When I had the privilege to sail with a rag tag band of misfit entrepreneurs and an incredible cohort of 630 university students as part of Unreasonable at Sea, the Dean of the voyage, Tom Jelke, shared a story with me that really stuck. It’s about balance.

A bit over halfway through the voyage, I asked Tom if he had any advice he’d like to share with the student body on the ship and our entrepreneurs in the Unreasonable at Sea program. He told me the following story.

Want to know the key to success? Learn from the world’s greatest lumberjack. Tweet This Quote

It’s a tale of two men—two men who are lumberjacks. But they are not just any lumberjacks. At one point in time, these two men were seen as the best two lumberjacks on Earth. They were both of equal height and strength. Standing at 6 foot 8 inches and weighing in at 280 pounds of pure muscle, they both towered over most everyone they came across. You can picture them, right? With large, defined jaw bones and even larger beards, wearing plaid and workman’s boots that added 2 more inches to their already towering statures?

Well, one day, the two lumberjacks decided that sharing the title of being the best lumberjacks on Earth wasn’t enough. Once and for all, they wanted to determine who was the world’s greatest lumberjack.

So, they set up a head-to-head, toe-to-toe competition. The rules were simple. Each man gets one axe, and they each have 24 hours to chop job down as much lumber as possible. At noon, on a frosty November morning, they went at it.

In a world of relentless productivity and unfettered determination, you have to know how to recharge. Tweet This Quote

In an incredible feat of stamina, strength, and perseverance, the first lumberjack chopped without taking even a second’s break. He never wiped the sweat off his brow and never paused for a drink of water. Amazingly, he was so strong that he never lost velocity on a swing; he was so skilled that he never lost precision on a chop. He cut as fast, as hard, and as precisely as humanly possible for the entire 24-hour period. His strength never compromised nor dwindled.

The second lumberjack, of equal strength and stamina, chopped at the exact same velocity, precision, and force, but instead of never taking a break, he would pause for 20 minutes every two hours. This means that within the 24-hour period, he had two hours when he didn’t even swing his axe.

Now, knowing that both men were of equal strength, had the exact same axe, and chopped the lumber at the same frequency, it seems obvious who should have won the challenge. The whole world thought it would be the lumberjack who never took even a second to rest. And yet, the whole world was wrong. Somehow, the lumberjack who took 20 minutes every two hours to not swing his axe was the winner.

Sometimes, in order to get ahead, you have to pause to sharpen your axe. Tweet This Quote

How could this be possible? When the lumberjack who had taken two hours of breaks was approached and asked how he could have possibly won, he responded with a modest smile and said, “Sometimes you have to pause to sharpen your axe.”

For me, ever since I heard this story, I’ve decided to sharpen my axe by taking 24 hours each week to be with people I love, eat good food, wake up without an alarm, and spend time in conversations beyond work. It’s an interesting question to ask yourself: How are you, like the world’s greatest lumberjack, finding the time to sharpen your axe? What activities allow you to best sharpen your axe?

A version of this post originally published in January 2014. It’s been updated and reposted to inspire further conversation.

About the author

Daniel Epstein

Daniel Epstein

Daniel has an obsession. He believes to his core in the potential of entrepreneurship to solve the greatest challenges of this century and he has dedicated his life accordingly. Today, he is the founder of the Unreasonable Group, of the Unreasonable Institute and a number of other "Unreasonable" companies.

  • jrmsmlbg

    Great follow up post to the “What Gandhi Can Teach Us About Vacation Time.” article. Although many would agree that the lumberjack that never took a second to stop from chopping wood won as best lumberjack on earth, many fail to realize that best does not necessarily mean quantitative. By taking a break every so often, allows time to readjust and re-asses, and start work fresh again. Almost as if it’s time to wake up and smell the roses from something that is somewhat repetitive.

    Like Daniel, I find that I sharpen my axe when I spend time with the people I love, eat out for dinner once a week and not have to worry about cooking, have a date night with my girlfriend to catch up from the previous week, and wake up after 8A on the weekends.

  • Liemd

    I am certainly agree with you. Sharpening axe is a smart move. It is hard for me to write a paper in few hours straight. I need to take breaks to freshen up my mind by doing other entertaining things before asking my brain to work again.

  • jbrycewilson

    Expanding in an entrepreneurial manner I think this story has great applicability to new ventures. There are many anecdotal examples of companies and start-ups that start running with their heads down and fail to see whether their strategic direction is solving a problem the market wants.

    At the same time, the best companies are the ones that have taken the time to periodically take a look at where they are, where they want to be, and where they should be. This allows them to make minute adjustments that keep them competitive, and in line with solving a problem that the markets want.

  • Michelle Spruch

    This post really reminded me about one of the habits outlined in “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People” that’s called “sharpen the saw”. I totally agree with this post – it’s easier to really push towards giving your all when you reinvest in yourself and give yourself time to rejuvenate.

  • TallPaul14

    This was a fantastic story to read, and reminded me of something my grandfather might have told me. It’s a very clever story that proves a great point. Every day I try to make some amount of time dedicated to taking a break, power nap, or something that will relieve my mind of stress and work. Then when I come back to my work, I feel refreshed and ready to tackle anything.

  • cordierm

    this is makes a lot of sense. Sometimes we get so focused on what needs to be done we tend to lose sight of the best practices to get there. Completing tasks needs to be balanced with reflection and process improvement. sometimes we all need to sharpen our axes to achieve our goals or else the competition will blow us away

  • katethomas64

    I’ve really found this to be true too! When I am working on something for too long without taking a break, I start to become less creative and operate more on autopilot. Taking a break (even if its just a short one!) refreshes me and gives my brain a break for a bit! 🙂 Often, its during these breaks that I come up with a solution to a problem I was having – when I’m not trying to solve it, the answer comes more easily.

  • katethomas64

    This is a good point! Many organizations make an effort to create a plan when they start out, but it is equally important to check progress as time goes on and make sure that the original plan is working for the company.

  • nvuong

    Taking breaks is important and often forgotten. when you keep plugging away at something, you may start to get distracted, which will decrease your overall efficiency.

  • milburnkatie

    With a schedule as busy as mine, I find it pretty much impossible to find time to “sharpen my axe.” I work full time, so five days a week, but I am also a full time student, so on my two days off of work I am in class all day. People who know me know that I am spread so thin that I have no time to put effort into anything that I do. I am not performing at work to my best ability, my grades are not where they should be, and I do not have much for a social life. The only thing keeping me sane is the thought of having a day off once the quarter is over.

