and accuracy that outmatches the best.

Good news!  VERY FEW great athletes, musicians, leading executives or top leaders in any field gained their BEST IN CLASS ranking as a result of inbred talents.  Sure, talent and hunger for something you love is a big plus, but there are a LOT of talented people living under bridges right now.

Instead, what these athletes along with the most brilliant minds, executives, sales leaders and performers have done is they took whatever they were given and worked their talent till they become good, better and eventually best.

Remember the old Michael Jordan video about his continual failures that led to his monumental success?  If you missed it, here it is:

What’s the point? 

Intentional practice precedes peak performance.

Fortune magazine conducted a study of 20-year-old violinists and divided them into three groups: good, better, and best.  They were evaluated by the teachers of the music conservatory.  Those violinists ranked good prated on average 5000 hours.  Those where were better than good practiced 7,500 hours.  But the best of the best stood out in that their averages far exceeded 10,000 hours of intentional practice.

The point?  PRACTICE may not make perfect but intentional practice will make you better than the rest!

“For the things we have to learn before we can do them, we learn by doing them.”  Aristotle

Think about Mozart.  Most people think he was a natural born prodigy.  But the truth is that Mozart’s father was an intentional leader that designed training for young children to master musical instruments.  Mozart was the anvil for which hIs father was able to practice his own leadership and training skills. He worked intensively with Mozart from age 3 and while his father excelled, so did Motzart.

There is no such thing as an “overnight success” and in fact, that is the statement of fools who have fallen to the folly of excuses.

When I was young, I had natural drive, but the sport I wanted to play offered me no natural talent.  I was skinny, scrawny, short and white and yet I wanted to play basketball.  My daddy, however, never let my size be an excuse for my performance.  He simply taught me that if I wanted to be the best I would have to work harder than the rest, practice more often and refuse to allow excuses to hold me back.

After 2 years of dedicated and intentional practicing more than the other players, I began starting for Varsity.  I kept up the practice and eventually averaged 23-28 points per game through High School till I was chosen for the Junior Olympic Basketball Team.

In my life, whether it’s in business, basketball or being a good mom and wife, success doesn’t come natural.  It comes with PRACTICE.

Only you have have the power to close the the gap between where you are now and where you want to be. 

You must make the the choice to do these five things well:

  1. Love what you do

  2. Practice what you do

  3. Get feedback on what you do

  4. Tweak what you do

  5. Keep improving what you do



“Warriors don’t retreat….They reload!”

About the Author Staci Wallace

As a highly sought-after speaker, thought leader, author, and expert in business psychology, Staci Wallace’s messages of uncompromising truth equip CEO's, influencers, entrepreneurs, and leaders in the marketplace to launch and scale purpose-driven, highly profitable lives and businesses that leave a powerful impact on the world. With over 35 years in Executive Corporate Leadership and over 25 in global ministry, Staci's desire is to support Kingdom Entreprenuers with tools that equip leaders and send them to the four corners of the earth.  Her distinctions in business success have enabled her to share the stage with five U.S. Presidents and many other high profile leaders of this generation as well as to be a featured "Life & Business Coach" for such shows as KTHV's Morning Show, NBC, ABC, FOX and is the current co-host of the "Fueled By Fire Podcast" alongside her husband of 25 years, Larry Wallace.

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