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NEWS | May 17, 2017

Sharpen Your Axe

By Air Force Senior Master Sgt. Joseph E. Lawrence AETC 373rd Transportation Detachment 5

President Abraham Lincoln once said, “Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.” He was teaching us all about preparing for future obstacles we may face. Most of us see a tree in our path and attack it head on with a blunt blade. We typically are willing to fight the pain and labor through the challenge. However, if we took the time to sharpen our axe, the process would have required much less time and energy.

Professional development is how we sharpen our axe. Think about the problems we face daily we are well-trained and prepared to tackle; they are completed with ease. Now, think about when you are doing something new and how every step feels like you are wearing 20-lb boots and trudging through mud. The difference is in how we prepared for the journey. We all know we are going to have obstacles in our paths; some are predictable and others are not. If we are being honest with ourselves, most of the challenges we face could have been avoided if we spent more time sharpening our axes.

The time to learn is not when we make the next stripe or ascend to a leadership role. The time to learn is today. One option is by seeking education through one of the many professional development opportunities on base, online or through off-base educational programs. Additionally, a number of units are hosting briefings on various topics from bullet writing to successful leadership tips while offering valuable advice. The Airman and Family Readiness Center has 21 Laws of Leadership courses, 7 Habits of Highly Effective People and more. Also, the Career Assistance Advisor is constantly providing briefs on career development also. 

A second option is seeking out a mentor. We all know the person in the shop who just seems to have it all figured out. Do whatever you can to learn from them. Ask questions about how they develop themselves or how they manage their time or whatever else puzzles you. If you want to find someone outside of your organization, ask your shirt to help connect you. The First Sergeants are always cross-talking to find opportunities to grow each one of you.

The next time you come across a tree in your path, will you face it with a sharpened axe?

I would be more than happy to work with anyone to help who wants to develop in any way I can and you can reach me on the global at: