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  • Writer's pictureDustin Sutton

Chop Wood, Carry Water

“The novice says to the master, ‘What does one do before enlightenment?’ ‘Chop wood. Carry water,’ replies the master. The novice asks, ‘What, then, does one do after enlightenment?’ ‘Chop wood. Carry water.'” - Zen kōan

We all want to succeed.

We all want to be at our best.

We all want to accomplish great things, but these goals can often seem out of reach. It is easy to become overwhelmed by the obstacles that stand between us and our success.

With our daily tasks, workloads, family responsibilities, and the weight of current events bearing down on us, it's no wonder we find ourselves easily distracted.

Just yesterday I was faced with the following topics in my news feed:

  • Dire UN climate change

  • Flooding and extreme weather

  • War in Ukraine

  • Banking crises

  • More tech firm layoffs

  • Mass shootings

It is both terrifying and exhausting simply reading the headlines.

We must learn how to focus on what we can control rather than getting caught up in worrying about things outside of our control.

I have found that the mindset of “controlling the controllables” is well summed up in the adage “Chop Wood, Carry Water.”

This saying emphasizes the importance of getting back to basics and focusing on the tasks at hand. It is a reminder that there are no shortcuts to success and it takes hard work, dedication, and persistence to achieve your goals. Success will not come simply by dreaming big. We must take it one step at a time and focus on tackling our daily tasks.


This concept holds true in all aspects of our lives, both personal and professional. By chipping away little by little, we can eventually reach our goals.


This mindset can also help us to stay grounded and focused on the fundamentals.

At its core, “Chop Wood, Carry Water” is about having patience and finding satisfaction in the process of achieving our goals.

Learn to take enjoyment in the journey and remain mindful of the effort that is required for greatness. The right mindset can empower you to remain inspired and centered on what you have the ability to manage, instead of being overwhelmed by external forces.


Strive for excellence in the small things and persevere towards success, despite any and all external factors.

As you dream big, don't forget to “Chop Wood and Carry Water”


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