The above quote is one of my favorites of Lincoln's.
It can be interpreted in many ways. Some feel it is an eloquent way of rephrasing the saying "Use the right tool for the right job."
For those of us committed to preparedness, we can see the obvious parallels. In our terms, Lincoln's quote means that two-thirds of survival depends on preparedness.
However, looking deeper, I find that ultimately the quote is about priorities. Lincoln's conditional statement implies he has a choice. He decides to spend two-thirds of his time on one task that is absolutely essential to completing the complementary task in the other third of the time. If he went straight at the tree with the duller ax, he might double or triple his effort and not complete the goal in the allotted time.
In order to achieve goals efficiently and effectively, we must prioritize.
This is true for preparedness and life – our dreams, duties, etc.
It's easy to prioritize backward. As humans, we want the quickest solution possible. So, we prioritize tasks that are closer to the completion of the goal. But then, like building a bridge without laying down supports first, our efforts collapse.
Relating this idea of prioritization back to preparedness, sharpening the ax is building out our plans. This happens slowly but surely, one step at a time, just as Lincoln's ax became sharper with each pass across the whetstone.
Even small steps make your preparedness plans sharper. Remember this as you move along your journey. When doom and gloom are in the news, it's easy to panic and try to rush to complete all our preparedness plans at once.
First of all, your preparedness plans are never complete. You can never be over-prepared. So, it is better to gradually build out your plans each and every day than tackle everything in a few weeks.
Building out gradually is also less stressful. Preparedness should never mean feeling overwhelmed or scared.
Abraham Lincoln knew the value of gradual effort.
The ax is a constant icon in the discussion of the 16th President as a young man. Upon moving to Indiana at age seven, he eventually helped his father clear the land, so they could raise corn and hogs. This was not typical work for boys as young as him on the frontier, but he was exceptionally tall and strong.
The iconography of the ax stayed with Lincoln in his political career as well. The ax helped him identify with the hard-working people across the land and particularly the West. He provided a fresh personality amongst his competition – entrenched career politicians.
While seeking the Republican nomination in 1860, he became known as the "Rail Candidate for President." A cousin and one of Lincoln's political advisor had gone to the abandoned family homestead in Indiana and removed two of the fence rails that Lincoln cut to display at the convention. This display helped secure his nomination. It also helped secure his reputation as an “honest, working man,” despite having very little governmental experience.
The biggest lesson I take from Lincoln's journey is that you let the small successes in life propel you into the larger accomplishments. Even if you don't know what those larger goals are yet.
As an eight-year-old boy chopping down trees in the wilderness, he probably couldn't fathom that this activity would eventually lead him to the presidency. But he knew that small efforts lead to big gains, no matter what they materialize as. We must constantly remind ourselves of this as we pursue our personal goals – in preparedness and life.
I hope this lesson finds you well this week.
Have a great weekend and keep working toward your preparedness goals, step by step!
Preparedness Advisor, My Patriot Supply