Grinding axes

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Grinding axes
After reading yesterday's post, I am reminded of my fascination with third-party endorsements. We trust the words of disinterested parties more than the folks who actually have a deeper knowledge of a given subject. We are suspicious of a designer's enthusiasm because we fear he has an axe to grind. This notion of distrust has its roots buried deep in our culture. The first mention I could find was from the early 1800s when author Charles Miner recounted an incident from his youth, where a passing stranger takes advantage of him and, by flattering him, dupes him into turning a grindstone to sharpen the stranger's axe. Miner then uses having an axe to grind as a metaphor for having an ulterior motive:
"When I see a man holding a fat office, sounding 'the horn on the borders' to call the people to support the man on whom he depends for his office. Well, thinks I, no wonder the man is zealous in the cause, he evidently has an axe to grind."
Stories of people taking advantage of other people abound, but I think we do ourselves an injustice by always taking the cynical view. Not all people with direct knowledge are looking to wrangle freebies out of us. In fact, most aren't. I'll share with you what I do to ferret out the truth. If a knowledgeable source is recommending their own solution I drill down to see how deep their knowledge base is. That tells me from where they are coming from: deep knowledge and experience or light fluff. In today's world of person-to-person connection, I think it's important to readjust our barometers. It's easier than ever to dig deep into people's knowledge and motivations.
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Paul McGowan

Founder & CEO

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