You started with a spark, shooting a small column of smoke surrounded by the driest forest. Right on the edge of a cliff, you danced and waved as the calls started pouring in. The helicopter was upon you within hours, yet you carried on. Boats lined up for the show, filled with people wondering how anyone could stop you. Little did we know that you were just beginning your march across the mountain.
And little did we know that you would burn so much into – and out of -- the heart of this community.
As you raged across the mountain, we witnessed your beautiful, frightening flames in stark contrast to the dark night. We could envision the aftermath to come, the scorched earth and blackened timbers. Smoke filled days reminded us that you were so near and yet so far. We began to grow slightly used to you, like you were the sleeping dog in the corner of the room.
Then your sister the wind arrived to feed the beast and suddenly all hell broke loose. Your fury threatened to consume everything in your path and you engorged your bottomless appetite for air and fuel. As you jumped every containment line, home was no longer a haven but a trap. Hours turned to minutes and abruptly the only thing that mattered was getting out.
For every one who left their home, another arrived to face your ferocity. Bravery showed up with trucks, hoses and deep resolve. The air was filled with helicopters and planes. Your power would be met with courage and cunning.
And those here to fight you would be met with open hearts and active hands.
As the forest fed your insatiable appetite, we began to feed our heroes. Our plans were immediately set aside to bring the warriors water, lip balm, socks, and essentials.
You are fire; we are love. We matched your fury with the gratitude and caring that fueled our hearts.
We took care of each other and hoped for the best for our mountains. As the firefighters saved every structure, we let go of our grudges, our pettiness and our stuff. We only cared that no one was hurt, not one life lost.
And in return, you cared for our mountain. As if by magic, you burned mostly underbrush. You cleared the way for new growth and life. You left us with incomprehensible beauty.
You showed us things don’t matter and that people do. You fueled courage, caring and passion in the firefighters who came to face you. You burned the underbrush of our hearts and made us one.
As we feed and care for the remaining firefighters and sit down to our Thanksgiving dinners in our still-standing homes, may we be forever grateful for your cleansing power and ever mindful that love is the only thing that matters.
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Lynn Carnes accelerates change and unleashes leadership performance in organizations, especially in context of challenges without easy answers.
Choice is a good thing, right? I’ve built my entire life around keeping my options open, in the name of “freedom.” Recently I’ve been reminded that too many options can be as bad – maybe worse – as no choices. So what brought this insight into sharp awareness? Mahjong. So how the heck did an ancient game remind me to recognize that too much choice has some serious limitations?
The point of the game of Mahjong is to build a winning hand with tiles. What constitutes a winning hand is governed by a prescriptive set of cards (which are difficult to decode - don’t get me started!) Early in the game, you start deciding which of several hands you want to play. This is where the prison bars start closing around you. The more hands you try to play, the more paralyzing it becomes to sustain those options in order to win. In fact, I’ve lost more hands that I can count (and seen others do the same) by keeping my options open too long. Every time I have won, it was because I committed early to a specific direction –even when it seemed like a long shot.
Optionality diffuses commitment – and commitment is what wins the game.
When I first started my business, I had many, many options for the types of clients I would serve and the work I could do. All were very attractive to me. So how did I choose which path to follow? I had one client that had a specific set of needs, and built from that. All the other options fell by the wayside as I became fully committed to meeting this client’s needs. When I further developed my business to broaden my client base, it was from this initial seed. I’m incredibly grateful for the way it unfolded – it allowed me to commit to a specific direction early in the game and that commitment harnessed my energy and attention.
When faced with too many choices, you have to recognize when it’s time to fish and when it’s time to cut bait. (An oldie but goodie from my home state of Texas.) Several times in the course of my business, I’ve found myself at choice points. More than once, I’ve been paralyzed.
What I’ve learned to do is start seeing the choices as the starting point of clarity, not the end goal.
Once the choices are in front of me, it’s time to go inside and decide. And by inside, I mean get quiet. Breathe. Feel. Be grateful. Breathe some more. Feel some more. What do I really want? What is more important to me? Breathe. Feel. Decide. Commit.
Clarity is an inside job. Clarity brings the freedom of focus.
So here’s a question for you. Where have you given yourself choices? Hurrah! Choice is a good thing. And where have you found that your choices are keeping you from fully committing to one path or another? Where are you putting “should” into equation based on someone else’s logic?
Do you have a story about having too much choice? How did you decide – or how are you going to decide? How has choosing a specific path helped you? Share it on our Facebook page or Twitter.
Know someone who would love this article? Email or share below!
Lynn Carnes accelerates change and unleashes leadership performance in organizations, especially in context of challenges without easy answers. She loves to hear about how your experiments with these ideas turn out. To contact her or share your experiences email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Inspiring new ways to look at learning, growth, and reinvention, whether in leadership, athletics, art or life.
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