  • I can totally relate to that feeling my friend. I think I’m going to write another followup post… on pursuing “convergence over balance.” For example, I typically have 4-6 hours of phone meetings a day followed up b up to 10 – 12 hours of work in the office or on my computer. If I didn’t design accordingly, I’d spend all my life in doors. Knowing this, I now take all my phone calls and do all my meetings while walking outside with my dog (it allows for the chance to get outside and do what I love). That said, I do think it is also important to force yourself to “sharpen your axe.” I now do this by taking 24 hours off each week Friday nights. I force myself not to work and my friend, it pays dividends. Like in this article, if you do this, I think you will find not only that you enjoy the time off of work and the time to just be with friends… but that you are also more productive with work the rest of the week. It may feel counterintuitive… but it works (i.e. the lumberjack is the case-and-point)

  • very well said

  • “sharpen the saw”… sounds like someone may have beaten us to the story already =)

  • reminds me of the interview we had with Tom Chi around how to be 10x more productive (so much of it is about taking your head out of your work and re-adjusting… and doing so frequently). http://unreasonable.is/video/inventor-and-google-genius-making-innovation-make-sense/

  • Brian Tanudjaja

    Cool story! We often forget the importance of taking a break once in a while; especially during our busiest day. Some people may think that taking breaks throughout the day will decrease productivity. However, the truth is that by not taking breaks, you will be far less productive. Your brain needs to rest after awhile. You will more likely to think ideas that you have not think about before if you let your mind cool off a bit. Even a short 5 minutes break for stretching and walking a bit can increase our productivity. Thanks for the article!

  • awatwa

    Achieving a healthy work/life balance does not as easy as it sound. Rather, its much harder than polarizing our lives (either work all the time or do nothing). Its one of the greatest challenges in our lives since each of us has to deal with his/her unique situation – pressures from the outside, laziness and desire from the inside, dilemmas and trade offs…balance is an art, it requires techniques, endurance and experience. Its also a learning process, start from handle small objects (pressures …) to big ones while you can still maintain the balance. If you just start and already had too much, lose some for now

  • anp042

    Completely agree. Sometimes, in working towards a goal, people can be so caught up in pushing themselves without taking a step back to realize that their goal is slowly unfolding as they progress – they just haven’t taken the time to realize/appreciate it.

  • layj

    Another great article, Daniel! Isn’t this just like time management problem? When life gets too hectic, we got caught up in our activities and then forgets everything else. Sometimes all we need to do is as simple as to pause, relax and think about it. Give yourself a break. When life gives you lemons….make lemonades – literally!

  • hem1

    Great story Daniel! It’s always nice to be reminded that breaks are much needed even when you’re schedule is hectic and you have tasks to achieve. For me, I like to take one day out of the week to completely relax whether it be going out with friends or playing some basketball! If I don’t get that break, I would definitely be out of it

  • nguyenb7

    one of the most inspiring story I’ve heard. It’s not about the extreme of how far/long you can get or reach to but it’s more about the balance you maintain or in what condition you get there with. Thanks for the article

  • ohtanim

    It feels almost impossible with all the commitments we are engaged in to take a break and “sharpen our axe” however it is very necessary. I find myself feeling guilty when I initially indulge in the things that clear my mind and allow me to relax because I’m thinking in my head “Megan you could be doing __ ” but once I am fully engaged in the activities that “sharpen my axe” I find myself thanking the inner me 😛

  • Ann Wertz Garvin

    This makes me think of an exercise physiology fact. You burn the same amount of calories running two miles and walking two miles. The same amount of work is done. So, you can burn those calories (do that work) the hard way or the easy on the knees way. To make your choice you have to know why your doing either. Thanks for this Dan. I will remember this story as well.

  • ignatius epriladinata

    This article is a great reminder for all of us to
    take a break from what we do in our daily life at least once a week. By doing
    that the article suggests that we can do the work more efficient and productive
    instead of keep doing the work without taking a rest. The way it works is very likely
    with a muscle if you keep doing the work without taking a rest, your muscle
    would start to get tired and it would become numb eventually. The same thing
    goes to your brain and your work, when you do something without taking a rest
    your brain will be tired and your work will not as productive as the first time
    you do your work.

  • @katethomas64:disqus, what types of break do you take?

  • couldn’t agree any more my friend

  • Is that true? you really burn the same amount of calories walking as well as running?

  • thnx for the overly kind words @nguyenb7:disqus =)

  • @awatwa:disqus… I completely agree. It’s one of those “forever journeys” in life… especially for entrepreneurs or anyone obsessed with what they do. I’m writing a followup piece that will go up tomorrow about exactly this (a few tricks + hacks I’ve learned along the way)

  • katethomas64

    There’s a great tea house in Denver I like to go to (which replaced Ku Cha after I moved from the Boulder area). I can hang out there for 2 hours (the length of the parking meter!) and just read or write – something to get my mind off things. They don’t have wifi, so I *can’t* work! If I need a longer break, I head into the mountains with my camera. Focusing on getting the right picture gets my mind off of things as well.

    What do you do?

  • Ann Wertz Garvin

    It’s true if the distance is fixed. 2 miles. It takes longer for the walker to walk the two miles so he’s exercising at a lower rate for longer time. For 2 miles this is equal to someone who ran the 2 miles and finished exercising and sat down. BUT-Running for 30 minutes burns more calories than walking 30 minutes–that will always be true because you are working harder and burning more calories for a fixed time period. Does that make sense?

  • bmdillon

    Talk about relevant: this is the dilemma I am facing as an over-committed college student! I’m doing a lot of things halfway when I should be doing fewer things 100%. It is wearing me out and getting in the way of me accomplishing all that I need to. This is a great reminder that it is okay to say no.

  • chrinsmas

    Your article is slightly different from others’ stories that “Taking a break. Don’t burn out your energy at once. See the big picture. Keep on moving” Your story is more about investing your time to go further. I like this idea more than just taking a break. very interesting perspective. thanks!

  • Sara Sanchez

    This is an excellent story that should resonate with all of us! At work, I am always “sharpening my axe” by going through training videos, or sessions so that I am acquiring new skills and that I am strengthening my current skills. Everyone should take the time to invest in our personal growth.

  • nornesa

    The daily posts that I am reading are getting better
    and better. I am someone who is always looking
    for the 25th hour in a day or the 8th day in a week, and
    guess what…my waistline among other things have suffered for it. It’s time I start to re-evaluate and learn to
    take the time to sharpen my axe. I would
    probably welcome hearing that alarm in the morning instead of trying to
    convince myself that I can run optimally on 4 hours of sleep. It’s time for a nap.

  • goanthony

    Sometimes we are too excited in doing what we do for life. This means that we may forget to take a break or rest. I know that taking a too long break is not really good for us. However, there is a time where we need to retrieve what we did in the past to make it better in the future.

  • Jane Park

    Oh, what a witty story! For me, spending time with those I love is one of the most important things in life. I would not have the ‘axe’ that I have without them; it’d be completely dull and useless! It is through their encouragement, love, and wisdom that make me appreciate life and strive for more 🙂

  • nguye107

    This story really relates to me when I tried to spend as much time as I could to review for the midterm exam yesterday. I thought that if I wasted any minute to take a break or nap, I wouldn’t able to finish reviewing everything. But then I got tired and started to loose focus on my studying. Thanks for the article and for reminding us the importance of “sharpening our axes”!

  • mollymorrisey

    I love this article! It is absolutely so important to stop and take time for yourself, but also to remember to reflect on what you are doing and understand how you can be better.

  • Keiichi

    Everyone has different measurement of how they succeed their life, I think it is important thing that we do not have compare with someone whether who is spending best time in their life. Everybody has own life, own goals. We just need to make effort to accomplish their goal or object.

  • duongh1

    I always think working is only the means to the end. I think the end is enjoying life, live however you want and do anything you like.

