Leadership Lessons from Walking on Fire
I am one of over 2 million people around the world that have done a fire walk. It is certainly not for everyone. However, not only did I walked on fire, you can too – if you want to. A desire to walk on fire is the first key to a successful fire walk. The other key is getting the opportunity – with a trained facilitator. Which makes it a perfect metaphor for the experience of leadership – it’s not for everyone, but anyone can, given there is both the desire and the opportunity.
When I tell someone I did a fire walk I get one (or more) of these responses:
What was it like?
I want to do that!
Neutrality flies out the window and curiosity takes over. So, I will attempt to describe the walk, so you can see if it is for you – either literally walking on fire, or leading in your chosen area. The word I use to describe both is “transformative”. Still, like being married or having kids, there is no way to describe either of them completely until you do it yourself.
LESSON 1. BE OPEN TO RISK, BUT PLAN ACCORDINGLY.
I am an entrepreneur who has founded two multi-million dollar marketing/event agencies. I also am blessed to have no fear of public speaking I needed to overcome. I’ve jumped out of an airplane and climbed Manchu Picchu. So, I am one of those freaks of nature who embrace risk pretty readily.
So, if you try constantly to manage life to so you can avoid risk, I’m about the shake your world: Nothing is without it’s inherent risk.
I might seek it out more than you do, but it’s only because I’ve made friends with it. There’s risk in every relationship – the risk of heartache, disappointment, death, illness, and so much more.
Yet we still enter into them.
Nothing is without it’s inherent risk.
There’s risk in every business – economic upheaval, market shifts, natural disasters and personal challenges can all make or break a business of any size.
Yet still we are launching them in record numbers.
You can’t manage your safety on the highway, in public places, or from chronic illness with any assurances.
Still, we go on living.
We do our best to avoid disaster, of course, and apply the best wisdom available for whatever we want to accomplish, and minimize the risks in everything. That’s why, when I was invited to a national retreat that was planning a fire walk, although I really wanted to try it, I really wasn’t sure I had what it took to mentally override the laws of physics. So I needed some of that “greater wisdom”.
Therefore, I did what anyone in my position would do – I Googled it.
I knew there had to be a physical explanation for how fire walks work.
I was right.
The science of fire walks is actually fascinating. The fire is burned down to coals and embers, and while the coals, which are on top, don’t conduct heat, the embers, on the bottom, do.
So the trick is to not dawdle, or stand still, so your weight doesn’t cause you to sink into the embers. And also not to run or race across, which also puts weight on the balls of your feet, pushing the embers up between your toes.
So – just take a nice stroll, at a moderate pace, across the coals and you are all good!
I had a plan.
What’s fascinating to me is that at least 80% of small businesses have no business plan. And 80% fail in the first 2 years. We just throw ourselves at the mercy of fate (and flames) hoping for the best. That is not leadership. It is taking unnecessary risk, when life is full of enough risk already.
I absolutely support following your passion and throwing caution to the wind in pursuit of your dreams. But, please, have a plan when you do. Blindly jumping in on a whim is not only self-sabotaging, it is downright irresponsible to those you are leading.
LESSON 2. START WITH THE END IN MIND.
I discovered fire walks have a very real, ancient purpose, and it isn’t to demonstrate our superiority or bragging rights. Fire walks are about releasing our internal blocks and moving towards what we desire. It is about self-mastery. To master my self, I must know who I am and where I want to be.
To create this sort of shift, fire walks are steeped in ritual; rituals that help us focus, set aside limiting beliefs, and move into a more spiritual (yes, I said spiritual) mindset. Some ritual is old and shamanic, such as naming the thing we want to invite into our life, writing it on a piece of paper. Along with this, we also are asked to name the thing we want to let go in order to make space for what we are calling forth, and write that down as well. Fire walking becomes about changing our lives radically.
But lest we get carried away by the heady quality of this promised transformation, there are some modern rituals that have been instituted. Two that come to mind are the signing of a legal waiver, and watching a PowerPoint about fire walks, detailing out the horror stories of people who ended in the emergency room after a fire walk. Lessons learned in real trial by fire.
So, the risks and the challenges were clearly laid out before me. Those are the embers, and they can burn you; otherwise, they would not be risks. The PowerPoint clearly demonstrated that while over 2 million people have done a fire walk, not everyone has done so successfully. But it also was very clear – they didn’t do the easy pace across the coals Google suggested. They went too slowly. They looked down. They ran. They did the things you ought not to do, and they got burned as a result.
But there’s always a chance that you can make a mistake out of inexperience, or misunderstanding, or poor timing. That’s why you don’t lead – or walk on fire – just for the bragging rights or the curiosity. You do it to realize your objective. You do it to transform yourself, and then to share it with others so they can also be transformed. No one does this solely for himself or herself. Leaders need followers. Businesses need clients.
LESSON 3. KNOW WHAT IS YOURS TO DO – THEN DO IT.
There were about 80 of us that night who helped build the fire, bless the fire, and who placed the papers with the things we wanted to let go of into the fire. We sang a simple, uplifting song as one by one, about 30 of us walked up to the fire. The heat is incredible.
And about 9 feet of hot coals were in front of me.
80 people were watching me.
And the facilitator was standing at the other end of the coals, with the thing I wanted most in the world, on that piece of paper, saying, “Come get it,”
…ready to catch me when I make it across.
Imagine the emotion.
And the fear.
And the desire.
And all that Google science – the stuff I know about how the fear isn’t real, and anyone can do this – goes right out the window.
When you are standing on the edge of the fire, what you have to ask yourself is, “Is this mine to do?
Do I have it in me to walk on fire?”
For me, the answer was “Yes.”
That doesn’t mean it had to be – or that those who didn’t walk on fire that night were any lesser because they didn’t. It just wasn’t theirs to do. They held space, and sang and cheered on those of us who did.
And I would do it again.
But what I know now is that those flames are just like the challenges that come up in my life every day.
My mind can tell me that this is doable and countless people have done this successfully before me.
But my feelings and beliefs can get in my way and hold me back.
They can stop me if I let them.
But I am unstoppable. So are you, if you are ready to begin.
ARE YOU READY TO BE UNSTOPPABLE?
Join us at the upcoming Fire Starter Retreat, the first week in 2019, and learn how you can create unstoppable momentum for yourself in every area of your life – precisely where you want it. Find out more by clicking the image below.