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Rashi Goel

Chop wood carry water

Chop wood carry water
Reading Time: 4 minutes

Long-distance runners or cyclists know they will hit the wall at 25-30 km. It’s that point of a sudden draining of energy caused by the depletion of muscle glycogen levels. Athletes know that brief rest, slowing down, and hydrating help them break through the wall.

Mastery is also an endurance sport. And at some point, we all hit a psychological wall – the wall of boredom.

Mastery is a direct outcome of putting in the reps over and over and over again. And that gets tedious and draining. But only those who don’t let their emotions derail them from showing up and putting in daily practice rise to the top.

“ I do not fear the man who has practiced 10,000 kicks once, but I fear the man who has practiced one kick 10,000 times.”

Bruce Lee

Consistency in anything is like chopping wood and carrying water

Pre-industrialization, we chopped wood and carried water to survive. This was back-breaking work. But essential nevertheless.

Today, chopping wood and carrying water has come to be known as the metaphorical price of excellence. Inherent in this phrase is the wisdom that anything worth pursuing involves repetition and monotony, but needs us to stay the course just the same.

Even neurology has proven that repetitions are essential to deep learning.

Repetitions hard code learning into our brains

Our brain is wired for efficiency. So, it prefers only to remember the most essential, or it will get overloaded and burn out.

That’s why, it notices what we repeat and builds thick neural connections around it. This is how it works.

Whenever we think of a thought or perform an activity, it’s as if we are walking across the lawn in our brain. If we walk across it once, it leaves no tracks. But enough repetition creates a pathway. More repetitions are like paving a road on the lawn. Even more repetitions are like a four-lane highway in our mind.

That’s how mastery gets hard-coded into our brains. Through reps. Regardless of the activity – writing by writers, sports practice by athletes, shooting videos by influencers, or lab tests by chemists. All need millions of reps before they get to mastery.

It’s like watering a bamboo tree

When we plant a bamboo tree, nothing happens.

But if we keep watering it patiently for five years, the bamboo tree shoots up to over ninety feet in just six weeks!

All this time, a dense network of roots has been growing and preparing the bamboo for rapid growth. This long period when growth is invisible demands patience but, more importantly, grit.

There are very few brands positioned on grit

Great brands are positioned on timeless human truths – romance, confidence, or beauty. But very few explore grit.

The pursuit of fitness gets dreary. It can also be inconvenient, painful, and injury-prone. But MuscleBlaze transforms it into a focused meditation powered by grit and fueled by its products.

I have always abhorred target audience definitions that stop at just demographics – 22-35-year-old male and female gym goers in Metro cities. I think such definitions are lazy and lack all insight into the human (consumer) we want to woo.

Instead, MuscleBlaze defines its target audience psychographically as ‘Ziddi’ – that stubborn part of us that does not back away from a fight – a fight to prove nay-sayers wrong, and even more, when the fight is against lesser versions of ourselves.

Watch the inspiring ad here.

MuscleBlaze Ad

The win is in the work itself

Going back to the bamboo for a minute, ultimately, our patience pays off when the bamboo shoots above the ground. However, Zen Buddhism takes a radically different view on chopping wood and carrying 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 Quote

This quote means that what we do on the outside (the task) should not change even if we were to change inside (achieve mastery). Because the win is in the work itself.

This Japanese fable shows us what happens when we let the quality of our reps slip.

The house that Kota built

Kota was a master craftsman. He was dedicated and had honed his craft over thirty years, with the result that he had built some of the finest houses in Tokyo.

Now old and tired, he wanted to retire and play with his grandkids. But his boss asked him for one last favor – to build a house for an important client.

Kota had no choice but to agree. Secretly, he was frustrated and angry at having been forced to postpone his new life.

He had always been very hands-on and detail-oriented; he was a master, after all. But now, his heart was not in it because he considered this project as a forced obligation. So he delegated, cut corners, and let things slip through the cracks.

When the house was finished, Kota knew it lacked the “wow” factor his other homes had. But he knew he was ready to move on and did not care. He went again to his boss and asked for permission to retire.

His boss agreed and gifted that very house to Kota as a retirement present. The whole time, he had been building his own house!

Now he was full of regret. If only he had known he was building his own house, he would have brought his A-game. The irony was that the master craftsman was forced to spend the rest of his life in a below-par house.

Kota had allowed his inner turmoil to contaminate his discipline of chopping wood and carrying water. And he paid the price for it.

Fall in love with boredom

When Robert Green, the author of The 48 Laws of Power, hires a research assistant, he insists on hiring someone who can withstand boredom.

He says that learning a skill involves repeating it many times over. And this gets boring. If we focus on how frustrating it is, we will give up. But if we focus on the rewards this repetition will give us in the future, we will happily stick with the routine.

In short, my learning from writing this edition is that if we teach ourselves to fall in love with boredom, if we fall in love with repetition and the process of what we do, the results will take care of themselves.

Thanks for reading!