What’s holding you back from inspiration – and what you can do about it.

At the most recent Amusement 360 event, held virtually in June, we had the opportunity to attend the keynote session delivered by Jason Barnaby, author of Igniting the Fire Starter Within, and owner of Fire Starters, Inc. We’re excited that he agreed to share some of his philosophy about finding your passion and busting through the one thing that holds most people back. Enjoy!

What sets your heart on fire? Do you know? Have you ever even asked the question?

That’s the way I’ve been starting my keynote speeches around the country for the last 18 months.

The response that I see from the stage is predictable. One of two reactions is extremely common. The first is a quizzical tilting of the head as they think through the question. It’s as if they are playing their past life on fast forward and conclude that they don’t really know because they’ve never really asked. I find (not always, but very often) that these people are ripe for change. This question has sparked an “A-Ha” moment for them that is leading them down a path of reflection.

The second is just as noticeable but much harder for someone who does what I do for a living to watch.

I have spent the better part of 30 years in adult education teaching everything from basic English composition (much of that overseas) to business English to communication to leadership. I’ve worked with thousands of adults and love to watch their “A-Ha” moments happen right before my eyes. My very own “A-Ha” moment came in 2018 when my corporate career of 10 years came to a screeching halt. My job was eliminated in 2018 and I found myself asking the same question I started this blog post with.

The answer to what sets my heart on fire has been refined in the 2 years I’ve been out on my own to four words. Two hashtags. #IgniteHope. #TorchFear. With that mission being what gets me up every day, it’s so difficult to see reaction number two. It looks like this:


As I present, I show a slide of fire and flames shaped like a heart. Instead of an “A-Ha” moment when asked the question, I sometimes see a wince, a shifting uncomfortably in the seat, even a turning away from the slide. It’s as if the person is saying, “I know the answer to the question, but I’m too afraid, too stuck, too bogged down in the daily drudgery of work, bills, kids, home, marriage to entertain that idea. I don’t have time or energy and it probably wouldn’t work out anyway.” Maybe that sounds familiar to you. Maybe you’re feeling that right now. If so, please keep reading.

Jack Canfield said, “Everything you want is on the other side of fear,” and I use it almost every time I get in front of an audience. It’s thought provoking, but also TRUE! In my coaching business I work with individuals who want to make a career change, executives who believe they aren’t good enough, managers who desperately want the promotion, and groups and teams that just want to be better. As different as each of them are, they all share one thing in common. Can you guess it? I bet you can. If you said fear, you’re right.

Acknowledge your fear.

In my book Igniting the Fire Starter Within, I created (ok, I made up) a word to describe this fear and the process we go through when it strikes. I call it the WhatIfAbouts:  those pesky fears that work hard to keep us stuck and afraid. And boy oh boy do they ever work hard.

Has this ever happened to you? You have a new idea and you get excited thinking about it. You let your mind wander about what “it” would be like…starting your own business, flipping a house on the side, starting a regular side hustle, saving to buy a lake house, going back to school. The options are endless. Anyway, here you are thinking about this what could be. You get a little excited. You lean into the dream for just a few seconds and then WHOOSH, in come the WhatIfAbouts to douse and extinguish any hope and courage you just mustered. They say things like:

  • “Who are you to try that?”
  • “What makes you so special?”
  • “You’ve already tried that before and failed!”
  • “It will never work.”
  • “You’re too old, fat, skinny, young (insert your own critical word(s) here) to do that.”
  • “Someone else is already doing that and they’re doing it better than you are.”

Any of those sound familiar? I ask audiences to share their WhatIfAbouts and the ones above I’ve heard over and over across the country and throughout leadership levels of companies. As relentless as those WhatIfAbouts are, they aren’t very creative. Here’s something else you need to know about them. Once you stand up to them, they get less and less effective. That’s where #IgniteHope and #TorchFear come in.

Ignite hope.

Here’s a quick exercise you can do to make this very real. Write down your WhatIfAbouts on one side of a piece of paper. Take your time and get them all out. Then, flip the paper over and write what life would look like if each of those fears were gone. This doesn’t mean that all the problems go away and you will magically manifest all the good. It does mean, however, that you are giving equal time to fear and hope.

Then, take that piece of paper outside over a grill or fire pit and light it on fire. That’s right, light it on fire. *NOTE: ALWAYS USE PROPER FIRE SAFETY—HAVE WATER OR A FIRE EXTINGUISHER CLOSE BY!

I can’t explain what it feels like to watch the fear and hope both get torched. This exercise will empower you. So many people are stuck and don’t know how to take the first step. As a result, they do nothing and stay stuck. Igniting hope and torching fear with this exercise is the first step to pushing past your fears and begin creating momentum. You’re doing it. Keep going. Take the next step and the next. Momentum begets momentum.

This will also be a great exercise to do with your family as we all ramp up to go back to school in a COVID-19 world. Our kids have fears and anxieties. We all do. I hope you will take this invitation to #IgniteHope and #TorchFear as you look in the mirror and ask, what sets your heart on fire?

Follow Jason Barnaby on LinkedIn, Facebook, or Instagram. You can also email him at jason@firestarterstribe.com. Jason works with individuals, groups and corporate teams to #IgniteHope and #TorchFear to make lasting change. He offers keynote speaking, corporate leadership training and executive coaching.

As a result of COVID-19, he created a DIY development course called Tribe of Five that is meant for you and your tribe members (close friends) to go through on your own. Everything you need including daily videos, a journaling workbook, weekly facilitator guides and videos are all included in the course. Enroll in the course for just $99 or get a free  preview of the course here.


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