  • Logan Dohmeier

    This is an excellent story that can be applied to many aspects of life. Being able to step back and “sharpen the axe” can help you approach the same situations differently. Many times this is the solution to most problems you can encounter on the job! I know for a fact if I am struggling with removing or replacing something on my car I step back and take a half hour break or so, and sure enough I find another way to approach the problem when I resume the fix. I think that “stepping back” in a situation is pausing to sharpen and refresh your mind.

  • Anthony Urbanski

    Great article, that was easy to relate to. As a distance runners stories like this make me think about my approach to running. When in training we all need time to sharped our axes. For example its not about how long you can run but how fast and efficient you can. So every now and then you need to reflect on your running instead of mindlessly pounding out miles.

  • amykahl8

    I am a distance runner too and I agree that it’s easy to get caught up and just go through the motions. Sometimes I need to remind myself why I work so hard every day at practice and dedicate so much time to running. Some people think that they always need to be pushing themselves to their limits but there is a reason the coach gives out goal times for specific distances, so we don’t wear ourselves out too early in the season.

  • treehugger90

    I believe this blog would come in handy for any busy person, such as myself. I have 4 jobs and go to school full time. But I still manage to sharpen my axe by going for a run and enjoying some family time. I agree everyone should find sometime to sharpen their axe because everyone needs some me time!

  • AmandaBrom

    Thank you for the great story! I truly enjoyed reading it! I feel this is something I can relate to in my life. When my homework piles up and I feel exhausted I take a step back and get back to what I love to do. I also enjoy spending time with my family and friends to help my stress levels get back down. I feel this is very much like sharpening the ax but my ax is my brain. Giving it time to breath helps me focus better on the task at hand. After hearing this story was there any way it changed your life? Did you maybe take a day off every week or make more room for a vacation?

  • Cory Zaeske

    Great read! It’s nice to read articles like this before taking on a day. It just seems to start the day off right. I think everyone should take this advice. For the workaholics out there, it’s nice to know that it never hurts to take some time out of your day to spend time with family, relax, and just enjoy the life you are living. Sharpening your axe, so to speak, can greatly benefit you for the remainder of your life. Out of curiosity, what do you do to sharpen your axe? Always nice to hear others leisurely activities.

  • reuhl42

    I really loved this article. I believe that sometimes people get so caught up in what they’re doing that they don’t take the time they need to “sharpen their axe.” There are many times that I get so caught up in work and school that I don’t get the chance to spend time with my family and the people I love. I believe that it is a good idea to take time for yourself as well as taking time out of your busy schedule for others. With working or school 7 days a week how do you find time for others? It’s hard to put either one of those aside. Thank you for this post!

  • tjbaumeister08

    This was a great story, thank you for sharing. The story has a good moral. It reminds me of the tortoise and the hare, slow and steady wins the race. This is great reminder, especially for college students like myself, to take a break every now and then. How do you feel now that you take 24 hours each week for yourself?

  • jkailing

    I think this article brings up a lot of good points one
    being that sometimes you just need to take a step back and relax. Sometimes
    things get hectic, and life gets stressful and sometimes you just need to take
    a break from it for a little bit. As a college student and sometimes things can
    become too much during the semester so I always try to take time out of
    everyday where I can do things that I want to do. I think by doing this it
    refreshes the mind and lets going back to work easier. I think that you always
    have to have some time to yourself in order to stay in a good mind state. I
    like the idea of stepping back to sharpen up, I think that’s really what it is
    when you stop working to do something that you want to do, because you really
    come back feeling a lot more sharp and on top of things. One question I would ask would do you think
    that it is better to take hours out of each day, or take a whole day out of a
    week to have to yourself?

  • This is so relatable. Sometimes we get so caught up in life we forget to stop for a moment and “enjoy the ride” (so to speak). I completely agree that we have to sharpen our axe every so often. For me, spending time with the people I love, have brunch with my family on Sunday mornings, catch up with my friends, have time for myself and dance like I don’t have a worry in the world, are one of the many ways to sharpen my axe. I think this is a great read and an inspirational one. Thank you for sharing, Daniel.

  • strakaJA01

    I agree @katethomas64:disqus! I find that I can work and work and work until something gets done, but I start to lose that “spark” if I don’t take a break. I try to never run on autopilot because I feel like I miss things. Like life passes me by! Most times, like you said above, I come up with brilliant ideas or solutions to problems when I am not trying to do so. I think this is fascinating! Sometimes I find myself waking up with great ideas for a problem I have been stuck on. It is like the problem is always in the back of my mind, but I am not fully acknowledging it. It is like my subconscious is monitoring it until my brain finds something. I don’t really understand why this happens, but it fascinates me every time it does!

  • Willie

    It is a universal truth that everybody needs a break every now and then even if you can handle the load your body eventually wont be able to day in and day out. So taking time to just relax and think a little with out acting is essential because over working is of course one of the easiest ways to stress your self out and stress has an adverse effect on probably everybody in the world.

  • Matthew Gust

    Thank you Mr. Epstein.
    This article does a great job making you think about your life. Being a college
    student my schedule seems to be always on the go. There is always a next thing
    to be done. I can see myself being the lumberjack who never stops chopping.
    Sometimes the best thing in our lives is to stop and sharpen our axe. With
    having a health promotion minor in college right now I strongly relate this to
    nutrition. Taking time to eat right and make healthy food choices in my eyes is
    the best way to sharpen your axe. An nutrition analogy I like to use that
    refers to the importance of a good breakfast relates to this. Eating a smart
    and healthy breakfast is like starting a fire with dry wood. It is very easy to
    start that fire. Although on the other hand if you start your day with a crappy
    breakfast or no breakfast at all it is like starting a fire with wet wood. It
    will eventually light, but it takes much longer.

  • Alexandra Helena Marie Nicolof

    I think it’s impossible to put forth a full amount of effort towards something without taking breaks. Life is about balance and it becomes meaningless when focusing on only one thing. Last summer, I spent a ton of time training for a big race that would take place the following October. I also worked full-time, hiked on a regular basis, and spent a great deal of time with my family and friends. I was very busy, but by doing these other activities I was forcing my mind to take a breather from training. Ultimately, I believe that the downtime helped me finish that race better than ever imaginable. How would you plan to take breaks if your schedule was so hectic that it barely allowed for downtime? Now that I’m a full-time student and worker, I could use some ideas!

  • Jake Eckhardt

    I do something very similar when I’m taking a break. I’ll usually brew up a pot of green tea and read or listen to an audio book. Really helps me come back relaxed and refreshed.

  • byrnesbk24

    How could someone not do this? If I didn’t take the time to “sharpen my axe” I think I might go crazy. I guess I’ve seen those “workaholic” type people who even when on vacation with a drink in their hand and their toes in the sand they STILL have their phone or tablet out conducting business. I find it is good for your whole wellness to take a break to regenerate. Great little story with a good moral, can’t wait to tell my friends it!!!

  • treehugger90

    I agree with you that my body will eventually will not be able to handle it. Two of my jobs are fitness facilities and I teach classes like yoga and cross fit, so those jobs are me time! 🙂 I also agree that I should take more time out of my day to relax, but I love to be busy! The most stressful thing for me right now is school because of all the material that I have to remember.

