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Touching the Burner

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When we’re young, we’re curious. We experiment a lot.

We don’t mind trying new things, whether it’s walking on our hands, running backwards, putting our hand in the toilet, or whatever. We do this even if the result is to get hurt, and that’s because our curiosity drives the understanding of how the world works. The more we try, the more we figure stuff out.

I call this process touching the burner– it’s the process of being curious, and trying new things, which we started as children.

When we get older, we don’t do this anymore. There are good reasons– first, our world is limited. Over time, we’ve mostly figured out how it goes, so we don’t need to. But the pain we feel through experimentation puts us on the defensive, and once we’re there, the reward of discovering something new isn’t worth the suffering we go through anymore.

But there’s a big problem here. Those that continue to experiment are rewarded with more experience. Those that think “I’m fine where I am” never do– their world stops growing, and they don’t truly understand why.

I want my world to keep growing. You probably do too.

Anaxagoras once said: “It is by having hands that man is the most intelligent of animals.” Our ability to handle stuff is part of what makes us masters of our environment. Our ability to manipulate stuff with our hands and our brains help us figure out what we can do with what we have. But we have to keep doing it for this to work.

Overcoming fear needs to be taught, or learned. The attitude we need to develop should be– “this may hurt, but I’m going to do it anyway.” We have to do this– we owe it to future selves.

In the talks I do, I discuss how touching the burner, what we all did as children, is what all children do instinctively. Humans are pattern machines, but this pattern needs to be returned to, because experimentation is what leads to success on both a personal and global scale. I suspect that, if you stop experimenting, where you are today is basically where you’ll be forever.

So this one attitude, touching the burner, is one that I encourage you to cultivate. Consider it very seriously; becoming that kid again could change everything for you.

* Filed by Julien at 2:14 pm under random


Hi, I’m Julien Smith. I'm the founder and CEO of Breather.

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4 Responses to “Touching the Burner”

  1. Larry Says:

    Good stuff, Julien. Good stuff. (Sorry for such a lame comment, but it’s what I was thinking, so I’m sticking to it!)

  2. Eric Says:

    I’m going to have to second Larry’s comment. I don’t have much to say beyond, it’s a great post that really made me think hard and reassess. I have a feeling this one will stick with me for while.

  3. Kenny Silva Says:

    So true, Julien. If you want to succeed, you have to fail, which hurts. I’ve been building my new business and constantly have to experiment with stuff that isn’t so comfortable, stuff that “hurts.” But, that’s the only way to find what works. I really enjoy reading your blog. Keep it up!

  4. AnotherGuy Says:

    Why is it that every article in my feed reader today applies to what’s happening in my life at this moment? lol

    I’m right in the process of touching that burner. I’ve left my job to start a new one, taking a break in relationships to focus on what my one goal/aspiration is, and cutting out the parts of my life that don’t align with the path I’m on.

    I’m throwing my whole self into the fire pit, and it hurts like hell right now. But I know that in a few weeks I’ll feel so refreshed. And with a new horizon in front of me I won’t be stopped for anything.

    Thanks.

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