Tuesday, November 29, 2011


“By three methods we may learn wisdom: first, by reflection, which is the noblest; second, by imitation, which is easiest; and third, by experience, which is the most bitter.” ~ Confucius

Unfortunately most learn by experience. In other words, we learn the hard way.  How many times I’ve wished that wasn’t’ the case in my own life. But I’m learning to train my ears on people who have learned by experience and reflecting on their experience. And when someone comes to me in the spirit of concern and love, I listen to them . . . even when what they have to say is something I’d rather not hear.

You see, wisdom often contradicts my desires, it interferes with my plans, it threatens to remove the blinders that have kept me safely in the dark and forces me to squint in the light of truth and look at all aspects of a situation. Sometimes it requires me to apologize. Other times it asks me to listen to the unjustified criticisms of another without defending myself. As Neal’s grandmother always said, “The less you speak, the more you hear.”

There are plenty of advisors in this world. Some may not have our best in mind. But for those who do—those who have nothing to gain if we listen to them or not—we should listen and reflect on what they say.  Think of a ship out on the high seas during a violent storm. Apart from his instruments, the captain cannot have the same sense of direction as one who watches above the storm. In the tempest of our lives, we do not have the same understanding and perception as those standing on the outside looking in. I like what the first century Roman author, Publilius Syrus, said, “Many receive advice, only the wise profit from it.”

This week, be wise and listen to those who love you. Put down your will and take the blinders off. Honestly reflect on what they say. Then make your decision.

Monday, November 14, 2011


“Fire is never a gentle master.”

Last post I wrote about the wonderful attributes of fire. And as long as fire is controlled, in the hearth, on the wick, within the fire-ring it is a good thing. However, if a spark pops out of the fireplace and ignites the rug, if the candle is too close to a curtain and sets it on fire, if the fire at camp jumps the ring and starts a forest-fire, then we have big problems.

You see, fire is always hungry and will greedily eat up (burn up) everything in its path. Fire people do that too. When a fire person walks into a room, he or she changes the mood without saying a word. If they walk in happy, everyone is happy. If they walk in moody and intense, the oxygen leaves the room and everyone is on edge.

So how do fire people turn us other elements into “Crispy Critters?”
One way is their expectations. Since they are light, they have no patience for those of us who do not see things the way they do. Fire people are right even when they are wrong and they have high standards and expectations of others. Rarely do they listen to the suggestions of others. And it is hard to meet expectations, especially when you know they are being unrealistic and unreasonable.

Tip for those with Fire Personalities: Respect the fact that other elements have strengths and insights that you don’t have. Listen to them. Be teachable. Humble yourself and work with them. If they begin to struggle, then gently insinuate yourself and shed light, not blow them away with a flame torch.

Tip for those living with Fire Personalities: Understand that they are not trying to be mean, but wanting success for you as well as for themselves. They have tunnel vision and the goal is at the end of the tunnel. What they don’t see is what gets burned up as they blaze toward it. What fire needs is fuel. What you need is them in control. So cool them down a bit by waiting until the intense situation is over. Then sit down with them and talk directly about the situation. Or write them a memo. Fire people are not interested in how you feel. They want the black and white, the bottom line, short and to the point, bulleted items.  So tell them the problem, solutions they can choose from (and make it their own) and remind them of commitments they have made or details they may have forgotten. Also, make it clear about how you want them to communicate with you in the future.

Another problem that comes up with fire personalities is that they use people. People are fuel for them and they will use up every drop of energy those around them have. Fire people are big idea people and delegators. So they will implement their ideas and work people to death. Even worse, they will start on new ideas and have people working on two or three things at a time, all the while expecting excellence.

Tip for those with Fire Personalities: Respect the time and energy of others. You don’t own them.

Tip for those living with Fire Personalities: Again, recognize that they are burning towards a goal. When they are “glowing in the hearth” go to them. Feed them first. Tell them the attributes of their ideas. Then tell them you want them to succeed. Then give them your boundaries. What you can do to make his or her ideas succeed and what you cannot do. Again, do this in a memo, bullet points, short and concise.

Fire people can be the absolute best communicators and the absolute worst communicators. They can warm your heart and torch your soul. And when they flame out of control, the damage they can do with their words are devastating. When they are out of control, they go for the “shock” value of their words. They are opinionated, blunt, and rude. So consumed are they in their own fire they are blind to the charred person they are engulfing.

Tip for those with Fire Personalities: Learn to recognize the body language of those around you. If they are tense and irritable, realize you might be the cause of it and you can be the solution. Ask them, “Am I being too intense?” Make it safe for them to say, “Yes.” And then apologize and back off! If you want things done the right way—your way—then build a bridge, not a wall!

Tip for those living with Fire Personalities: You have to draw boundaries. Fire needs fuel and oxygen to burn. Don’t give it to them. Walk away if you can, and above all, don’t argue! That feeds them. If you do this, they may go and seek fuel somewhere else, or they may cool off. If everyone around them learns to not give them the fuel they need to burn out of control, fire people quickly recognize something is wrong and cool off.

Well, this is the end of my communications posts. I also want to say that it is rare that anyone is just one personality type. More often than not, we are a combination of two. I hope this helps you understand others and your patience with them. Also, I hope it will help you recognize your strengths and weaknesses. Build on your strengths, get rid of your weaknesses.

Friday, November 04, 2011


“To burn always with this hard, gem-like flame, to maintain this ecstasy, is success in life.” - Walter Pater

The evenings are growing chilly and I’m enjoying the cozy fire in our hearth. Nothing says, “Welcome, have a seat, relax,” quite so inviting. Watching the dancing, colorful, flames is mesmerizing. They warm my face and my heart. Fire is cleansing. It clears underbrush in forests, sterilizes tools and boils water. Our food is made safe by fire. It also aids in reshaping objects, provides light for our path, and protects us.

Fire people are the first people one notices when walking into a room. Just as the playful flames in the fireplace draws our attention when entering, so do those with this type of personality. They are warm and inviting. They are also very intelligent and thrive on illuminating all those around them. Fire people are very protective of those they care about.

Just as fire is used to reshape iron and glass, those who have the traits of fire are committed to developing others. Their ideas are brilliant and they can give the right amount of “heat” to bring about change in a person, a situation, or even a company.

It is good to have fire people in charge. They thrive in pressure, excel and are clear-headed in an emergency. And just as fire clears all the underbrush that blocks our way in the forest, fire people clear clutter in any situation and organize solutions.

It is good to have a fire person on your team! Do you have one?

Next week: Burned by Fire!