The strongest axe in the world is worthless if it has a dull blade

The finals of the annual lumberjack competition came down to two contestants, and the one who chopped down the most trees in 24 hours time would be declared the winner. One of the contestants had age and experience on his side while the other had youth and strength.

As soon as the gun fired marking the beginning of the competition, the young lumberjack ran into the woods and went straight to work. He moved like a man possessed and was sure the power of his axe and the speed of his cut would be no match for his older counterpart.

As time passed, he was sure he would be declared the winner. Every few hours he even noticed that while he continued to make the ground shake with every fallen tree, silence came from the other corner of the woods, signalling the old man was resting.

When the 24 hours were up, mentally and physically spent, the young lumberjack stood on the podium waiting for his name to be announced as this year’s lumberjack champion. However, he was a bit taken back that despite the old lumberjack’s age, he looked calm and collected — the exact opposite as how he, the young lumberjack was feeling.

A few minutes later the winner was declared, and the young lumberjack was devastated that he had not only lost, but had been beaten in historic fashion.

How can this be?” the young lumberjack asked. “I worked non-stop and I am stronger and faster than you. How on earth did you beat me?”

The older lumberjack turned to the young man and said, “Every hour I took a break to rest and sharpen my axe.”

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Finding your own pace is the key to winning your race:

When I was in my twenties and thirties, whenever someone told me a story like the one above, I nodded in agreement and then turned around and did the opposite.

Like a lot of young people I thought I was invincible, and balked at the idea that moving slowly was the key to increased productivity. I thought that in order to be successful I had to be constantly moving and making while viewing anything less as impeding my progress.

However, now that I am in my forties life has reminded me that if I keep trying to compete with the young lumberjacks I’ll never win. Instead I have to remove myself from their race and move at my own pace.

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Stop watching everyone else and listen to yourself:

The beauty of the world we live in is anyone can create success. The barriers to entry have been lowered. However, sustaining success is a whole other ball game. It demands creating your own set of rules and sticking to them, regardless of the actions of others.

If you need to meditate in the mornings to stay focused — stop checking to see if the competition’s shadow is gaining ground.

If you need to get out into nature in the afternoons to be more creative — stop checking to see if the competition’s shoes are still by the door.

If you need 8 hours of sleep at night to be on top of your game — stop checking to see if the competition’s light is still burning bright.

Success is maintained by mastering the delicate mix of doing the right things for you as an individual on a daily basis. The fastest way to jeopardize this is by disregarding your own steps and caring too much about the actions of the rest.

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Results come to those who master their process:

Despite what the headlines say, most successful people lead boring lives. They take their time and move slow. But what gives them their speed is they know where they’re going and they have faith that their process will one day get them there.

They do this because they know that life is long and the key to their success lies in taking calculated steps to ensure tomorrow they’re still strong.

Most people today want to move fast. I say let them and instead steal a line from the old lumberjack and move at the pace that allows you to chip away at your own race.

If you compete with others you will never win.

Find your rhythm and own your system.

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This article first appeared in The Startup (Medium.com)

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