Chop Wood Carry Water Summary

Chop Wood Carry Water by Joshua Medcalf is a story of a boy John who wants to become a samurai warrior. But to master any craft, you have to go through the process and have patience for years to reach your desired point.

But to master any craft, you have to go through the process and have patience for years to reach your desired point.

This book is based on a boy- John and his journey of becoming a samurai warrior. With every chapter, author Joshua Medcalf teaches us valuable lessons to apply to our profession.

It doesn’t matter if you are a writer or doing an ordinary job. The book Chop Wood Carry Water by Joshua Medcalf will help you fall in love with the process of achieving your goal. This book consist 28 small chapters, which end with a lesson that you can apply in your life.

In Chop Wood Carry Water Summary, I will be sharing the story of each chapter and lessons we can learn from it. So, read till the end & let’s start the first chapter of the Chop Wood Carry Water Summary by Joshua Medcalf.

Chapter 1 Summary- Chop Wood Carry Water

Since childhood, John has been in love with the samurai culture of Japan. As he grows, he dreams of becoming his favorite type of samurai warrior: archers.

Finally, when he turned eighteen, he went to one ancient City of Japan & enrolled as an apprentice to a small community of samurai who lived outside the city walls, practicing their timeless traditions. There, he knew he could become a samurai warrior.

But to his surprise, on the day first, he was asked by his Sensei Akira to chop wood, carry water.

It was a disappointment for John, who wanted to practice archery from day one, and he quickly asked the reason for chopping wood and carrying water!

Since they don’t opt for every modern culture except heat and running water, Akira explained that.

So they would require wood to burn and prepare meals for their survival and water to use in the kitchen and bathrooms.

Disappointed, John asked Akira, “When will we get to shooting?”

Akira smiled & said, “Shooting will come soon enough. But first, you have to chop wood and carry water.”

John was frustrated, but he obeyed his Sensei (teacher).

Lesson 1

Chop wood carry water means doing the mundane things again, and that doesn’t seem exciting to us. But to become good at anything, we’ve to go through the boring stuff. It was the lesson the author wanted to teach in the first chapter of chop wood and carry water.

Chapter 2 Summary: Building Your Own House

The next day John was chopping wood, carrying water in the hope of shooting soon. After the day’s work had finished, Sensei took John aside to tell a story.

The story was of an old architect named Kota, who built homes in Tokyo. He used to build the highest quality homes, and he was so good at his craft, and he was famous for the kind of homes he built!

Eventually, Kota grew tired & he was ready to retire. Finally, he sent a two-week notice to his boss asking permission to retire.

But, his boss asked Kota to build the last home for an essential client before his retirement.

It was discouraging for Kota to build one more home before his retirement. After thinking for a day, he agreed to build the last home.

He started working on the last house of his life. But he was not into the work by heart, and he looked at it as more of an obligation than an opportunity.

He delegated many tasks to others, not looking into the finer details. He knew he was not doing the best of his ability, but he wanted to move on quickly.

After four months, Kota finished the house. It was missing the “Wow” factor in previous homes built by Kota and everyone in the company noticed the same.

Kota went back to his boss and asked permission to retire. His boss thanked Kota for his work & handed a small box to Kota. It was a gift as a token of appreciation towards his work for his entire life.

Kota opened that box and found the shiny new keys of the house. His boss smiled, “The house is yours! You deserve it!”

Immediately he felt bad as the house he built was not of the highest quality. If he had known he was building his own house, he would have cared much more and put maximum effort.

The story ended & here’s the lesson Akira sensei taught to John.

Lesson 2

The only thing that is truly significant about today or any other day is who you become in the process. Each of us is building our own house. Sometimes you might think you are building for your school, family, company, or team, but you are always building your own house. I hope you build wisely.

Chop Wood Carry Water Chapter 2

Chapter 3 Summary: Faithful in Small Things

As the weeks passed, John grew more comfortable with life in the community.

One day he woke up to find all the apprentices excited to announce that they could compete in an archery tournament.

John could barely hold his excitement. He couldn’t stop talking about it.

Seeing his excitement, Akira held his shoulder and sat him down. Sensei started telling him the following lesson.

Lesson 3

Everyone wants to achieve big goals, but very few people want to follow the process required to achieve the goal.

Everyone wants to become a samurai warrior, but only a few want to chop wood carry water.

As Mother Theresa always told people,’ Be faithful in the small things, for it is in them that your strength lies.’

Everyone wants to be great until it’s time to do what greatness requires.

Your greatest challenge during your time here will be faithfully keeping your focus on the process while surrendering the outcome.

Chapter 4 Summary- One Eye For the Journey

After the excitement of the first few months started to wear off.

Now John was practicing archery for four hours and chopping wood, carrying water for four hours, which he thought was a waste of time!

John began to get frustrated, and he was only allowed to shoot a target only seven feet away from him, more to his frustration!

He asked Akira how long it would take to become a samurai warrior, and Akira sensei told him that it would take ten years. John was furious. But he went back and started doing his daily activities.

