CWJJ Episode 22: Darrell Cherry
September 3, 2020
CWJJ Episode 24: Nick Temple
September 18, 2020

CWJJ Episode 23: 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Habit 7: Sharpen the Saw

Thursday, Sep 10- This week’s episode is something different. Jim & James dig into what it means to “sharpen the saw” which is derived from the book “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People”

Episode Transcript:

Jim Schauer:  Good morning,: [0:11] LinkedIn community. Welcome to another fun addition of “Coffee with Jim & James.” You know me. You know how I always start our episodes.

[0:20] James is always telling me, “Man, you gotta sharpen the saw.” I’m like, “I have the saw. It’s still pretty sharp. We’re OK.” Then he’s like, “No, no, no, seven habits.” I’m like, “Seven habits? New Orleans 2013, we won’t talk about it.” He’s like, “No, Jimmy, no.”

[0:38] Let me get real for a second. When I mention sharpening the saw and mention James, James is a mentor. He’s a mentor to a lot of people. He’s a mentor to me.

[0:49] That’s not a position. That’s not a title that somebody picks out of the book. It’s because of the way he lives his life. He’s always talking to me, saying, “Hey, man, you gotta sharpen the saw. You gotta slow down. You gotta recharge the batteries,” all those things.

[1:06] When James and I were talking about this episode of “Sharpening the Saw,” I’m like, “This is going to be great for so many people in the LinkedIn area that are struggling right now with a lot of things in life.” Maybe not struggling but challenged or whatever.

[1:22] With that, let me bring in James, as I’ll go whacky again, my partner in crime, my brother from another mother. James, how are you this fine and beautiful morning?

James Cross:  I’m good,: [1:31] Jim. I’m excited about talking a little bit today about sharpening the saw. That’s something I bring up a lot with our team and other teams and anybody that I see struggling a bit with focus and being effective.

[1:54] I’m excited to dive into this one, even though, I’ll be honest, I feel like such a hypocrite today.

Jim:  Me: [2:01] too.

James:  I’m: [2:04] at a point right now that I know is not sustainable. I’m right in the middle of it. I know what needs to happen. I promise you, by the time everybody sees this episode, that I’ve planned accordingly. I am sharpening the saw as you watch this, whether it’s Thursday or Friday.

[2:28] I’ve scheduled it, which I’ll talk about in a little bit. Today, as we tape this, I’m the hypocrite of all hypocrites, Jimmy. It feels a little bit of both.

[2:40] You bring up a good point. I do want to start a little bit to steal one of the habits, to begin with the end in mind today. You’ve probably heard us say that before. Let’s utilize that habit right now.

[2:56] To begin with the end in mind, today we’re talking about sharpening the saw. For those that are not aware, this comes from “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People,” which is a classic in business.

[3:14] Many foundational elements in it coming from Stephen Covey. Today, the hyper‑focus is around sharpening the saw, which is seventh of the seven habits.

[3:26] I speak on this as if I’m the best at it. Sometimes it’s definitely one of those do as I say, not as I do things.


James:  Seven: [3:40] habits is something as a company that EWN has embraced with everyone.

[3:46] Unfortunately here, lately, we’ve been growing at a pace that we haven’t been able to maybe provide our seven habits workshops like we used to. Even here recently, I said, “Man, we gotta have another batch of them.”

[4:00] That’s how I was introduced to it. When I joined EWN, they had just went through embracing this from a leadership standpoint. It was a year and a half into working there that I got the chance to teach two of the habits.

[4:20] Then we’ve actually went through another cycle since, where I was able to teach two of the habits as well again. That’s kind of a rhythm that we do within our walls. Sharpen the saw is that seventh habit.

[4:33] Honestly, Covey says it in the book himself that it’s the hardest one of all of the habits to create a habit. Which is silly when you think about what sharpening the saw, it is all that we love. It is all is well with the body, with the mind, heart, and with the soul. That’s really what it boils down to.

[4:57] Taking that time, whether it be exercise or sleeping or eating well or relaxing to reading, to educating yourself, and writing if you’re a writer and learning all the skills that you can.

