“Why don’t you stay here and enjoy the fire and let someone else do this?“ Little did he know that the fire that was driving me was not the fire in the fireplace. It was the fire in my belly and the fire on my back side.
It was Christmas morning, very early, still dark outside. It was sleeting and very, very cold.
I had worked with a massive team of volunteers to serve two hundred Christmas lunches inside the shelter, and hundreds more outside the shelter.
Personally, my home was filled with family; most of them still asleep. The family member suggesting I stay home just didn’t get it!
While visions of sugarplums were dancing in their heads, I could hardly wait to load up the dozen pans of dressing, huge pots of creamed corn, and dozens of pans of homemade rolls. My small part in the massive meals we would be serving in just four or five hours.
You may not have heard the terms “fire in the belly” and “fire on your backside.” If you’ve been to any of my workshops or read much of my work, you know these phrases define what separates extraordinary from ordinary.
Much has been written about finding your “why.” That is only about a third of what is necessary to launch into the extraordinary. Research shows that we will all do more to avoid pain than we will do to reach for our vision, hopes, and dreams.
Early on, I was interviewing World Changers and masters trying to discover what it was that made World Changers. One of the common traits I found was that they all had “fires in their belly” and “fires on their backside.”
When I share the concept, I’m often asked, what are some of the fires in the belly and fires on the backsides that you see in World Changers?
Here are some characteristics of “fires” I found:
FIRES IN THE BELLY
First, keep in mind that a fire in the belly is our “why.“ That thing that drives us; the benefits that will come; the great outcomes that we hope to see. Here are the fires in the belly I most often see in World Changers:
1. World Changers long to protect others from the pain they have experienced. One trait I love about World Changers is that they are never in denial of their wounds or their history. They don’t hold those wounds as trophies, but it brings them great fulfillment to help others avoid similar wounding.
One of the World Changers I greatly admire did not always have enough food growing up. Sometimes when he would go to the register with his Mom, she would not have enough money to pay for all of their food. They would have to put some back. Now when he sees Moms with children at any grocery store, he will often just slip in and pay their tab. All because he doesn’t want those children to be embarrassed by having to put food back, and he can’t bear to see them go hungry.
2. World Changers long to create opportunities to make the lives of others better. I have a great friend who is a long-term World Changer. She retired from being a therapist 10 years ago. But throughout her years of practice, she worked for free with teens and young families who could not afford to pay for counseling.
After retirement, she became aware of how many families in her neighborhood did not speak English. She began a free program to teach English as a Second Language (ESL). She now has classes of over one hundred students every week. She just knew their lives would be better if they could speak English.
She definitely makes their lives better.
3. World Changers live for the deep fulfillment every day that comes from making a difference. They feel the joy of their work when they put their head on the pillow at night.
When I was in the third or fourth grade, I unknowingly had an encounter with an older man that was a World Changer.
He was the grandfather of one of my little girlfriends, and we were visiting his ranch. We had been out roaming the pastures, climbing trees and wading in the creek. We were having the most fun. As the afternoon wound down, we came back up to the ranch house. Her grandpa was sitting out on the front porch whittling little two-inch cowboy boots from wood. Then he would drill a small hole, put a ring through it, and give the little boots to neighboring ranchers for their keychains.
He was telling us that it was getting close to bedtime, and my little girlfriend said, “Grandpa, I guess it’s easy to go to sleep when you live in a place like this.“
He never looked up from his whittling. In a very slow, soft voice, he said, “It’s a beautiful place all right. But I used to have trouble going to sleep. That was until I found out that when you help other people, you always want to go sleep fast so that you can get up and help more people the next day.“
Then he glanced up for a moment and said, “You girls will know what that means someday. But you should always look for someone to help.“
He went back to whittling. But then he added, “You see these little boots? I can’t do the things that I used to do to help the ranchers out here. But we’ve been in a drought, and they are all struggling. I take these to them and tell them to put it on their keychain, and remind themselves to just keep on kickin’ it! Things will get better!“
After a moment of silence, I saw a tear drop down on the boot in his hand. I wanted that boot so badly because I knew the tear meant the boot was important. I’m sure he would have given it to me if I had asked. But even at that young age, I knew it was more important for the next rancher to have it.