After a few months, he was becoming better and better. So he asked Akira how long it would take to become a samurai warrior. Akira’s answer was the same- ten years!

John asked how long it would take if he devoted every waking moment to becoming a samurai archer? No chopping wood or carrying water, just archery.” Akira shrugged,” then it will take thirty years.”

John had reached his emotional breaking point. And asked Akira why it would take more years if he devoted all his efforts to archery.

Akira looked at John with compassion and said, “The reason it takes longer is that with one eye on the goal, you only have one eye for the journey.”

John understood now. He decided to focus on doing his best at chopping wood, carrying water or archery & letting go of the results.

Lesson 4

The mountain can’t be climbed if you think about reaching the top during the journey, and it can only be climbed if you focus on each step.

No one can climb a mountain all at once, and it can only be climbed through one solid step at a time.

The same thing we can apply to our life. We always think about reaching the next point or achieving the next goal.

It’s better to focus on the moment, forgetting about reaching the next destination.

Chapter 5 Summary- Nothing is a Test

John started putting more effort into chopping wood, carrying water as well as in archery.

He started chopping more woods & carrying more water than other apprentices.

He started taking pride in completing each drill and archery movement fastest.

One day, seeing more water in his bucket, Akira sensei asked John why he was carrying more water.

John said that he was doing the best he could.

Akira caught John as he was not doing his best but trying to carry more water than others. He started seeing it as a test to prove his worth.

Then Akira started teaching him the following lesson.

Lesson 5

You keep getting in the way of your 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 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.

Chapter 6- Where Do You Find Your Identity?

As time passed, despite Akira’s warning of not focusing on results, John started thinking about becoming a samurai warrior.

He started doing extra practice. And, as a result, he started feeling pain in his shoulder. Now, he could not fire a bow.

Akira noticed the same and went to John. John knew he could not hide his pain from Akira sensei.

Akira explained to him that it will take 6 to 8 weeks to recover from his pain.

John’s face fell, as he realized that because of this, he could fall far behind in his program.

Seeing his sad face, Akira asked him a question, “John, who would you be if everything you do was taken away from you?”

John thought for a minute but realized that he didn’t have a good answer.

Here’s the lesson Akira sensei teaches John!

Lesson 6

We think our value comes from what we do. If John can’t do his work i.e chop wood, carry water, and do archery for 6 to 8 weeks, he will not feel valuable.

It’s easy to feel more valuable when you perform well when you make more money or you become successful.

But, at the same time, you will feel frustrated, defeated, and depressed when your business is failing, and when it feels like you are failing at everything.

The truth is that your value is constant and never goes up or down. God is always loving you no matter how you perform.

You are more than a CEO or a worker or a coach. Don’t find your identity in something that can be gone at a moment’s notice.

Chapter 7 Lesson- Guzzling Salt Water

Once a week all apprentices were allowed to watch TV.

Akira sensei and John had developed a special bond watching American sports together.

Akira began to speak about the importance of creating a new scorecard for life.

He pointed to Kobe Bryant and asked why Kobe Bryant is still playing basketball despite him repeatedly saying that if he wins his 6th NBA title then he will be satisfied and retire.

People live their lives believing if they achieve more, and make more money their life will be different.

But if the achievement hasn’t filled that void to date, how is achieving more going to fill it in the future?

Like thirsty people guzzling saltwater, an achievement only creates a greater desire for accomplishing more, dehydrating us of true satisfaction and fulfillment.”

Write down all characteristics that you admire in people who are living a successful life.

Write top 3-4 characteristics that are important to you. This is your scorecard. Grade yourself twice a day on these points.

Chapter 8 Summary- Evil’s Best Weapon

One summer day, Akira asked all the apprentices to stop chopping wood, carrying water an hour early to spend time near the lake.

All the apprentices stopped working and gathered near the lake to hear a story of an old witch who sold her all evil tools like greed, envy, jealousy, pride, anger, lust but she did not sell the only tool to pass on to her niece.

The name of that tool is discouragement.

Discouragement is more powerful than anger, pride, jealousy, etc. Discouragement allows one to get a person’s heart and no other evil tool can do it.

Discouragement can stop a person from fulfilling his dreams and potential. It may come in any form like a small voice in your head or a failure. Fuel up your heart with encouragement.

You can fuel your heart with what you read, listen to, watch, hear, and whom you surround yourself with. So put the right fuel in you.

Chapter 9 Summary- What Went Well?

One day of training, John just couldn’t seem to shoot as well as normal.

He was distracted and finished his day with frustration. Akira asked him what went well in the training. John said that everything just went wrong. Then Akira taught him the following lesson.

Lesson 9

Our brain remembers bad experiences more than good experiences. We remember what went wrong more than what went well.

You should always treat every failure as an experience to learn and grow. Always remember your values come from who you are and not from what you do.

Everyday list down things that went well, areas for growth, and what you’ve learned.

