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Chop the wood, carry the water

Oh, I so much love this piece from The Practice by Seth Godin. 

161. Layman Pang, more than a thousand years ago, wrote: My daily activities are not unusual, I’m just naturally in harmony with them. Grasping nothing, discarding nothing. Drawing water and chopping wood. 

That’s a routine without any drama, tension, commentary, judgement, or expectation. Chop the wood, carry the water. Again and again and then some. Rinse and repeat.

Seth Godin, The Practice

That, my friend, is the work of a professional. To show up and do the job without any drama, tension, commentary, judgment or expectation. Over and over again. 

If that sounds like “Groundhog Day,” let me assure you, it’s not. The idea is to focus on what you can control (your actions, routines, plans) instead of getting distracted by what’s happening around you. 

The professional shows up and does what’s expected to the best of his/her abilities. No surprises there. I mean what’s your opinion about the plumber you called in to fix your kitchen sink but he “doesn’t feel like it” because he’s deeply affected by the local farmer’s protests.

What will be your opinion of him as a professional? 

I thought as much. And if that’s the case, why on earth would you let your mood affect how you show up as a professional? Chop the wood and carry the water, my friend. 

P.S. I was having a discussion around systems, processes, and checklists this past week with my team. One of the project managers got irritated and asked me the reason why an additional step (a project debrief) to the process is so crucial since everyone’s already strapped for time. I shared with them the example above and asked him if he would ever want to fly in a plane whose pilots would not follow their processes because they’re strapped for time.

P.P.S. We unanimously voted for the new addition to the process.