by Edward Siceloff
Firewalking has existed for thousands of years as a spiritual practice that aims to strengthen the mind-body connection of an individual. It demonstrates that people have control over their own bodies, including the tolerance of pain and the ability to transform bodily limitations by tapping into spiritual powers. Ancient civilizations have practiced firewalking as a religious ritual and healing ceremony by priests, shamans, and ordinary people. In fact, scholars estimate that people have practiced this ancient art since before mankind could record historical events; however, no conclusive evidence points to where and when firewalking originated.
The earliest known record of firewalking occurred over four thousand years ago in present-day India, where two Brahmin priests competed to see who could walk furthest on a bed of coals. The Ancient Romans rewarded citizens with a tax exemption if they could demonstrate their ability to transcend pain by walking on fire without incurring burns. In Africa, the Kung Bushmen tribe danced around a fire as a powerful healing rite, a ceremony that also included rolling on the fire. In addition, families celebrate the coming of age for their seven-year-old daughters in Bali, Indonesia. The Kahunas in Hawaii allow molten lava to harden enough to old their body weight before walking over it. Other countries have practiced fire immunity and firewalking rituals, including Brazil, Burma, China, Egypt, Bulgaria, Australia, Fiji, Hawaii, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, India, Haiti, New Zealand, Singapore, Spain, Pakistan, Thailand, the Philippines, Trinidad, South Africa, Sri Lanka, and Tibet.
The global firewalking movement, as influenced by Tolly Burkan, emerged in 1977. Before the birth of this trend, firewalking was seen as an obscure and mysterious ritual up until a popular magazine called “Scientific American” had printed a “how-to” article that described the firewalking process. Tolly Burkan reported trying the firewalking experiment, and instantly shared it with as many people who would listen to his inner-transformation. In fact, Burkan attributed this experience as his motivation to offer firewalking as a valuable service to the general public. Burkan’s firewalking research revealed that no other spiritual practitioner could agree on why people remained unharmed when they walked over red-hot embers. Inspired by this research, Burkan exclusively offered his firewalking classes for the next seven years until others came to the forefront.
In 1979, Tolly Burkan convinced his followers to use firewalking as a form of exercise for personal growth. Burkan had written a best-selling book and conducted dozens of self-help seminars since 1973; therefore, his followers were less reluctant to accept firewalking into their own personal regime. In fact, Burkan added firewalking to his public seminars as an avenue towards expanding self-awareness, overcoming fear, and eradicating limiting beliefs. Burkan took a risk in introducing firewalking for this very purpose; however, it slowly proved its effectiveness as a time-tested treatment that changes lives forever.
Burkan continued to teach firewalking to his students on a limited scale until 1982, when he started to advertise his firewalking courses aggressively. The masses overwhelmingly responded to his firewalking brochures, insomuch that it became sensational in the media. In 1983, Burkan contacted several media outlets to share his vision of a global firewalking movement that would transform the world into a better, more peaceful place for everybody. Unfortunately, mass media outlets rejected his “vision” as a trendy fad that people would soon forget after time lapsed. Bulkan also met and taught Tony Robbins, a modern self-help guru, how to firewalk in 1983. The young, enthusiastic Tony Robbins loved firewalking so much that he promoted and turned the exercise into an international sensation, fulfilling the dream that Bulkan envisioned for over a half decade. Tony Robbins’ targeted the celebrity market, which suddenly converted many public acclaim figures to the art of firewalking.
Burkan’s firewalking classes expanded to Europe, and soon grew to include firewalking instructor courses in 1984. In 1985, Burkan refined his firewalking instructor courses that would no longer require prospective students to accompany him on road tours. In fact, the new system simplified the training process by keeping all of the prospective students in one place, where they would perform multiple firewalking sessions every day for one week. Not only did this decrease the stress on both the trainers and students, it saved prospective students thousands of dollars. This made the firewalking instructor courses more accessible to people who felt drawn to teaching the fine art of firewalking.
Corporations and small business owners started to incorporate firewalking sessions into their management training programs as a means of inspiring creativity and visions in their employees. During the 1990s, Burkan trained over one thousand firewalking instructors who helped empower corporate managers to overcome their limitations. Burkan also had competition from phoneys who never received his firewalking instructor certification. In fact, these imposters decided to teach their own firewalking courses, which ended in disaster for those who participated. As a result, people became leery of participating in firewalking exercises due to the negative media coverage of these tragic events that ended in serious injury.
