Chop Wood, Carry Water

In Blog, Hustle Podcast by Eric ByrnesLeave a Comment

Welcome back to “Stillness Is The Key” week here at the Daily Hustle… A week long celebration of Ryan Holiday’s new wisdom packed masterpiece.

If you have followed the Daily Hustle for awhile, this is definitely not the first time you have heard the old Zen proverb… 

“Chop Wood, Carry Water.” 

Typically, I have thought of the phrase representing the diligent work that is absolutely mandatory to achieve any sort of success in any arena of life.  When we simply chop wood and carry water, we completely immerse ourselves in the present moment while doing the work.  

But most importantly, we EMPTY THE MIND.  

We become so inundated with the task at hand that all outside noise, literal and figurative, becomes completely irrelevant.  

In 1998 at UCLA, I had an opportunity to meet Shawn Greene, a budding superstar for the Toronto Blue Jays that soon became one of baseball’s premier sluggers.  Shawn was obviously physically gifted, but it was his mental approach that really resonated with me. 

When I signed with the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2006, Shawn was my teammate and we would have long talks about the far eastern zen like approach to sports psychology.  I also had the privilege to hit in Shawn’s group along with Tony Clark and Luis Gonzalez… 

Back in ‘98, Shawn told me about an opposite field home run game he used to play with Carlos Delgado that had a gigantic influence on his career by helping him unleash his potential DRIVING the ball out of the ballpark to the opposite field.  

Although I was a dead pull hitter and completely overmatched, we began playing the game each day and engaging in conversations on and off the field that impacted my career and ultimately my life. 

What does “chop wood, carry water” or Shawn Green have to do with “Stillness Is The Key” you ask?

Well, not surprising, an entire chapter is dedicated to Greene, who along with Japanese Home Run King Sadahara Oh, was one of the few practicing Buddhist ball players.  

In 2002, Greene was with the Dodgers making 14 million dollars a year when he was in one of the worst slumps of his life… He was getting berated by the media, boo’d by the hometown fans and it seemed like it was just a matter of time before the organization traded him, if they could find somebody to take on his large contract.  

Greene couldn’t help but recognize the noise, then realized he couldn’t control a single bit of it, so he went back to focusing on the things within his control… 

Doing his WORK and clearing his mind, that’s it.  

On May 25th in Milwaukee, he began his daily work routine like he always did, hitting off the tee… 

To clear his head, he started to repeat the mantra “chop wood, carry water, chop wood, carry water.” 

The game began and in his first at bat, he hit a double and a huge sigh of relief fell over him.  His next at bat, a homer, then another in his 3rd at bat. When most dudes would have been flying on cloud 9, completely content with the day, Greene continued to repeat the phrase… “Chop wood, carry water.” 

His fourth at bat, he homered for the 3rd time and then hit a single in his 5th at bat… 

When his manager Jim Tracy offered to give him the rest of the day off, Greene politely declined and went up for his 6th at bat and promptly became the 14th player in baseball history to hit 4 home runs in a game.  

He finished the day 6 for 6, with 4 homers, a double and a record 19 total bases… Arguably the single greatest one day offensive performance in MLB history. 

The next day, Greene hit another homer to set a 2-game MLB record, and the following day hit 2 more TANKS to bring the record setting 3-day total to SEVEN. 😳

How did Shawn Greene achieve such greatness when just days earlier he was mired in a horrific slump? 

Simple… He just kept chopping wood, and carrying water.💧