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Sharpening the Ax: Why You Can Take All the Action in the World and Still Not Have Success

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Abraham Lincoln famously said, “If I had six hours to chop down the tree, I would spend four hours sharpening the ax.”

Here’s the thing: When you take the time to get clarity on your direction, when you really tune in to the business that you’re really here to build, the business that’s going to feed your soul — everything becomes easier. Otherwise you’re just someone with something to sell.

As a mentor for the past six years, I’ve seen that it’s so easy to spend so much time and so much effort trying to build something. But if you’re building it from your head — if you’re not following your heart — it’s a real struggle.

So it’s important to take the time to drop down and really listen in to what it is that you want, what you’re here to do, what’s going to be fulfilling.

If you’re thinking: Let me just make money now and then I’ll be able to get on with my purpose… some day. That purpose may never come.

So one of the principles that I’ve learned that’s helped me be successful in business is to slow down in order to speed up, slow down for long enough to really look into yourself, really get clear about what it is that you want, drop from your head down into your heart and figure out: what am I here to do? What is it that I really want? And operate from that place… Because when you do, everything becomes so much easier.

If you’re building just from your head it’s going to be hard to make the money or if the money comes it’s not going to stay. But when you align yourself with what you’re really here to do it becomes so much easier.

So listen to Abraham Lincoln. He’s got wisdom for you: “If you’ve got six hours to chop down the tree, spend four hours to sharpen the knife.”

But it’s a balance because so many people are sitting waiting for lightning to strike from the sky and have that moment where they understand — with crystal clarity — everything they’re supposed to do. And it doesn’t work like that. It’s more like following a trail of bread crumbs than it is about waiting for lightning to strike.

You don’t want to sit around for too long. You don’t want to slow down so much that you stop. You want to slow down in service of speeding up and that’s my message for you here today.

So what have you been procrastinating on? What have you been running around so frantically trying to achieve that you’ve forgotten to tune into your heart and get that clarity of what you really want and what you’re really here to do?

So go out there and Live Your Message, make it happen and slow down for long enough to tune into what you really want.


Love it? Hate it? Let me know...

  1. Nomita Mehta Avatar
    Nomita Mehta

    That was so useful. To hear it’s like breadcrumbs and not light lightening.
    Now I’m feeling in sync… yes yes yes.
    Thank you for sharing that wisdom !

    1. Marisa Murgatroyd Avatar
      Marisa Murgatroyd

      Totally! Most people think it’s the opposite…

  2. KSuresh Rao Avatar
    KSuresh Rao

    Marisa, I love your msg: to slow down to speed up &not stop and to build from the heart & feed the soul is indeed very inspiring!

    1. Marisa Murgatroyd Avatar
      Marisa Murgatroyd

      Thanks KS! 🙂

  3. Dominique Forand Avatar
    Dominique Forand

    Outstanding! Hi Marisa, Your message is coming at the right time for me and is very helpful since it’s giving me idea and the perfect argue to bring one of my existing client further. The way you deliver your message is so powerful and help me stay at the top in my growth process. Thank you very much for being there for me and everyone. Have a wonderful day.

    1. Marisa Murgatroyd Avatar
      Marisa Murgatroyd

      You’re welcome Dominique. I’m glad this is something you can apply right away! xo

  4. Richard Zultner Avatar
    Richard Zultner

    Great message, as usual. But Abraham Lincoln would use an AX or a SAW to cut down a tree (not a knife). And you don’t sharpen one knife by scraping it against another (you use a sharpening stone or steel at a precise angle). And you would never throw a carefully sharpened knife (those are cleavers, aren’t they? Does your chef know you borrowed them?) into the ground (OK, sand is not as bad, but still… ). But your point is excellent, and your story still works… so thanks.

    1. Marisa Murgatroyd Avatar
      Marisa Murgatroyd

      My Thai coconut knives are the best I could do! I wasn’t aiming for accuracy here… I was aiming for effect. Lol 😉

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