Chop Wood, Carry Water: Generating Mindful Profits

by | Apr 9, 2011


There’s an old Zen saying:

Before enlightenment, chop wood, carry water.
After enlightenment, chop wood, carry water.

In other words, self-realization doesn’t exempt us from the day-to-day activities of life and work. Yet I often see otherwise spiritually savvy people behave as though the day-to-day activities of making self-employment profitable are somehow opposed to self-realization.

That has two sad results. First, people who hold that business and self-realization are inherently opposed are almost always under-earners. And because they are under-earners, there’s a limit to the scope of their contribution to the world.

The path begins with a big vision

Last week I wrote: “You need a big vision precisely because it requires you to regularly plug in to a greater power source. The bigger your vision, the greater your reliance on Source.”

When you align the daily actions that lead to mindful profits with a big vision—and when you take those actions with humility and deliberateness—making self-employment profitable becomes an awareness practice.

It’s an awareness practice, not because you dress it up with spiritual language, but because you subordinate your monkey mind to the discipline of doing business in an intentional way.

Seven steps to mindful profits as meditation

A cornerstone of The Traction Mastermind is a daily practice of choosing, declaring, and reporting on High Value Actions. It is the business equivalent of chopping wood and carrying water. It can be broken down into these steps.

Define the path

  • Name your vision or Big Hairy Audacious Goal.
  • Identify three priorities to serve as your focus for the next three months.
  • Choose a project to support each priority. (A single project may support two or more priorities at once.)

Walk the path

  • Each day, dedicate your actions to your vision, to being the change you want to see in the world.
  • Each day, choose a High Value Action that will move one of your projects forward.
  • Declare your High Value Action to a community of support.
  • Report on your High Value Action the following day and choose and declare another.

(You can do more than one thing. The practice is to consciously, intentionally choose, declare, report, and repeat with one High Value Action.)

What does the High Value Action practice look like in, um, practice? Here are two examples.


  • Vision: To infuse every day life with beauty.
  • Priorities: Generate cash flow, build a mailing list, connect with customers on an ongoing basis.
  • Projects: Create a workshop, set up email list system, start a blog.
  • Dedication: Spend a moment at the beginning of each day appreciating the beauty of the world. Dedicate your work to spreading this.
  • High Value Action: Spend an hour researching structures and prices of weaving workshops.
  • Declare High Value Action by email to Master Mind group.
  • Report and repeat: Email Master Mind group what actually happened and declare the next High Value Action.

In both this and the next example I cite a Master Mind group. You can form one of your own for the sake of this practice. Just be sure to get buy-in from all the members and find a way to be in daily communication. Members of the Profit Alchemy community have a private online forum for their practice.

EXAMPLE: A Spiritual Director

  • Vision: For all people to have access to conscious contact with the Divine.
  • Priorities: Raise visibility in spiritual communities, create financial systems, find a way to serve beginners on the spiritual path.
  • Projects: Write articles for church newsletters, learn Quicken, design introductory workshop.
  • Dedication: Light a candle and sit in prayer for 10 minutes.
  • High Value Action: Brainstorm five topics for articles.
  • Declare High Value Action by email to mastermind group.
  • Report and repeat: Email mastermind group what actually happened and declare the next High Value Action.

Chop wood, carry water

The process of choosing, declaring, and reporting High Value Actions is the business equivalent of chopping wood and carrying water. Don’t be fooled by the ordinariness of the steps. Their power to increase your income, generating mindful profits, while supporting self-realization is firmly rooted in their simplicity.

It takes heart, humility, and perseverance to take generate mindful profits through a High Value Action practice. I believe that if you are reading this you have or aspire to have those virtues. I would love for you to experience their fruits in your business as well as your inner life.

Golden wheelFor more information about The Traction Mastermind

The Traction Mastermind is an elite coaching program that will help you get traction with what matters without overriding your wisdom or frying your circuits. In 16 weeks you’ll dissolve the barriers that hold you back once and for all so you can really be all that you are and do all that you are meant to do—and enjoy yourself in the process.