Chop Wood, Carry Water : Character is Greater than Talent

In Joshua Metcalf’s book “Chop Wood, Carry Water”he tells the story of a great and talented carpenter who has worked many years building the most elaborate, robust, and beautiful homes in his village. The carpenter is known for pouring his heart and soul into his homes by paying attention to detail and completing every task himself by hand. After many years of working he is tired and looking forward to retirement so he appears in his boss’ office and tells him he is ready to move on from working as a carpenter. Understanding, his boss tells him he is free to go after competing “one more house.” Frustrated and put out, the Carpenter’s heart is no longer invested in the work. He designs the final home and in his rush to stop working outsources most of the labor and skips his regular attention to detail. The house is built quickly and finally he thinks “I am done working!” He appears in his boss’ office to report that the house is complete and he is free to go. Immediately, the boss hands him a small box as a parting gift. Bewildered the carpenter unwraps the box and finds a small set of keys, “the home is yours great Carpenter! A gift of thanks for your exceptional work and attention to detail over the years!” The carpenter thanks him but inside is filled with remorse, frustration, and regret – had he known he was building his own home he would have been much more attentive throughout the process.

Talented as he may have been throughout his career, the carpenter let his character falter on his last home all the while unbeknownst to him – it was his own home he was building.

Our lives are much the same. We get caught up in all our mundane “have to’s…” and cast them as negative burdensome things when really, our attention and care with the smallest things daily is the act of us building our own house.

“I have to go to work”
“I have to work out”
“I have to spend time with my spouse”
“I have to take my kids to school”
“I have to cook dinner”

Who we are, who we become in the process of working towards something, and the character we develop in the process of showing up every day is more important than the results of our performances, how much we can lift, how much money we make, etc.

Build your house today and every day.



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