Imagine you and I went camping and it was cold and dark outside, the night air is thick and the wind seems to cut through your jacket like an ice cold knife. Neither one of us is happy right about now. All of the sudden I spring up and say, “I know what we need!”. You begin to feel better, obviously I’ve come up with a great idea on how to make us more comfortable. With a big smile on my face I blurt out “We need some smoke!”.
Immediately you would decide that this would be our last camping trip together and no one would blame you. Assuming we live until the morning, you make your way back to civilization and cut all ties with me.
As you no doubt have been thinking, what we needed wasn’t smoke, what we needed in fact was fire. A big, roaring fire. A fire constructed properly to generate the most heat while burning the wood most efficiently. We would also need a source of ignition and lots of oxygen. Assuming we got it right, our fire would do exactly what we needed, but… it would also generate smoke.
What is smoke? Smoke is a byproduct of combustion. Smoke is an indicator. Smoke will happen naturally if your fire is burning properly. In fact, if the smoke stops, that indicates that your fire is in trouble.
Smoke is a great metaphor for our businesses and the income generating activities we engage in every day. In fact, what do we say when things are going our way? We say “I’m on fire!”, right? Our minds instinctively know that when we are “On Fire!” we are probably generating a healthy amount of the byproduct called money.
Why is this an important discussion to have? Because you will also hear people say they are “Chasing a buck” or they might say “Chasing the almighty dollar”. I’m telling you they might as well be saying they are “Chasing smoke”!
If you want smoke, you build a fire. If you want money, you build a business or a career that provides a value to your customers.
What goes into making a fire? Fuel, Oxygen and a Source of Ignition. What goes into making a business, or a profitable career? The same things. The fuel is the customer and his needs, without a viable customer base there is no business. The oxygen is the solution to the customers problems, either real or perceived. So what then is the “Source of Ignition”? You are.
Going back to our forest adventure. A pile of dried and chopped logs sitting in an atmosphere rich in oxygen is still nothing more than a potential fire. On our cold and dark camping trip, these items will bring us no comfort until a source of ignition is properly applied.
Wait a minute, properly applied? This is starting to get complicated, isn’t it?
Imagine that you stand five feet from the wood and strike the match. It’s in contact with the oxygen, but no campfire will happen. Why, because the source of ignition is only half way committed to this endeavor.
No fire, no smoke.
In fact, the source of ignition will soon get tired of this and “Burn Out”! Sound familiar?
All of us, including myself, have been guilty at times of chasing smoke. Bills are never ending, I need a new car, I need a vacation! Whatever it is, it’s real and immediate and we convince ourselves that we should focus on the smoke instead of the fire. That way of thinking just stresses us out, and it never works!
Stop, Breathe, Think. Am I building a fire or am I chasing smoke? Be honest. do you want to know what an easy test is to determine the truth? Are you happy doing what you do to generate your “smoke”? If the answer is not an enthusiastic “YES!”, then you are clearly “Chasing Smoke”. STOP IT!
Now I’m reasonable (sort of) and I realize that most of us can’t just quit what we are now doing and begin something new. We have obligations and investment in our work. Good. Remember your first day on the job? Wasn’t that a great day? You had enthusiasm and “fire”. Ask yourself this, “What can I do today to build or re-build my fire?”.
You have the answer, it’s inside of you just waiting to come out. You haven’t gotten to this point in your life by chance, you know what you want. Believe me when I say that everyone wants you to live in happiness and comfort, the only one standing in your way is you! So stack you wood, I feel a steady breeze, here’s a match. The next move is yours.
I’m feeling warmer already!