Zen and knife sharpening part two

Today we look at how the maintenance of what sharpens your knife is really a metaphor for life.

During my stint at Tyson Foods, I was told in the beginning of my training to clean my steel. They had us polishing our steels. Now, at first, this involved us taking a green scotch pad and starting at the bottom rubbing up and repeat. To be quite honest, I think it was just emotionally weird to mimic a masturbatory act until I realized that doing this saved my arm. The scotch pad became a great friend of mine for it allowed my knives to stay sharp and help ease the pain of the job. I noticed the wonders it would do and even compared my day to when I wouldn’t clean the steel at every opportunity. Down time, I would be cleaning my steel, break time, I would be cleaning my steel and definitely after break but before the line was moving again, I would clean my steel.

I would also use grit paper for daily cleaning at the end or beginning of a shift. So for one to ignore their most important tool is to enjoy the pain of a worn and busted shoulder. I used to think the knives were my most important tool but I soon changed my opinion. It is not the knives at all but the tool that sharpens the knives that needs true maintenance.

If I or you put our focus on just what we think of as our tool, we may be neglecting our true tool. For instance, if I am playing guitar and something more important than my guitar is neglected, my it will sound like crap. So if I play for twenty years but haven’t fixed or replaced my cables or pots and switches, it will sound like I’ve been playing for ten minutes. If, I can’t keep my amp running and the power shut out, I have neglected my tools. There’s no polite way to say I screwed up but thats the long and short of it.

Another implication is perhaps you are a doctor or surgeon perhaps and you fail to get rest before a huge operation, your hands, no matter how well trained, will not function as well as if you had had sleep the night before. Good sleep.

How about a pilot who forgets that his most major tool is those who have gotten the plane ready for him to fly. The CEO who forgets who is working for him/her and takes advantage. The ballerina who didn’t clean gum off her ballet slippers. The artist who left his paint brushes dirty last time.

You see, there is a discipline required of your disciplines. I hate changing strings, sharpening knives, driving to work but I have learned to enjoy the rewards of this simple maintenance. I change the oil on my car because I need to depend on it. That is one of 8 million things we do to ensure our success. The last thing we generally need is for things to go wrong in our big moment. What if, because we didn’t want to work through the crappy thing to get to the great thing, we ignore it and it ruins our performance, song, artwork, writing…etc. I know how poorly that reflects on a person. I also know that I’m trying to overcome that alot in my life.

I used to throw my dishes away rather than clean them, buy new clothes instead of wash them, eat out rather than cook in and so on. I haven’t been disciplined in my disciplines and it has bitten me on the tookus.

What can you possibly learn from me talking about myself all the time. I know half the time I may come off as universalizing or whatever (insert name or behavior here) but this is all I know. I don’t know you or how you relate to what you do or why or how to do what you do even, but I know that some of this stuff is in fact universal.

I know that if I have taken the time to focus on what really matters, I succeed. I wonder if it will allow you to succeed at your work, life, task also? Please let me know your thoughts on this. Until Monday, enjoy a sharp knife!

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