The next morning, we were out on the porch waiting for her Mom to pick us up. Just as the car was coming up the dirt road in a cloud of dust, he slowly handed me a little boot. He looked at me and said, “I finished the boot I was working on last night. I wanted to give it to you so you will always remember to look for people that you can help.“
I’ve always felt and believed that at that moment, my career was set in stone.
FIRES ON THE BACKSIDE
“Fire on the backside “is what you will miss out on, or what the cost will be, if you do not fulfill your mission. In this case, what World Changers will miss out on if they don’t do their part in changing the world.
1. World Changers can hardly bear the thought of seeing people repeat their mistakes when they could have influenced them otherwise.
My good friend Lisa is one of the greatest World Changers I’ve ever known. She had many challenges growing up; starting in elementary school.
As soon as she graduated from high school, she knew exactly what she wanted to do. She wanted to get her college degree so that she could teach first, second, or third graders. She knew she could help them avoid the mistakes she made.
She’s been doing that for many years. Her classroom is a safe haven for children at risk. These are latchkey kids, kids that live in crack houses, and kids who are suffering emotionally. She is a pivotal force in their lives. She provides a path for them to get grounded, discover who they are, and the great possibilities for their futures. All because she cannot bear to allow any child to go through difficult things alone.
2. World Changers will do almost anything to avoid that deep, sinking feeling when they are aware that they have turned away when they could have made a difference.
Last week, I wrote about missed opportunities. We all have them. I also shared that we all have new mercies every single day to redeem ourselves. New chances are brought to our attention daily.
Instead of beating myself up, I always look for my new opportunities. I turn my misses into a fire on my backside.
When I find myself complacent or too tired, I remind myself of the tossing and turning I will do that night if I fail to step forward. It’s a powerful “fire on the backside” for most World Changers!
3. World Changers are usually “journalers” in one way or another. Some tell stories, some write stories, some write songs or poems. But World Changers never want to end their day or start the next morning without recording their experiences.
When I started my gratitude journal years ago, I knew it was an amazing addition to my life. I could gather experiences in my mind so that I could journal them every evening before I went to bed.
I learned very quickly that if I could not record even a small difference in the life of another, I cringed. That’s real “fire on the backside!” I have spoken to many World Changers who go to great lengths to make sure they can record a difference in another’s life.
What is the “fire in your belly?”
What is the “fire on your backside?”
I know you are a World Changer, or you would have never read this far. You may not be aware of what the “fire in your belly” or “the fire on your backside” is. But I bet you have both. Take a moment right now, while it is on your mind, and make some notes to yourself about your fires. Writing helps focus our minds. Reading what you have written will help you in moments when you may be tempted to quit, turn your head, or give up.
Your notes will help keep you in action!
I’m certain you were created for MORE! You know it’s true!
Perhaps you are already doing great things. Maybe you are making a tremendous difference. You know you were created to do more! Your best days of contribution are just ahead. They always are!
You may just be getting started. One of the greatest gifts you can give yourself is to identify what your fires are. The “fire in your belly” and the “fire on your backside.” As you step into the knowledge of what you were created for, give yourself this gift.
On that icy Christmas, I was back home before our family’s Christmas Dinner. I slid right into the hustle and bustle in my kitchen. I reveled in the conversation, the laughter, the games, and the gift exchange.
But in my heart, the moments I spent downtown at the homeless shelter buoyed my spirit most. Making sure that every resident had nice clean socks. That every person in from the streets that day had a nice warm meal and a brand new sleeping bag. That mission was what was most important to me.
That, for me, was what Christmas was all about. It’s what World Changing is all about. What each of us do will look different. Will be different. And will have differing results.
But if we all live like we were created for more, we can truly impact our world. You, my friend, were created for MORE! You are a World Changer on fire!