On Sharpening Your SawBy Will Rogers
In his classic book “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People”, Stephen R. Covey writes about the concept of self-renewal. To explain this idea, he guides you through a hypothetical conversation with someone you encounter in a forest who’s feverishly sawing down a tree.
“What are you doing?” Covey prompts you to ask. “I’m sawing down this tree,” the person impatiently replies. You learn he has been sawing for five hours and is clearly exhausted. But aha! Why not take a few minutes to sharpen the saw since that would surely make things go faster? The man replies, “I don’t have time to sharpen the saw. I’m too busy sawing!”
Covey has masterfully illustrated the importance of self-renewal. It’s this sense of self-renewal that makes possible all the other skills that are important to our lives and jobs.
Blue Ocean Opportunities
I’m an avid believer in lifelong learning. For me, this is how I sharpen my saw. As our profession now seems to be routinely maligned and second-guessed, it’s important for us to find our own personal sense of renewal. Renewal through lifelong learning can even serve as a launch point to capitalize on what I call “blue ocean” opportunities—wide-open, untapped areas of opportunity within a job.
My blue ocean opportunity was learning and applying—wait for it!—statistics. Yes, I said it. I can hear the gasps, sighs and jeers of my fellow NUCPS alumni from the School of Police Staff and Command as you recall the horrors of stats. Call me crazy, but I loved it. By the way, if you attended a program without statistics in the curriculum, the subject is not that bad—it really isn’t.
I admit that probably none of us goes into public safety to do math—I know I didn’t. But I quickly recognized this as an area where we can collectively hone the quality of our decisions as professional managers, fostering an evidence-based management approach. For me, this was a real, meaningful and direct way of adding value to the profession through a relatively unused resource.
Leveraging Your Future
We all share at least one common thread as fellow alumni—we were exposed to a variety of ideas, concepts and best practices in our programs of study. What better way to unite us as a profession than in a spirit of continued growth and innovation? This is where we will remain resilient and strong for years to come.
I hope this inaugural edition of the electronic NUCPS newsletter will play a part in your pursuit of renewal. Strengthen your ties to other alumni, and use ideas from these authors to build strategies and best practices. Leverage those ideas as you see fit to sail toward your blue ocean opportunities of the future.
Will Rogers is a 20-year law enforcement veteran with over 18 years with the Illinois State Police. He is an adjunct instructor at the Center for Public Safety and teaches the Applied Statistics and Project Management courses for the School of Police Staff and Command program.