WHY WE MUST THINK. BEFORE WE DO.
I have always admired and enjoyed to build stuff.
There is a profound sense of freedom in our ability to set our sights on an idea or vision, and then connect the dots to make it happen. A freedom that is constrained only by what the maker deems possible or impossible.
From writing a song, designing a website to writing this story, I love to turn nothing into something.
Recently, and with regard to the digital world, a programmer told me, …”You can build anything, as long as you have the time and the money”.
No. This is not true. Time and money alone are worthless.
This programmer failed to mention one. Special. Key word. BRAIN POWER.
The sweat equity in the mix of building things. The endless thinking and little voices in the back of your head that say, “Try this. Try that. How about that way? What about this way?”
Time and money are just paper and space. Without brain power, you are stuck in the mud.
You have to think to get ahead. You have to use your head. And the hardest part of thinking is to know when to act on your thoughts – to stop thinking. And just act.
Inside the world of Nike, we just do it. But it is much easier said, than done – to just do it. Maybe because we never know what is on the other side of not trying. We don’t know how ‘finished’ looks, until we start.
And so the story goes. About a time when I wish I had thought just a bit more before ‘doing’.
Yes, of course – I was was building something awesome.
As I child, everything seemed possible. Because I was not aware of my limitations, or the consequences of doing stupid things. (I do believe kids should always learn the hard way, but I’m not suggesting kids build fireworks in their rooms, without adult supervision.)
The freedom of building things is so powerful, that I tend to forget about anything else going on around me when I am building.
It’s just me, myself and the idea. And this freedom led me to create and partake in a lot of crazy shit in my childhood – like crumbling down hundreds of sparklers in my room and packing the grey powder into little bottles in a venture to build my own fire fountains.
You know those boring fireworks that give off a blinding glow with no surprise bang?
If the sparklers ignite in stick form, then they should also light up in powdered form, right?
I spent a few hours building this contraption. And I vividly remember the final touch to my master piece – stabbing holes through the sides of each bottle so I could run a green wick through, which would ignite each bottle. Like this;
At the end of the project I realized that I should have followed this order;
1. Punch the holes in the bottles
2. Insert the wick
3. Insert the gun powder.
But I didn’t.
So I had to remove all of the gun powder from each bottle, and then poke the holes.
This made my desk an absolute mess. Grey powder everywhere. And by the time I inserted the wick and then packed the powder into the bottles, my fingers were caked with grey powder. My desk resembled the surface of the moon – gun powder was everywhere!
I reached for the lighter, to melt a pen tube, so that it would protect the wick and stick to the first bottle in the line. Don’t ask why I wanted the tip of the wick to be protected by a pen tube, like this;
I thought it was a great idea at the time – to watch the wick burn through the clear tube. Plus this was the final touch to my fountain. I just had to melt down the pen tube and stick it on.
To soften the pen tube, I held a lighter beneath it, and then it began to smoke.
All of sudden a quick flame ignited and sent gun powder shavings dancing across my desk, like sparks in a bon fire.
The end of the wick was pressing against the top of my desk. I started blowing like crazy, but the powder was so flammable it would not go out.
I spit on the desk. I smacked the desk. I did everything I could to stop the sparks from flying.
But I failed.
Ignition. BOOM. The wick caught a spark and reached the first bottle in line. It started flashing like wildfire.
I’m starring at it as if the crazy look on my face would make it stop.
I glance down the line at the other bottles like a deer in the head lights. I was helpless. Fountain number two, BOOM.
Each of the six fountains were up in flames, and it all happened in a flash. My hair caught fire, and my eye brows were singed (maybe this is why I’ve grown massive eye brows my aunt calls ‘big leeching caterpillars’).
White paint began to drip from the ceiling and onto the back of my hands.
And at that moment, I screamed at the top of my lungs, “Daaaaaad! Call 911! I am going to die. Fire, Fire, Fire!”
My father was sleeping. Everyone else was gone.
