[April 6, 2021] There’s an old saying that says, “If you play with fire, you’re gonna get burned.” I think it was Bam Bam Bigelow – yes, that guy (390-pound professional wrestler and actor) – said it, but others have expressed the same. I always liked watching Bam Bam, but he was not exactly correct on this point about playing with fire.
As a kid, I had a Boy Scout folding knife. I was proud of it, and the knife went with me everywhere, even to school. One day on the school playground, my friend Wilson and I were taking turns throwing our knives between each other’s feet to see who would “wuss our first.” Our teacher caught us and took away our knives. How terrible that day was for two little boys.
If you take part in a dangerous undertaking (play with fire), a risk of causing harm or misfortune, then you had better know the rules of the game. This means that you will “get burned,” but only if you don’t know the rules and thus fail to take them into account. So, Bam Bam was right but only if you don’t educate yourself on a particular act’s risks.
You get the idea. We know people who are always playing with fire: symbolically at least. They are usually creative folks or those who want to do something good. They want to break a few rules to get something done and done faster, more efficient, cheaper and better, and honorably. Usually, they dislike bureaucracy. And, anyway, who does like bureaucracy? All that paperwork and organizational processes are such a pain. Those rules are just there to get in the way.
In the U.S. Army, I had a Lieutenant Colonel who worked for me, who I liked. What I liked most about him was his unique ability to find innovative solutions to complex problems. He was very smart (he had a Ph.D. and degrees from three military War Colleges). One day I heard that he planned a training event. I would have caused significant disruption, so I put an end to it. But, his thinking was spot on. I permitted him to hold his exercise but only a little better preparation and risk reduction efforts.
As a kid, I never got over my knife sitting in the school principal’s desk drawer. I never got it back. But I did realize for the first time in my life that I had better know and understand school rules before I did anything like that again. In the Army, I applied that rule and did pretty well.