The Tale of Two Lumberjacks

By March 16, 2018

The Tale of Two Lumberjacks is one of my favorite stories.

It made such an impression on me when I first heard it that I started using it with my teams at sales kickoffs and, later, for consulting clients.  I found it a good way to encourage sales reps to open their minds to the idea they could learn things that would help them sell better.

It is a funny thing, but the same sales person who practiced trumpet for hours a day as a student and goes to the driving range 3 times a week often thinks of selling as a fixed skill and this story helps them shake that mindset.

The Lumberjack story is also the reason we named our company ‘SharperAx’.  The phrase ‘sharpen your ax’ from the story has become something of a short hand for ‘continual improvement’, the idea we’re chasing with SharperAx.

But, it is a relatively long story and so we gravitated to using the Abe Lincoln quote “if I had 6 hours to chop down a tree, I’d use 4 of them to sharpen my ax” when introducing our company and our name.  It is short and punchy and memorable and has worked great.

The deeper company story has been lurking under the surface for 3+ years now – not often used but not forgotten.  When I was at Michael Bosworth’s ‘Story Seeker’ conference recently about using stories to make connections with other people, Michael asked me how SharperAx got its name.

I told him the Lumberjack story and his instant reaction was “that’s a great story – why isn’t it on your website?”

Why not, indeed!

When we started looking around for the best version of the Lumberjack story to put on our website, we discovered an interesting thing: this story has many versions, many making different points.  Some versions talk about how the older and wiser lumberjack wins the contest over the younger and more impetuous lumberjack, some versions have the lumberjack who can adapt with the times win the contest and still others focus on the how the smaller lumberjack outsmarts the bigger lumberjack.

We came to the conclusion that if everyone else is adding their own spin to the story then we should too!   We wanted to capture the fairy tale aspect of the story, add a little humor and – well, you can see for yourself which moral we chose to emphasize.

Without further ado, here is the SharperAx-inspiring Tale of Two Lumberjacks’!

Paul McGhee founded SharperAx in 2013. SharperAx develops role-play automation software.





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