[5:14] Or spending time with your friends and your people in your inner circle and your family and laughing and loving on each other.

[5:25] Then lastly, with the soul, whether that is prayer for you, whatever that looks like. Taking in quality stuff that you know is going to hit you in your soul, meditating, journaling, whatever that looks like to you.

[5:43] Those four things really embody that seventh habit. Studies show, I don’t have the stats, I’m not going to drop them on anybody today, that seventh habit is hard for a lot of people.

[5:57] America as a whole, I’ll speak on America, America as a whole has embraced this idea that we have to work ourself to death and then set this new mark and do it again and do it again.

[6:11] It’s a vicious cycle. No matter what your role is, no matter what segment of the industry, or any industry, it is a cycle that we have got to break to be effective.


James:  I: [6:24] hope that sets the stage on, again, another habit, beginning with the end in mind. I hope that sets the stage of what today’s about.

Jim:  : [6:37] As always, when you speak those words, they resonate in me. I think the challenge, though, for me, we’re coming off a holiday weekend, and you and I talked on Friday.

[6:48] Heck, we began this series half a year ago as therapy, for you and I to have a release, have a place to talk, to have fun, to cut some things up, to bring friends on to share with the industry.

[7:04] We live our lives by calendars, always checking calendars. I had my mind set on this holiday weekend last weekend, that I was going to sharpen the saw.

[7:14] Life happens, good family matters happen, nothing bad, but things happen. The sharpening the saw portion, James, gets pushed down and down and down. I’m living in things that are needed, but it’s definitely not sharpening the saw.

[7:34] This goes into my second point. We’re in the middle of a lot of things going on in the world right now, working remotely, still areas that are somewhat quarantined or having special attentions and such like that. A lot of us are working from home.

[7:51] We have blurred Lines. When does the workday start? When does it stop? Does it ever start or stop? Or does it just keep going and going and weekends? I struggle, brother. I struggle with that.

[8:04] Do you have insight that you could share with me? I can tell you, I’ve seen so many of our friends on LinkedIn that are crying out for the same thing. They’re using terms as burnout and all those words and such like that.

[8:16] Any thoughts? Where do you want to take us to help us to be better?

James:  It’s: [8:24] a tough one. I don’t think going into this that any of us had this magic plan for our lives and for our work, as we’ve kind of lived through it. You’re dead‑on with the fact that we’re blurring this line more than ever before.

[8:44] Probably if you went back to when Mr. Covey wrote this book, at least the first edition of it, these were not things that we had to consider, right?

Jim:  [8:54] True.

James:  [8:57] I don’t know that we have the perfect answer today. I will say that sharpening the saw looks so different in so many people.

[9:07] I would argue, Jim, that starting the series and the initial thoughts behind it and the friends that we wanted to dialogue with and have on, and ourself, that therapy portion that you talked about.

[9:20] If we think about the list that I mentioned in the beginning, even at the four, does this check any of the boxes for you, mind, heart, or soul or body? Probably not body, other than maybe a little bit of relaxation and venting and stuff like that.

[9:40] The other three areas, without a doubt. We’re checking boxes. That’s good for our soul. It’s good for our friendship. It’s good for our mind to talk through these things and take that moment to reflect.

[9:55] Sometimes we think sharpening the saw is our visual ghost and literally sharpening that saw. That it’s a concerted effort, that, “Oh, I’ve dulled because I’ve been focusing too much on work and I really need to take a weekend off.”

[10:11] Listen, we can’t correct the amount of work that we put in over the amount that we should have been putting in. We can’t correct that with one weekend.

[10:22] We can’t correct it by reading one book or having friends over for dinner on a Saturday night like we used to. It has to be a concerted effort.

[10:35] The biggest thing you said, are there any tips that you might be able to give someone? I told our teams in the beginning, we’re going to be an HR nightmare when the pandemic is over, come…

[0:00] [

Jim:  [10:48] laughs]

[0:00] …

James:  [10:49] whenever that day is, November or maybe it’s next year. I don’t know. If we don’t take time off, the whole company’s going to be off Q4.

