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  • Founding Fire

    In the house I grew up in, the “hearth” was definitely front and center in our lives. My father and friends had success in building that house and one of the most cherished places was a gigantic living room fireplace faced with stone. I grew up in Texas–a state you wouldn’t normally think of as having homes that need a fireplace. But, in the spirit of Big Texas, we had one and it wasn’t small. In fact, if I recall correctly, it was at least 10 feet wide, and was floor to ceiling with hand sized and larger stones. There was a dark wood mantle and even a tiled ledge that held wood and a person or two if they chose to snuggle up there. I heard stories about how the stones were selected over the course of many months from different rivers and farms my parents had visited when I was just an infant. They found two prominent stones about 3 feet high and these were placed above the mantle–one white and one a darker bluish shade. I learned how to start a fire by carefully watching my father. Or is it more proper to say “build a fire”? I think both descriptions were apt. My memories of those times are full of the anticipation of the “first fire of the season.” This usually happened near Christmas time, when the temperature dropped to a cooler 50 or 60 degrees from the high 90’s in September. Yeah, I know, not “cold” at all by other people’s standards. If I was lucky, my father had some of the sweet smelling, natural dried wood he called “kindling.” It was a piney, dry, sappy type of small limb he would collect from time to time on his hunting trips. He would find a fallen tree of it like some treasure.


    When lit, there was a magical, quick flame that sputtered to life so quickly and so powerfully from this small kindling. That flame’s aroma quickly spread through the room and was so calming and exciting at the same time. Those fireplace memories are important to me now because there are some lessons I can apply to my life as an adult. For example, I learned that you have to have just the right resources to start a new project. You have to carefully think through what you’ll need when starting a new business, or building a project towards success. Ask yourself whether you have enough of these resources: time, money, social supports, passion, ideas, energy, money…you get the picture. Also, a team of employees (or even a crew of friends and supporters) are metaphorically like logs in a fire. They can either work together towards success as they throw in their ideas and energy. Or, a discordant team could refuse to work together and a project is effectively dead.


    Other business writers talk about “getting the right people on the bus”, meaning that it is much better to have a company with all the right people with the right resources working together “on the bus” that is the company. Without the right people on the bus, you could pick a wrong direction, or even use up too much time squelching disagreements. Like those fires of my childhood, the right resources created something magical. When the correct amount of heat was applied in that specifically right way to the resources at hand, much power was released. I would encourage my reader to consider this question: How best can you gather the specific resources you need to create that magical sweet flame of success? -Shawn Hales, Psy.D.

    Founding Fire Part Two: Patience

    In my previous blog, I shared some memories of my learning lessons from my father’s fire-starting skills. Those first fires of the cold season were magical for me, in both how the fire began, and how strong the fire can become. Patience always helps build a fire. There was always the initial bustle to bring in the logs that had been drying. They were heavy as I carried them inside the house, sometimes dropping a branch or two. Those logs were all full of messy pine needles and leaves and dirt from our back yard. There was often a trail of that stuff coming in the house as we stacked the big logs.


    I recall that the fire starting process was always the hardest part. Whether out loud, or in our own heads we would ask many questions: Was the wood dry enough? Was there enough air? How many matches did we need? Does smoke mean there really is a fire in there, or is it going out? When there was none of that special kindling I mentioned in my last post, my father had to be more creative to light those big logs stacked in a tight triangle. Sometimes he would “cheat” with a rolled up newspaper page or two, and sometimes he used some smaller dried twigs, or leaves, or branches to create the fire. Either way, it still took time to get all the pieces in just the right location to spark that small flame that grew into a fire.


    Patience is important in building a fire, and in building a successful life. What was once a healthy fire can become smothered if too much is fed to it. Many life choices falter when a person takes on too much, or has their attention drawn towards too many options. In other cases, fires don’t grow because the wood isn’t dry enough, producing only smoke. I’ve found that giving your self an adequate amount of time is very important in business and in our personal lives. I can think of several goals I’ve had in my life that I didn’t achieve because I didn’t plan enough or didn’t wait long enough so that the idea would “catch” and grow with time. Have you made any decisions in your life that were too hasty, or not properly planned? If you rush things, the core purpose or driving energy can be lost. Consider today what you need to be patient about, and what you might be missing if you don’t let your internal flame of inspiration catch just right.