September 10, 2021
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Hardwood Lessons

Out in the country, by September you want to have your supply of firewood stacked and ready. As of about a week ago, we had fourteen stove cords of nice dry hardwood on hand.

After too many years in the city, it took me a bit of time to recapture my farm-boy instincts about wood fires, but soon enough it all came back. And in the re-learning, I realized that wood heating reinforced many lessons I had learned about life in the professions. Here are a few:


●  Slow-growing, gnarly old hardwoods may be a chore to cut, split, and dry, but they are worth it, burning slow, strong, and steady. Fast-growing, easy to manipulate softwoods, on the other hand, burn fast and furious, but they have no staying power. People are like that, too.

  Wet wood will burn, provided you already have a roaring fire and you patiently add the wet wood a stick or two at a time. You know people like that.

  Damp wood will become dry wood if you bring it in well before you need it and just leave it near the heat of a good fire. Opportunities are like that, too.

  Oxygen is critical. Sometimes all you need to get good combustion is a little fresh air. Businesses are like that, too.

  Sometimes there can be too much oxygen --  the fire will burn furiously, but soon exhaust itself. To get a good outcome, you need to moderate the balance of fuel and air. Professional teams are like that, too.

  Cheap, poorly designed and badly maintained stoves will burn your house down. That’s also true of professional support systems.

  Every once in a while you need to stop everything to clean out the ashes and start afresh. Businesses and relationships can be like that, too.

  There are good people who have big chainsaws and skidders and splitters and trucks, who can bring excellent wood to your doorstep for a fraction of the cost, effort, slivers, and blisters that would be required to do the same yourself. In a professional business, there are all kinds of things that you could do yourself, but you shouldn’t. Your job is to do what you do best and let others help you. Because that's what they do best.

(And a shout-out to Keith and Tracy of Black Creek Road, my hardwood heroes!)

Forward to a friend!

Can I help you or your organization? Contact me at or at 613-862-3489. 

Friday Briefing Archives

Chop your own wood and it will warm you twice.

Henry Ford
If I only had an hour to chop down a tree, I would spend the first 45 minutes sharpening my axe.

Abraham Lincoln

What I Do

I am an explainer, that is, I deconstruct complex concepts and re-tell them in a fashion that can be understood.

In particular, I explain the secrets of professional success. These are things I wish I had known as a beginner lawyer in 1981, but which I had to learn by trial and error (and the occasional epiphany). These things are still not taught in law school or the Bar Admission Course, and generally not taught in any other professional training.

These secrets are simple yet profound, and are really just specific applications of common-sense life lessons. They are the keys to true professional satisfaction and financial success.

Call me at 613-862-3489 or e-mail me at

© Norman Bowley 2021, all rights reserved.
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