Chapter 10 Summary- Insta-everything

Another year passed, and John kept growing and learning.

He developed strength by chopping wood and carrying water every day.

One night Akira and John were watching the new movie Karate Kid starring Jaden Smith. Akira had a huge admiration for Jaden’s father Will.

He watched one interview with Will, where he was telling the importance of skill over talent. They started discussing it.

Here’s the lesson you can learn from their discussion about Talent Vs Skills.

Lesson 10

We only see the good things in people through television or Instagram. We don’t see the struggle of people.

We only see the 10-minute race on the ground but don’t see the hours of hard work during training and we imagine the superstar is talented. But, we all are born with the potential and need to unlock it with hard work.

Chapter 11 Summary- Wandering Eyes

After that evening John started chopping wood, carrying water with a renewed sense of excitement.

He was still facing challenges, but he was in a much better place.

Eventually, though, John developed a wandering eye. He started looking at other apprentices. They all seemed to do better shots with less effort than John.

John started showing signs of weight on him and Akira sensei noticed the same. He went to John, and here’s the lesson he taught him.

Lesson 11

It’s not important what we are doing but what we are becoming.

Always remember, you are building your own house and the grass isn’t greener on the other side. It’s greener where you water it.

We always compare ourselves with better ones. Sometimes to get a perspective, think about people who don’t have good drinking water or basic facilities. You are at least much better than them.

Chapter 12 Summary- Rough Side of the Mountain

One day, just as all the apprentices reached the shooting range, the sky cracked with thunder and heavy rain started. Everyone was instructed to go into the dining hall.

John started telling a story of how golf balls were made first.

At first, golf balls were made smooth, without any dimples at all. One man noticed a strange thing.

As golf balls become older and were in use for a long time, they travel faster. The same applies to our life as well. The more obstacles we face, the more we advance further in our journey. The rough side of the mountain makes us strong.

Hardships often prepare ordinary people for an extraordinary destiny.

Chapter 13 Summary- Harnessing Power

One evening John and Akira had gone for a long walk to the edge of the property.

They saw the large oak tree, which had been uprooted and lay fallen. There were many trees uprooted and fallen due to the wind.

But one company came there and set up those to make “A Wind Farm”. Wind can be creative and destructive at the same time. It all depends on how you harness it.

Exactly can be applied to our life! You can’t control how people talk to you but you can control how you talk to yourself.

Just like the wind, their power can create or destroy. Worrying is a form of negative talk. When we do worry, we imagine negative consequences. The same is with our inner critic. It’s a form of negative talk.

So calm your inner critic or at least don’t believe in it.

Chapter 14 Summary- Diet Coke

One night John was watching TV when a commercial ad came on. It was about a product that promised users to lose twenty pounds in two weeks. What a ridiculous idea it was!

Sensei entered the room shaking his head and they started talking about the advertisement. Here’s the lesson we can learn from it.

Lesson 15

Most people want to consume whatever they want in 86000 seconds of a day and want a quick fix trick for their overweight body in the remaining 400 seconds of a day. They think it will override all negative training they’ve been doing all day long!

Mental training isn’t magic. It requires deliberate hard work. There’s no quick fix for hard work and it’s not sexy at all like a quick lose weight commercial advertisement.

Chapter 15 Lesson- The Path to Mastery

John now moved up from a seven-foot target to the full targets more than a hundred feet away. It took him four years.

When the day came, John was excited to release a shot. When he did, it was off-target. He was disappointed. He’d been shooting every day for four years and now he couldn’t hit the target.

Once again he felt that he was not made for becoming a samurai archer. John expected Akira to respond with his usual words of wisdom but he took him away from the firing line, to a patch of the dirt.

He bent down and used an arrow to draw something like this.

path to mastery- chop wood carry water summary

John asked curiously,” What’s this?” Akira replied,” it’s the path to mastery.”

While John and we all wanted to feel constant improvement, mastery moves differently. It moves in steps, not constants.

You’ve to be on a long plateau before you become so good at your craft.

With this, we come to the end of Chop Wood Carry Water Summary. The book has 28 small chapters, and you can finish it within 2 hours, so I recommend you read a book.

Who Should Read Chop Wood Carry Water Summary?

Chop Wood Carry Water Summary can be read by beginner as well as a regular reader because the book has small chapters. This book carries a lot of wisdom through engaging stories to hook you to the end.

What is the theme of chop wood carry water?

The theme of chop wood carry water book is that a boy wants to become a samurai warrior. Throughout the journey of achieving his goal, his teacher Akira taught him the importance of falling in love with the process.

Who is the main character in chop wood carry water?

John is the main character in chop wood carry water. His teacher Akira also plays an important role.

Omkar Mirajgave

Omkar Mirajgave

Omkar Mirajgave is the founder of He is an avid book reader. After reading 100+ book summaries and 80+ books, he realized book summaries can help him choose better books. He writes about interesting book summaries, reading tips, the best books to read, and everything related to books!