  • ZakFritz

    I have learned this lesson time and time again… Mainly the hard way. One time in my life that comes to mind was last semester I had to balance school, practice, and a job. I literally did not have time for myself during the week. I would wake up, go to class all day, go to practice, then leave straight from there to go to work, which I was usually late for. After I had to come back home and study. I realized I could not continue this because I was wearing myself out. I was getting worse and worse, and until I finally took a break to “sharpen my axe” I did not get any better.

  • Steven Bichler

    I never thought of it this way, it has always been instilled in most youth that you have to work harder then everybody to succeed, but when you put it this way that sometimes you have to stop and just rethink the way you are approaching the problem you have, it made me think back to when I had problems what did I do. What I did was sit down and think about the problem was and how to go at it a better way. Thats exactly what the second lumberjack did and this provides a good metaphor that working blindly doesn’t do as much good as working with an open mind on how to fix something, and become successful.

  • Palecekb

    Yes! Thank you, the metaphor is so true, this can be applied to any and everyone’s life. Sometimes working so hard and precisely can lead you to miss the meaning behind the hard work. Everyday families is what I think of right away, the parents stress and work so hard to be able to have a less stressful lives and be able to make their family happy, put food on the table and have nice things. Meanwhile they are working countless hours during the week, overtime on the weekends and extra work on the side and in turn have no time at all for their family. When the time comes to see their family they are so worn out and tired they do not enjoy the time spent with them. If people would stop more often to “smell the roses” I feel more people would be happy with their achievement’s and life.

  • Kyle Schiedemeyer

    This was a great article, and even better story. It is so true, and I can apply it to myself during college. Yes, I always have class, football, homework, and lifting, and it is very hard to find “me” time. This story helped me understand that when I do have a chance to take a break, take advantage of it, rest up, have fun, and get ready to go back to work with a clear mind and refreshed. If I could ask Daniel Epstein a question it would be, do you have any other stories similar to this one? I love stories like this one.

  • Willie

    Even more of a reason to relax more, school is already hard enough its self adding two jobs to it any body would be stressed. Just relax lol 😉

  • Samantha Smith

    These posts keep getting better and better, as i continue to read the articles I realize that i need to make more time for myself but i can do that by doing several selfless things though out my day. I need to spend more time to stop and sharpen my axe because as a student we all know to well that we think we can survive off of 4 hours of sleep working 2 jobs and a full-time student. It is important to set aside time for myself and try and get the extra sleep i deserve.

  • schrammjm26

    I absolutely love this article! I am currently in college and struggle with finding an appropriate balance due to the amount of things I am involved in. Sometimes you need to walk away from what your doing to “sharpen your axe” or come back with a fresh perspective on matters. There is no doubt that striving for your endgame or your “win” is incredibly important, sometimes though we all have to take a step back and take stock of the details like the sharpness of our axe. It is all the little details that make a difference just as much as ones persistence to achieve that “win” that were all after.

  • Zach Perkins

    How to sharpen your axe. This is something that everyone, regardless of personality or career, can relate to. What is important to you? For me its family. I want to build that relationship and be with the ones I love. I can’t let the business of life get in the way of me sharpening my axe.

  • Kevin Weber

    College is one place where you definitely want to take the time to “sharpen your axe.” With all the stresses of school, work, being social, having a relationship, and many other things, we can become to consumed. We tend to forget what we enjoy in life if we don’t take time for ourselves to regroup and relax. By taking time to reset ourselves, we become refreshed and ready for the next set of tasks that come our way. Thank you for posting this article!

  • treehugger90

    Thanks! I will most defiantly try to relax! It will be hard and I will have to practice! lol :p

  • vitalecm03

    This makes me want to get more involved in activities I love to do with people I truly care about. It would feel so nice to be able to sit back and relax and enjoy doing things I love to do. This gives me just the motivation I need to get involved. Thank you!

  • ghilonipt09

    I agree with you after you are all tired and ready to just not be productive obviously you will be less productive. I think taking breaks is key or else everything will weigh down on you and eventually you will become so stressed you cannot handle it. What do you do when you feel over worked?

  • Willie

    You know what they say practice makes perfect 😉

  • Branden Unger

    I agree with this article. I really liked the idea of “sharpening our axe” instead of just trying to continue cutting with the dull axe. I agree that people should put time aside for things that make them relax and relieve some stress instead of working themselves straight into the ground. This was a really awesome article, thanks!

  • barczakdm08

    Great article! Taking a step back and resting is an absolute necessity now a days. Working your tail off 24/7 will eventually catch up to you and negatively affect your ability to make gains. Resting in my opinion makes you sharper and more able to focus on your job it also makes you more sane! But it’s hard for many people to stop and relax due to their demanding lives. But in the long run resting will be very beneficial.

  • GrycowskAJ17

    I love this. I can’t help but think about the saying “work smarter, not harder” I always picture someone standing at a whiteboard with all these ideas written on it and having to literally step back and look at it. This story is now another example of that and i love it!

  • Haley Horn

    I love this story! I also love what you added at the end. To spend more time with your family, eat good food, and wake up with no alarm. It is so true and everyone needs some leisure time to do the things that make them happy so they’re not driving themselves insane. Thank you for sharing!

  • AndreaBehling

    Daniel, thank you for this. I’ve noticed a trend in a few of your posts—you emphasize the importance of taking time away from being busy, getting enough sleep and finding a working environment that you can truly enjoy, not just get through. I see a lot of sense in this mindset. Overall wellness isn’t measured only by success, despite what us busy worker bees might sometimes think. It’s about bettering yourself as a person by doing the things your body and mind need. Would you say this philosophy is sometimes lost in school systems were students are taught from an early age about the importance of regiments, deadlines and working hard to get what you want?

  • LaurenSE

    I love this article! We all need to take a little time to ourselves; we can’t go, go, go, and expect to be at our 100% best at all times. I give it my all when I am at work, even after I leave work. It seems like I am just flying through things, it takes a lot out of me. If I didn’t take a day off to spend time with the people I care about most, doing the things I love, I wouldn’t be as productive or work at the level I am capable of the next week. I need that time off to collect myself and relax. A little rest and relaxation can go a long way. Do you have any advice to those people that can’t relax or don’t take one day off to regroup?

  • treehugger90

    I also love that he brought up spending more time with the family, waking with no alarm, and eat good food because all those are very important in life. In addition, if we do those three it will help relieve stress from everything else that goes on.

  • Jennifer Lynn

    This article can really make a person stop and think for a moment! I think as a college student I don’t always take the time out to spend time with those I love and it can be detrimental in the long run. I find that after a few weeks away from those I love I become much less effective when it comes to school work and being an athlete. Taking a break to “sharpen the axe” for me would be just taking a Sunday off from working out or doing homework. I think for many college students at this time of the semester it’s difficult to take that much needed break from the outside world and just do your own thing. Do you think college students often run themselves to thin of time?

  • Tammy Hartmann

    Daniel, thanks you for sharing your article. Once again, I loved it. Your lumberjack story is easy to forget. I often feel as if it is almost impossible to take a break to “sharpen my axe” with all the commitments I have, but it’s so true: if no break, no productivity.

