Wednesday, October 8, 2008


I was reading Seth Godin's Blog today. He was writing about luck versus effort. It's a great post and I wanted to share a few points from it with you.

Seth said...

People really want to believe effort is a myth, at least if we consider what we consume in the media:
  • politicians and beauty queens who get by on a smile and a wink
  • lottery winners who turn a lifetime of lousy jobs into one big payday
  • sports stars who are born with skills we could never hope to acquire
  • hollywood celebrities with the talent of being in the right place at the right time
  • failed CEOs with $40 million buyouts

It really seems (at least if you read popular media) that who you know and whether you get 'picked' are the two keys to success. Luck.

I've known a number of "lucky" sharpeners in my time, but the reality is, most of the sharpeners I know that have created successful businesses have done so through hard work and diligent effort.

Seth also wrote...

Effort takes many forms. Showing up, certainly. Knowing stuff (being smart might be luck of the draw, but knowing stuff is the result of effort). Being kind when it's more fun not to. Paying forward when there's no hope of tangible reward. Doing the right thing. You've heard these things a hundred times before, of course, but I guess it's easier to bet on luck.

A great list! And one many of us can relate to, especially the "showing up" part. How many times have we heard from our customers that their regular sharpener only shows up when it's convenient to them.

But Seth goes even further...'s a bootstrapper's/marketer's/entrepreneur's/fast-rising executive's effort diet. Go through the list and decide whether or not it's worth it. Or make up your own diet. Effort is a choice, at least make it on purpose:

1. Delete 120 minutes a day of 'spare time' from your life. This can include TV, reading the newspaper, commuting, wasting time in social networks and meetings. Up to you.

2. Spend the 120 minutes doing this instead:

  • Exercise for thirty minutes.
  • Read relevant non-fiction (trade magazines, journals, business books, blogs, etc.)
  • Send three thank you notes.
  • Learn new digital techniques (spreadsheet macros, Firefox shortcuts, productivity tools, graphic design, html coding)
  • Volunteer.
  • Blog for five minutes about something you learned.
  • Give a speech once a month about something you don't currently know a lot about.

3. Spend at least one weekend day doing absolutely nothing but being with people you love.

4. Only spend money, for one year, on things you absolutely need to get by. Save the rest, relentlessly.

If you somehow pulled this off, then six months from now, you would be the fittest, best rested, most intelligent, best funded and motivated person in your office or your field. You would know how to do things other people don't, you'd have a wider network and you'd be more focused.

It's entirely possible that this won't be sufficient, and you will continue to need better luck. But it's a lot more likely you'll get lucky, I bet.

Growth and success takes dedication and a willingness to do what others won't. Most people are not born sharpeners, they develop into them over time with training and with practice. Take Seth's challenge to heart and start working on ways to help you become the sharpener you want to be. Whenever I forget that "luck" takes hard work, I watch this video below and wonder how many year of effort and practice it took this musician to get this good.

Image: krikit


  1. Hello, Jim Sharp. I just found your blog by searching for info on operating a sharpening business. I intend to review your whole archive!

  2. Thanks Doug. If you have any questions just give me a call.