Firewalking as a metaphor for overcoming your fears has really been done to death.
Back in 1997 I was running sales training workshops that culminated in a board break. I learnt that at Speakers International. I was working as the National Sales Trainer for Telewest.
|1997 Boardbreak session|
for Cable London
I needed a new metaphor and having worked with a few people in the Firewalking Industry, which was relatively new and unique at the time, in the UK at least, I decided to get my certification to hold Firewalking events. This not only entailed training for two weeks with Tolly Burkan outside of San Francisco, but I also needed to arrange a £10m insurance policy for the company in the event that buildings burnt down. There is NO personal insurance for anyone walking on fire. It is entered into freely and of your own choice. Indemnity and waiver forms take care of the personal 'insurance' aspect.
Firewalking and Glasswalking were the main areas of our business. It was fun but what was the concept? Walking over 'red hot coals' as a way of fearbusting! How?
Simply put, the methodology was, if you can walk on fire or broken glass, WHAT ELSE CAN YOU ACHIEVE?
There is no mystical magic.
Many companies use a 'touchy-feely' approach falling just short of dancing naked around the fire smacking each other up the butt with a tambourine while singing 'circle of life'.
We were not 'touchy feely'...we were 'smacky punchy' in as much as we convinced people that they were in control (which is true) and there is a strategy for walking on fire. We convince people they CAN do this. We don't 'Pray to the fire!!' We kick the fire's butt.
It is all to do with state of mind and physics.
|Image Copyright David Moore|
You are actually walking on burnt wood, not coals. Its Pine. The optimum heat is around 1300 degrees but most companies have people walking on ash, especially if 40 other people have walked on it prior to you. Usually a line of fire either side of the 'firebed' gives the impression that its hotter than it is. We didn't....We went for the full on maximum temperature burn, like walking on molten lava.
Its also about contact time. If you have taken a jacket potato out of the oven and switched it from hand to hand then you wont burn yourself. Same with firewalking. Your contact time with the 'firebed' is so minimal that you cannot be burnt. If you walk at a steady speed, six steps is enough to get you over and you will have done it(with some companies you only need three - check youtube, I have seen firebeds of only 6ft!! Our firebeds were 3ft wide and 20ft long).
Pine is the wood of choice. This is a great generator of heat but not a conductor of heat. Imagine a cake in an oven. After its been in there for a time and you open the oven door you will get a blast of hot air (not unusual in this industry). If you put your hand in and touch the cake: no problem. Touch the oven walls: no hand left. Basically, what you are walking on during a firewalk is like walking on a 20ft long cake. Generating heat but not a conductor.
Lasting benefits...an empowering belief that you can achieve ANYTHING if you don't question the firewalk experience itself! Here's a case in point...
I asked a group of car salesmen once what they considered were the benefits of walking on fire when they came off the firebed and were back in the training room. They all told me the same thing.
"We are gonna sell a ton of cars now!"
"Great," I said.... "How?"
Each one of them got a glazed look on their faces and stayed that way. Then they spent ages justifying how Firewalking will help them shift those old rust buckets and sleds that had been on the forecourt for ages. They couldn't justify it.
I gave them motivational, attitudinal, influence, inner game and Sales Training. THAT worked!!!
In the old days, in the 80s/90s, it was new and unusual. Tolly Burkan and Anthony Robbins made it well known and then everyone jumped on the bandwagon. Now its old and not unusual. If you ask a group of 40 people about it, at least 30 of them will have heard of it and 10 or 12 will have done it.
Its mystery has gone. A simple search on the internet will explain the mechanics of it.
So would I do it if I was in your position and looking for a way of Breaking Through or Empowering myself? No. Its all a bit of fun. You can raise money for charity doing it though...and we did.
Glasswalking is the same. It sounds scary, it sounds terrifying but shouldn't. Again, physics and common sense come into play.
If you want to lie on a bed of nails you can. If you want to lie on a bed of ONE nail, then that would be very foolish. Same with Glasswalking. If you tread on a piece of broken glass while barefoot you will cut your foot. A Glasswalk on the other hand is performed on a bed of a thousand or so broken bottles.
Yes they are very sharp shards of broken glass but it's a glass bed at least two inches deep so anything under your foot compresses into whats below and around it. No problem. It sounds great when the glass breaks and cracks under your feet but it also cushions your feet. If you feel anything under your foot that you don't like the feel of...lift your foot and put it somewhere else.
When you are involved in the fire and glass walking industry for as long as I was you believe it is the cure for everything and the best motivator. When you have worked outside of the firewalk and glasswalk industry for a while, you realise that you have to move on from firewalking...
Thanks to everyone that came to my 1000th walk on fire last night at midnight. It was the 3000th firewalk I have trained. I doubt I will do it again...it just doesn't fit the new business model.
THE LEGACY and ACHIEVEMENTS:
Company: 3000 total Firewalks
Personal: 1000 Personal walk demonstrations
Travel: 9 Countries have been visited for Firewalking events
Audience: Over 100 different companies Over 200 Charities
Vehicles: 18 Vans/ lorries used...3 crashed and written off.
Largest walk: Business - 880 people. Charity - 627 people.
Best event: Glasgow. Underground train system closed, helicopters circling, TV/Radio, Traffic at a standstill, 160 walkers, over 1000 spectators.
Worst event: Snowstorm up a mountain in Lake District/ 135 degrees Fahrenheit heat in Doha, Persian Gulf.
Famous people: 63
Most memorable walk: Leading a man who had been blind since birth over the firebed in Dublin
Regret: Having to turn down a last minute request to hold a firewalk in Chicago for the Oprah Winfrey Network
Team figures: 22 members of the team over the years
Raison d'etra: £1.3m raised for charitable causes around the world
Most important fact: No Injuries
Another important fact: It was always a TEAM...thank you!