Chop Wood Carry Water by Joshua Medcalf [Actionable Summary]

This is a comprehensive summary of the book Chop Wood Carry Water by Joshua Medcalf. Covering the key ideas and proposing practical ways for achieving what’s mentioned in the text. Written by book fanatic and online librarian Ivaylo Durmonski. Supporting Members get full access.

The Book In Three Or More Sentences:

A story about a boy in love with samurai culture and his relentless desire to become a samurai archer. Joshua Medcalf, the author, masks the mundane tasks the protagonist must do in order to achieve his goal with the phrase: chop wood, carry water. While ridiculously short, this book contains some truly awesome advice that can inspire you to fall in love with the process of becoming great.

The Core Idea:

The whole point of the book is to convince you that getting really good at something isn’t sexy. It’s not a single task you must do once. A box you can tick. Becoming world-famous is achieved by doing boring tasks, repeatedly, over a long period of time. Hence, chop wood, carry water.

Reason To Read:

To understand that creating something worthwhile requires time, discipline, and being in love with the process. Regardless of your background and where you want to end up, this read will give you the dose of optimism and mental stamina to keep going.


  • Fall in love with the process. Learn to love chopping wood and carrying water.
  • Comparing yourself to others will lead to disaster. Focus on your own mission.
  • Don’t forget your values and your principles. These two will help you overcome hardship and uncertainty.

5 Key Lessons from Chop Wood Carry Water:

Lesson #1: Stay Focused on Chopping Wood and Carrying Water

Chop wood, carry water. That’s it. That’s everything you should do to become successful.

For some, chopping wood carrying water will mean writing 500 words per day. For others, it will mean making 50 cold calls. For third, it will mean getting at 5 AM and running 20 miles. It really depends what you’re trying to achieve. Who you want to become.

Is it sexy to chop wood, carry water every single day?


Can you become great without doing it?

Hell no!

A lot of people dream about starting online businesses. A side hustle that will allow them to travel the world. To have a fancy Instagram profile with a lot of glamorous pictures. Few, however, are willing to chop wood, carry water.

People want the end result without having to do the work. But that’s not how the universe works, you know?

Or as the author writes, “Everyone wants to be great, until it’s time to do what greatness requires.”

If you really want to make a difference in your life, you must chop wood, carry water.

“Everyone wants to build the next Apple or Facebook, nobody wants to sell matches door to door. Everyone wants to become a samurai warrior, but few are willing to faithfully chop wood, carry water.” Joshua Medcalf

Lesson #2: Don’t Let Discouragement Get You

Discouragement is the oldest tool in the Devil’s toolbox.

Even the greatest ideas and the most marvelous projects can crumble if discouragement gets into your brain.

You need to be aware of this feeling because no matter what you’re doing, you’ll surely meet this insidious force along the way. And, undoubtedly, it will try to sabotage your project.

What exactly is discouragement?

Discouragement takes many shapes and forms but it usually comes in the form of negative self-talk.

You’ve probably heard it before. The little voice inside your head that says you aren’t good enough. That you can’t do it.

Nowadays, we actually refer to this mental state as the imposter syndrome. A collection of feelings that convince us that despite our past achievements, we’re still not good enough.

And while you can’t reach out for discouragement and remove it from your bucket of feelings for good, there are things you can do to prevent this from messing around with your ambitions.

You have to be vigilant and always be aware of the following six things:

  • What you watch.
  • What you read.
  • What you listen to.
  • Who you surround yourself with.
  • How you talk to yourself.
  • What you visualize.
  • Your thoughts and beliefs.

Hang around with the wrong people and you’ll end up in jail. Drink, take drugs, listen to the haters online, and soon the local rehab clinic will be your new home.

But that’s not all…

Bad things happen all the time if we listen to our inner critic that constantly nags, “I’m not good at this.” After all, who wouldn’t abandon a project if someone followed them around all day criticizing everything they did?

The key is to realize that if you feel like garbage about what you’re doing then your thoughts are probably garbage.

So, take out the trash and start a positive talk therapy. Find a supportive group of people that can help you overcome the setbacks. Instill optimism and hope in your life by remembering your past achievements.

That’s how you beet discouragement and you keep moving forward with your projects. By substituting self-destructing thoughts with whispers of faith in your abilities.

“John, you keep getting in the way of your own potential, because you keep seeing everything as a test. The secret is to understand that nothing is a test, but only an opportunity to learn and grow. Many people never fulfill their potential, because they look at every situation in life as a test. If you look at something as a test, then you will focus only on passing the test instead of maximizing your growth through the experience. Over time, the person who is simply focused on maximizing what they can learn and how they can grow will become much greater than the person who sees life as one continual test to prove themselves.” Joshua Medcalf

Hey there, sorry to interrupt…

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