  • Joseph

    I absolutely loved this story. When I had read a majority of the story i was wondering how on earth the second lumberjack that would take a break would out chop the other lumberjack. When the lumberjack said that you have to sharpen your axe i thought it was genius. After reading it I have noticed that I do have a lot of time where I am “sharpening my axe” whether it be from playing intramural sports or hanging out with friends. I am going to use this story for future references because i enjoyed it so much. Thank you for the great post.

  • Joseph

    Yes!! I am always saying this to myself as well. I feel guilty when I am not working on school work. However when I am “sharpening my axe” I am able to calm down and able to focus more on the tasks that are ahead of me.

  • Joseph

    absolutely, taking a break is so important, gives yourself a time to relax and enjoy that lemonade haha

  • Joseph

    Yes thats exactly how i feel. I was working on a big project a couple of weeks ago and i didn’t take until my friends forced me to take a break. I didnt want to because I wanted to add more stuff to my project but i didnt know what i wanted to add to it. After I had time with my friends I knew exactly what i wanted to add to my project to make it better and was able to finish the project very easily afterwards.

  • Brad Vogel

    I have always tried to be that person who keeps his axe sharp believing that if I could keep my balance, I could keep my sanity and win. But in today’s world I find this far more difficult than what I think I could have ever imagined as an incoming junior college student 6 years ago. Often times in today’s world I find it feels more like rest is never an option in a fair number of occupations although many older people I know tell me it was worse back in their day.

    However, sometimes I wish their day could also be my day. A day when hard work meant something and garnered respect more than a so-called “higher education” did. A day where many learned first hand what it meant to succeed but never have to miss your life in the process. Today, I feel that is not the case anymore.

  • Ananda Conlon

    This article is very thought provoking. While reading the article, I was convinced that there was no possible way that the lumberjack that took breaks could have won. I am a person that tends to try and push through the day and get as much done on my list as possible, without little breaks for me to “sharpen my blades.” Even a 15 minute break to just be alone and focus on myself can really charge up my batteries and keep me more productive throughout the day. I am a person that is the most productive during the morning. If I were to take a personal break during the day, that would help keep my mind fresh and alert. I need to open my eyes to the reality that taking a break is key to being the best version of myself.

  • d_millyy

    Thank you for this awesome article! It’s funny I read this article today because this is what has been on my mind lately. Why do people rush and rush through life without taking a break? How can you go a day without a simple laugh or a few moments of enjoying the beautiful day? It really bugs me that people don’t take time for themselves. How can you be truely happy if you don’t take the time to take care of yourself or do something you want. I like your approach to this but for me what I’ve done is made a promise to go on vacation once a year, last year it was Boston, and this year was Florida. This is perfect because it gives me a nice break, a new place to see, a new way too look at a lifestyle, and a memory. Would you recommend vacation to people? This simple way of life could change so many lives. A question for you is how do we tell people who think they need to work so much because money is everything, to take a break?

  • Kaylee Raucci

    Thank you for this story! It was a very enlightening tale. To be successful in your journey , whatever that may be, you have to take time to look around and see what’s infront of you rather than let life pass you by. My stress management teacher told us to work when we are recharged, and best at it. So morning people work in the morning. Then take a 15 minute nap to recharge and it’s “morning” again to be most effective at your work. I like this article because it tells us to stop and smell the roses, enjoy life while you can.

  • Natasha Tynczuk

    I absolutely love this article. I haven’t always realized that stepping back to take a break and “sharpen my axe” is actually beneficial to my work ethic. The first two years after I graduated high school, I went to a community college. I know it is a common misconception that community college is easy, but it was far from it. In those two years I probably worked harder than I ever had in my life. I worked a total of three different jobs, volunteered and participated in community service programs to maintain a scholarship, and went to class full time, even during my summers. I never gave myself a break, and sometimes it seemed to take a toll. After I received my associate’s degree, I had a four month long break before I would transfer to another school. Sure, I still worked, but without classes or volunteer work, I had so much time to myself. It was rejuvenating. I hadn’t felt that good in so long. It made me realized that maybe I didn’t have to be “on” 24/7. Now, I make sure to take the time to “sharpen my axe” throughout the day. I hope more people are able to discover that a little relaxation goes a long way

  • Trista Radloff

    This is an amazing story! It really speaks to how us Americans can get stressed out and burnt out without a short time. It’s imortant to take breaks and enjoy other things in life that aren’t related to work. I like your rule of 24 hours without even talking about work. I think that would be very challenging!! I am going to give it a try and see how often I catch myself about to discuss work issues with my family and friends.

  • danac501

    Thank you for this article! I had the same assumption about the lumberjack winning who never took a break. But like I always thought the tortoise always wins the race. This is relevant to my life right now because I am in college and most students think if you stay up all night they will learn it all. But like you said if you study all day while taking breaks the information will stay with you longer. I will incorporate this more because I need to let my body take a break to regain energy to keep going. Do you think there is a number of minutes or hours you can take a break without not wanting to start it back up again? 20 minutes?

  • karinaz10

    This article makes perfect sense and I couldn’t agree more! It’s always important to take time and focus on the litter things in life, otherwise you become at risk for burn out. Over the years I have realized the importance of this logic. I am one who likes to work, work, work, until the job gets done. I worked extremely hard all throughout my high school career and my first year of college. Then, come my sophomore year I lost all motivation. I came to realize that balance is crucial. If you don’t take the time to “sharpen your ax” it becomes dull and unable perform at its full potential.

  • Carly Konkol

    I love this article. It’s a great reminder for all of us. Sometimes we get caught up in life; work, school and all our other daily duties. But, like the world’s greatest lumberjack, we all need time to recoup and “sharpen our axes.” I always try to do this on the weekends. I will take at least one night to make dinner with my roommate, catch up about our week and go out with my friends. Forgetting for a few hours about all the homework I have to get done the next day or what time I work on Sunday. It’s awesome because I always have that to look forward to every week and it recharges me to take on the next busy week ahead of me. I also listen to Jack Johnson Pandora everytime I wake up during the week while I’m getting ready. It relaxes me and puts a smile on my face, starting off my day on a positive note. 🙂 Thank you for this blog Daniel!

  • knapprl17

    This story is definitely going to stick with me for years to come. I agree with this that we all need to find time to relax and take time to be with our families, friends have some alone time and have fun enjoying life. I know sometimes I get caught up in the “go, go, go” mode where I won’t take a break even though I would be a lot more productive if I did take a break.

  • Jack Delabar

    This is a great story, especially for a college student like myself enrolled in 21 credits. Sometimes the amount of work is simply overwhelming. I have found that taking study breaks to do things like fish, hunt, or even just go to a friends house ultimately give me that little bit of “sharpness” that I may not have had if I had done the work straight through. It is a piece of valuable life advice that I have picked up along the way and this story reinforces it. What other realms of life might this apply in? …Most I would imagine..

  • Catey Navarro

    Something my mom has always told is be in the moment and I think that is relevant to this story. The lumberjack who took time for himself was in the moment and not thinking of the possibility that he might not “win”. We all need to be in the moment and take time for ourselves.

  • ReneeBinder

    I really like this story and I think it’s one that people should hear more often. It is important to stop and recharge your body every now and again to take care of your self to prevent burn out. I also think that this applies to many other aspects of life as well. Such as trying to personally develop within your career path when you feel you have hit a plateau. Very good article!

