There once was a young lumberjack who was very skilled at what he did. This lumberjack was so strong and so talented that he could cut down nearly twice the number of trees in one day as anyone else and he was widely regarded as the best in the land. All the girls wanted to get with him and all the boys wanted to be him. He was happy and proud of himself. He was comfortable in the idea that he would always be at the top of his game.
The other lumberjacks had a great respect for him so they studied his techniques endlessly in hopes of some day being like him.
As the years passed the once young, but now aging, lumberjack began to notice that he was no longer cutting down twice the number of trees as everyone else because everyone else was cutting down more. Not only that but, even though he was still working just as hard as he always had, his actual yield was going down. Every day it seemed he worked harder than the day before but his work continued to decline.
After awhile, not only was he no longer the industry leader but he found himself at the back of the pack in last place. Even the newbies were cutting down more trees than him!
With great exasperation, he would complain to his friends, “I am doing the exact same thing that made me a champion but now I can’t even keep up!”
At the end of the day, the lumberjack could always be found drowning his sorrows at a sketchy watering hole that stank of grease traps and toilet sanitizer. It was on the dark side of the tracks and fly paper hung from the moose head by the door. Men with dull hair whose wives never saw a paycheck and women with skinny legs and no last name sat mesmerized in the glow of Deuces Wild, hoping to win but planning to lose. It was a sad and predictable scene at the bar called Diminishing Returns but it was still a step above going home. One night while the lumberjack was taking up space and once again regaling everyone with his tale of woe, the bartender’s ears started to bleed so he leaned over and very quietly asked him one question.
“When was the last time you sharpened your ax?”