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  • Writer's pictureMichael Ridgewell

Chop Wood, Carry Water - Reframing The Journey

Updated: Apr 9

Image of Buddha reading an iPad

In the quest for business results, career success, or personal fulfillment, it’s easy to laser-focus on the end result and overlook the significance of the journey itself. The Zen proverb, "Before enlightenment, chop wood, carry water. After enlightenment, chop wood, carry water," brings a new take on the destination versus journey approach to focus.


Finding Enlightenment in Everyday Tasks


The Chop Wood, Carry Water proverb teaches us that enlightenment doesn’t suddenly remove the drudgery from the day-to-day. Instead, it changes our perspective. Before enlightenment, tasks like chopping wood and carrying water are seen as necessary chores. After enlightenment, the same tasks still need to be done – but may have new meaning, becoming opportunities for being more in the moment to encourage mindfulness and growth.


Zen and the Art of Business Perspective


In the context of business, this translates to a deeper engagement with everyday responsibilities, no matter how trivial they may seem. Whether you're creating spreadsheets, drafting emails, attending endless meetings, or managing projects, each task offers a chance to practice presence, patience, and attentiveness.


Personal development and professional excellence are both continuous journeys. Just as enlightenment doesn't change the nature of the tasks but our perspective on them, achieving business milestones doesn't signify the end of growth. Instead, it marks a new beginning, where every day presents opportunities for improvement and deeper understanding. These in turn can produce better outcomes.

It's too easy to get caught up in the pursuit of outcomes, often at the expense of the process. The "chop wood, carry water" mindset encourages us to find value and lessons in the process itself.


Practical Application Along The Consumer Journey


When constructing a consumer journey, it is just as important to focus on the steps taken along the path as it is on the business outcome. Yes – I know we are in business, and yes, I know that business needs sales. But there are more organic ways to build a strong relationship than bombarding with impersonal offers and buy-now messages. Want more engagement and loyalty? Want less churn? Take a new look at the journey with new eyes.

At the start of the consumer journey, a good welcome and nurture email series should do exactly that – to introduce yourself and educate your audience on what to expect out of the relationship. As the relationship develops over time, use the Chop Wood, Carry Water approach to be mindful of the entire retention process – look for a deeper understanding in the development of the segmentation and messaging.  Put yourself in the audience’s shoes when thinking about what to test. Look beyond the obvious in the insights for continual improvement.

Leaders who embody the "chop wood, carry water" principle lead by example, showing that no task is beneath anyone and that every aspect of work can contribute to personal and organizational growth. Try it for yourself – I can't promise enlightenment, but it may just reveal some innovative ideas, and reveal new ways of working.

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