The Beauty of Forest Fires

Josh Linkner
August 12, 2018

Josh Linkner

Five-time tech entrepreneur, hyper-growth CEO, NY Times bestselling author and venture capitalist.

The devastating fires in California remind us of our environment's fragility and how little we can sometimes do to curtail the inevitable. They are also a symbol of power and momentum. In fact, there are few things in nature as mighty as the white-hot intensity of a forest fire. Once they gain momentum, these vicious fires can consume hundreds of square miles, leaving behind a trail of destruction and scorched earth.

Not exactly the symbol of beauty. I doubt Van Gogh or Monet painted landscapes of charred land. They preferred the splendor of sweeping meadows or lily-filled ponds.

Yet to me, there is magic and purpose in what is seemingly an act of tragedy. Forest fires are an important part of nature, serving a critical purpose. They clear out the old and make way for the new. They reset the conditions so new life can form; often removing previously restrictive limitations. The closing of one chapter allows the next to begin.

A new, picturesque plant species is able to thrive since it no longer must compete for sun with the previously tall and dead trees that hoarded the light. A new redwood is able to climb majestically to the sky because room has been made for her roots to expand.

While painful in the moment, forest fires are a vital aspect of evolution. This applies not only to nature, but also to your company, career, and community.

Often, the biggest impediment of success is the stubborn overgrowth of the past. Restrictive rules or polices that have long ago run their course. Leaders who cling to the days gone by and are ill-equipped to lead into the future. Mature products and services that consume company attention and resources often linger, while starving out fresh, more innovative ideas.

While I don't suggest setting your building ablaze, it is critical for leaders to break free from the shackles of the past. We can't get on with the hard work of creating if we are chained to yesterday's priorities. In these challenging times, letting go can be one of the most inspiring approaches.

In the insightful words of Pablo Picasso, "Every act of creation is first of all an act of destruction." Whether you are picking up the pieces from a setback that was thrust upon you, or you are proactively torching the past in order to make room for new life, it's time to focus squarely on using your new, fertile soil to plant the seeds of your future.

Where others are weeping about what's been lost, you'll be busy seizing new opportunity.

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