In early Autumn, 1994, I hired on as an apprentice carpenter for a company that built staircases and hung trim. Thus began, for me, a lifelong enjoyment for working with wood, especially hardwoods like red oak and poplar. I was privileged to learn how to build curved staircases and these now fill quite a few houses in lower Michigan, where we lived at the time.
A carpenter learns very quickly that it is critical to keep his tools in good repair in order to do fine woodwork. Chiefly, this means sharpening cutting implements regularly. You may be surprised to find that dull tools—saws, chisels, router bits, etc.—not only do inferior work, marring the wood, but they are also dangerous. You risk injury using chisels with dull blades. A sharp saw does the work quickly, effectively, and safely.
In life, we have tools that we use to mold our lives and become effective and reach our potential. Like planes and gouges, they must be kept sharp to be effective. Here are a few:
- Vocational Skills – What talents and acuities do you have that you can sharpen now and in the days ahead? I work in Information Technology and am a musician. I try to read up on the latest technological innovations as well as become more proficient with the software apps I use in my work. And with my instruments, I practice and learn new stuff. Do you have a plan for skills development?
- Relationships – “You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.” (Jim Rohn) What kinds of relationships do you cultivate to 1) add value to others and 2) help in your own development? If you walk with wise and ambitious people, you fuel your passion to grow and develop. But if you make a practice of hanging with people who are pessimistic and complacent, like it or not, it will affect you. Enthusiasm is contagious. So is discouragement and criticism. Choose wisely.
- Reading – That readers are leaders is axiomatic. And you are called to lead. What kinds of books do you plan on reading or listening over the next year? Here’s a good place to start: The Magic of Thinking Big (David Schwartz); How To Read A Book (Mortimer Adler & Charles Van Doren); Spiritual Leadership (J. Oswald Sanders); Emotional Intelligence (Daniel Goleman); Talent Is Overrated (Geoff Colvin). Possibilities are endless, but whatever you do, develop a reading plan for the next year.
- Physical Fitness – Your effectiveness is charged or limited by your physical fitness—or lack of it. Regular cardiovascular exercise 1) improves your focus, 2) makes you feel better because of endorphins and 3) increases your longevity. Also, there are numerous other benefits to staying fit, fighting the national epidemic of obesity. Your career and its growth are one of these. As some have said, “Your shape will shape your future.”
Now go sharpen your tools and build. You will be astounded at what they produce.