Caveman campfire

Sent by Jonathan Stark on August 19th, 2019

Have you ever built a campfire from scratch?

When I say “from scratch”, I mean without the assistance of modern conveniences like gasoline or lighter fluid or Duraflame logs or Bic lighters or even matches. 

Tonight, two of my siblings and I built a campfire almost completely from scratch. We had a knife, flint and steel, and a little bit of dryer lint. So yeah... we cheated a little but other than that stuff, it was fairly caveman. 

Our first try was promising. We got the dryer lint burning and then ignited some of the wood slivers that we had whittled. But alas... we couldn’t parlay this tiny flame into a larger blaze because we only had large logs set aside and it wasn’t big enough and hot enough to ignite them.

Lesson learned? We had rushed the process. We didn’t have the fuel we needed ready for when we needed it. In short, we need more preparation.

Getting a small flame started with your tinder is pretty easy. The hard part is keeping it going long enough to ignite ever larger pieces of wood.

To make the jump from tiny flame to roaring camp fire, you need to have a wide variety of flammable material available close at hand.

Thin birch bark strips to save you when your small flame almost goes out. Dry pine needles to take advantage of a small steady flame. Twigs and small branches once you’re fire is going strong enough that you couldn’t blow it out with your mouth. 

So after our initial failure, we started over. We spent a few minutes collecting a lot more birch bark and dry leaves and pine needles and brittle twigs and small branches. We stacked all of it up within hands reach. 

Then we sparked the tinder again and tended very closely to our tiny flame. We didn’t want to fail a second time. There were several close calls and a lot of excitement. Yelling for more bark, and blowing frantically on dying embers, and carefully balancing ever larger sticks on the flame. 

Hair was singed. Flesh was torn. Commands were shouted. Feelings were ignored. 

At a certain point, it was clear that we had succeeded. The fire was big enough to be essentially self-sustaining. We were finally able to sit back and enjoy it. 

We would occasionally throw a big log on the fire without worrying about whether it would extinguish the blaze. The bed of coals appeared to be hot enough to melt steel, so dropping a big log onto it indiscriminately was sure to result in more fire.

And then it started to rain. Hard. Like one of those soaking summer thunderstorm types of rain where each drop is the size of a small frog.

So we ran in up onto the deck to seek shelter while the rain came down. And guess what? The fire didn’t go out. In fact, the fire didn’t go out for several hours after that. And even then, we probably could have got it going again from the glowing embers without too much effort.

So why am I telling you about making a campfire?

Because it’s a perfect metaphor for launching a new product or service.

Specifically:

You don’t need sophisticated tools, it helps a lot to do a bunch of preparation, when things start to take off you have to pay very VERY careful attention to every little detail, once it takes off you can sit back and enjoy it, and if things really get going, it’d be hard to stop even if you tried.

You can make a campfire, right?

Yours,

—J