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#Life is about being both a student and teacher

February 24, 2014

woodstove fireplace

No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent.” – John Donne

Without inspiration the best powers of the mind remain dormant. There is a fuel in us which needs to be ignited with sparks.”- Johann Gottfried Von Herder

Happy Monday. I hope you enjoyed the great spring weather we had this weekend.

A few weeks ago our family took our annual trip to my hometown in New Hampshire to see high school friends and spend a day skiing. We are fortunate to be invited into the home of a gracious host that lets us invade her home for the weekend. The room we stay in is heated by a woodstove and every hour or so in the middle of the night I would get up and put a log on the fire as my wife and kids slept in the yellow glow of the dancing flames.    I think until you have kids it’s hard to fully grasp your purpose in life. It was 4 am and I was enjoying putting a log on the fire to protect my family from the artic NH night while they slept. I felt like Holden Caulfield from Catcher in the Rye when he says he knows it’s crazy but all he would like to be is the Catcher in the Rye protecting the kids in the field from the danger of the nearby cliff.  I never really understood what JD Salinger meant until I became a dad.  But that’s not what I wanted to write about this week.

It was predawn as I was checking my sleeping family and tending to the fire. I was somewhere between conscious and subconscious thought when a story I read a while back popped into my head. I will probably butcher the story but here is the way I remember it.

A long time church goer and active member of the community suddenly misses several weeks of church and the parish priest and parishioners start to worry. Concerned that something has happened, the parish priest rides out to the missing church member’s home where he is surprised to be greeted at the door by the missing parishioner who is in good health. The homeowner ushers the priest in and they sit by the fire in awkward silence.  After some time the priest takes the fire tongs and pulls an ember out of the center of the fire and places it alone by the edge of the fireplace.  Almost instantly the ember starts to cool and fade as the other embers in the fire burn red hot.  Soon the lone ember is covered in ash and is almost out. The priest takes the now cold dark ember and places it back among the other embers. Instantly it reignites and glows red hot with the others. The home owner nods his head in acknowledgement and tells the priest he will see him on Sunday. Without a word the priest retrieves his coat and leaves.

When I first read it I interpreted it to mean that no man is an island and without faith, community, and others the fire of life within you will fade. However, as I watched the fire burn in front of me I had some additional thoughts.  I thought about how fire is symbolic of life and as you go through life sometimes it is you putting a log on the fire to help others and sometimes you need help from someone else to stoke the flames of life. Sometimes you are a student and sometimes a teacher and each role helps you grow.  The key is recognizing the areas you are a master and the areas you need help. It’s not as easy as receiving care as a child and thinking you know everything as an adult. There are times in everyone’s life that they need help. What if the priest hadn’t shown up at the homeowner’s home? Would he have recognized how much the other community members cared about him and how much he needed them?

Besides getting my clients to their goals, my favorite part of my career is the amazing people I meet every day. Last week I met a couple married for 65 years. That is not a typo. I was fortunate to be able to spend time with them and talk to them about their amazing love story.   However, it is rare that I meet truly successful people killing it with a fire burning bright in all aspects of their lives. The millionaire business man selling the mansion? He is on his fourth wife and still searching for love.  The marathon runner in perfect health? He is trapped in a career he hates and unable to set down roots and start a family because he is getting transferred again.  There are many aspects to life including your career, health, faith, finances, relationships, social life, family, and emotional health to name a few. What areas of life is your fire burning hot and what areas of your life do you need help stoking your flames?

This week recognize the areas in life you are a master and those that need a little help. Who do you know that needs help in areas you are a master and who can help you master areas you need help in? Enjoy your role as both a student and teacher in life. Rock on my friend! I appreciate you.

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