Be Fire

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As I watched the flames of this weekend’s campfire dance, jump, and do their flametastic thing, I began to wonder why fire is so darn mesmerizing. And since my family abandoned me after the obligatory roasting of the marshmallows, I had time to come up with an answer as the fire slowly burned itself out. Here’s what I came up with:

Fire…

…is stimulating.
…is comforting.
…is energetic.
…is relaxing.
…constantly changes and adapts.
…protects from things that could hurt you (like hypothermia or Bigfoot).
…enables sustenance (i.e., cooks hot dogs)
…encourages conversation, laughter, and storytelling.
…lights up everyone within reach.
…smells good.
…almost always puts you in a good mood.
…burns for quite a while on its own.
…once lit, is easy to “stoke” to a greater level.

As I let my mind wander around this answer, I noticed the small stack of unused wood I had left over. And I noticed it had very different qualities than the fire it helps create.

A piece of wood…

…just sits there waiting for someone to do something with it.
…quickly rots if not moved.
…is not fun to carry, even short distances.
…may give splinters to anyone who attempts to move it.

I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking “He’s going to tell us to ‘Be Fire, Not Wood.'”

So, just to get it out of the way: Be Fire, Not Wood.

I shouldn’t have to sell you on the idea of trying to be more like fire than wood. If you exhibit the characteristics of fire, then personal, professional, team, and organizational success would be almost guaranteed.

The problem is that we’re ALL wood, every one of us. The difference between us and real wood is that even we don’t ever really burn up. Sure, we might burn OUT once in a while, but even then we don’t turn into ashes and blow away, we turn back into a piece of wood with the choice to just sit there or burn brightly again.

So, how does a piece of wood burn and exhibit all those wonderful characteristics we noticed above?

Wood creates fire by giving itself away, by turning its energy outwards and sharing it with others. And if you’ve noticed, a good piece of wood gives it all until there’s nothing left.

Think about the people who consistently produce the biggest and best results at work. Are they sitting there like a piece of wood or are they giving all of their energy to their role, task, project, team, and company?

Think about the people who have awesome marriages. Are they sitting there like a piece of wood or are they sharing their energy completely with their spouse?

Same goes for kids, families, communities, and anything else. The more energy we give, the more everything around us benefits.

Here’s the key:

Wood must be lit BEFORE it can give its energy way. Our fire is lit WHEN we give our energy away. And the more we give it away, the more brightly we burn.

This is exactly opposite of what we’ve been taught by the energy-misers of the world: keep the best for yourself, don’t give it all away, protect what’s yours.

I’m not talking about giving away company secrets or the cure for cancer (although if you have it, you probably should give it away). I’m talking about your ideas, energy, passion and all those wonderful skills, talents, and personality traits that make you YOU.

Marianne Williamson’s “Deepest Fear” poem contains a line that gives me chills every time I read it:

“Your playing small does not serve the world.”

I intentionally gave that line the space and respect it deserves, because that’s why I want you to “Be Fire.” You’ll start playing on a bigger level when you start giving more of yourself away.

Where have you been holding back? Where have you been playing small? What will happen when you decide to burn brighter?

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