I've spent a considerable amount of time studying fires — building fires, gazing into the flames, calculating burn time, and understanding the process.
You know, like a crazy person.
I do this because I'm a "stick burning" barbecue enthusiast who enjoys the process of smoking meat almost more than eating the actual barbecue. And any backyard pit boss knows that hours of their time is spent building, watching and managing fires.
One of the special techniques I've learned when building a fire for a long cook is something called "preheating the log".
Let me explain.
When you start building a fire for an 8+ hour cook, you need to start with a strong charcoal bed. Once the charcoals are white-hot, you'll add a few small pieces of hardwood splits to get the fire going.
Here's the trick.
The Secret to a Lasting Fire
Since you'll be cooking for a long period of time, you can't wait until your charcoal bed burns away before adding more wood — you'd basically be starting from scratch every hour, and your food would be spoiled.
So in order to keep the fire burning and maintain a consistent temperature for hours, you will need a log of wood "preheating" close to the fire (but not in it) while the current log is burning.
Once the first log has burnt down to charcoals, you can add the "preheated log" straight to the fire, which will immediately go up in flames. While that log burns, preheat another log and repeat the process for many hours.
Do this right and you'll be celebrating your hard work with a delicious meal and friends who will praise your skills as a pit boss.
The Rookie Mistake
The problem that many rookie BBQ enthusiasts make (myself included) is they get too excited and throw a huge log on the charcoal bed prematurely, which lowers the temperature of the fire, produces a cloud of thick, dirty smoke and never fully engulfs in flames. A simple, yet costly mistake that will always result in failure.
The order, timing and size of your "burn" is crucial to success.
Start small and burn the small stuff while "preheating the big stuff", which is waiting to ignite when the time is right.
Building a business is like building a fire
I've since realized that building a business is much like building a fire.
If you try first to "burn the log", it'll smoulder and never ignite.
Instead, when you start small & tackle the tiny things, you'll build momentum.
And you'll use that momentum to "preheat" your next big step, which will be easier to accomplish and will allow you to "keep the fire burning" for years to come.