  • JeremyWahl

    This is a very inspirational story. I love the meaning behind the little saying of “sometimes you have to pause to sharpen your axe.” When things get tough and you dont really know what to do, sometimes all you need to do is take a step back, and take a deep breath, or even walk away from it and come back later as the lumberjack did. Sometimes time heals a lot of things, and having time can sharpen your axe. I will definitely remember this story.

  • jacob v

    I recently took a paid one-week vacation, my first in 3 years, to “sharpen my axe”. I have made two realizations since.. 1:i’ve discovered that i have totally lost the ability to enjoy myself off of work. It didnt help that I spent my vacation alone since my job cost me my patience and energy to deal with a relationship. My second realization is that my job sucks and my life sucks. I work as hard as everyone else but due to my poor socialization skills I am not enjoying any of the benefits… the pay also sucks. So poor socialization skills and low resources mean I will not be able to attract an even remotely-decent woman. I feel screwed and hopeless, and now bitter too on top of it because i’ve seen so many couples and families enjoy themselves while I have nothing and no one…. at least I have this rant i guess lol

  • mankobj22

    What a beautiful and perfect reminder to pause your life sometimes in order to take care of yourself. Its so easy to get caught up in the hussle and bussle and to meet the demands of everyone around you, but you have to remember that you need to slow down and take care of yourself too. I usually do this by sleeping in a little later than normal, eating a good, homemade dessert or watching a classic movie with a bowl of popcorn.

  • Alise Brown

    I really liked this story because it reminds you to take some time for yourself and get back onto your best quality of yourself. When you are working really hard at something it’s difficult to remind yourself that you need a break to be able to do your very best work.

  • Jack Delabar

    I have found, through time, that saying “Jack, you could be doing _____ instead of ______” is counterproductive for me. If I’m doing something, I’m going to do it to the fullest of my ability. Thoughts of what I “should” be doing just cloud my head and deter my focus, making me less effective when completing the task at hand.

  • LeiderGM20

    I like this story a lot, I’ve never heard it before. I feel it’s also very important to take a break and enjoy life to prevent getting burnt out! I like to take a little time out of each day to simply relax and destress.

  • Alex Prailes

    I feel the same way! I often find myself looking back at my productivity and realized I have been spending too much time without a break. Taking a break seems like I’m going to loose too much time or I’m in the zone and I won’t be able to come back and focus on what I’m doing, but taking a break definitely pays off.

  • Jessica White

    Clever story! I’ll really have to remember this as I continue my pursuit for my second degree. I forget sometimes that I need to take a break to look at the big picture and recuperate. This really is an important concept to keep in mind. Why not remember it in a story like this. Thank you for sharing!

  • Amanda Wood

    Great article! I was advised by my professor to read this one and after many months I have finally reached it. Although this website may be small, its full of information…anyways, I loved this story. It really dawned on me that even the smallest amounts of movement actually matter. It is crazy to think you burn the same amount of calories running two miles and walking two miles. **Mind Blown** but it makes me so angry also because I want to be able to push myself to run, but its doing the same thing as me walking to class all day…

  • Travis Mattice

    At first I was kind of confused where this story was going. Once you said the ending I understood how and why. I think that more people should read this and apply it to their lives. We all need a break at some point. If you do it frequently it is easy to be more productive when you come back to a task or get back to work. Great article, thanks for sharing.

  • Aarynn Bosshart

    I love how you were able to relate this back to exercise physiology. Another analogy would be the tortoise and the hare story. I really like what you have to say here Daniel. It’s encouraging to know that someone as successful as yourself understands the importance of rest. We live is such a “go-go-go” world. We know we need a break, but it’s as if society makes us feel bad for taking time to rest. With finals coming up, I really appreciate this reminder.

  • Andrew Bliefernicht

    This makes me think of when writing an essay in class or filling out a scantron test. Should I push harder and harder on the dull pencil lead to continue writing and fill in the bubble. Or should I go sharpen it that would take all of 15 seconds and make writing and filling in the bubbles flow with ease.

  • Skowronssj06

    This article is great! It shows that to be the best you have to take breaks and burn yourself out. You are better when you take time to be with the ones you love or something that makes you happy. If you don’t take time to “sharpen your axe” you aren’t at your best.

  • Taylor

    At first I did not understand where the story was going but when I saw the comment about sharpening your axe I understood everything. This article made me realize as humans need to take a break and take care of ourselves. If we do not pause we are just going to become duller and less effective even if we are working at the same speed. Thank you for sharing this I think it is very valuable.

  • Taylor

    I as well often find myself thinking “Taylor you should be doing____” but sometimes I just don’t have it in me to do the task that I am telling myself to do and once I take the time to ‘sharpen my axe’ I find it much easier to get the task done and I think that I end up doing it better than I would have if I had not taken that time out to ‘sharpen my axe’.

  • CoachDavis24

    I’m convinced that these two lumberjacks would have to be robots, because there is no way you can keep chopping, at the same velocity for that period of time. And with now water!!! Erroneous, I’m calling it. It’s a good analogy though, I love to spend time with my fiancee. We watch shows, listen to music, and sometimes dance in the kitchen. We go for walks, bike rides, and jogs. I also like to get a nice workout to clear the mind.

  • CoachDavis24

    That doesn’t work though. The walker (Lumberjack b) was actually faster than the runner (Lumberjack a). So the walker has burned more calories, according to this lumberjack analogy.

  • hirthjp18

    I’ve heard of this story before and its message is great.It just comes to show you that you cant always be going full speed all time. Even the best of us begin to swindle and we become not as “sharp”. I’ve tried to be the person to always be working but it just doesn’t work. You do need that time to resharpen the mind by taking some down time.

  • Steffiheuer

    Thank you for your article. I also believe that it is important to take a break sometimes. It is like a recharging stage. It is important to take this time because it is like the make or break point. In the story it was important to sharpen the axe because the axe was what made the difference. It is kind of like your mind; if you rest your mind you can think clearer than those who haven’t.

  • Steffiheuer

    Thank you for sharing! I agree that it is hard to take those breaks, but the benefits from taking those breaks are tremendous. I do at times feel guilty for taking a break and taking time to myself. I feel like my time would be better spent doing some studying or helping someone else out. That is not true though! Eventually I would grow very tired and unable to help.

  • Camillewuensch

    This was a great story! You would think the lumberjack that never stopped would have won. It makes me see that it’s good to take breaks and not to over exhaust yourself. I also really like your idea Dan to take some time out and be with the people that you love.

  • shackletka05

    Thank you for sharing! I really loved the story because I can see how “taking the time to sharpen your axe” would be effective. People tend to hit overload and try to complete as many tasks as they can in one day but forget to take the time to build their energy back up. I find that time to be used for the more important things like spending quality time with family or working on a new hobby. When the time is taken to yourself it brings more productive work and healthy living for you.

  • OMG AMAZING story sir. I even laughed and applauded at the story. Sharpening your axe is essential for everything. Every workman is only as good as their tools and can never work beyond their means. I am a huge advocate for work, work, work some more. But from time to time, pause is needed. It keeps me from going crazy and helps me remember why I am doing this, whatever it is, in the first place. This is where that “second wind” comes in.

