Sharpening the Axe of Productivity

Abraham Lincoln, the 16th President of the United States, is celebrated not only for his leadership during the Civil War but also for his profound wisdom and insightful quotes. One such quote that continues to inspire individuals around the world is, “Give me six hours to chop down a tree, and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.” This timeless piece of advice from Lincoln embodies the essence of preparation, efficiency, and the importance of groundwork before tackling any task.

The Power of Preparation

At first glance, Lincoln’s quote may seem like a simple statement about the value of preparation. However, when delving deeper, it reveals a profound truth about productivity and success. The act of chopping down a tree is a metaphor for any significant endeavor in life. Whether it’s starting a business, pursuing a new career, or embarking on a challenging project, the principle remains the same: preparation is key.

Sharpening the Axe

The central message of Lincoln’s quote is that before undertaking a task, one must invest time and effort in preparation. In this case, sharpening the axe is the preparatory phase. It signifies the importance of honing one’s skills, acquiring knowledge, and ensuring that you are fully equipped for the job ahead. In essence, it’s about setting the stage for success by eliminating any unnecessary obstacles.

We can mention the joke here – “do not forget to start swinging – even the sharpest axe in the world won’t chop down a tree on its own” adds a touch of humor while reinforcing the message. Indeed, having a sharp axe is vital, but it is not the sole determinant of success. You must also take action and put in the work to achieve your goals. In other words, preparation is essential, but it must be followed by execution.

The Four Stages of Preparation

  • Knowledge and Skill Development: This stage involves acquiring the necessary knowledge and skills to excel in your chosen endeavor. It might mean learning from experts, attending training sessions, or gaining experience through practice.
  • Planning and Strategy: Once you’ve honed your skills, the next step is to create a well-thought-out plan or strategy. This plan will serve as your roadmap, guiding you through the journey ahead.
  • Gathering Resources: To be fully prepared, you need the right tools and resources. This could include equipment, financial resources, or a network of supportive individuals who can assist you in your quest.
  • Mental and Emotional Preparation: Success often requires mental and emotional fortitude. Preparing your mindset to handle challenges, setbacks, and uncertainties is just as crucial as any physical preparation.


Abraham Lincoln’s quote, “Give me six hours to chop down a tree, and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe,” encapsulates a timeless lesson on the significance of preparation and groundwork in achieving success. While having a sharp axe is essential, it must be coupled with action and effort. In the pursuit of your goals, remember the importance of not only sharpening the axe but also swinging it with determination. By combining preparation with action, you can conquer even the tallest of trees in your path and achieve your aspirations.

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