On a foggy night, he started his run 95 minutes behind schedule. He was determined to never arrive late vowing to “get there at the advertised time”. Illinois Central’s engineer had the tough task of making up over an hour and a half between Memphis and Canton. The engineer’s name was Jonathan Jones, but he went by Casey.

Casey Jones feeding his furnace.
Casey Jones feeding his furnace.

Casey Jones’s heroic tales were reimagined in the 1950 Walt Disney Studios animated short, The Brave Engineer. In the cartoon, Casey Jones at one point jumps onto the front of the train to save a woman from the tracks. This was based on a true story where real-life Casey rescued a child in the same manner. Perched precariously on the cow catcher, his outstretched arms would scoop up the child who was frozen in fear on the tracks. Another exploit of animated Casey shows him ripping every part of his train down, from the cab to the caboose, and throwing it into the furnace of the locomotive… all in an effort to arrive on time.

We all have our own furnace inside of us. It powers our drive and brings our motivation to a boil. We do not have the convenience of a coal car that carries our fuel with us and Casey Jones had to tear down his own baggage car to get more out of his furnace. What can we do?

At the center of the furnace is a fire and fires in their own right are pretty great. You can build a camp fire and it will bring you warmth and light. If your fire is strong enough, others can gather around your fire. Go check out FAKEGRIMLOCK’s post about being on fire at FeldThoughts. The article is old by internet standards, but so is fire.

It boils down to this. You take the successes that you have and you take the failures that you have, and you use them as fuel. They help your fire burn stronger and brighter. But a fire on its own can burn low or the spark can go out. That’s why you can’t just feed it successes. Your fire has to burn off of the failures too. