Fire in the Belly

Keen, Sam.  Fire in the Belly.  New York:  Bantam, 1991.

My recent work with the WHY Institute and Dan Dominguez reminded me that I read “Fire in the Belly” long ago.  What ignites the fire in the belly? The first ‘aha’ by identifying my WHY, HOW, and WHAT was validation.  We forget Frederick Herzberg’s research on motivation.  People to want to be recognized and most organizations are so focused on results, bottom lines, and test scores that relationships and recognition become secondary.

The second understanding was that although we all possess all nine WHYs, we are driven by the ones that are primary in our skill set.  Knowing the key elements can provide great collaboration using the full WHY dashboard of skills on a team.

Here is a poem in the first part of the book.

A man must go on a quest

            to discover the sacred fire in the sanctuary of his own belly,

            to ignite the flame in his heart

            to fuel the blaze in the hearth,

            to rekindle his ardor for the earth.

Knowing the flame can ignite the fire and add fuel to sustain the work that nourishes individuals. The following is a direct quote from the book from thirty years ago.  “Today is all chaos and creativity.  If you aren’t harried, worried, and a little bit nuts, you don’t understand what’s going on around here.  Nobody can predict the shape of tomorrow’s world.” Sounds like it was written in the past year.

Here are two questions that each person should ask themselves:

  1. Where am I going?
  2. Who will go with me?

If you get these questions in the wrong order you are in trouble.

Too often people follow someone else’s passion or beliefs.  Pause for a few minutes.  Is this something I can subscribe to and support.  Of course, immediate financial or emotional concerns can make influence our decisions.  However, the long term is what is ultimately important.  “All too often we work because we must, and we make the best of a bad job.” That happens sometimes. “Your body is a machine, but your mind is its driver.”

Some people ‘rust out’ rather than ‘burn out.’ The following quote goes to the heart of ‘finding your WHY.’ “Human beings can survive so long as we “make a living,” but we do not thrive without a sense of significance that we gain only by creating something we feel is of lasting value.”

“Burnout is nature’s way of telling you you’ve been going through the motions, but your soul has departed.” You can have the knowledge and skills to do a job.  Knowing your WHY is the additive that brings passion and purpose to the talents already within.

Long term work outside of a person’s passion and alignment can reduce effectiveness and efficiency.  People can only sustain chaos and complexity for a time.  The world will always be changing, and adaptability will be required.  Keeping the WHY in focus can reduce the change anxiety many people go through when quandaries and questions arise.

In untroubled times, only extraordinary men and women radically question the consensus reality.

  • HOMESTEADERS:  Citizens, Believers, Culture-bound, Once born, frequently unconscious
  • PILGRIMS:  Questers, Questioners, transcend their time and tribe, twice born, Frequently, painfully self-conscious.

“You may be certain that if you want to be a pilgrim, you are going to get lost.” 

Here are some suggestions:

1) Don’t panic

2) stop doing what you were doing

3) sit down and calm yourself

4) look for landmarks

5) follow trails or streams that lead downhill or toward open space.

When each member of a team knows their WHY, HOW, and WHAT individuals use their strengths to elevate the team in dealing with problems, change, and the future. “The truth is that we are single selves who exist only within a community of interdependent beings.  There is no I without a thou.”

Chief Seattle: “All things are connected like the blood which unites us all.  Man did not weave the web of life; he is merely a strand in it.  Whatever he does to the web, he does to himself.” This provides another WHY.  Identifying, affirming your own WHY, and taking action to support your best self, models for others.  Especially children which leaves a positive legacy. “We heal ourselves by learning to give to our children what we did not receive.  When anything becomes more important to a society than the welfare of its children, it is a sure sign of spiritual disintegration.”  This concept is important for long-term surviving, thriving, and aliving (a-live-ing).

There is an Indian (India) Saying“When the student is ready, the guru appears.”  Let’s be that guru for our children and other people’s children.  Remember, modeling, especially from parents and guardians who are the closest to children, are the first teachers.

So, search the ‘FIRE IN YOUR BELLY’

Be Your Why

Act Your How

Get Your What