Stephen Covey, a famous American educator, author and keynote speaker wrote a highly popular book that sold more than 25 million copies since it was published in 1989 titled “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People”. In the book the author outlined 7 core principles for achieving success in life. The 7th principle is titled: “Sharpen the Saw”.

The story is about a lumberjack who was frustrated because he was not making good progress with cutting down a tree. The lumberjack’s saw was blunt and would not cut through the wood properly. A man asked the lumberjack why he hadn’t sharpened his saw and the lumberjack responded that in order to sharpen the saw he would have to stop cutting and felt he could not afford to lose the time.

The take away from this story is that when the focus is solely on production, as time progresses, there is the potential for inefficiencies to crop into the production. Constant attention must be paid to creating an environment in which there is efficient production based on having the appropriate tool set and infrastructure needed to support productivity.

When embarking on a project, the key to creating longevity and continued success is in the formation of a creation/production cycle followed by a period of capacity building. This pause to reboot the skills of the team is as important to the overall success of the endeavor as the work itself. This is best captured by Abraham Lincoln, the 16th President of the United States, who stated, “give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.” I encourage you to follow President Lincoln and devote time on a regular basis to sharpening your pencil, and other elements in your tool set!


Written by

Eli Fathi

Eli has been a technology entrepreneur for the past 30 years and has founded or cofounded a number of companies with a few successful exits. Currently, he is the CEO of a company offering automated fraud detection platform. Eli was the cofounder of Fluidware Corporation, an Internet software company offering Software as a service (SaaS) online applications based on collaborative feedback. He was the co-CEO from inception until the acquisition by SurveyMonkey.

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