Tony Robbins developed his role as a prominent firewalking instructor in the corporate sector, while Tolly Burkan conducted firewalking courses on college campuses across the United States. However, many corporations sought out Burkan directly after discovering that Tony Robbins formatted his courses after Burkan’s “Fear Into Power” self-development program. Unfortunately, this hastened Burkan’s physical deterioration that started in 1975, when a car struck him in a cross-walk. In 1987, Burkan’s career was stunted, when his body suddenly became paralyzed, requiring reconstructive surgery on his neck. However, his legacy still continued to live through Tony Robbins, Charles Horton, and other self-help gurus who taught inner-transformation by walking on a bed of coal. In 2006, the United States military contacted Burkan directly to help design a firewalking course for Basic Training, a feat that Tolly realized gained the exercise credibility. Today, people from all over the world obtain F.I.R.E. certification to help others reach their own goals and aspirations in life through the fine art of firewalking.
by MICHAEL JOSEPHSON on JULY 26, 2012
These are powerful words. Authentic apologies can work like a healing ointment on old wounds, dissolve bitter grudges, and repair damaged relationships. They encourage both parties to let go of toxic emotions like anger and guilt and provide a fresh foundation of mutual respect.
But authentic apologies involve much more than words expressing sorrow; they require accountability, remorse, and repentance.
An accountable apology involves a sincere acknowledgment that the apologizer did something wrong. “I’m sorry your feelings were hurt” is a fake apology because it accepts no personal responsibility. A better apology is “I’m sorry I hurt your feelings.” An even better one reveals an understanding of the wrongdoing from the point of view of the person injured and asks for forgiveness. “I’m sorry I called you a bad mother. I was speaking out of anger, and I ask you to forgive me.” Given the natural human tendency to interpret our own words and actions in a manner most favorable to us, it takes great self-awareness to be accountable.
An authentic apology also conveys remorse. It’s easier to forgive persons who have hurt us if we believe they have suffered some pain themselves in the form of regret, sorrow, or shame. Self-inflicted guilt is a form of penance or reparation that clears the road to forgiveness.
Accountability and remorse must also be joined by repentance – recognizing something we did was wrong coupled with a credible commitment to not do it again. Without such a commitment, an apology is hollow. Thus, repetitive apologies for the same conduct are meaningless and often offensive. “I’m sorry” is not a Get Out of Jail Free card that lets people off the hook who repeatedly break promises, get drunk, or say cruel things.
It takes character to both give and accept an authentic apology.
QUOTE: Apologizing does not always mean that you’re wrong and the other person is right. It just means that you value your relationship more than your ego. – from Positive Outlooks
by MICHAEL JOSEPHSON on NOVEMBER 14, 2011
June’s firewalk was almost cancelled. Six last-day cancellations drove me to fear that I would not have enough attendees, so I called the local attendees I knew, and asked them if they wanted a small firewalk or a rain check — they opted for the rain check. I glumly accepted my disappointment. Then I went out to dinner. My cellphone rang at 7:01pm — a couple had driven from Rochester, 3 hours away, to firewalk — and where was I? They had registered months ago and I forgot. I told them to stay put, promised them a firewalk, had the restaurant pack up the food from the table, and got on the phone. I reassembled my team, got my local friends back into the game, and we were on! I drove fast. It ended up as a wonderful, rich evening.
Alison Taren participated in the workshop. Following is a poem she wrote about it:
small split logs
carried piece by piece
to the waiting earth
already scorched and knowing
like an old man, wise
the fire is lit
by many hands
sending hot red spires
into the evening air
eyes squint, wondering
the scene is set
over cold, wet grass
we walk indoors
where the one who’s guiding
tells us to pay attention,
play full out, and
let it be easy
his words hit deeply
like the arrow we later break
against our soft throats
awakening places in me
too long asleep
boards are broken
as are fears
taking me back
to the first time
into others’ arms
having to catch
then blunt arrow tips
into throat hollows
greensticking the shaft
never thought I would
never thought I could
warm hugs all around
lots and lots of hugs
even the one
who cringed at the thought
now hugs and hugs
we walk back to the fire
burnt down low
red glowing embers
like an angry god laughing
daring us to tread
than I had imagined
I close my eyes and listen
to the one who’s guiding
bless and chant
bringing me into a space
where I know I can
I know I will
walk across fire
In the last few days, a story broke about 21 people getting treated for “second and third degree burns” after a Tony Robbins firewalk with some 6,000 participants. The president of the Firewalking Institute, which trained me (and Tony Robbins many years ago) has issued this statement about it, and it reflects my thoughts.
