When Things Get Hot, Get Ready to Grow

Certain species of pine trees have serotinous cones, the kind that only release their seeds after there’s been a fire. As we experience our own fires and challenges, we can learn a few things from the forest…

“In environments where hot, fast moving fires are frequent, some pine species have developed very thick, hard cones that are literally glued shut with a strong resin. These “serotinous” cones can hang on a pine tree for years, long after the enclosed seeds mature. Only when a fire sweeps through, melting the resin, do these heat-dependent cones open up, releasing seeds that are then distributed by wind and gravity.” – The National Forest Foundation

Grateful for the Burn

Stop for a moment and apply that to your business or personal life. We’re coming off of a week of turkey dinners and time spent thinking about what we’re thankful for. When those conversations about gratitude arise, how often do you include the obstacles? How often are we grateful for the fires along the way that crack open the seeds for us?

Talk to any successful business owner or leader worth following, and if they’re honest and transparent, they’ll tell you about the fires. No one comes out of this life, personally or professionally, unscathed. We all encounter obstacles, and occasionally, we find ourselves and our teams in the middle of a fire.

We know this is true because none of us can dodge the flames and the challenges. If we’re approaching anything worth doing, anything that is going to stretch us, or anything that brings forth growth, there will be fire.

Looking back on the past year, you can probably think of some fires you encountered. As we’re exiting one year and approaching the next, slow down for a moment to think about what those fires taught you. What lessons did the obstacles provide? How did the challenges make you stronger? What seeds cracked open for you that led to growth or new opportunities?

Uncomfortable at the time, those fires are what seeds need to be released. Sometimes, it takes an inferno to make that happen, but there is power in the fire. Sit with that idea for a moment, reflect on it, and find some gratitude for the challenges you’ve faced this past year.

A Controlled Burn

Further down the page in that article from the National Forest Foundation, they talk about the concept of controlled burns…

“Fortunately, land managers are realizing the value of re-introducing controlled fire in ecosystems where it existed historically, embracing it as a tool rather than fighting it as a threat. That’s a welcome change for the forests, trees, and other plants that depend on fire to thrive.”

There are times when the fires we experience show up unexpectedly, like the result of a lighting strike that comes out of nowhere with no warning at all. At the same time, when we feel like there is a seed that needs to be released, we have the option to set some things on fire on purpose.

We make hard pivots in our businesses. We step away from roles that no longer fit us or our purpose. We set down things we used to do so that we can pick up things we want to do. Sometimes, lighting a match is what we need to grow as a business, a leader, or an individual.


There are so many lessons in the fire. You’ve probably picked up some of those lessons in 2023 – the kind you can carry into the new year. In the process, there might be some ash and soot left behind. Before you wash it away and try to forget it, consider keeping a little bit around as a reminder of the seeds that get released when things burn. Look back with gratitude, find the growth, and embrace your fires.

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