“The most important ingredient for success in making a fire in the backcountry is patience” said the instructor.
At that moment I knew I was screwed.
I can be endlessly patient with some things but most of the time I wouldn’t put patience at the top of my strengths list. Granted, I am no longer half-insane break stuff/give up/scream/yell/go nuts within an instant of something not working (I have evolved after all!), but slow, painstaking micro-actions with no time for a break are not my strong suit.
Perseverance I have tons of. Patience, not so much.
Given that I am very committed to crash-course learning outdoor skills I wish I had started in my 20’s, I decided to suspend my disbelief and throw myself into the class.
Gather sticks and fire making material? Check.
Fire starting tools (source of ignition + hacks for fire-starters)? Check.
Happy to be outside on a snowy, sunny March Sunday near a beautiful lake? Check.
As class would have it, I ended up being the last in the group to go. Up to this point everyone had not only gotten their fire started but also kept it going (even the person who had to basically revive their fire from barely smoldering embers).
Then there was me.
The first strike against me the instruction to start the fire with a 9-volt battery sparked on steel wool. Another participant struggled with this and deemed me the next guinea pig for this method. I was not thrilled.
So I kneeled down in the mud, put the steel wool in my nest of tinder, rubbed the battery like crazy for a few paltry sparks and blew on it. And I blew on it. And did I mention I kept blowing on it?
Sparks, a spent piece of steel wool, but there was no fire.
Undeterred and absolutely convinced I was never choosing the steel wool/battery method in the backcountry, I started my second attempt with Vaseline gobbed cotton balls.
Oh and did I mention matches weren’t an option?
Nope not here, Backcountry Bill. A little metal flint was the preferred ignition source. A handy little thing, but still…tiny sparks, not flaming sticks.
So I sparked away with the flint near the cotton balls and voila! Fire!
I was very excited.
The blowing ensued (while smoke from my miniature flame plus four other fires blew into my lungs and eyes).
The coughing, eye-watering, I think I am going to die of a lung condition escalated.
Yet I continued to add tinder and bigger (i.e., pinky finger size sticks) to the fire.
This is where my patience started to rapidly wane.
“Now add some sticks” said the instructor (so I add baby sticks).
“Oh but don’t smother it” said the instructor (and I thought heinous things about the previously nice man).
This went on for a while as I continued to succumb to death by smoke inhalation and expanded wet, muddy knees.
After a short while, no amount of blowing, poking the embers, or help from the other instructor could revive my poor little fire.
I felt defeated (and still do).
It didn’t help when the instructor looked at me and said “Take her (Kim) with you for fire, and you can cook”. Then he turned to the group and said “Remember, patience is the key ingredient to getting a fire going and keeping it going.”
I’ve been mulling this over since the class because persevering and seeing things to completion is one of my top strengths. I not only get stuff started, I finish it.
Not only that but I am disciplined as hell and am very suited to taking consistent, small actions over long periods of time to create results. You name it – health, fitness, finances, business, meditation… that is exactly the way I do things.
A lot of business owners tell me that they only wish they had the discipline and strong habits that I do to make a change, get stuff done, or simply stick to what they say they want.
In fact many times I work with clients on exactly this – setting up habits and systems that will help them break through their current level of success (or struggle, as the case might be) in a way that can be sustained over time. We pepper it with enough flexibility to be do-able in the wackiness of daily life. Any working mother will tell you it only takes one snow day/sick day/daytime school event to throw a monkey wrench into the best laid plans.
With New Year’s Resolutions and Goals way behind us (and often abandoned), spring is a great time to renew and rejuvenate what you desire most. It just takes a bit of time and a small spark to get things going. That is why I created Spring Cleaning for Your Business. It gives you options and support to get that spark you need and an approach to keep things going.
I’m only offering this to a very limited number of people, so go here now to sign up if what you read resonates with you.
It only takes a split second and a spark for a fire to start.