Put less dimplomatically than he does: The reporter was sensationalizing when he reported a single number that combined 2nd degree burns, which are small blisters that usually heal completely within a few days, and 3rd degree burns, which are more serious. I might also be overly sensitive given my vested interest, but I have to think that when a witness said “it sounded like people were being tortured” that the witness or the journalist was exaggerating just a little bit for dramatic effect. There is typically loud music and enthusiastic chanting at such events,,, 6,000 voices… and it strains credulity to assert that the witness was able to hear much over the sound of 6,000 people enthusiastically chanting.
I want to know how many, if any, third degree burns there were. Between myself and the instructors at the institute, we have lead several hundred thousand people through the fires, and have not witnessed ANY third degree burns. So, even one is noteworthy. There may have been three, as that is how many sought medical treatment beyond the first-aid booth. If that is the case, I am curious about what went wrong given the extreme rarity of such injuries.
Here is the official response from the Firewalking Institute:
The Firewalking Institute of Research and Education, or FIRE, is a world-class institute that internationally certifies firewalk instructors to the highest standard of safety. We, at FIRE, feel compelled to respond to the media coverage regarding the recent incident involving the firewalk experience at the Tony Robbins Unleash the Power Within seminar in California. Media report that subsequent to completing the firewalk experience, 21 of the 6,000 event participants sought medical attention for second- or third-degree burns.
We can examine the odds, and consider that 21 out of 6,000 equates to a 1 in 286 likelihood of receiving a second- or third-degree burn in this particular event. The lifetime risk of death from riding in a car is 1 in 84, a custom that is seldom given second thought.
The distinction between second- and third-degree burns is critical. Having conducted many firewalks, we have seen no third-degree burns in our participants. We have seen occasional second-degree burns that manifest as small blisters, similar to blisters that are commonly experienced on one’s feet after walking a certain distance in ill-fitting shoes. These blisters typically disappear completely within a few days. We have instructors who have firewalked hundreds and even thousands of times without ever requiring medical attention.
FIRE was not at this particular event, however from previous experience we are confident that Tony Robbins uses the utmost care and responsibility in conducting firewalks. Participants are well aware of possible risks and partake at their own discretion. When facilitated by experts trained to the highest standard of safety, the firewalk experience is very positive and life-changing for most participants. We maintain that, when facilitated properly, the probable benefits of the firewalk far outweigh any potential risks.
Last week I led a firewalk workshop in Oxfordshire, in the English countryside. it was amazing. 27 participants braved floods and road closings to come. Most were middle-aged housewives from a slimming club (“Slimming World”) and everyone got tremendous value from it. Life-changing insights and experiences all around the room! Mane experienced changes just from the hugging practice — The English are often hesitant to do such things. A tiny anorexic girl was seen receiving a big hug from a fellow participant, someone she had just met, right after her firewalk… and the miracle is that she never lets strangers touch her, EVER.
And there was one story that stood out. Abby White came to my Integrity Dividend business presentation the day before the firewalk. She learned of the upcoming firewalk and decided she had to come. Abby is blind, ever since she contracted eye cancer as a child. She runs an international charity for eye cancer, the daisy fund (http://daisyfund.org), and is in the process of losing the last of her sight. She wanted to participate in the firewalk in order to restore her sometimes flagging courage. She got what she came for. Here is the story she wrote:
Walking Through The Fire
“You are a maniac”. “I could never do that”. “You are so much braver than me”. Some of the reactions I received on telling people I walked barefoot across hot coals last Friday.
Firewalking is used in purification ceremonies and as a rite of passage in cultures worldwide. For example, Kalahari bushmen believe when their life energy equals that of the fire, they will not be burned, while Tibetan Buddhist monks walk on fire as part of a clarifying meditation.
