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Chop Wood, Carry Water


By Anthony Zolezzi, serial entrepreneur and author of “2Steps2YourBest: How A Centuries Old Zen Proverb Can Help You Find Joy, Abundance And Success

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Many of my colleagues talk about mindfulness, which is enhanced through daily meditation. As they see it, meditation is a tool for being more productive, and although I don’t disagree, I do have a different tool set for maximizing abundance and productivity. This tool requires you to be present in the moment and to do two things.

First, take some action towards your personal business or life goal; make this action meaningful and “purposeful.” Second, do something kind for someone else.

Doing these two actions everyday will help you accomplish your goals, and will ensure you have a network of people who support you. This logic is embodied in the 1,000 year old Zen proverb: “Before enlightenment, chop wood and carry water. After enlightenment, chop wood and carry water.” I believe these are two things that we should be doing every day, and in fact, the only things we should be doing every day to advance and enhance our career and personal life.

This proverb has served me well, and having lived with this mind set for many years and now, I simply want to share it with as many people as possible so that it may be used as a tool to cope with the stresses of the corporate structure and business model today. I also want it to assist in the burgeoning area of individuals realizing the corporate structure is not for them and going out on their own or starting a business is their recipe for success.

Before moving forward, I want to break down the Zen proverb. The action of “chopping wood” assured fire for cooking and created a warm environment for the family; “carrying water” provided water for the family to drink. These two actions where essential for survival, and in today’s tumultuous world, I believe the same requirements, spun a different way, are just as important.

Now, let’s talk a little about the current business climate. One topic is legacy assets which don’t serve us the way they were intended (this could be anything from land line phone systems to landfills). But the corporate structure continues to plug along and work on wringing every one-quarter cent possible of profit out of these type of assets. Meanwhile, concerned company managers are waking up at 3:00 a.m., saying, “What am I doing? We need to totally restructure this business.” But as an employee, you can’t change anything, which just leads to more stress.

So here is what I recommend you do – pick one thing that you want to accomplish in business that when you think about it, you become joyful the stress leaves you. It might be owning an organic restaurant or starting your own app development company, but in your heart, it’s what you want. As soon as you’ve visualized it, internalized it, written down and told your inner circle of friends, take one action step every day towards that goal. Yes, everyday seven days a week, one thing towards that goal. By the end of the month, you will have had 30 direct actions toward your goal.

The corporate noise of the one-quarter cent won’t be stressful now because you have a path towards your own goal, and you are making significant progress. In fact, as time goes on, those cumulative steps are making this tangible for you. Before you know it, you are what you wanted to become, you are accomplishing what you want to accomplish, and you are “present,” you are at peace with yourself and happy with what you have accomplished.

Now, at the same time, you have to make sure you are “carrying water” too, which means smiling and laughing with the barista at your coffee shop every morning, or calling old friends to go out, or just being kind to someone in some way, every day. This will also bring with it incredible joy because it just feels good to help someone else, even in the smallest way – and if you do this every day, the cumulative effect of your higher, fresher energy will bring people around you that you need for an inspiring and fulfilled life.

This is what I think we need today more than anything. Can you imagine what it would be like to have the world filled with people doing what they love, what makes them feel all warm and fuzzy, and a world where doing something kind for someone else is common place? I believe we can and will see it, we just have to realize, “Before enlightenment, chop wood and carry water. After enlightenment, chop wood and carry water.” Learn more and get a copy of my free book “2Steps2YourBest”.


Anthony Zolezzi

Anthony Zolezzi is a serial entrepreneur who plays a leading role in advising corporations on ways to innovate with their existing strengths given the expectations of today’s environmentally conscious culture, while increasing profitability and uncovering new innovations. His work has resulted in numerous entrepreneurial companies and product developments focused on sustainability and health. He is author of “2Steps2YourBest: How A Centuries Old Zen Proverb Can Help You Find Joy, Abundance And Success“.