The only thing truly significant about today is who you become in the process.

Scrolling through social media, I found a Tweet from Candace Parker:

Now if Candace Parker is recommending anything, but particularly a book, I’m checking it out. Confession: I have always loved Candace Parker. And if sportswriters tell you the have zero favorite players, they’re lying. They may not have favorite players among those they actively cover, and even in my time regularly covering women’s college basketball I rarely covered Parker and the Lady Vols. But there are players you step back and watch and go “wow.” And Candace Parker will always be a player like that for me. But wait. I completely digress.

I checked out Joshua Medcalf’s Twitter feed and found the link to his iBook “Chop Wood Carry Water.” I was intrigued. I started reading. I could have devoured the book in one sitting if I had a complete sitting. All told it took me two days to finish the book.

It’s a simple read from a literary standpoint. The story is about John who leaves home to go train to be a samurai archer. He goes in thinking he will learn to be great with the bow and arrow. But at first he must, as the title suggests, chop wood and carry water. Through the story of John and his sensei, Medcalf weaves lessons about the process of becoming great. In order to become great, you must learn to love the process. You must do the simple things, the things most people think of as unimportant, with consistency and care and love.

The basic ideas in Medcalf’s work are familiar to me. But they are lessons I need to keep learning in new ways, lessons which often need reinforcement because I will think I have it all figured out and then realize I’m really nowhere at all.

I was intrigued about his discussion of goals versus mission. Goals often have a tendency to be counterproductive. They keep you focused on results and results aren’t guaranteed. There are many variable which can keep you from getting the results you want — whether that’s your race pace goal, a championship or a job. Other people and circumstances outside of your control can block you from obtaining your goals. Instead, ,Medcalf talks about “mission” — something you live for that is not tied to results. It is something bigger, something no outside force can block you from doing. Living in gratitude. Having compassion for others (and yourself). Being brave and confident. Challenging yourself. Working hard. All of those things are in your control and the result never matters.
My favorite line from the book: “The only thing truly significant about today is who you become in the process.”
I love that. I have to sit with that for a while, to soak it in and see how I can apply that in my daily life. Because the question that matters most is not What do you want to do? but Who do you want to be? Those are very different things indeed. And while I will probably still work with goals because it’s a way for me to bring focus to the process, I am starting to think more about my mission and what that might look like in my daily life. It’s not a quick fix. It’s about the work in the dark. It’s about caring about the littlest things, the things everyone else dismisses as irrelevant or busywork. What might my life look like if I tackled all my tasks, even the ones which are the most mundane, with love and gratitude? That doesn’t necessarily mean I’m satisfied with where I am. It does mean I’m embracing what is in front of me in this moment and those moments add up to something greater, called “life.”
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