For Tony Simons, firewalking is a tool to break down personal barriers and nourish self belief. Tony is a certified firewalk instructor, professor of organizational behaviour and applied psychology at Cornell University, and author of The Integrity Dividend. I met him last Thursday when he spoke at a business breakfast on the importance of integrity in business relations.
The following day, Tony co-hosted a firewalking workshop with Heather Allen, his Integrity Dividend research assistant and Chief Executive of innovative Oxfordshire based consultancy firm TheWowFactor. A background in nursing care and social work, combined with visionary leadership skills and motivating words make Heather instantly approachable and inspiring. Together, she and Tony offered me the incredible opportunity to participate in the workshop.
I accepted their invitation because my confidence has been severely knocked recently by my sight succumbing to late effects of radiotherapy. I am responsible for the leadership of Daisy’s Eye Cancer Fund and need to do all I can to protect what confidence remains, and build it back up.
Tony believes five steps are essential to achieve any goal: setting intentions, visualizing success, establishing trust, pushing through discomfort, and letting go of fear. He has been leading LifeCourage workshops for two years, guiding participants through challenges representing these five steps.
I was given a wooden board of about 12” square and ¾ inches thick, and invited to write upon it the barriers I wanted to break through by attending the workshop. Fear of losing my sight; lack of confidence, lack of trust… I marshalled other significant barriers in my mind.
To purposefully visualize success in breaking through these barriers, we were invited to break the board. Not with a hammer or saw, but with one bare hand. Surely not – my board would probably be the only one to not break, or I would make a spectacle of myself by performing the action incorrectly. I grabbed a pen and hastily added “fear of failure” to my board!
Acknowledging my poor sight, Tony suggested I practice the manoeuvre without the board resting on the brick platform. This gave me a sense of distance and the power required. The room filled with encouraging noise as I focused on the board, still sceptical about my potential for success.
My hand mentally gathered up every toxic emotion within me, and slammed the heal downwards. Miraculously, my board broke into two pieces. I felt no discomfort, no sense that my hand had just met solid wood at great speed. An awesome wave of empowered satisfaction engulfed my being, creating an acute awareness that this night would be like no other in my experience.
Establishing trust is vital when we rely on others. I am currently training with my first guide dog, and must trust her completely as we navigate the world together. I must trust my international team as we work together to build best possible care for children. They and the many families I interact with must be able to trust me. Yet trust is so hard to grow – or so I thought.
Would you trust complete strangers to catch you if you were to fall backwards from a height of about 3ft? For me, this was a greater challenge than walking on fire. Standing with my hands clasped at my chest to protect the catchers, , I prayed for trust to come to me.
Four of my fellow participants had already honoured me with their trust, though they barely knew me and in spite of my disability. My experience as a catcher inspired confidence to return that trust.
“Fall away” came the collective invitation from those waiting to gather me into their arms. I closed my eyes and let the centre of gravity move through my feet and into my back. No time to experience fear in the fall before outstretched hands caught me and lowered me to my feet again.
Tony’s inspiring words and skilful direction had woven us all together – some friends of many years and those who well met just two hours before. We were working as a team, totally focused on each other’s safety and wellbeing. How was this possible?
I believe personal limitations impact how we interact with those around us. We were all being led out of our comfort zone, all looking for understanding, acceptance and encouragement. I believe that vulnerability allowed us to be comfortable with one another on simple terms.
So I have stated my intentions and learned to trust more, but still I mist accept my failing sight. Daisy Fund too has set clear goals and created a marvellous team, but still the path ahead is fraught with great challenges – poverty, fear, ignorance, complacency, apathy, politic, greed, arrogance and competition, limited resources. One could easily throw hands in the air and cry “it is too much – we cannot succeed”.
Tony challenges participants to push forward, even when it becomes uncomfortable. He presented me with a cedarwood archer’s arrow, placing the nooked end against a wall. I placed the tip in the hollow of my throat, and my absolute trust in Tony’s hands. Walking towards the wall goes against natural instinct as fear of being impaled wells up, but Tony reassured that doing so would cause only moderate transient discomfort.
I thought of the arrow’s red and gold fletchings – to me they embodied life and death challenges of retinoblastoma. In that moment, the arrow became a symbolic barrier to our goals, a rough pass to be overcome with hope.
