What Firewalking Can Teach You About You (and Business)

By June 8, 2013Opinion

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A friend of mine was recently diagnosed with breast cancer. As a self employed dog groomer, she doesn’t have a lot of money to pay for medical bills. As she gets further along with her treatment, those medical bills will pile up faster and faster. To help her raise money, her family organized a firewalk where all proceeds were donated to her.

I’ve walked on fire before, but nobody I work with had. I sent out an invite to everyone at the office and got a few people who wanted to go, but weren’t able to make it, seeing that it was late on a Friday night. Apparently weekends are important to people I work with. 😉

Just a few hours before the walk started, though, the president of the company walked over to my desk and said, “So what’s with this firewalk thing? Count me in, and my wife, too.” By the end of the night, he was asking the director of the firewalk if they do these for businesses, based on what he had learned. Like I said, I’ve walked on fire before. Every time I learn something new. Here are a few things I learned about me (and business) this go-around.

Reality is Merely Perception

As the firewalk instructor began to cue up the evening, he circled the group (about 100+ people) around him and asked everyone how many of him there were. Most people answered the obvious answer – 1. There’s only one guy teaching everyone else about the firewalk, right? Wrong. The answer, due to this thing called ‘perception’ meant that in that group of 100+, there were 101+ versions of the director. Everything I believe about the director is based on my beliefs and experiences. Everyone in the group has different experiences and beliefs, and therefore, everyone has a different perception of the director of the firewalk.

This really got me thinking, and I imagine this was the purpose of what he said. If in my world (I know it as reality), the instructor exists as a kind, wise person, but in someone else’s reality, he is a rude, idiotic buffoon, who is right? Well, I am. And so is the other person. And so is everyone else. All because of this weird thing called perception.

Big Fire - tannerpetroff.com

So naturally, I applied this to my life at the office. The other day, I got in an argument with a co-worker about whether or not we should purchase billboard space for one of our customers. My argument was that it wasn’t going to drive leads, it would be a lot of work to design the ad and website to send people to for contact information. My co-workers argument is that it the campaign wasn’t based on driving leads, but rather on branding and awareness. Who was right in that situation? I was. And so was my co-worker. I sure didn’t see it that way, though. I fought tooth and nail for what I perceived as right, because I thought it was the only answer. How many unpleasant conversations or situations could I have cut out of my life if I realized that there is always more than one answer?

The Firewalk is a Like a Mirror

When it came time to finally walk across the burning coals, I noticed a lot of things. Some people were calm, focused, and peaceful as they crossed the fire. Others were nervous, waiting at one side of the fire for several minutes before crossing or deciding that now was not the time for them to cross the fire.

Owen and Betsy Firewalk - tannerpetroff.com

I noticed that a lot of the people who were calm, focused, and peaceful crossed with what seemed like no trouble at all. They ended up on the other side as if they were doing nothing more than taking a Sunday stroll down a city street. As for the people who were nervous, there seemed to be a variety of outcomes. Some people waited until they were ready, and nervous as they still were, they walked and ended up fine. Others walked while they weren’t ready, and they would try to run, burying their feet deeper into

the coals than most. These are the people who were most likely to get burns or blisters on their feet.

I personally was a bit nervous, but had no hesitation crossing the fire. I walked side-by-side with my wife, who was holding my hand the whole way. At the very end, I felt a pocket of extreme heat and jumped a small jump to the other end of the fire. This morning, I have a small burn on my foot, and I believe it’s a perfect reflection of how I work and interact with people. Life can be scary. Work can be scary. Sometimes I just have to keep moving, anyway. Sometimes when I’m in the middle of something scary, I forget how to deal with it, and freak out, and sometimes it causes me to get burned. I feel like I’ve been burned a time or two in my life, and it’s perfect for me because it’s exactly what I create for myself.

Trust Goes a Long Way

Of all the people who walked across the fire without being burned, what number do you think they would rate their trust in themselves, on a scale from 1-10? Judging by how calm and peaceful they were as they walked across the fire, I would guess a minimum or 8,

and more likely a 9 or 10. What about those who were nervous and waited for several minutes on one side of the fire? A 4 or 5? And what about those who rand and were burned? A 3 or 4? I don’t know all the answers, but these are my guesses.

If you asked me last night about my level of trust in myself, what do you think it would be? If you guessed a 6.5, you’d be right on. And – surprise! – I got burned. How often in work do I allow myself to be burned solely on the fact that I don’t trust myself? What would life at work be like for me and everyone I work with if I were able to trust in my ideas, and to know that the ideas everyone else has are perfect, as they are shaped by their beliefs and experiences they know to be reality.

Linzy Boulter Breast Cancer Fire Walk

Donate to Linzy

P.S. I briefly mentioned this at the beginning of my post, but this firewalk I’m writing about was a fundraiser for Linzy Boulter, who was recently diagnosed with breast cancer. If you’d like to donate to help her pay for medical bills, get in touch with me and I’ll point you in the right direction.

Tanner Petroff

Author Tanner Petroff

Tanner Petroff is a web marketer who has worked on a variety of projects for a number of companies, including Fit Marketing, Sportsman's Warehouse, KSL.com, and Boostability. In my spare time, I enjoy golf, racquetball, rock climbing, and spending time with friends. Connect with me on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Google+.

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