[11:00] We’re going to have all this make time off. I joke about that it’s an HR problem, but that’s a people problem. That’s a sharpening the saw problem.

[11:12] I guess it comes back to the tip. My tip is that one of the seven habits is to put first things first. If you are not putting sharpening the saw first and you’re not scheduling your time, as silly as that might sound.

[11:31] I’m going to schedule time to focus on sharpening the saw sounds insane. If you’re not, you’re right, you’re going to keep kicking that can down the road.

Jim:  L: [11:45] et me jump in real quick. I want to pose a quick question. When you say consistent, having it in your mind schedule or on your calendar, doing that, are you talking this weekend? Starting Friday night at 6:30, I’m going to start? Or is this something daily?

James:  Again,: [12:07] if we go back to think about it. Think about the big four things that we’re trying to conquer, body, mind, heart, soul. If we don’t make a dedicated time, listen, there’s some people that pray for an hour every morning.

[12:23] It’s not me. I don’t need an hour. Maybe I go on a walk at seven o’clock every morning and I pray while I walk.

[0:00] .

James:  : [12:37] Again, I’m checking four different boxes at the same time. Yes, you can schedule it, but it does have to be a daily thing.

[12:45] I can’t tell you what checks those boxes for you, Jim, and I can’t for the next person. I can tell you that if you don’t make time for those things, if you don’t put first things first, someone else is going to decide what your thing is.

[13:00] That’s what got me was I can complain about the person that schedules the four o’clock meeting on Friday. I promise you, they’re checking their boxes, the first things first.

[13:15] If my important thing is at four o’clock on Friday, I’m going to take an hour and disconnect and go into my weekend in the right mind frame.

[13:23] I’m going to check all my work boxes so that at 5:00 I can step away and not have any concerns, then I’m going to schedule that. If not, someone else is going to define what my first things are.

Jim:  Is: [13:36] that a declaration? I use that word as whatever, but declaring to the team, to your co‑workers, to the industry, or whatever, “Hey, look forward to talking to you Monday morning at 7:00 AM. Until then, I’m checked out.”

[13:50] In my world, the strategic alliances, the fun part as well as the challenges that so many of the people I talk to not just during the day but they happen at night and on the weekends, when we have a little downtime.

[14:03] “Hey, Craig, how you doing?” “Good, good.” “Got a second to chat?” “Yeah.” Next thing you know it’s 45 minutes later and dinner’s going cold. You get caught up into it. It’s fun.

James:  That: [14:15] feels a lot different than when you’re working on a business plan or you’re on a virtual conference or a conference.

[14:24] Our life, picking up a phone and texting somebody and just doing a [?] temp check. Really, you’re doing that more as a friend. You’re not trying to sell something on Saturday evening. You’re checking in because you care, you know something that’s going on.

[14:42] I would argue that sharpening the saw more than [?] that is work. It is blurred, don’t get me wrong. Jim, I check in with you all the time on the weekend, but it has very little to do with work.


James:  [14:55] We may have a thought, and we may go off on a tangent. That’s good for our heart and good for our souls to keep us grounded and centered.

[15:02] All I’m saying is, and we can do another segment on first things first because I’m very passionate about that one. If you don’t schedule this time, then you’re not trying to make a habit.

[15:19] These are called The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, not the seven I’ll check in the box when I’m done, not seven actions. It is habits.

[15:33] Zoom, you and I talked about it the other day. When I first started working with you closely, you walked probably six, seven miles a day. I don’t even know, I’m just saying.

[15:47] You were a pacer you liked to walk in the mornings. I have no doubt about it, because you’re you’re a Godly person as well, that you probably prayed for people during that time, prayed for yourself.


James:  Y: [16:00] ou got your mind right. You probably built fantastic things from a business standpoint during those times. You were not in front of a computer.

Jim:  : [16:14] Agreed.

[0:00] ‘

James:  That: [16:15] s a habit that you had formed. That did so much for sharpening the saw. Are you in that habit right now?

Jim:  No,: [16:25] I fell out of it.

