Burning Out

I remember learning as a girl, perhaps significantly while building a fire, that fire needs 2 things to burn: fuel and oxygen. [Well, three actually—an ignition source, but that’s not relevant to the current analogy.]

FUEL: It’s more than things to do—there is always something to do. It’s the kind of “things to do” that produce results, the kind that allow you to channel energy to release/transform more energy. And just like building a campfire, things tend to go a good deal smoother when you’ve got a good stack of fuel in various sizes readily available [usually because, surprise, surprise, you went out and looked for it] You need to gather “kindling” little things that require little effort, little risk, little faith, to demonstrate the potential of the bigger efforts, the ones that need “all the love you can give…” You start to see situations in terms of fuel, ordering all that needs to be done into manageable, relatively uniform chunks of progressive requirements/potential. And you’ve got to constantly be watching the fire, evaluating what type of fuel it needs next.

OXYGEN: This part always seems to be harder for me. I never seem to struggle finding stuff I want to burn. But if you pile it on too fast, or too dense, you starve the flame, even risk extinguishing it altogether. The last little while I’ve been seriously pondering what I’ll have to change in order to survive a lifetime of this. [“Sustainability” has taken on new meaning for me lately.] I am tired. And I’ve only been at this 8 months. It takes discipline to leave “air space” in the fire. You have to build it in, plan for it, protect it…occasionally stir things up a bit to make some more of it. There has to be time for study, time for exercise, time for laughter and meaningful relationships, time for rest [other than just exhausted sleep].

These are things all social entrepreneurs must figure out, because as you move deeper and deeper into the wicked problems you’re working to solve, it gets clearer and clearer that “this could take a while.”