Firewalk Or Cakewalk

There are many ways to problem solve with a customer or a client.  Some are fear based, and some are faith based.  Still others are common sense based while some are science based.  Of all the ways to approach a problem in search of a solution, the firewalk philosophy and the cakewalk philosophy are two sides of the same coin.

What’s the firewalk philosophy?

The firewalk philosophy is that what you’re about to go through will be an initiation of sorts — one that will take a great deal of effort on your part, and faith in your mentor or guru to help you make your way through the death-defying act of firewalking.  You cannot do a firewalk without first learning the secrets from your mentor or guru, and only then, will you be ready to attempt the firewalk.  If you fail in learning the lesson of firewalking from your mentor or guru, you will suffer the painful consequences.

How to survive a firewalk

The trick to walking on burning coals or hot embers and not blistering your feet is to make sure they’re wet before you start that walk.  Some people can accomplish this naturally when the bottom of their feet perspire, while others may dip their feet in water before attempting the firewalk.  And there’s a term for this; it’s called the leidenfrost effect.

The humidity on the underside of your feet will create two barriers:  first, it will create a moisture barrier that will evaporate, thereby creating a protective gas layer as a result.  Yes, water will result in poor thermal conduction and scientifically speaking, it’s a fact that water vapor has a low heat capacity.

You’ve probably noticed that most firewalks have a visible path for walkers to follow.  That’s because the path is usually raked before people attempt the walk.

By raking the coals, the visual is more dramatic (because of all that orange and red showing through) but the reality is that cold charcoal is being raked overtop those screaming hot embers.

The other bonus to raking a path is that it packs everything down which, in turn, keeps those firewalkers from sinking into those red-hot embers.  It’s a kind of temporary landing pad with a protective barrier all its own that is almost imperceivable to spectators taking in the impressive firewalk.

The other component to this is to walk quickly, but not to run or hard-step.  The lighter a firewalker is on his or her feet, the less chance embers have of sticking to their feet or getting caught between their toes.

In other words, by combining two barriers between your feet and the hot coals and embers, walking very quickly across the coals or embers which results in minimal contact between your feet and the coals or embers, and positive reinforcement, it’s not impossible to complete a firewalk and emerge with no blisters on the bottom of your feet.

The magic associated with a firewalk

The mystics and New Age gurus will wax poetic about firewalking, but the bottom line is that any physics teacher worth his salt will tell you there’s nothing magical about the feat.

You’re probably wonder at this point why I’m talking about firewalkers and firewalking on this article.  The theatrics and science behind firewalkers and firewalking is a technique that some businesses and entrepreneurs use to draw customers and potential customers in.

Some businesses and entrepreneurs effectively convince their customers and potential customers that they can get them through the fire-and-brimstone situation they’re faced with, and deliver them safely to the other side of their problem.  In other words, they prey on the natural fears of the customer or potential customer with whom they are interacting.

Reframe the firewalk

Rather than catastrophize a customer or potential customer’s situation by way of convincing them that a firewalk is needed, reframe the same situation so it becomes a cakewalk (as in a surprisingly easy task to accomplish).

What’s the cakewalk philosophy?

The cakewalk philosophy is based in the science of baking cakes.  Cakes usually bake at 350 degree Fahrenheit for about half an hour before slipping on oven mitts and taking the pan (or pans) out of the oven.  The oven mitts protect you from the hot metal baking pan (or pans).

However, while the cake is cooling, you can draw your fingers across the top of the cake without blistering your fingers … even when you’ve just pulled out of the oven where, of course, everything inside the oven is also 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

In other words, everything from the pan to the inside of the oven will burn you, but when you drawn your fingers across the top of the cake — because you do it lightly and don’t break the crust and because you do it quickly — you come away from the experience unscathed and looking forward to tasting that first morsel when it’s ready to be eaten.

Final Note

Sometimes a firewalk is what’s needed, in which case it’s important to lay out the science of what you’re suggesting.  Sometimes a cakewalk is what’s needed, in which case it’s equally important to lay out the science of what you’re suggesting.

What customers and clients don’t need are fear and intimidation and mysticism guiding their final decisions in business.

Elyse Bruce


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