Saturday, March 26, 2011

The four-burner stove theory.

Ever since I stumbled across David Sedaris's friend's 'four-burner stove theory' in a number of articles, I can't help but periodically evaluate my theoretical burner usage. This symbolic stove represents four quadrants of life we all try to balance:
“One burner represents your family, one is your friends, the third is your health, and the fourth is your work.” The gist, she said, was that in order to be successful you have to cut off one of your burners. And in order to be really successful you have to cut off two.
If you think about it, it's easy to do. Become focused on a couple of areas and ignore the others. I've done a lot of burner combining as well. Friends at work. Family as friends. Brainstorming while running.

Seriously, can a person really have it all at the same time anyway? Something probably has to give, unless we miraculously find more hours in a day. Or take up speed-laced espresso and clone ourselves.

An extreme example of burner combination: A while back I read an article about a successful agency woman. (Her name and agency escape me.) From what I remember, she was basically running her life on one combined burner. Her and her husband managed the agency together. Full. Freaking. Time. To those inquiring about her success secrets she said, "If you have friends, forget them. There will be no time." They literally lived at work. Home, family, and work were one. She did everything there – from working out to giving herself haircuts. (And yeah, she could afford a sweet haircut, but apparently losing that precious time was not an option.)

Along with reasonably combining burners, we should probably turn them down instead of completely off. Work gets busy… that burner goes full-flame while the others stand by on a low simmer. When you're catching up with family and friends, crank those burners way up to make up for lost time. All of this is fine and well, that is if we can actually control our burner usage.

Unfortunately, this theory rings true at a subconscious level. Whether it's survival or not, we don't always realize we're cutting off burners until the pilot light goes out and it's hard to get them going again.

What if we just simply burn out? Can we get a new stove and start over? Well, maybe. Just make sure it has a good warranty.

Or, if you're so inclined, embrace the craziness and get a fire pit.

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