When we started homeschooling our kids last fall my wife bought an electric pencil sharpener. We had one around the house early in our marriage that was eventually sold at a garage sale or given away. Now the kids are learning how to write so it’s a very useful tool to have around.
When we bought the sharpener I pulled it out of its box and plugged it in. I tested it out with a pencil and remembered the whirr that happens as the pencil is being cut to a point. Since I was starting a new pencil it took several seconds to get it down to where the lead was sharp and ready for use. During those seconds I remember thinking how the sound of sharpening is soothing and hypnotic.
Sharpening Feels Good But Is Not The End Goal
In his book “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People” Steven Covey names the 7th habit “Sharpening the Saw.” Mr. Covey talks about the importance of taking time to renew your resources (energy, health, spirit, knowledge) to allow for more long-term success and effectiveness.
I sometimes find myself hypnotized by the whirr of my own self-enrichment. This year I joined two membership sites that have given me some great knowledge and advice. The Micropreneur Academy is a paid course for learning ways to develop and launch product ideas. The lessons on marketing and testing out ideas are very useful to me since these are areas that I don’t have very much experience.
The other community I joined is Platform University. This membership is useful for my wife and I as a couple since the information is useful to both of us as we build our areas of influence – or platforms. The Master Classes and Membership Makeovers have helped us hone our message and focus on how we communicate.
Both of these communities have provided great value to me, but I also need to remember that being learning new skills isn’t the end of the story. Real success will come not by completing a training class but with applying what was learned in the marketplace.
Don’t Mistake Sharpening For Real Work
Although the act of sharpening a pencil can feel like productive work it doesn’t produce anything. Eventually you need to write something. A handful of sharpened pencils may look neat and uniform, but the pencil lead was meant to scar paper, not sit idle in a cup.
Sharpening your skills by reading blog posts and doing tutorials may feel like productive work, but in the end it doesn’t benefit you unless those skills are applied to something. The knowledge I learn must be applied to a product that is useful to someone.
Be Sharp, Be Useful
The idea of being useful to others has been highlighted in my mind for a few days now. A sharpened pencil is useful because it helps you to write more precisely than a dull pencil. A sharpened saw is useful because it helps you cut better. In my case to be useful I need to be applying my skills to writing blogs, writing code and building products.
I need to remember that the time comes when the sharpener needs to be put away and it’s time for the real work to be done.
How about you? How do you sharpen your skills? Do you get caught continually learning and not applying what you learned?