I’ve made my fair share of fires. It comes with the romantic territory of putting ‘fireplace’ on every home wish list I have ever made. Turns out – there is an equal amount of art, as there is science to it. But as is the case with most things, it takes practice to get any good at it, and a little experimentation.
I’ve yelled at many collapsed piles of kindling. I’ve given pep talks to fires. At some point, I thought I could influence the fire with my thoughts. That turned out to be a false theory. I have not figured out how to make fire read my thoughts (yet).
Still, I’ve had some fun studying myself in the process of learning how to make a good fire. Fire is actually quite insightful. It’s full of metaphors for life. Since getting a little more mindful about the whole thing (after blaming fire for not lighting when I wanted it to…cue: PROJECTION), there have been five key lessons that stand out as useful mental sticky note to come back. Here they are:
1. Patience is anything but passive.
One of the earliest strengths fire forced me to cultivate is patience. If you open the door too early, the kindling won’t be hot enough to fuel a fire. If you add new wood too early, it might steal energy and extinguish the whole darn thing. I’ve learned to slow down and observe. I’ve trained to recognize and interpret a fire’s subtle clues, but only through the practice of patience.
In modern life, we want everything now.
Dreaming big is not the challenge our society is facing. It’s perfectionism. Most dreams remain dreams for most people.
What if we became OK with the idea that the trajectory of success looks different for everyone? We idolize the few unicorns that went from 0 to 100 over night. We want to be like that. And of course we want it all with the least amount of effort. But that’s most of the time not how it happens. We reap what we sow, and sowing is a labour-intensive practice. We love the bounty, the fruits of our labour. Though can we learn to love all phases of creating the life we desire?
What if every seed you plant, every stone you turn, is part of ‘living the dream’? You get to be on the journey of creating experiences! We’ve heard the famous reminder that it’s not about the destination, but the journey. That means that, one day at a time, you can utilize the resources you have available to continue to manifest your dreams. And then tomorrow, you will focus on tomorrow.
You may ask, “What resources do I have available to me? What is the most impactful thing I can do to realize my dream today?” You do one thing – as small as it may be – for 365 days, and you will be surprised at how big your fire has gotten.
2. Diligence pays off.
Your fire is only going to be as good as its foundation. Take the time to make small kindling. Crumble up one page of newspaper at a time. Stack what you’re working with strategically. Think through the different elements. Be diligent.
The amount of times I rushed to make a fire only to find myself cussing at a sad collapsed pile of wood. You build a crappy Tipi, it will collapse. It’s that simple, but often it takes failure for us to realize that everything we desire to manifest in life is standing on the foundation, and is held by the structures that we build.
There is a difference between shortcuts and cutting corners.
A shortcut is a well thought-out, planned process to get you from A to B more efficiently. Cutting corners is a byproduct of short-sightedness that rarely leads to your destination. More often, it sends you back to your starting point.
Don’t be sloppy because you want to save time. Cutting corners does not save time. When the weak foundation breaks, you will be the one who has to chop more kindling, crumble more newspaper, and start the process all over again.
No matter what mission you embark on next in life, set yourself up for success by putting in the time to build a solid foundation with focused diligence.
3. Pig-headed persistence wins.
Let’s say you’re not favourably positioned to start a fire. It’s been raining for days. The newspaper is a little damp. The kindling is scarce and the wood was only cut a few weeks ago. Starting fire under these conditions is a grueling task, seriously. But on a cold, rainy day when all you want is a warm home, you do what you need to do, regardless of the circumstances.
If your desire to do anything is burning hot, then you will do whatever it takes to make light it up and make it come alive.
In Short: You won’t take NO for an answer. You stop making excuses. Failure is not an option, so every setback becomes a source of fuel.
There will be times in life when you feel like giving up. Take a breather (see: number 4), get some sleep, and then re-focus on the goal. “I will make this happen, no matter what,” you say with pig-headed persistence.
4. You’ve got to breathe.
Fires have suffocated prematurely under my watch. I’ve restricted the air flow by stacking the wood too tightly. Of course fire needs air to breathe. Once I figured that out (duh!), I was able to resurrect fires from the saddest vegetative states, simply by creating the space for it to breathe.
Sometimes, we just got to chill out and breathe. Burnout is a real thing. I know you’re strong and can handle it all. I know you love being busy. I know you think this level of hustle is sustainable, but drive any car for long enough and the gas tank will be empty eventually.
Pausing seems counterproductive to progress, but it really isn’t. It’s what keeps your fire burning.
Pay attention to your breath. Set aside sacred time to breathe. Keep the fire alive!
5. Sometimes you just need a re-rack.
“The only thing that is constant is change,” said Heraclitus.
Fire is a constant dance of life and death. Old logs extinguish, new ones catch fire. Change is a intrinsically pre-programmed aspect to work with. Every fire I’ve made required at least one re-rack to keep it burning, especially in the early hours of it. Most of the time it’s one or two logs that throw the elements out of balance, and so the flame starts to cool.
That’s when you call for a re-rack! (A principle I was already familiar with from my questionable career as a recreational beer pong player.)
It’s VERY likely that you will encounter challenges along your path. Some of those you will master through humility, some through diligence, others through pig-headed persistence. Some you can breathe through, yet others require a more mindful re-alignment with all the elements at play.
If you feel stuck, perhaps this is one of the times you need to throw your hands in the air, and yell: “I want a re-rack!”
You take a look at the progress you’ve made, the people you surround yourself with, the tasks you focus on, the things you do to nourish yourself – and you keep zooming out from there. Contemplate the big picture.
Are you still using your resources in the most efficient way? Are you still aligned with your values? Are you still feeling fulfilled by the purpose of your actions?
Experiment with new ideas. Meet new people. Start new conversations.
Cast your net and catch new fireflies. Then bring them home to relight your fire!