Gingerly, I stepped towards the wall. Motivational noise whipped up, spurring me onward despite the stinging in my neck as the arrow began to bend. Suddenly, a decisive snap broke the tension, and pain was gone. Cheers, hugs and affirming praise wrapped around me as the two pieces of arrow were tied together – my souvenir symbol of “stickability”.
Success at each task concocted a strange mixture of excitement and peace. I felt safe with the people around me, and trusted that Tony would not cause us harm. I was ready to contemplate the firewalk.
In the gathering night, we lit the ready-laid fire, adding our broken boards in a potent act of commitment to ourselves. I gave the fire my blessing and lifted my prayers above it to my watching God.
For 90 minutes, the wood burned down, before being raked into a smooth path of glowing coals. Tony walked us mentally though the fire with a vital safety briefing. No running, striding, dancing, jumping or hopping – nothing but steady regular pace. No flash photography on the first walk-through as this can dangerously startle the nervous firewalker.
We shared motivational statements with energetic gusto, followed by cheering that my guide dog joined in excitement. Annie’s happy barks sparked therapeutic laughter throughout the room.
We also learned a Native American friendship chant, a beautifully simple meditation to sing together in mutual encouragement.
Never at any point in the evening did I feel pressured to undertake a challenge. I stood at the head of the firewalk fettered only by intense fear of fire. Three hours before, the thought of walking on burning coals absolutely terrified me, but those fears seemed less intense in the cool night air, surrounded by these wonderful people.
“Courage is not the absence of fear” says Tony. “It is the realisation that something else is more important”.
When faced with the final decision, I pushed myself to face my fears because nourishing my confidence is more important than staying comfortable. I had a choice to walk away at every moment in the process, but the names and faces of children (and their family members) who can’t walk away from the fire inspired me to step forward.
Heather walked on my right and Tony on my left, their upturned palms barely touching mine to guide me along the three metre path of fire.
I sang through the friendship chant four times before stepping forward, allowing myself space to breath deeply within the harmony of voices and be filled by their peace. I caught a voice inside me saying “when you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze” (Isaiah 43:2), and knew I was ready.
Burning coals exceed 1,000°F. I had a vague sensation of discomfort under my bare feet, but refused to explore those sensations further. I walked steadily, focused only on the words I was singing.
Cool rain saturated grass was almost a rude interruption, and the moment I stepped off the fire, I wanted to walk it again. I was dazed by the enormity of what I had just achieved, but the elation that quickly followed was epic. I had literally walked through one of my greatest fears and metaphorically stomped all over many more.
I walked the fire twice more before the night ended!
Walking across glowing coals was a profoundly empowering experience, demanding that I pay attention to this one present moment, without considering what came before or what might follow. Each moment sparkled as the coals glowed against the velvet night. That sparkle has remained, giving a heightened awareness of the world and appreciation for it.
Tony’s workshop gives people resources and skills to tap into their inner courage. I have walked through fire and emerged unscathed. I already had the courage to move forward, but I now understand how to bring it to the surface to sustain me. My ultimate challenge is to apply in daily life what I have learned about myself through this extraordinary experience.
Perhaps I am a maniac, but a little eccentricity is no bad thing. I am definitely no braver than any of my friends, and I did not do something you could not also do. I’m sure success was largely a result of being surrounded by encouragement. So surround yourself with great friends, pay attention to your relationships, honour them with your trust and allow them to encourage you forward – even in rough times when you think you can’t take another step. They will help you discover your inner courage and enable you to fly.
If you think my firewalk is an achievement worth celebrating, please consider making a donation to Daisy’s Eye Cancer Fund, because children and their families have no choice but to walk the fire, and they cannot do it alone!
Do not attempt to firewalk without a trained leader. Firewalking requires an experienced professional instructor who can safely conduct the walk itself, and support participants through the intense personal experience.
Tony Simons is a certified firewalk instructor. He leads monthly LifeCourage workshops at the Foundation of Light in Ithaca, NY. To find our more and book a session, visit http://integritydividend.com/firewalks.
Heather Allen is a dynamic specialist in group behaviour and personal development, an inspiring public speaker and Executive Coach. Her company, TheWowFactor, delivers unique transformational leadership programmes and creative solutions to complex problems. http://thewowfactorltd.com.
