“Chasing Chickens With A Dull Rusty Axe” is an excerpt from The 7 Savage Sins of Small Business and Why Entrepreneurs Are Addicted To Them.
“Allow me to summarize what all has been said here over the past two and a half hours.” Paul drew a deep breath before continuing, “Without change, we are up a creek without a paddle.” Chuckles filled the room.
“Twiler TreK has done great things in the past…GREAT things! The problem is that all those great things were yesterday, and NOT today.” Paul paused for a moment. “The world has changed, but we haven’t, and we are falling behind quickly.”
“I was brought in here 12 months or so ago, to lead this company into the future, and if we are going to embrace the future then we must accept the reality of change that has to occur at all levels. Our Human Resources policies and practises need to change, the way we market needs to change, the way we manufacture needs to change. Most important, and perhaps this is the most difficult detail…the way we lead needs to change.”
Clearly, Paul’s words were being listened to in great detail as everyone in the room tried to catch a glimpse of the direction Paul was taking.
Speaking up from around the table, the Founder of Twiler Trek asked, “What do you think needs to be done Paul?”
Showing concern on his face, Paul looked the Founder in the eye, and said, “In the weeks and months ahead, there are several changes that we need to make, but right now, and I mean RIGHT NOW, we need to stop chasing chickens with dull rusty axes!”
Not sure as to how best to respond, those around the table raised eyebrows while glancing at each other, uncertain as to whether they should chuckle or remain somber. Only one faced smiled from ear to ear…the Founder.
“You ARE your father’s son Paul. Why not tell those of us who don’t know the story behind your decision.”
Chasing Chickens With A Dull Rusty Axe
Paul stood silent for minute, then as he collected his thoughts, he began to step back and casually walk around the table as he spoke. “My father was the only member of his family to ever leave the farm and finish his high school education, so farm life has remained very close to my family in my early years.”
Faces around the table began to smile and nod as the atmosphere in the room became less formal.
“Growing up, my father had an expression he would use from time to time when talking to us. I can remember hearing him ask us as kids, ‘Are you chasing chickens with a dull rusty axe again?’”
“In my father’s childhood years, my grandfather took my dad out to the chicken coup to catch a chicken which was to be cooked up for dinner that night. My grandfather was a man of practical life lessons and expecting my father would one day leave the farm, my grandfather never missed a chance to drive an important lesson home.”
“As my grandfather opened the barn gate, he grabbed a small, rusty, dull axe and handed it to my father. Immediately my father knew what was expected of him. He was to chop the head off of the chicken to be used for dinner that night.”
“The chicken coop consisted of a small shed where the walls were lined with nesting boxes. In the back corners of the shed were doors which opened up into small outdoor pens. At the back of those pens, was a gate which opened to a 100 acre hay field, and on occasion my grandfather would allow the chickens to wander through the hay field. On this day, as my father stood there with the reluctant dull rusty axe over his shoulder, my grandfather opened the gate to the field and out ran the chickens except for a couple which were still in the nesting boxes.”
“All right son,” my grandfather said to my father, “go out into that field and catch yourself a chicken for dinner. Now hurry up, and don’t take too long.”
“As the story goes, my father made his way out into the field and began to make every attempt under the sun to catch a chicken. 20 minutes became 30, and 1 hour became 2 hours. Finally, just before noon, my father, coated in sweat and dust caved into defeat and returned to the chicken coop to find feathers on the ground, and a chicken head laying in the dirt beside the chopping block. In the air he could smell the warm smell of a chicken roasting in the outdoor summer kitchen oven.”
“My grandfather stood by the door to the chicken coop with a warm endearing smile on his face. He could see the spirit of defeat in my father’s face. As my grandfather placed one arm around my father’s shoulders, he held out a shiny sharp axe.”
“Sit down for a minute son,” my grandfather said, “and let me tell you something very important. I’m not always going to be here to teach you things about life, so I have to squeeze these moments in with the time I have. In life there are going to be tough moments…moments where you’ll feel the pain of losing something dear to you. Today, I killed my favourite chicken so we could eat dinner tonight. She was a good chicken, and I had nothing against her, but in order for us to eat and stay alive, it was necessary to say goodbye to her.”
The boardroom was silent as everyone turned their complete focus to Paul’s voice.
“This morning,” my grandfather went on to say, “you spent the morning chasing chickens with a dull rusty axe. Had you caught a chicken, that axe would have only caused an injury as it was far too dull to cut through anything. You spent a full morning trying to do what I was able to complete in 15 minutes with a sharp axe.”
“In the days and years ahead as you grow up, people will cross your path, and even stay in your life for a period of time, but there will come those moments where it’ll be necessary to end a relationship. When that time comes, remember this day. Don’t drag out the process as that will only cause unnecessary pain. Don’t chase after chickens with a dull rusty axe. Remember this sharp axe of mine, and end the relationship quickly and decisively. The relationships you end might be with good or bad people, possibly family, friends, maybe even the one you love, but in order for you to move forward in life in a healthier way, you’ll come to the place of realizing you have to end those relationships. Be wise, be certain, don’t spend time chasing after those people as you second guess yourself. Don’t waste time trying to figure out ways to keep them in your life. Second guessing yourself only leads to regret in life. Don’t look back. Grow forward. Never chase chickens with a dull rusty axe.”
Chasing Chickens With A Dull Rusty Axe
Paul hesitated as he looked around the room, “No matter what we choose to do, change must come, and change is never easy. We will all be pushed out of our comfort zones. Feelings will be hurt, and while we can do our absolute best to minimize that, we cannot eliminate it. Right now, here in this room, we must draw the line between hurtful and harmful. The coming changes will be hurtful, but hurt, just like a bruise, is temporary. We recover from hurts by way of a period of healing. If we choose not to make changes then harmful change will be forced upon us by the marketplace. Harmful change is much more difficult to recover from than hurtful change.
In life, some relational endings are necessary. People will question our decision making processes which results in ending relationships — that’s to be expected. Critics walk a life path separate from our own. If we want to walk free and healthy in life, if we trully want to grow forward, then we must choose a path unique to that of our critics.
Chasing chickens with a dull rusty axe never works for anyone.
Author — James C. Tanner