I was talking to my daughter this weekend as I was making dinner and I mentioned that I needed to sharpen the knife I was using. She made a comment about how a sharper knife must make it easier to cut the food being prepared. I agreed and told her that a sharper knife is also safer to use. She gave me a perplexed look and said, “But, won’t a sharper knife cut you easier?”. I said yes, but a dull knife can more easily slip off of what you are cutting rather than slicing through it, but it is still sharp enough to cut you. I explained that a sharp knife goes where you direct it to go much easier than a dull knife and that makes it better.
I guess many times the same can be said of virtually any tool that does not perform the way it is designed to perform; ultimately the same can be said for people. If we want our minds (or our bodies) to perform at high mental, physical, emotional, or spiritual levels, we must find ways to keep the knife sharp. It is technically not difficult to sharpen a knife, but it does take effort to keep it sharp over time. You do not keep the same sharpness from when the knife is brand new for long. It takes time and it takes effort to continuously keep the knife sharp.
Much like constantly sharpening the knife, our own personal performance is rooted in a similar preparation. If you want the knife to work properly, you must do the work in advance to keep it sharp. If our preparation is only in our imagination, performance will only take place in idea but never in practicality. On the other hand, if we take time to prepare and sharpen ourselves to meet life’s challenges, only then can performance become a reality.
My oldest son and I have had this conversation numerous times in the past month as he has begun another middle school track season. He is often not happy with his times in certain races, and I ask, “So what are you going to do to make those times better?”. I know the point has not fully sunk in with him yet. The message I am trying to impart is simple: If you want to perform better in the race, you must prepare to perform better. No one performs at a high level without an insane amount of work. The artist Michelangelo has been quoted, “If you knew how much work went into it, you wouldn’t call it genius,”. Michelangelo’s amazing work is not from talent, it comes from years and years of preparation.
Constantly sharpening the knife is not your only opposition in performance. The second challenge becomes staying focused while using it. The knife will go exactly where you direct it to go. Unfortunately, when we get distracted, that direction can lead to a knife in your finger. It is not just about sharpening the knife, but about using the knife for its intended purpose once it is sharp. You can read all the books you would like to, or learn all the information needed to be successful, but if you never put these ideas into practice it is wasted. Knowledge is not the power; the ability to acquire knowledge and put it into practice in your daily life is what is truly powerful. You must seek wisdom so you can put it into practice.
So as you go throughout the upcoming week, find ways to prepare for the success you want to see in your life. Sharpen the knife and then make sure it is used for the right purpose!
Keep learning; keep growing; keep sharing!