  • Brad Moule

    Absolutely an amazing story. It definitely makes you think about how often are you resting to sharpen your axe.

  • Glassborow

    Thank you for this article, this really makes you think of things from a different perspective. I think a lot of people live in such a stressful and busy world that they never have time for just them, to relax on their own or with friends and do something they enjoy. By having a break every now and again I think it really allows you to recharge your batteries and then begin your work again with a whole new outlook and so much more motivation. What is your favorite thing to do with your friends/family to help you de-stress and relax?

  • Kayla Martin

    Wow this made me think about my life. I am way to busy and I need to stop and take a breath sometimes. My life consists of swimming, extra workouts, classes, coaching, working at another job, and trying to find a job for when I get out of school. When I think about it I never just relax. I always tell other people that they need to relax and not try to hard. I am going to need to take the lumberjacks advice and take some time to sharpen my axe aka rest my brain and body.

  • Alexa A Dralle

    What a great story, and so vividly written. I had a feeling that the answer would be what I least expected and I was pleasantly unsurprised by this. It kind of reminds me of the whole “stop and smell the roses” quote. It is extremely important to take a step back from things, relax, and appreciate all that we have. If we do take time to reflect we will learn from ourselves, our mistakes and we will have higher rates of success.

  • Ashleigh Hartlaub

    This article is truly amazing! Many people I know don’t take the time to relax and enjoy life. I personally take Sundays off of work and if I am able to homework so that I can enjoy and do the things that make life better. Taking the time to slow down and read or go on a walk just makes you appreciate life a little bit more. Like Dan, being with family and also other loved ones are what life is all about.

  • Radaya123

    You can’t continue to work hard if you do not take a rest to examine the hard work you’ve done, reevaluate your hard work to make it better, then proceed to doing hard work.

  • Caroleigh Perkins

    I like how you mention waking up without an alarm. I used to hate mornings so much my family and friends knew not to even try talking to me until after I had time to savor a cup of coffee. Now I skip the coffee and drink a bottle of water in the morning instead. I changed my class schedule so that I could sleep in and be alarm free. I can not even begin to describe how amazing these changes have made me feel. My brain is clear! Everyone needs to take the time to “sharpen their axe” to find out what feeling good truly feels like.

  • BastarKm06

    I like how you used the writing a paper example, because I do the same thing when im writing. I cannot sit for hours on end doing the same thing. Sometimes I need to step back and let my brain recover and then I end up being able to think better in the long run.

  • I do like comparing the story of the tortoise and the hare to this post. “Every time I read that book it ends the same way…the tortoise wins!” I am blessed at my job to spend at least 8 hours a week working on what I think is important. That is a ton of trust by my boss but he knows that I am “sharpening my ax” and the other time during the week is much more productive. Great post!

  • Phillius Thomas

    It is important to take breaks. Even if you don’t have a literal item to hone, just giving your brain a break every now and then is good. Got to sharpen your brain! 😀

  • Katelyn Vaughn

    I agree with your comment. It is so difficult taking breaks and doing things for yourself. Since I am in college, it is very difficult for me to slow down and relax by doing the things I find enjoyable. There is always something that can be done whether it is a homework assignment or volunteer opportunities, it is hard to push those things aside. I think that people need to do the things they enjoy and relax from time to time, because if you do not you may not work at your full potential.

  • Antonio Valor

    Just passing through and please don’t misconstrue my skepticism as intentional confrontation but I fail to see how the story proves its point. We’re told that the second lumberjack won but this is just a story not something backed by a real world example, especially given the constraints.
    I submit that if I were to write simulation of this exercise, the first lumberjack would win. The response to this would be “well of course because that is a computer simulation not real humans”. Which is ultimately, my criticism of this story.

  • leeana liska

    I loved the message in this post. I think a lot of people, including myself, don’t take enough time to step back and regroup. This is important because it helps to reset and be able to come back more efficient without having to do anything different than you did before.

  • Sara Fuller

    Wow, this was a really interesting story that captivated me through out its entirety. Hard work and consistency is good but clearly smart work is better. If you’d excuse me I need to go sharpen my axe.

  • Skalahe13

    This is a perfect story to show how important rest and taking a break for yourself is. Today people are always on the go, people want to further themselves but they forget to rest and for that they are less productive and probably doing a worse job than they would if they would just rest for a little bit each day. Great story.

  • DuchAM21

    This was an eye-opening blog post. The world that we live in is so fast paced, that sometimes we do not take enough time to stop and relax to re-generate our bodies. There is more to life than just working and making money. What we need to do is physically stop and tell ourselves that it is time to focus on the things that we sometimes ignore, such as taking care of our bodies and caring for friends and family.

  • SkylerZahner

    That is a really cool short story that could have a very big impact on someone’s life and how they look forward. It is really interesting how the story teller says that the man that took two hours off was the winner and this shows the same concepts in life.

  • Skalahe13

    im the same way when I find myself sharpening my axe, I always think i should be doing something more productive. But after i definitely am always thanking myself that i took that break and feel reenergized after.

  • Michellelele123

    I absolutely love this article and the story it contained! It’s an uplifting story with a true message. If we don’t breathe and reboot every so often we won’t be working to the best of our ability

  • milleram97

    Taking a break seems like a weird thought in a time when we’re constantly told to go-go-go. But then we forget along the way to take time to review and refresh our skills-otherwise the burnout is so strong.
    If we don’t keep the important things in mind and are distracted by others, we are also not going to be effective and most definitely will not get what we want. The brain doesn’t work well under stress neither does the body. It’s strange to think that you can cause more harm to yourself than good by constantly being consumed by one thing. And how one day you can wake up and feel sick, fatigued and unenergized and not understand how that relates to how you’re treating yourself.

  • catec18

    I think for me the best way that I sharpen my ax is by unplugging from social media. There are many times where I have thought about how much easier it would be to not have a smart phone or cell phone in general. Of course I am very grateful to have the device and constantly am on it. But I think every once in a while I benefit from taking, even if its just a few hours, a break from technology. I think something important about this is the break needs to be helpful. So many times i hear of people who take breaks on the weekend but all they thought about while they were on this break was all the work they needed to get done. If we can learn to take guilt-free breaks, I feel like people would better be able to come back to work recharged and ready to go!

  • AndreaOlsen22

    I really enjoyed this article and will always keep this story in mind now. I tend to have trouble taking breaks within my day because when I do, I am constantly thinking about everything I need to get done. My breaks hardly last and I know that’s bad. Yes, being productive is a good thing, but our body can only handle so much at a time. Taking breaks to relax refreshes your mind, allowing you to be more efficient when you get back to work. You can’t be productive if you break.

  • Colin Hickey

    This is completely relatable. As a student, I see people burn themselves out by working too hard all of the time. I personally think that the down time to recharge yourself is extremely important. The issue I have been having lately is the opposite of what you did in community college. I have been elongating my breaks off of work and spending to much time not doing what I need to do. There is always a balance because too much of a good thing is still too much.

  • Taysia Justus

    I think I’m too comfortable with taking time for myself. Whereas it does help me physically and mentally I always think I could be doing things that are more productive.