James:  [16:27] I know that. That’s habits. Now you have whole new habits, just like I do, sitting in this chair and eating some snacks.

[[16:36] laughter]

James:  [16:36] We create habits whether we’re conscious of it or not. You had some good habits at one point, but it is really hard, Jimmy.

[16:49] To bring it back around, it’s really hard when sharpening the saw in pandemic world. It may mean that I’m walking from the office into the living room and sitting in a new chair, eating a new snack. That is what it feels like for a lot of people.

[17:09] Sharpening the saw for me in the past might have been going out with friends on Friday night, having a dinner. Maybe it was going to the rock climbing gym or whatever it looks like to that person. In this reality is how do I achieve that same thing?

Jim:  [17:28] I have to tell you. I got to jump in again. I struggle so many times during this time because it seems like there’s been a paradigm shift in what our old normal is versus our new normal, even taking a day off.

[17:44] I took a day off, I can’t remember when. It was sometime over the summer months. I had a day off, and we didn’t go anywhere, though. That was one of the issues is that we stayed at the house.

[17:56] It was good, but literally every 15 minutes, 30 minutes, hour, I’d go by the computer and just check in. See a couple Slack messages going by, I’ll pop in and say something. I’m like, “Stop. They all know I’m on PTO.”

James:  Jim,: [18:16] I would say, too, that I do the same thing. I get a lot of email, just like you. If I’m out two days consecutively and I don’t check my email, when I come back I’m going to have 400 emails.

[18:36] Covey would probably run in the road if he heard me translate this habit. I tell my wife this all the time, and she probably could do her own episode on how bad I am at sharpening the saw.

[18:52] I would argue that those activities, if I take a day off, I check my emails in my downtime of that day off, just like I have downtime in a regular day off. I check in with it so that my first day back is not the worst day of my life.


James:  Then: [19:13] I don’t spend two hours in the morning checking email to get caught up on all the things that I didn’t do. I can go through as they come in and check and run through and kick it over to somebody.

[19:26] That’s good for my mind and my soul, that I’m not going to walk into a firestorm come Monday. Again, I don’t think Covey wrote it that way, but they’re habits.

Jim:  Because: [19:42] we live in this world now, we’re always connected. I remember when I worked for CenterPoint, in Minneapolis, years back and we got this thing called the Blackberry.

[19:51] I’m sitting there saying, “This is pretty cool.” They’re like, “Yeah, you can get your emails.” I’m like, “Do they shut off at six o’clock at night?” They’re like, “Well, no, they go all the time.”

[20:02] I’m sitting there thinking, when I go to the parking garage, get in the car at six o’clock at night and drive home, pre‑ Blackberries, you left everything.

[20:13] Now I can’t go to bed at night without checking that just to make sure that everything’s good, there’s no fires to be put out or anything like that. First thing in the morning…

James:  Also,: [20:26] when I’m doing those things, so I take the day off today, I’m probably going to spend my morning on my patio, drinking coffee, watching the chickens and the ducks peck around, watch the sun come up.

[20:43] It’s everything I want my normal day to ramp up to be like. The kids are out there. They’re hanging out. My wife’s out there. It’s a nice ramp‑up to the day.

[20:55] Today, my ramp‑up is I wait for the coffee and then I sit down at my computer. While I’m sitting on that patio, I don’t mind checking a few emails or responding to some Slack messages or whatever it looks like. It’s at my pace. It’s about ensuring that when I come back, I’m not inundated with work.

Jim:  : [21:23] The word I’m hearing in my head right now, and I don’t want this to be a cliche, but it’s balance. I’m looking at you on that patio and you have a balance. You have a balance of recharging and a balance of also taking care of things so you can recharge.

[21:41] I’m with you the same way. You go on a vacation, you want to check emails two days before you get back. If you have a week off, try to decompress. Come two days before you hit the office, you’re on the emails, just so you don’t…

James:  [21:52] Even worse, Jimmy, is have you ever got an email, let’s say it’s hour two into your long weekend that you’ve done, and an email comes across. There is a fire that needs to be put out.

