How to be Great ... Working Hard Isn't Always the Best Solution

In his book Be Great, Peter H. Thomas tells the story of two men who were splitting wood.

One was 6' 6", 250 lbs. and in good physical shape.

The other was 130 lbs. with not much muscle. He was more or less what's commonly referred to as a "nerd."

They started chopping the wood at about the same time. They worked until it was time to take their first coffee break.

The nerd stopped and took his coffee break. The 6' 6" man did not. He kept splitting wood.

The exact same thing happened when lunchtime rolled around. The nerd stopped to take his lunch break. The big man worked right through lunch.

When the afternoon break rolled around, the same thing happened. This continued on for about two weeks.

The 6' 6" man was baffled why despite working the extra hours he wasn't that far ahead of the nerd when it came to the amount of wood they had cut.

What made it more shocking was the nerd had left every day at 6 p.m. and the big man had stayed on, working late into the night.

After about three weeks of this, the big man noticed that the nerd's pile was more or less even with his own.

At the end of the fourth week, the nerd had overtaken him in the amount of wood they'd split.

It was too much for the big man.

Just as the nerd was about to leave for his break one day, the big man said to him:

"I cannot understand why you have more wood split than I do. You are smaller than I am, and you don't have the strength that I have."

The nerd replied,

"Ah yes, my friend, but you never stop to sharpen your axe."

Thomas uses this story as a reminder that we all need to take time off to think and refresh. He then reminds us that one can only make so much money with our hands – but the amount we can make with our brains is unlimited.

But it can also be interpreted a couple of other different ways …

It can be viewed as a metaphor about how key it is to be always fine-tuning your skills … to be always looking for new ways to grow and expand your freelance business … and to avoid working too hard for results that are mediocre at best.

If you're looking to fine tune your skills and constantly get better at what you do, you might want to tap into Dan Kennedy's expertise through his excellent "Look Over My Shoulder" program.

If you're a web writer and looking for another lucrative service to offer your clients, the demand for freelancers who can offer their clients a comprehensive social media strategy is only going to get more intense. You can get quickly up to speed with Nick Usborne's new program How to Make Money as a Social Media Expert.

Whatever you choose to do, though, keep "sharpening your axe," and like the smart, little lumberjack, your efforts will never produce run-of-the-mill results, and you'll soon leave the competition behind.

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Published: April 6, 2011

1 Response to “How to be Great ... Working Hard Isn't Always the Best Solution”

  1. John,

    Thanks for sharing this poignant story.
    I appreciate your valuable contribution.

    From an early age, we are conditioned into believing that "working hard" is what counts for success and happiness.

    We are not told, however, that "working smart" is the actual solution.

    There are a lot of globe-trotting corporate executives out there who were burnt-out by long hours and catching red-eye flights.

    In the event, they forgot to invest in non-work activities, such as sleep and leisure. Cheers.

    Archan MehtaMay 17, 2011 at 1:46 am

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