Chop Wood, Carry Water: A No-Nonsense Summary to Help You Chop Your Goals

Chop Wood Carry Water” by Joshua Metcalfe offers wisdom for those seeking to become great. It emphasizes the importance of falling in love with the process of becoming great rather than focusing solely on the result. The book outlines nine principles that can help individuals achieve their goals and become better every day.

The book’s principles include recognizing that in everything one does, whether for a company, family, or any other third party, one ultimately works for oneself and on oneself, and success contains hard work, among others.

Let’s get into the details of it.

Key Takeaways

  • Become in the process and focus on the journey rather than the outcome.
  • Success requires hard work and persistence.
  • Our value is constant, and the pain of regret is much bigger than doing can ever be.

9 Principles from Chop Wood, Carry Water

Here are the nine (9) principles that make the book, “Distilled Wisdom for an Inspired Life: Chop Wood Carry Water” by Joshua Metcalfe:

#1 – Becoming the Process

becoming the process

The book “Distilled Wisdom for an Inspired Life: Chop Wood Carry Water” by Joshua Metcalfe discusses the importance of becoming the process. This principle emphasizes the idea that in all that one does, whether it be for a company, family, or any other third party, ultimately, one is working for oneself and on oneself. Therefore, it is crucial to love the work one does, as it means loving what one does all day.

Likewise, the outcome of your efforts depends on many factors, some within your control and others outside of it. For example, when applying for a job, one may have the necessary qualifications but still not get the job due to the competition and the capabilities of other candidates. In such situations, surrendering the outcome and focusing on the process is essential.

#2 – Success Contains Hard Work

Success is often defined differently from person to person, but one thing remains constant: it requires hard work. According to Joshua Metcalfe, success is not achieved by settling for average or protecting one’s ego. Instead, it is attained by performing the small, unsexy tasks persistently and consistently, even when no one is watching.

The process of becoming often involves working in the dark without any recognition. However, those who persevere and focus on the process rather than the outcome are the ones who achieve success. And for all that one does, whether for a company, family, or any other third party, ultimately, one is working for oneself.

Furthermore, success depends on many factors, some of which are within one’s control, while others are not. Therefore, it’s crucial to surrender the outcome and be at peace with what is outside of one’s control without sacrificing the effort for what is within one’s control.

#3 – Our Value is Constant

our value is constant

“Distilled Wisdom for an Inspired Life: Chop Wood Carry Water” teaches that our value is constant. This means that our worth as individuals does not change based on external factors such as success or failure. It is essential to find our identity in something that cannot be stripped away in a moment and to not tie ourselves too closely to our performance.

The principle of constant value is fundamental when faced with setbacks or failures. It can be easy to feel down and depressed when we are on the losing side, but our value does not change based on the results we produce. Finding our identity in something constant and unchanging allows us to maintain our self-worth.

#4 – The Pain of Regret

According to the book, people who produce mediocre results tend to quit when things get uncomfortable. At the same time, those who achieve world-class success can withstand temporary pain and discomfort. Joshua Metcalfe suggests that people should make themselves uncomfortable for a certain period because the pain of regret always lasts much longer. By this, you can become capable of doing what others can’t.

The principle of surrendering the outcome is also discussed, which means being at peace with what is outside of one’s control without sacrificing effort for what is within one’s control. The book emphasizes that focusing on the process and focusing on one thing at a time is critical to achieving success.

#5 – Creating Memories Through Stories

creating memories through stories

One of the nine principles for an inspired life is your memories are created through the stories you tell yourself. This principle emphasizes the power of our thoughts and the stories we make to shape our memories and, ultimately, our experiences. Our words and stories determine the pictures our minds create, and those pictures affect our feelings, which in turn affect what we do and the destiny we set ourselves up for.

Our brains cannot distinguish between reality and imagination so we can train our memory muscles in a certain way through vivid imagination. If we constantly tell negative stories, we will pull ourselves down through negative visualization. However, the same also works in the opposite direction. By telling ourselves positive stories, we can create positive memories and shape our experiences accordingly.

The words we use to label our experiences are the filters we interpret. It’s one thing to feel or experience something, but it’s another to assign meaning to it. This is especially important since we have little control over what happens to us in life, but we do have the power to determine what life’s events mean to us.

#6 – Comparison is the Thief of Joy

In today’s society, it is easy to fall into the trap of comparing oneself to others, especially with the prevalence of social media and the internet. However, constantly comparing oneself to others can lead to a lack of joy and contentment. Instead, focusing on one’s journey and being thankful for the small things in life is essential. Metcalfe emphasizes that even the small things can bring the greatest joys.

Comparing oneself to others can also be detrimental in terms of success. The outcome of one’s efforts can depend on many factors, some of which are outside of one’s control. Therefore, it is essential to surrender the outcome and focus on the process of becoming great. Success contains hard work, often done in the dark when nobody is watching, and requires persistence in performing small tasks.

#7 – Living by Principles

Living by principles rather than feelings is essential to achieving success in life. Living on the foundation of emotions doesn’t work out well because feelings change, which means one’s foundation is unstable. Therefore, seek out principles to serve as a guideline.

#8 – Society’s Outdated Map

societys outdated map

The map that society gives individuals is outdated. Parents, friends, and educational systems provide a map for how to live life, but these maps are related to the past and do not account for the rapid changes in today’s world. Following the truths of the past may lead to a dead end in the present.

For instance, the digitalization of society has caused great upheavals and created new markets. With social media platforms like YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and blogs, people can address a worldwide audience that was previously impossible. Reading an outdated map may be easy, but it brings limited benefits in today’s world. Navigating the territory oneself is the hard part.

Individuals need to get out and study the new territory. They should look at those who are already navigating the new world successfully. This requires persistence and a willingness to experiment with the wisdom and strategies of successful people.

#9 – Need for Permission

The last principle of “Distilled Wisdom for an Inspired Life” is that one still needs permission, even when equipped with life-changing wisdom. It is essential to understand that having information that can change someone’s life does not give one the right to impose it on others. Even if someone has the best intentions, they cannot force anybody to listen and understand what they have to say.

Using the analogy of a doctor, one cannot perform surgery on their best friend without their approval, even if they know what their friend needs. Therefore, it is essential to provide advice only to those seeking it or ask for permission before sharing any life-changing wisdom.


From these nine principles, one can become better every day. It is essential to focus on the process, work hard, not tie oneself too closely to performance, avoid regret, create positive memories, avoid comparison, live by principles, update one’s map, and seek permission before sharing wisdom.

The book also helps one understand the essence of goal achievement. It’s not about the magnitude of dreams but the consistent effort and dedication to each day’s tasks. Each chop of the wood and each bucket of water carried symbolizes the small steps we take towards our ultimate goal. 

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