Do you know how to start a fire? Can you use the materials around you to build a useful fire to keep you warm or cook your food? I’m not talking about a Tom Hanks Castaway fire. You can use a match, a Zippo or a lantern and Mrs. O’Leary’s cow if you like. Even Billy Joel knows how to start that kind of fire.
Starting a relationship works just like starting a fire. You first create a little spark. Typically with a question or a comment to another person. Where are you from? Which kid is yours? Do you have any Grey Poupon? Or, you got your chocolate in my peanut butter.
That little spark is all you need to start a small social fire. From there, the valuable skill is to add more fuel to the fire. Ask bigger and deeper questions. This is like adding bigger sticks and logs to the fire. They provide more fuel. More heat. More light. Through this process of feeding the flames with your questions, comments, and conversation, you create your relationships. (My Grampy also used diesel fuel, and sometimes car tires to create his fires. Which today would be a good way to start a relationship with the EPA.)
The fire analogy is also useful because if you stop asking questions, stop reaching out, stop getting together, stop texting, calling, or DMing, the fire goes out. This holds true for personal, professional, romantic, and familial relationships. Zzzppp.
How Are Your Fires?
Are you maintaining your fires? Are you tending to and adding to your relationships? Or didn’t you realize you needed to?
It is okay to let some fires die. It’s fair to stop feeding social fires that require too much work to maintain. Especially when they don’t provide enough heat. And when you can’t find more sticks to throw on the fading embers. In that case, let it go, Elsa.
Spend your time feeding the fires that provide great light. The fires that are warm and nice to sit by. Feed the social fires when others are feeding them too. Keep those flames dancing to the end.
Relationships are like fires. They need a spark to start. Then they need a regular influx of fuel to burn warm and bright. Recognize which social fires are hard to maintain, and give them less fuel. Or let them go out. Feed the best fires. The ones that kick off the most heat, the best light and the least smoke. Fuel the fires that are the most enjoyable to sit next to. Those are the greatest inventions in human history. Just ask any caveman.
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