Insightful takes on scaling your business

A sharper axe is safer: a counterintuitive business lesson

You're more likely to cut yourself on a dull axe

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Boris Veldhuijzen van Zanten
Story by
Boris Veldhuijzen van Zanten

CEO and co-founder, TNWBoris is a serial entrepreneur who founded not only TNW, but also V3 Redirect Services (sold), HubHop Wireless Internet Provider (sold), and (show all) Boris is a serial entrepreneur who founded not only TNW, but also V3 Redirect Services (sold), HubHop Wireless Internet Provider (sold), and pr.co. Boris is very active on Twitter as @Boris and Instagram: @Boris.

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Boris is the wise ol’ CEO of TNW who writes a weekly column on everything about being an entrepreneur in tech — from managing stress to embracing awkwardness. You can get his musings straight to your inbox by signing up for his newsletter!

Yesterday I was sharpening my axe. It’s a simple chore, not too complicated and pretty darn satisfying. And as with all simple things, you can easily do it wrong, so it pays off to watch a few YouTube videos on how to do it properly. 

One of the lessons I learned is why it’s so important to keep your axe as sharp as possible. The danger of having a dull axe is that you’ll have to use more power to get the job done. 

You swing the axe higher, bring it down faster, and you’ll get tired more quickly — increasing the chances of missing the log with your axe and hurting yourself. So, a sharper, more dangerous axe is actually safer. 

[Read: Why entrepreneurs need annoying sideline critics]

When you go skiing you also need sharp edges and a nice layer of wax so the ski travels over the snow more efficiently: faster. When you first start skiing everything is going fast enough as it is and braking or slowing down becomes your first challenge. 

But once you get more advanced you begin to understand that well-tuned skis also make turns faster and are easier to handle. Your turns are easier, you save more energy, and by default you’re safer. So a sharp ski that runs and turns fast actually helps you go slower. 

I’m seeing similarities in my work. Just like you need to prune a plant to make it grow, you also have to be strict to be nice. If you want to make progress, you have to pause every now and then. If you want to relax, you need to work hard. If you want a particular project to succeed, you’ll have to kill a few others. Never ignore a path just because it might seem counterintuitive at first.

Sometimes a man finds his destiny on the road he took to avoid it. Sometimes you’ll have to do things that seem contradictory to what you want to achieve. 

P.S. Mom, if you’re reading this; YES, I’m being super careful with the axe! Don’t worry. 

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Published May 21, 2020 — 15:00 UTC