I love the example Tim shares below of how a burning platform makes our choices clear. I am grateful to have tools to help when the choices aren’t so clear. One of my favorite Wellspring tools is “Clarifying What’s At Stake.” It often helps cut through the distortions to clarify not only what is truly at stake in my actions, but it also produces much needed ENERGY for change.

~ Dana Smith, Women’s Equipping Coordinator


In my current profession, my role is to develop and execute strategies to initiate and support large scale process improvement efforts across our organization.  For the most part, we’ve had tremendous success; but, there have certainly been challenges along the way.  Over the past few years, I’ve realized that one of the main roles I play is change agent…and one of our most prominent roadblocks has been resistance to change.

“Prerequisites for successful change”

Several years ago, I read a book called, “Managing at the Speed of Change” by Daryl Conner.  He says that there are two prerequisites for successful change: 1. Pain: a critical mass of information that justifies breaking from the status quo.  2. Remedy: desirable, accessible actions that would solve the problem.

For prolonged change, both elements must work together.  Remedies without a costly status quo produce short-term interests which often dwindle.  Pain without remedy produces only ulcers…not change.  Bottom line, current pain is what inspires a commitment to change.  We simply will not be motivated to change unless the pain of our current situation exceeds the perceived cost of the change.

“Burning platform”

In the book Conner tells the story of a disastrous explosion and fire that occurred on an oil-drilling platform in the North Sea off the coast of Scotland in 1988.  One hundred and sixty-six crew members and two rescuers lost their lives in the worst catastrophe in the twenty-six-year history of North Sea oil exploration.  One of the crew members who survived was a superintendent on the rig, Andy Mochan.  From his hospital bed, he told of being awakened by the explosion and alarms.  He said that he ran from his quarters to the platform edge and jumped fifteen stories from the platform to the water.  Because of the water’s temperature, he knew that he could live a maximum of only twenty minutes if he were not rescued.  Also, oil had surfaced and ignited.  Yet he jumped 150 feet in the middle of the night into an ocean of burning oil and debris.  When asked why he took that potentially fatal leap, he did not hesitate.  He said, “It was either jump or fry.”

“It was either jump or fry.”… the price of staying on the platform (of maintaining the status quo) was too high.”

He didn’t jump because he felt confident that he would survive. He didn’t jump because it seemed like a good idea. He didn’t jump because he thought it would be intellectually intriguing. He didn’t jump because it was a personal growth experience. He jumped because he had no choice – the price of staying on the platform (of maintaining the status quo) was too high.  The key characteristic that distinguishes a decision made in a burning-platform situation from all other decisions is not the degree of reason or emotion involved, but the level of resolve.

Conner goes on to say that when someone is on a burning platform, the decision to make a major change is not just a good idea – it is an imperative! Here is the key:  the resolve to change that develops during burning–platform circumstances can surface early or late in the game.  When the resolve forms early, we have anticipated what the pain of the status quo will be if the desired change is not taken.  When the resolve develops late, we are already paying the price for the status quo that is too expensive to bear.  Anticipating pain can be more powerful due to the extra time available to make strategic moves; however, it is often more difficult to convince people to take direct action when no current pain is felt.

“Embracing the Way of Humility”

Coinciding around the time I attended my first Battle for the Heart event, I found myself in a true burning-platform situation with one of my sons. He was in a very dangerous place. Nothing I had tried had helped in any way. I had no choice but to change. My change was to embrace humility by surrendering to God’s plan and trusting his heart. During that weekend I literally leaped from the burning platform of my pose (the way I try to make life work apart from utter dependence upon God), letting go of fear and pride. Looking back though, I can see that the platform had been smoking for years.

my own self-protective strategies had dulled my senses to the deepest desires of almost everyone in my life.

What if we could enlighten our senses to the smoke of the potential burning platforms in our lives?

The “smoke” of the burning platform with my son had been there all along in the emotional moments of conflict, confusion and doubt in his life.  The emotions were evidence of deeper desires in his heart that were either blocked or distorted.  It was in those moments that I had the opportunity for impact, but my own self-protective strategies had dulled my senses to the deepest desires of almost everyone in my life.

“If I knew then what I know now”

If I had known then what I know now, I would have paused and pursued his heart in some of the earlier difficult periods of his life.  Pursuing the heart can help to identify those deepest desires that generally motivate the way we respond to life.  Asking simple questions and using something like the Clarifying What’s at Stake tool can help identify when our protective strategies and rational choices may be leading us to ignore the smoke.

As I have pursued the hearts of others, I have come to understand better what is truly at stake in my own life. 

I take the time to pause and pursue the hearts of others more now. The cost is sometimes high. The interesting thing is that there has been a return on my investment in others.  As I have pursued the hearts of others, I have come to understand better what is truly at stake in my own life.  Some of my deepest fears and protective strategies are being exposed and surrendered to a loving Father.


One Step Further:

  1. Where is God “turning up the heat” in your life to motivate you toward change?
  2. What holds you back from change?
  3. Consider using the Clarifying What’s At Stake tool to process a current situation in your life.