So we did a “firewalk” at midnight last night here at Tony Robbins’ Unleash the Power Within event in San Jose. Almost 6,000 attendees walked about 12 feet over hot coals measuring somewhere between 1,200 and 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit. Most of the participants properly got their minds and hearts into the appropriate “State” and followed the right steps to do their walk unscathed.
Although I knew logically that the extremely high temperature of those coals could roast my feet through in a few seconds, I wasn’t afraid of pain or injury. I figured there was some simple process, since so many do it. After a career as a SEAL, I’ve experienced pain. I’ve experienced danger. I’ve had scary situations to a degree that “scary” to me no longer measures on an ordinary scale. And in our traditional jujutsu dojo, my black belt test required multiple, direct kicks to the groin without being incapacitated. Through all of this I have learned to “trust the process.”
Unfortunately, it has also taught me the flawed lesson that I can tough through just about anything. Turns out that’s not entirely true with 2,000-degree coals.
So: casual is not the right approach to firewalking. Remember that when you try it. I recommend that you listen to your little voice of fear, let it motivate you to pay close attention to Tony’s instructions, and then follow them to the letter.
This is the paradox of any power. When I first practiced jujutsu, my frequent training partner was a woman half my mass. I found it easy to throw her, judo style, and she found it impossible to throw me. But that’s while we were novices.
As time went by, she was forced to develop effective skills as instructed, while I went about my “training” unaware that my throws were of very poor quality. Within a year my partner had sharpened her throwing skills to a razor’s edge. I, not so much. My “strength” had become my weakness, and her weakness, strength. The “weakness” of natural fear so many kids and little old ladies felt about this firewalk was just what the burn doctor ordered to get them focused on doing it the right way.
Now, fortunately, I didn’t fail completely at this task. Barely 10% of the sole of my left foot is blistered, and the other foot’s fine. That means I was on the right track to some extent, as it would have been possible to quickly get third-degree burns across both soles. But in the end I’m glad I did get burned (though I admitted it to nobody at the time!)…one of the greatest blessings any of us can receive is that humility which comes at the wrong end of a humiliating experience.
And one of the most encouraging things we can know about remaining “right-sized” is that the more we consciously exercise our humility, the less humiliation will be required to keep us in a productive and useful State.