My yelling didn’t wake him, so I ran to his room while the fire blazed.
My god. I will never forget the look on his face. Like a Sasquatch from hell. Plunging from the bed in Frankenstein fashion. This was the fastest I ever saw my father get out of bed. His eyes popped out of his head and he smelled smoke. I kept shouting, fire, fire, fire!
“What the hell is going on? Holy shit Jordan!” he growled.
He sprung from the bed and reached the kitchen sink in five giant leaps. As he filled a bucket of water, I rushed back to my room to put out the fire.
I confirmed my firework was successful and thought to myself, “Wow, that was pretty cool.”
And then I snapped back to reality. I grabbed a pair of khaki’s and quickly brushed the flames and melting bottles onto the pants, then sprinted through the living room.
The plastic instantly burned through the pants and out came flaming fireballs that dripped onto the carpet like napalm. I tossed the flaming platter into the yard, and hopped through the living room, weaving between the burning carpet hot spots.
The fire was still burning on my desk.
I was being defeated by the flames.
Then out of the corner of my eye I saw a rushing stream of water blast through my bedroom doorway.
Embarrassed and scared for my life, I step back and hide behind the smoke screen.
My father confirmed the fire was out and let out a shout of victory, something like, “ADA BABY!”
I walk toward him and yell back, “I am so sorry, Dad! I didn’t mean to…”
He interrupted and said, “Jordan, I am happy you are alive and the fire is out. Your mother will be home any minute and we will discuss this mess then.”
I’m thinking, what the hell? He’s happy? What’s going on? Where is my spank? What about the soap in my mouth? Where is the “YOU ARE GROUNDED!” phrase that every kid expects to hear in such a situation?
All of this happened, from the moment the wick caught spark to the calm after the storm, in just 200 seconds.
And then five minutes later, my mother walks through the front door holding her nose to block out the stench of smoke.
“Well, we ought to kill ya, but I’m so happy my baby is ok”, she said.
I glance at her with a puppy dog face and thought to myself, “Man I really did come out clean here.”
And then I thought to myself…
But why didn’t I pull the wick out? Why did I allow the wick to burn through every bottle? Why didn’t I cut the wick in between the bottles? Why did I even light the damn pen cap in the first place?? And to this day, I ask, why in the heck was I building fireworks in my room at midnight, without adult supervision, by myself?
In retrospect this fire was just minutes away from burning down the house. I packed the heck out of those bottles with the gun powder. They were pressure loaded – some grade A firework experiment right there.
This was chaos, danger and relief all at the same time. I am blessed the fire went out. It was the first and only home I had growing up as a child, and let’s just say that if I had burned down my house…I would not have the courage to write about it like such.
It was fun to play fireman while the fire lasted.
But it sucked that I didn’t have my awesome firework to show off to the neighborhood, and that my room smelled like a cookout for the remaining days of summer…
Every day, our lives are faced with decisions and fires of all sizes. We are constantly putting out fires. Some burn hotter than others.
You know. The red lights. Stepping in dog shit. Losing your keys. The heart breaks. Being late to work. Divorce. Missing your flight. Getting fired. Loneliness. Boredom. Breaking your leg. That ugly coffee stain on your shirt that you have to show off for the entire day. Or when your wheels fall off in Romania.
Have you ever felt like you are just reacting to life as it burns before your eyes? As if you don’t have time to plan, to prevent the sparks from catching a flame?
Or maybe your job is to put out the flames. To take responsibility. You hold the fire extinguisher. And everybody looks to you to fix the fu** ups.
I enjoy putting out fires. Which is a good thing. As I surely know how to start them 🙂
But all of the above…Those are the small fires in life.
The hottest and most dangerous fire of all is the flame burning inside. That is the only flame you can use to turn nothing into something.
All of the other fires simply turn something into nothing.
So go on and set fire to the rain like Adele. And if you do, let me know how to do it.
And remember, we didn’t start the fire. It was always burning, since the world was turning.