[22:06] You don’t because you’re like, “You know what? There’s other people on there. I’m not going to be concerned about it. I’m off.” The whole not‑my‑job thing. Then how does that work out for you?

Jim:  Not: [22:17] good.

James:  [22:18] Because then you’re consumed by it. If you would have taken 30 or 40 minutes, if that, or three minutes, and written an email and got it over to the right person and said, “OK, now feel I better. Now I can go about my weekend.”

[22:35] Instead, you’re consumed by it. You hope someone took care of it. “Oh, but I don’t want to look at that email.” It’s a habit. It’s a diligent habit.

[22:46] You said balance. I struggle with work‑life balance. I’ve mentioned it before, but somebody said work‑life rhythm makes more sense.

Jim:  That’s: [22:58] a good point.

James:  [22:59] Sometimes there’s big projects at work, there’s big projects at home. Depending on competing resources, obviously they require more or less attention. I think the goal is more balance, but you probably find yourself a little bit more in a rhythm.

Jim:  [23:20] I like that term, rhythm. That’s a good one.

James:  I’m: [23:23] in a work rhythm right now. I need to make more time for sharpening the saw. I know once I get a little taste of sharpening the saw, I’ll reflect that in my rhythm.

Jim:  We: [23:36] talked about that, too. When you sharpen the saw and you get your mind free and clear, it’s a lot easier to focus on tasks or to‑dos and all those things because your mind can actually go free and work on it.

James:  [23:50] I have the best ideas after sharpening the saw. Well, during it. I come back, and I’m sure everybody hates it, I come back and have 40 new projects for us to do.

[24:01] I can’t do that in the normal state. I can’t ideate. I can’t do, another Covey term, those quadrant two activities of where you should be living, the ones that are most impactful.

[24:14] Instead, we live in quadrant one, which is really the firefight. We’re very reactive and not proactive. Sharpening the saw helps you get back to true north, which is focusing on the important thing.

[0:00] ,


James:  [24:29] we could probably talk, I’m not saying hours, for days on this. I’m thoroughly engrossed in this and loving every second.

James:  I feel like I’m being interviewed: [24:39] this time.

Jim:  [24:40] You kind of are. I will say you’re my best interviewee all day long. How does that sound?

James:  [24:48] Endless nonsense.

Jim:  [laughs]: [24:54] We should wind down. Any final thoughts for our listeners? Any one, two sentences of advice? Anything you want to…

James:  [25:04] I’m just going to go off on a tangent.

Jim:  [25:06] Do it.

James:  It’s: [25:07] one of my favorite things to do.

Jim:  You: [25:09] do it well.

James:  I: [25:10] think we should call this show tangent. It’d be a tangent about whatever the topic is. We’ll workshop that. I guess for those that are not engrossed and have not really dove into seven habits, I would say start there, number one.

[25:29] That’s not really a tip or some epic statement. If this has interested you, I promise you the other seven habits will, too. If you lead teams, this is a core foundational book. Teams and every person on the team should be able to function with seven habits.

[25:51] You can lead from anywhere. It doesn’t matter what your role is. It’s an action. I would urge everyone to start there.

[26:01] Remember that it’s a reference book. A lot of people think they’re going to read this book and then be enlightened and for the rest of their life be able to live this new life.

[26:14] For a good example, I say it’s like the bible for business. Anytime I’m having a problem, a lot of the times if I go back to the seven habits, one of them is totally off kilter.

[26:28] The sooner you realize it’s a reference book and later down the road, a year from now, you will go, James, I get what sharpen the saw means.

[26:36] I can’t tell you how many people that I’ve taught a habit to that years later have texted me on a Saturday and said, “James, I get…

Jim:  [26:48] The light bulb went on?

James:  First: [26:49] things first, just like what you said, today and at home. I promise you that if you go back and you pick that up and reread that portion, when it hits you, it’s just like scripture.

[26:59] I would definitely say start there for those that are not fully aware of seven habits. For those that are and that are really focused on sharpening the saw today, like what we’re talking about, how do you take action with this?

