Sharpening Dull Edges

By Bryan Mann-Entzel
Creative Lead and Strategist at >Greater Thought Design+Marketing

Over a glass of wine with friends last night, the topic came up of how we were all feeling fully engaged, challenged, and busy in our respective roles lately. Some of that may be that we are emerging from the disarray of Covid. Some of it may simply be the natural cycle of things. Amanda tossed out the phrase “sharpening dull edges” and it really resonated with me. The idea that we are refreshing our skills, using muscles that maybe haven’t been used in a while, or putting a new edge on our tools is a great analogy.

For me, having worked most of my professional life in the creative field, the notion that we are called to sharpen dull edges is part of what keeps us relevant. Every day is different. The marketplace’s needs from us evolve. And we are always solving new problems for new or existing clients. I have said many times that we have to be lifelong learners in this trade otherwise you set your own expiration date if you believe you’ve learned all there is to learn or have all the tools you will ever need. A knife can start out sharp, but if you continue to use it, over time, it will get dull. Even rolling around in a drawer, that tool will become dull. Our skills are the same way. If we don’t challenge ourselves from time to time, we become dull. Our focus isn’t there if the work is too easy. We need to be challenged. We need those around us to encourage us to think differently. And we need new problems to solve that force us to sprint–to get our heart rate up and to force us to work harder, longer, or differently for bursts of time. While that isn’t sustainable, it is useful. Again, you are putting a new edge on a dull tool. But if you continued to sharpen it endlessly, it would be worn away to a nub.

Finding inspiration can be difficult, but I find collaboration to work the best for me. From there I go looking for new ideas in stores, on Pinterest, and in the media. And if I am feeling flat or dull, I step away from the work to reset. We need the influence of others and the ebb and flow of the work to keep us sharp. Just make sure you aren’t keeping your tool on the bench grinder constantly–wearing it down to nothing (burnout).

Change is inevitable. Challenge is good. Sharpen those dull edges! I think this is enough analogies for now, haha.