Two men were out chopping wood one day. One of the men, Cecil, worked very hard—he chopped and chopped furiously all day—and only stopped once for a quick lunch. On the other hand, the man who was with him, Abe, took three breaks in the morning, a short nap at lunch, and a few more breaks in the afternoon.
As the sun began to set that evening, the hard-working Cecil finally stopped chopping. He was tired, dripping with sweat, and every muscle in his back and chest and arms burned.
Cecil dropped his ax and looked in the direction of Abe, who was sitting on a towering pile of chopped wood. It was then that Cecil realized that Abe had actually cut more wood than he had that day. This, despite all the sweat, all the sacrifice, all the toil. As you might imagine, Cecil was furious.
He shouted up at Abe, “I don’t understand, Abe. Every time I looked around, you were sitting down, yet you cut more wood than I did.”
Abe smiled at Cecil and replied, “Did you also notice that while I was sitting down, I was sharpening my ax?”
This story is based on a parable that Dale Carnegie often told. When I reflect on the moral of the story, as the leader of a brand and marketing strategy firm, I can’t help but think about how it relates to business and marketing strategy. I’m also impressed by what the lesson tells us about how to achieve clarity and confidence in your business and marketing strategy.
Abe had both clarity and confidence, didn’t he? He possessed clarity because he possessed a clear plan. And he had confidence in his effectiveness, because he knew just how effective his plan would be if he had a rested body and a sharp blade.
The reason business leaders and entrepreneurs lack clarity and confidence in their business and marketing strategy, is that they lack a clear, concise, well-thought-out plan.
And why is that?
It’s usually because they’re focused on answering the question: “What should I do?” when they should be focused on answering all of the questions that would inform: “What should I do?”