  • Taysia Justus

    I feel the same! If I’m getting too frustrated with a project I need to take a break from it for a minute or I will drive myself insane.

  • Taysia Justus

    Exactly, we need to keep ourselves healthy both physically and mentally to complete tasks to our fullest potential.

  • Erin

    This is a great story and I bet it is super relatale to many people. We seem to assume that the people who work and work and work are the ones who are the most successful. But in reality, successful people can take breaks and be just as successful or even more. It is important to refuel your body and remember the really important things in life. Like you mentioned in this article, spending time with people you love. This is probably the thing I like to do the most. Being in college sometimes I get so stressed and I really need a break from things. Going home for a weekend and seeing my family gives me a chance to breath and relax. Then once back to school it’s down to business again. Refueling is definitely important for success and mental health in general!

  • Erin

    I totally can relate to this. Being in college I feel as if I always have something I could be doing, whether it’s studying for a quiz or exam, reading the book I need to catch up in, finishing the paper that is half done, or the number of other assignments due that week. But sometimes I really do need a break to not even think about school. I always feel guilty in the beginning but in the end I am always glad I took the time away. I’ve found that it is helpful to leave the area that you are usually around. Like for me if I am just relaxing at home I feel like I need to pull out my homework but if I leave and go to the park or a beach then my mind is able to be in a different place.

  • Lindsey Kessler

    I don’t think that the walker (Lumberjack b) did burn more calories in the analogy, because in the analogy, both lumberjacks used the same amount of strength and energy, but the difference between Lumberjack A and Lumberjack B is that Lumberjack B had a sharper tool, meaning that Lumberjack B was able to accomplish more by using the same amount of energy (or burning the same amount of calories) than Lumberjack A, just by taking a break.

  • Elaminsj25

    This reminds of many discussions we have had in my Stress Management class. Although it seems like a good idea to just keep going 24/7 it/s not. Although it seems like sleeping 8 hours a night is a complete waste of time, it’s not. Eventually you will get tired.. Eventually you will only have the energy to average on a a lot of things instead of exceptional at a few things. Taking a break is extremely underrated but very important.

  • Kaila Witthun

    This really makes me stop and think. What am I doing to sharpen my axe? I honestly wasn’t sure where this story was going, but it is actually really good and I am glad I read it. What am I going to start doing to sharpen my axe? So I can continue moving forward. I don’t know the answer right now, but it is something I will continue to think about. Thanks

  • RadebaugVP02

    I think this analogy is very interesting and you’re completely right, it comes down to do you want to do the work the easy way or hard way. What would make you feel more accomplished in the end?

  • RadebaugVP02

    I agree, I always feel like I am missing out on something or there is something I could be doing that is more productive than what I am doing. I think this is true in many cases but like you said sometimes we need to just give ourselves a break in order to do everything we need to do to the fullest.

  • flaschbm09

    I agree. I definitely feel that taking that break and “sharpening your ax” is something to always keep in mind. I feel that with out that break you are that much closer to burning out, which is never good. Taking the time to relax, socialize and just enjoy the world around you every so often can really re-energize you and keep you excited to keep on going.

  • CPanella1

    I agree with you Erin. I spend a lot of free time filling the gaps with naps, social media, not ways to improve myself or sharpen my axe! I could be getting a bike ride in, reading a book for pleasure, or doing a little studying for a course I could use the extra time in. Instead it is easier to be lazy and not balance my axe in a better way. Relaxation is important if it is done in the right way!

  • CPanella1

    I love that because some people think. I can’t lose weight because I can’t run a mile or run a mile in 8 minutes. Who set the standard and made you think that was the only acceptable way to run? And who do you have to report to after your run to say that you didn’t reach that time? The only person you have to report to about your health is yourself, and let’s hope it’s a positive report and not a negative one.

  • Marlee Williams

    I feel the exact same way when I take time for myself to do things I enjoy. I always feel like I should be studying or doing homework when I’m hanging out with friends or watching Netflix. But this blog really opened my eyes to the fact that sometimes it’s totally acceptable and okay to take a little break and do things we enjoy rather than things we “have” to do.

  • Marlee Williams

    Exactly! If I spend hours and hours on homework or a paper or something, after a while I get burnt out and can’t do it anymore because my brain is fried. But, if I take breaks to refresh my mind, I am able to get a lot more done and able to think more clearly while doing homework/writing a paper/etc.

  • FalkinerRR23

    I agree. It does always come down to how you want to get something done. For me personally, I feel like if I ran two miles instead of walking two miles I would feel more accomplished even though I would be doing the same amount of work if I was just to walk.

  • DavidMizelle1

    This is a really good analogy. I think it’s important for all of us to take time and find ways to recharge because it’s way too easy to get burned out in a world where cell phones, email, etc. can keep us constantly on call.

  • Bjackson5

    The idea of the competition being between lumberjacks is ingenious. Lumberjacks, not only serve as very stable and stronghold type people, but they also have one of the hardiest diets of sleep and food that humans have seen. Flapjacks, bacon, and eggs by the dozen, resulting in deep sleeps and healthy workouts. #HardyDiet

  • keyser03

    I’m bookmarking this one. I was trying to figure out what he was doing that he somehow won, and definitely did not see that response coming. I need to take time to do things that make me happy and balanced.

  • Tyler Hebert

    I like the story and the way this article ends. Some times in life you need to take breaks and relieve yourself from stress and get away from responsibilities. Burnout is the last thing you want to happen and you can prevent burnout by taking breaks from your responsibilities.

  • Jpl89

    The world great easy lumberjack lives a life of ease. They get to expend energy, work and create and destroy and live. They earn a living and they live a good life. This goes along with the idea of convergence that I read in a previous blog. This is a life of convergence.


    This is a wonderful blog. It offers another perspective on an issue that I, too, have to continually remind myself of: the importance of giving your body a break. Whether it be mental or physical, it is absolutely crucial that the body and brain receive a break to prevent burnout, mental illness, etc. Truthfully, I value hard work so highly that it often gets in the way of my health and taking care of my body. However, I have recently come to the realization that it is equally as important to take a break every now and again than it is to work your butt off. Because the truth of the matter is, if you aren’t taking breaks and providing your body what it needs, it is ultimately your health that will suffer. In that case, even with all of your hard work, you won’t be able to achieve your goals with poor health.


    I completely agree with you, Erin. It’s crazy how guilty I often feel for giving myself a break, most frequently if I take a nap. I do not nap very often because I feel as if I have way too much other stuff to do, and that napping would be “wasted time.” However, I have recently recognized that when I feel I need a nap, it is simply because I am sleep deprived and my body truly needs the break. The reality of the situation is that if I gave myself a break more often and got more sleep at night, my body wouldn’t feel desperate for it. Allowing myself to take a break guilt-free has been a process, but one in which I am learning to appreciate the needs of my body.

  • Sarah Reynolds

    I really enjoyed the story of the two lumberjacks and how it fit into sometimes you just need to take a break from everything to reboot your system!

  • Vexy

    Its just a lamer version of the tortoise and hare story. Except this nonsense about the lumberjack who forgets to sharpen an axe for 24 hours. What started as an axe would have ended as a hammer.