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How to create a success cycle in your life or business

“Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the saw” – Abraham Lincoln

A big part of my success over the years is to work in “success cycles”. It is ideally a 90-day period to complete a goal or execute a major part of a project.

Stephen Covey in his powerful book, “Seven Habits of Highly Effective People” tells the story of a man who was walking through a forest when he came across a frustrated lumberjack. The lumberjack was trying to cut down a tree with a saw and was swearing and cursing as he labored in vain.

“What’s the problem?”  The man asked.

“My saw is blunt and won’t cut the tree properly.”  The lumberjack responded.

“Why don’t you just sharpen it?”

“Because then I would have to stop sawing,” said the lumberjack.

“But if you sharpened your saw, you could cut more efficiently and effectively than before.”

“But I don’t have time to stop!” the lumberjack retorted, getting more frustrated. The man shook his head and kept on walking, leaving the lumberjack to his pointless frustration.

This story is relevant to so many of us, isn’t it?

We get frustrated by life and our inability to succeed with our goals, but instead of developing ourselves and taking the time to become more effective, we keep struggling with a blunt saw.

Make a decision now to stop, sharpen your saw and become successful with “success cycles” with these four steps:

Step 1: Get clear on exactly what you want to accomplish over this 90-day period. Document your end of year vision. Set aside one hour to really sit, think and answer the following question, “In the next three months, what is my big, inspiring goal, where am I now, and what is the path I will take to get there?”

Many people allow their vision to die mainly because they are not clear on how to achieve it. Do this activity, if possible with someone who can assist you in getting the clarity and motivation you need.

Step 2: List the skills you want or need to develop or sharpen. With your written vision in hand, write a list of every single skill or topic you’ve always wanted or needed to learn, improve or master. Is it time management skills, leadership, public speaking, successful selling, marketing, better communication, business writing, conflict resolution or computer knowledge? Try to come up with six to nine skills if possible. If that is too much, choose at least three.

Step 3: Dedicate 90 days to focused skill development and execution. With your newly acquired skill development list, decide that this next 90 days will be used to “sharpen your saw” and succeed in this one area. Dedicate a minimum of 15 minutes a day focused on learning that one skill. Give yourself the gift of becoming a more sharper, skill-full and successful version of yourself.

Step 4: Establish a regular accountability system to ensure follow through. Weekly, bi-weekly or monthly check-ins with a results-focused mentor, coach or facilitator will keep you motivated and on target throughout this process. Having a set time and place to write out action steps from what you are learning daily is also very important. These notes will form the action plan you will need during the “tree cutting”/execution phase the remainder of the year.

Step 4: Celebrate your progress in a meaningful way. At the end of the 90 days, expect to have a significant shift and growth in your mindset, skillset and goal list. This is a huge accomplishment that deserves to be celebrated. Decide in advance how you will reward yourself or your team for taking the time out to work on you.

If you would like to make your year successful and results-driven one with a strong coach and mentor behind you, you would benefit greatly from my 90 Days to Results program.

“90 Day Results” was created to support individuals who are committed to a highly focused cycle of personal growth, professional development and results. Designed specifically to create a community of high performance and productivity within the first 90 days that would carry throughout the year, the “90 Day Results” experience will produce massive results in the short term – while also preparing for results all year.

The next 90-day results cycle begins in March and is very limited to ensure every participant gets the results they desire. To get full details on the program, and/or reserve your spot, email me at

I look forward to your success this year and wish you the best in your “saw-sharpening” 90 days!

• Listed in The Nassau Guardian’s Top 40 under 40, Keshelle Davis helps companies and individuals improve their productivity and performance. She is the CEO of The Training Authority, an entrepreneur and internationally recognized speaker and author. Formerly she served as executive director of the Chamber Institute – the education arm of the Bahamas Chamber of Commerce and Employers’ Confederation (BCCEC) and has impacted thousands through her mission is to educate, empower and inspire. Contact Keshelle at

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