Sharpen Your Axe

In the United States, there’s a historical quote attributed to President Abraham Lincoln that says:

"Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.”

The quote refers to the important role of proper preparation for any endeavor.

I was thinking about this quote a few months ago when... I literally had an axe in my hand, and I was chopping wood with it.

I was trying to split larger pieces of wood into smaller ones needed to start a campfire.

And wouldn’t you know it? The axe was dull.

Not only was the axe dull, but it was also a very short axe... more of a hatchet, about 1 foot (30 cm) long.

So I was trying to use a blunt instrument with no leverage.

This “axe” was marginally better than trying to split wood with a baseball bat. By the end of the trip, I had a very sore back to remind me of this important life lesson.

The same principle applies to all endeavors of life... including your career.

While you may not be chopping down a tree in your career, you will be trying to slice through the problems and obstacles impeding your career.

Whether or not you’ll succeed depends largely on the sharpness of your career-related skills.

High achievers have a high skill level.

Low achievers have a low skill level.

No matter what happens in your career, it’s difficult to escape this law of career “physics.”

I’ll give you a personal example.

Even though I’ve written 10 books, have over 1 million words published online, and write the word count equivalent of a book every 4 months, I want to sharpen my writing skills.

I recently signed up for a writing class focused on writing with more flair.

Around the same time, I found a practice tool to help improve clear thinking in writing.

Last year, I took a class on writing fiction novels to work on improving my storytelling skills.

Before that, I took a class on movie screenwriting for the same reason.

Before that, it was a workshop on influential writing.

Before that, one on writing with personality.

The only time I will stop improving my skills is... well... never.

To apply this law of success to your life, simply answer these two questions:

1) Do you want to be a high achiever?

2) What are you doing to improve career skills?

I would guess your answer to the first question is “yes.”

I’d also guess the honest answer to the second questions is “not enough.”

(I know that has always been my answer and continues to be my answer.)

You can improve your career skills in one of two ways.

1) Obtaining Direct Experience

Go do interesting and challenging career-related projects. I highly recommend this.

The only downside is that it takes time and if you’re anything like me, you’re eager to achieve more faster.

This leads me to the other way to improve career skills more quickly.

2) Leveraging Other People’s Experience

When you want to learn how to be successful at the case interview, you can learn through trial and error (aka, “direct experience”), which is how I learned it.

Or you can learn from someone else who already figured it out.

Since you’re reading this article, I’d say at one point or another you were leveraging my experience with the case interview to accelerate your ability to acquire the skill.

The people I mentor in my Inner Circle mentorship program leverage my lifetime's worth of career and life experience.

Learning from a mentor is a way to sharpen your career skills and do so much faster than via direct experience.

If you’d like to sharpen your career skills, I want to let you know about a unique opportunity to do so.

In early January, I will be opening up membership in my personal mentorship program for only 72 hours.

Members of my Inner Circle receive my private members-only monthly print letter with the best of my wisdom and experience.

In addition, I host regular office hours so that members can ask me for advice about overcoming the obstacles they face in their careers.

Finally, I invite my Inner Circle members to join me for breakfast, lunch, or dinner throughout the world.

This last summer I dined with members in Madrid, Taipei, Dubai, Seattle, Beijing, and Austin.

In February 2018, I will be dining with members in New York City and Boston.

If you’re interested in being notified when I will be accepting new members into my Inner Circle mentorship program, just complete the form below.

New member acceptance only takes place twice per year... and lasts for only 72 hours.

To make sure you don’t miss the signup window, just submit the form below.

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