Friday, 22 November 2013

The man that knows his job, knows his tool

As young kids we all must have heard or read the story of the woodcutter, whose iron axe fell into the river.

Just as the woodcutter was wondering what to do, the river angel came out of the water and held a golden axe before him. “My son, is this your axe?” she asked a worried looking woodcutter. 

“No”, replied the honest woodcutter, "this is not mine" he said.

The angel disappeared only to reappear with a silver axe. “Then surely, this must be the axe you dropped in here” she said trying to tempt the woodcutter. “Not mine” told the woodcutter.
Sure enough, she brought out the iron axe that the woodcutter had dropped...

The river angel went down to search again for the right one and sure enough, she brought the iron axe that the wood cutter had dropped into the lake. The grim expression on the woodcutter's face slowly broke into a smile as he joyfully took possession of his iron treasure.

“Yes, pretty angel that is my axe”, he said.The angel was pleased and blessed the woodcutter with prosperity and happiness. The story ended with the moral, “Honesty is the best policy”.

I read this story when I was young and was instantly impressed. My childish mind perceived all woodcutters to be poor and honest, both of which were only illusions as I know today!

But when I read the same story later on, I felt that the moral should have been “A good worker knows his tool”. You cannot cut wood with a golden axe and the property of silver, as a metal, is not conducive for cutting trees either. Iron's physical property, ease of availability as a resource made it suitable to cut wood the best.The story signifies the importance of having the right tool for the right job. Glamour can be tempting but may not necessarily be useful.The woodcutter knew his job and hence knew that only an iron axe can help him in his job. Before you choose the tool, it is, therefore, important to know the job on hand. 

Several years later when I read the story, there was much more to it than honesty or the right tool.Though the woodcutter is depicted as a poor man in the story, he was wise.
He could have chosen to keep the golden axe, which probably he would have got, had he wanted it. But for how long can you feed yourself with that? 

Wisdom should drive the decisions that we make in life. The woodcutter chose the tool which would enable him to earn his food for a longer time, rather than depending on a windfall which will make life very comfortable, albeit for a shorter period!