Below is one of my favorite stories which contain multiple lessons. I have used this story many times to express the importance of staying current and always working smart. I was told this story by one of my mentors when I was just an apprentice and I have never forgotten it. I don’t know where it originated from and I would give credit if I did. I hope you enjoy!
A young man showed up to the towns’ largest saw mill looking for a job as a lumberjack. When he interviewed with the mill’s foreman, the foreman told him he wasn’t hiring anyone and to go away. The young man said please sir, just give me a chance. I have a very strong work ethic and I never quit. I know if you just give me a chance you will be happy with my results. The foreman told the young man, alright, here’s what I’ll do. I will send you out with today’s crew, and if you can keep up with these seasoned veteran loggers we can discuss you coming to work here. The young man said thank you sir and headed out with the crew.
The seasoned lumberjacks were teasing the young man as they walked out to the field. They called him scrawny, baby face, and asked him if he had enough diapers to last all day in the field. The young man just took it in stride and continued along the path as he focused on the task at hand. One by one the crew members were dropped off at their stations and started chopping down trees. When the young man tried to get off at a stop, they wouldn’t let him; they kept taking him deeper and deeper into the forest. They told him you have to earn the closest spots to the mill rookie, and they continued to laugh out loud.
Finally after the young man made it to his spot he started chopping away.
A little while later he came walking back towards the mill. All the lumberjacks were hazing him calling him a quitter, and saying that didn’t take long. However, they were bewildered when he came walking back by, heading back out to his spot.
About an hour later, here comes the young man again. At this point the hazing was turning into insults, calling him lazy, and saying “what, do you need a break again?” But again after a quick stop in the mill, he was headed back out to his spot.
This continued several more times throughout the day. The seasoned lumberjacks were completely beside themselves with anger, at the young man’s ways. But found solace with each other knowing that there was no way he would be back the following day.
Finally, the day ended and they all went back to the mill. The foreman pulled the young man into his office and closed the door. The older men were laughing and pondering about what was going on behind that door. You see, the Foreman had a bad temper and was known for really laying down a lashing when someone even just barely missed their mark of 4 cords in a day, and with all the young man’s lollygagging he would have been lucky to get a single cord cut.
After a few minutes the foreman and the young man came out of the office, both of them laughing. The entire crew was shocked to see the young man wearing a uniform, as the foreman said,” I want you all to welcome the newest member of our team.” The foreman went on to say he had never seen anyone able to cut 8 cords of lumber in a single day, and he was sure that this kid would be a great addition.
The seasoned crew was stunned. Then the crew leader shouted out, “No Way! That is impossible! We watched this kid walk back and forth to the mill at least 8 times throughout the day. There is no way he was able to cut down more trees than the rest of us.” The young man just stood there perplexed, then he said, “well how many times did you go back to sharpen your axe?”
I tell this story to illustrate that no matter how experienced you are and no matter how long you have been doing it ‘that way’, you should always look at things with a new set of eyes and be open to learning, even from the most junior members of your team. More importantly, you should always be analyzing and improving the way things are done. Change is inevitable, and new technology is developing every day. If you are not changing, you are getting left behind. So keep striving for information and keep your eyes and mind open for new ways to get things done faster, better, and more efficiently. In other words, always be sharpening your axe!