Abraham Lincoln once wrote: “Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.”
It's hard to argue with having the right tools and having them work as effectively as we can make them work.
And yet we've all worked hard at something using a “dull axe”. We've used the wrong tool or one that didn't work very well. We've continued to slog along doing things the same way when there were new and better tools at our disposal.
It's true that you can spend all your time studying and learning or searching for just the “right” tool and not actually get the work done. But more often than not, we simply don't “sharpen our axe” enough.
A reader from the Middle East wrote to me awhile back asking how he could improve his low self-image. He said, “It ruins my social and professional life.” He wanted to know what techniques he could employ to solve this lifelong problem.
I felt somewhat inadequate in my reply to him and resolved to write about my own struggles to improve self-esteem in hopes that it will be helpful to others.
The dictionary says that esteem means, “to regard with respect; to prize, to appreciate. To recognize the quality, significance, or magnitude of, to admire greatly; to value.”
I know people who have too much confidence and self-pride, but I don't know ANYONE with too much self-esteem. Most people, in moments of profound honesty, will admit to a lack of self-esteem. They would like to feel better about themselves—more confident and capable—in short, to love themselves more.
It would probably be fair to say that most social problems are the result—directly or indirectly—of someone's low self-concept.
A number of years ago, I was going through a very dark time in my life. I was broke—financially, personally, socially—maybe even spiritually. In describing it to someone once, I said, “I had the self-esteem of a dead rat.” That might have been overstating it a bit but not much.
Income doesn't directly track with your level of education. There are certainly well-educated people who do not earn substantial salaries. And there are people with almost no formal education who earn astronomical incomes.
But it's an established fact that people who know more typically earn more.
And today, specialized knowledge is becoming an increasing factor in how much one earns. Napoleon Hill, in his classic Think and Grow Rich, devoted an entire chapter to the importance of specialized knowledge.