This week’s Wednesday Wisdom comes from Tim Elmore’s “Growing Leaders” blog (mixed with my own words) about Candles and Brush Fires.

There are two types of fires we will discuss today: Brush fires (or wildfires) and Candles.

A brush fire is often referred to as a wild fire because it is unpredictable and counter intuitive. For example, if you have never lived in an area vulnerable to brush fires….you may mistakenly believe that a strong wind would help put a wildfire out. However, the most frightening element about brush fires is that a strong wind not only fails to put them out; it actually makes the fire stronger and spread faster. A friend of mine who endured recent California fires actually requested on social media, “Please pray that the winds will stop!”

A candle is very different from a brush fire.

Candles are also flames, but they are predictable and react inversely to winds. The same wind that extends a brushfire extinguishes a candle. In fact, it takes only a small breath to blow candles out on a birthday cake. This is the biggest difference between the two: A brushfire gets bigger and stronger with the wind. A candle goes out.

The “wind” reveals what the fire really is:

  • A candle is fragile.
  • A brushfire is agile.

So, how do we become agile like a brushfire? How do we prevent ourselves from being fragile? When the winds of adversity start blowing, we have four options on how to respond. Observe your reactions the next time you get hit with a tough storm:

  1. Curse it. You can get angry and resentful, shaking your fist at your adversity. You can become bitter over time, often cursing the problem and blaming others for it.
  1. Nurse it. You can tenderly keep the problem alive and look to share your misery with others. You wallow in a pool of self-pity, seeking sympathy for what you’ve endured.
  1. Rehearse it. You can stew on it, reviewing the problem over and over, but never get past it. You become emotionally paralyzed, getting stuck on “what-ifs” and regrets.
  1. Reverse it. You can turn the very problem into a possibility. By staying on mission, the wind that could extinguish you becomes the tool to build and make you stronger.

I hope you agree that the fourth option is the best choice! It reminds that we must stay on mission. When we remain focused on our mission, we begin to see all kinds of new opportunities to use our altered circumstances for the benefit of that mission. This focus helps us interpret life and leverage it for our purpose. We must not let the “winds” distract us and eventually smother our fire.