Video to embed: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6KmisVA0nGQ
My friend Erik Lehmann is “The Dream Catalyst,” or that is his nonprofit and his mission. He finds young people who do not have anyone who believes in them, and he helps to make their dreams matter. He brought a young couple to Friday’s firewalk. 18 and 19 years old, engaged. Pregnant. Both unemployed. Both victims of long-term, repeated abuse – physical, emotional, sexual. Oh, and the guy has rage issues where he becomes a “monster” (his word). And that is not all: he is martial-arts trained, at competition level. So when he loses control he can do more damage than someone who is not trained. Wow.
They were both totally open about their challenges right from the beginning of the workshop, as it explained why they were there: They both wanted to turn a corner and become better — for each other, and for their child-to-be. They both bravely took on the challenges I offered them. They wrote a ton on their boards about what they wanted to break through and towards – and then they broke them. The girl decided not to do the trust fall to protect her baby, but the guy, strapping and fit, said he almost peed his pants over that challenge. Trust does not come easily to people who have faced more than their measure of cruelty.
They both broke their arrows and they both walked through fire, joyfully. They said it helped them feel they could handle more than any of those horrible people in their past could dish out to them.
I do a bonus exercise for just a few people each workshop – where we capitalize on the elated moment after the firewalk to reprogram some negative self-images. His was “I am a monster.” Hers was that she is worthless. After the firewalk, they each design and proclaim a new truth to the group, until the group accepts they are speaking with full force and full conviction. He announced that he is a loving father and partner, always. She announced that she believes in herself, and she wept. Both received many hugs and much celebration for their new convictions. I asked them both to hold each other accountable for their new stands in life.
They were both wobbly and thrilled at the end of the workshop.
His testimonial: “Life changing. Tony helped me understand I am a person not a monster.”
Hers: “Tonight’s experience was fulfilling, relieving, and really made me feel like I am more than what I originally believed. I am strong, willful, and beautiful inside and out. I never felt like I was able to express myself until now. I am not who people say I am. I am myself. Thanks for the firewalk!”
Erik’s: “Tony, thank you for taking in the people I send and showing them your brand of love. What happens here is sacred!”
Other participants noted how they were moved by what they witnessed. I am reluctant to claim to be a healer, but healing happened Friday night. Those young parents-to-be got a look at what it would be like to be free of their burdens. Their challenges are just beginning, of course. Hopefully we can get a good local counselor to work with them for charity. But it was an honor and a privilege to serve them so deeply. I know this experience made a difference for them. Keep the momentum going, shining souls!
Enjoy! Well worth 6 minutes. It is not about behavioral integrity directly, but it is powerful about leadership… and I suspect it is a mechanism that ultimately promotes integrity.
This may be a re-post — but it is a story worth repeating.
My friend and colleague Kevin Basik has been involved in leadership training for Air Force at the Air Force Academy, The Citadel, and nationally for Air Force ROTC. When he teaches, he tells the following wonderful story.
I was a young lieutenant in the Air Force in San Antonio, playing a rare round of golf with my father in law, when we got paired up with another two-some. The other gentlemen were Ed, a successful computer consultant from the San Antonio area with a thick Boston accent, and his friend, “Snake” (honestly), a Marine Corps officer, visiting from out of town.
During the round, my father-in-law and I learned to truly like and appreciate both Snake and Ed, and could see why they had been successful in their respective careers. We occasionally swapped seats in our carts and chatted with Ed and Snake. Over the course of the 4-hour round, we learned that Ed had also been in the Air Force – originally enlisted, got out, earned his bachelor’s degree, and then served 4 years as an officer. I could tell that Ed appreciated this Air Force bond we had, and he really took me under his wing during our round.
With 18 holes complete, both Snake and my father-in-law had to leave, but Ed and I stuck around for a beer or two in the clubhouse. Thinking that I would be getting out of the Air Force in a couple years, I was interested in getting mentored by a very successful executive – and one I could relate to personally.
After the first beer, I turned to Ed and said, “OK, you’ve walked the path I’m on, got out, and have obviously been very successful in the transition. I’m not looking to brown-nose or back-stab to get ahead, but I figure you can help me set myself apart in my career, whatever it is. Give me a nugget…what is it that you did that set you apart from the others who didn’t rise to your level?”
