Personal Stuff

Walking on Fire

[LinkedIn post I published in June 2020 during the pandemic, while starting up my Honeycomb Dome sales venture]

Would you deliberately walk on fire? Can you imagine yourself walking barefoot across a bed of coals glowing at 500ºC? I’ve done just that (see me in the red shirt below) - but was it a religious rite, motivational seminar or science experiment?

For me it felt like a science experiment. Yet I found it VERY empowering.

I was manager of the Glasgow Planetarium (you can see the dome behind me) and the company we booked for the charity fundraiser emphasised the scientific aspect of walking on fire and not the more popular woo-woo nonsense.

So, if it was carefully explained to you why skin doesn't burn over short fire walks of 3 to 4 meters, would you attempt it?

Fire walking is popular because it helps us realise many of our beliefs are self-limiting ie.

🔥 if you believe the coal will burn you, you will never walk on fire

🔥 if you believe it’s necessary to conform to society’s expectations, you’ll never do anything positively disruptive with your life

🔥 if I believe I can only earn a living visiting schools, I won’t succeed selling social distancing domes to restaurants during pandemics.

I’d LOVE to know:

  ➤ have you walked on fire?
➤ would you like to walk on fire?
➤ have you ever turned down an opportunity to walk on fire?

A Single Revolution

[Blog post I published at 21:30 on Saturday 30th December 2000, in Armagh, Northern Ireland]

Exactly one year ago, almost at this precise moment, the wheels of my Virgin Atlantic flight lifted off South African soil.

When that moment came, and I felt the thud of the undercarriage beneath me, I smiled and breathed a sigh of relief: I knew I had succeeded in finally leaving that unfortunate, deteriorating country - safe and in one piece.

Yet I also knew that a tremendous challenge lay before me. All on my own, I was entering a new, unfamiliar environment. A wintry world where I spoke funny and felt awkward and uncomfortable.

The first two weeks were the worst. The very first entry in my 2000 diary reads: "Went to bed in a bit of a panic...asking myself 'what have you done to your life?'".

Traveling to and from work on a bicycle in the middle of winter during my first three months in the UK was no joke either. Yet I stuck it out, marking days off my calendar until things improved.

I'm really glad I didn't throw in the towel.

And tonight, sitting in my comfortable warm room, with the snow lying thick outside, I can't believe that my diary once again reads 30th December ... and that Africa is far away."

My precious one-way ticket out:

Do I miss South Africa?

The security of quality health care : when I look at my ageing parents and notice how ill-health is creeping up on them, I no longer worry about where we'll find the money to take them to a private hospital (to avoid the pressing thousands of South Africans queuing at state hospitals).

No bugs : when I switch on the kitchen light, I no longer see cockroaches scurrying for cover (vermin that are always there, despite your best efforts to keep a clean home).

No danger : when I look out my bedroom window at night, I no longer see lurking people and threatening shadows in the dark. There is absolutely no-one around - only the occasional taxi that serves as transport for the neighbour across the way.

Finding the Key

On the outskirts of the 1000-year old Sicilian village Piazza Armerina, there is a small olive grove called Sarafina. It is the oldest and only remaining plot of the once more extensive cultivated lands of the Di Maggio family. Many of the olive trees (heavily pruned in 1990) are hundreds of years old.

In August 1997, while on a family visit to Sarafina, I made a surprising discovery in one of the olive trees. Inside a knothole in a tree just to the left of the ruins of the old storehouse (below), something glinted in the sun.

On investigating, I pulled out a large, rusty key. It turned out to be the long-forgotten storehouse door key, safe in its hiding place for over 50 years.

School Achievements

I worked hard and did well at school. It was a welcome escape from an unhappy life at home. I particularly enjoyed secondary school, an all-boys (then) called Alexandra Boys' High.

Academically I wasn't naturally brilliant, and English was only my third language (on my first day at primary school, aged 6, I didn't know a word of English). Nevertheless, I was a dedicated student and actually surprised myself when I began doing well at secondary school - both academically and in sport (basketball).

In my final year I ended up being the school Dux (top academic pupil), and I had made the provincial basketball team.

I guess the most important thing I learned from my school career is that natural talent is not a requirement for success. Hard work and dedication can achieve the exact same thing.

(note: my name at school was Mariano instead of Mario - an error made by my parents [who didn't speak English] when they enrolled me in primary school. I had my name changed to Mario on my passport years later)

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