Why Counterbalancing Improves our Effectiveness

Some of us go, go, go and we never stop. Never taking a break for coworkers, family, or even ourselves. These are the ones that burnout. These are the ones that can’t really enjoy life because we’re so focused on our work. We need to be counterbalancing our focused work with family time, with study time, and with ‘me’ time as well.

A Parable

There’s a parable I love about two lumberjack brothers that decide test their skills against one another. They have an all day wood chopping competition that would make my friend Reed blush. The rules are simple, whoever has the biggest pile at the end of the day is the better lumberjack.



They begin in the early morning furiously chopping wood at the same rate, building equally impressive heaps. After a couple hours, the older brother takes a break and walks away. The younger sees the opportunity and begins to chop even faster, forgoing rest. The older brother returns and begins to chop away for another couple hours, then takes another break.

The younger brother again forgoes rest and continues to plow through logs as fast as he can while his brother is away. He noticed that his pile had initially been larger than his brothers in the morning, but as the day went on his brother’s pile seemed to overshadow his own. So he put his head down and chop away as hard as his body would let him. This happens again and again until the day is over. The older brother would take a break every couple of hours and the younger would push through.

At the end of the day the older brother had a pile more than twice the size of his brother’s! The younger brother was furious. “How did you beat me? I never stopped chopping all day and you were taking breaks every couple hours!”

The older brother responded, “I was sharpening my ax every time I took a break.”

The younger brother hadn’t stopped once to sharpen his ax all day. By noon he was working twice as hard as his older brother with less than half the results.

The Lesson

When we attack something with all of our might, we need to counterbalance that ‘push’ by giving time to sharpen our ax. This can come in many forms, but ultimately it helps us keep us from getting burned out in one area or another.

For some this might be spending quality time with family after a hard push at work that requires extra hours at the office. For others it might be some alone time after friends come in town for the weekend and we host. And still for some it can be diving into a project wholeheartedly after never really committing themselves to anything prior.

To be the most effective versions of our selves, we should to take counterbalancing measures our lives to stay sharp. We can work as hard as we want, but if we’re using a dull ax we won’t be able to give our best.

How do you sharpen your ax? 

Connect with me on Twitter, I’d love to hear your successes (& failures) on the subject. 

P.S. 12 Days till Christmas!