At first he sounded like he was answering a different question. “When I first made $20,000 in a year, I thought, ‘Man, I’ve made it. I’m single, have no real expenses, and have money to burn. This is easy!’ The first time I made $75,000 in a year, I thought, ‘I am really on my game. I’m a hard-working professional, but this is pretty easy.’ The first time I made $200,000 in a year, I got scared. I thought, ‘What the hell is going on? I’m sure not the smartest guy in the room, and there are others who are struggling a lot more to get less in the same business.’”
One of the endearing things about Ed is that he doesn’t come off as one of the smartest guys in the room. He might very well not be. But here he is, nonetheless. Successful and flawed. So I could appreciate his insight. Then he offered up what I thought was going to be the jewel of knowledge…
“It was then that I started paying attention to what I was doing that other people weren’t. And once I noticed it, I couldn’t believe how often examples of it popped up over and over. Kid, do you want to set yourself apart as a leader? You want to be the trusted guy that people want to go to for all the right reasons? Here it is…”
I waited for pearls to dribble off his tongue.
“Be the guy who actually DOES what you SAY you’re going to do.”
Wait, what? That’s it?!
He repeated more slowly. “That’s it. Be the guy who actually does… what you say you’re going to do. You think it’s simple, but it’s not. You think you do it already, but you don’t. Start paying attention to it, and you will realize
(1) how seldom people do what they say – simple promises, appointments, deadlines, and a hell of a lot more important stuff too – and
(2) how comfortable we’ve gotten about not doing it. We don’t expect it.”
“And here’s the answer to your question…when you pay attention to it, it will start bothering you when you’re not doing what you say. You won’t get it right 100% of the time, but it better be like a splinter in your brain when you don’t deliver. And guess what happens? When you DO start to become ‘that guy’ – the one who actually does what he says – it’s so unusual that people can’t help but notice.”
THAT’s how someone becomes the go-to guy! Not because he’s a suck-up, but because you know what he stands for. That’s why bosses and customers and spouses appreciate you and stick by your side — Ed had been happily married for over 20 years. The curse of this ‘nugget’ is that you will now be more irritated when other people are so comfortable NOT doing what they say. Pay attention to this rule, set this as a personal goal, and even the dumb guy in the room can become the leader.
WHERE’S ROCKET NOW?
Episode 1: Firewalking
Anyone can walk on fire — really! It doesn’t even hurt all that much. The secret is taking slow, steady steps that distribute weight across the entire foot. That’s the lesson firewalking guru Tony Simons teaches at his hot-footed workshops in Ithaca. It may sound like ninja training, but Simons is a peace-loving professor of organizational behavior at Cornell University in town. Instead of kicking butt, his how-tos are about overcoming the fears that hold us back in life. After all, if you can stroll barefoot across flaming coals, you can certainly ask the boss for a raise.
Watch 4-minute Video:
The March 12 firewalk at Foundation of Light was another extraordinary event. Eyes shone as participants realized more and more of their personal power. Larry Bear Watts brought a glass walk that we did as a special treat. Nobody hurt. The “pings” of the glass breaking underfoot as one slowly steps across are really striking — a different flavor of firewalk. Daniela Hess Scholl took extraordinary photos, which are up on Flikr. As always, a few testimonials:
This was an extraordinary evening. It was filled with exercises that were fun, surprising, and some took me to my limits. The balance between content and exercises was perfect. I would highly recommend this to anyone!
–Kai S., 31, graduate student
As I arrived, I felt anxiety building — almost as if something inside was aware its death was coming. As each event unfurled, the anxiety lessened and a boldness grew. By the end of the night, it was completely calm with a quiet strength. I will never forget this night when a piece of me died and another was birthed.
–David Post, 51, teacher
Tony is a thoughtful and encouraging instructor. Thank you for a wonderful evening and for helping me believe I can do anything.
–Lucy Rain, 36, teacher
Next firewalk will be April 8. Join us to celebrate spring with renewed power. Discover you are unstoppable! As a special treat, Michelle Berry and I will run an optional next-morning debrief about how to carry the firewalk experience into your life. In other words, “What would you do if you knew you were unstoppable?”