[27:19] I would go back to first things first, and that is schedule it. Make a habit. If you’re going to schedule all the things you don’t want to do, please believe you should be scheduling the things that you do.

[27:33] I can’t answer what that looks like to each person. I don’t think any of us can. It may be barbecuing for me or sitting on a boat or riding a lawn mower.

Jim:  Or going: [27:46] to the beach.

James:  Going: [27:48] to the beach for some, reading a book, whatever it looks like to you. Schedule it, make time. If it’s twice a week that you put something on your schedule, it’s better than what you’re doing now.

[28:03] If we don’t make this diligent and consistent, it will never become a habit. We know all the stats on habits and how long it takes to do habits. This is no different.

[28:14] The last thing, and this is something that I started this year, and I like having and I’m trying to get us in this [?] key as a company, to do these fourth‑quarter seven habits.

[28:30] Anybody that wants back in, enjoy it. Because then, as you roll into the next year, you can hold yourself accountable a lot easier.

[28:39] That’s the point. Once you go through it again, it’s hard to apply seven habits, all seven habits and stuff. It’s not sustainable. You’re never going to do it. You don’t have enough time, obviously.

[28:53] Take a couple of the habits, the ones that you think make the biggest impact with you. Tell your teams, tell the people you work closely with that that is an absolute focus that you’re doing.

[29:05] For me this year, first things first. I’m tired of other people deciding what are the first things in my life. I say life. Business, life, whatever you want to call it, all of it. I’m tired of that.

[29:24] I stated it right upfront. My commitment this year is that I’m putting first things first because I want my first things to be first. Whatever room is left, if you need your first things on my calendar, then you better get to work because I’m going to look to fill it first with mine.

Jim:  I: [29:43] love that.

James:  Stated: [29:45] it to everybody at the beginning of the year and said hold me accountable. Schedule it. I’ll hold you accountable.

[29:54] That’s how you can get to a habit, I think, is make it known. Scream it from the rooftops that you are committed to and dedicated to this. Then schedule it.

Jim:  I: [30:07] love it.

James:  If you: [30:08] do that, you’re actually knocking out two habits, first things first and sharpening the saw. I think they go hand in hand.

Jim:  Brother,: [30:17] I love you. I love your passion. I said at the beginning of it, you are a mentor to so many. You’re a mentor to me, and you’re mentor to probably so many people that don’t even realize that you’re a mentor.

[30:29] They look to you for your leadership, your thoughts, your passion for life, your passion for work life or personal life or rhythm, all those things. I can’t thank you enough.

[30:40] I hope that if one person got a change in their life today by watching this, we have done our job. All I would ask is that one person that got something out of it, if they would share it with somebody else.

[30:54] Keep the echoes, keep the ripples, keep all that going. That’s how we make a difference. James…

James:  [30:59] It’s all about the echoes, Jimmy. You’re not a leader until you make a leader that makes a leader. You can’t be that without that first echo. I agree, man. Thank you so much. My heart feels the same. This is sharpening the saw for me.

Jim:  [laughs] It is for me. I’m in a great mood. Sometimes the mornings get off a little and your like is decompression.” I will offer out to the LinkedIn community, James, as you can tell, is an open book. He tells it like it is.

[31:36] If anybody wants to private message him with a question, anything about the seven habits, sharpening the saw. I know I’m speaking for you, James, but I know that you would welcome those.

[31:46] Connect with us, keep following us, connect with us. If you have questions, let us know how we can help. Absolutely, Coffee with Jim & James.

[31:56] Until next week, everybody, stay safe. God bless you. God bless our industry. We will see you next time on Coffee with Jim & James. Take care.

James:  Be sure to: [32:05] sharpen the saw this weekend.

Jim:  Sharpen: [32:07] the saw.

James:  [32:09] Thank you, Jimmy. Thank you, everybody.

EWN Newsletter

Ask an Expert

    Terms & Conditions


    Ask an Expert


      Ask an Expert

        Interested in a Career at EWN

          Interested in a Career at EWN

            Upload Resume:

            Interested in a Speaker


            Send a Message or Give Us a Call: 855.396.5267