So last year nearly two dozen people injured themselves attempting a fire-walk at a seminar run by Tony Robbins. 6,000 people attended, and the people who got injured were ‘out of state’, or not mentally prepared, according to some of the people that made it.
Here’s the thing: no, they weren’t. Firewalking is just physics. Fire embers, once the water’s evaporated out of them, aren’t that hot and don’t conduct heat that well. Running across them is bad, because it increases your chances of pushing the top of your feet into the embers. Firewalking across metal would be a dreadful idea. But the main thing is, safe firewalking is something you can learn in about ten minutes.
Now: maybe that firewalk helped some of the people who made it, and maybe it didn’t. Participants claim that it’s a metaphor for ‘facing your fears’ and ‘achieving your goals,’ and that’s fine. It probably shows some people that they can do things they never thought possible, which probably isn’t a bad thing.
But here’s the thing. It’s just physics. I’ve never done a firewalk, but I’ve done similarly idiotic things: once, a physics-student friend convinced me that most Shaolin monk tricks were all down to the brittle properties of certain materials, and so I let him crack a concrete slab over my chest with a hammer. It didn’t really convince me that I was awesome, any more than the time I realised that doing a backflip off a wall wasn’t much more complicated than running and kicking really hard.
Here’s what does convince me I’m awesome: when I choose something I want to get better at and do it. When I make a plan, put in some time, and the plan works. When I’ve lifted more, or learned something new at work or at the jiu-jitsu academy. When it takes more than ten minutes to learn, but that’s okay because everything worthwhile does. Every time I do that with something, it convinces me that I can do it with something else. Firewalking wouldn’t do that. It’s just physics.
HOMEWORK: Get better at something hard this week. Remember: if it was easy, everyone would be doing it.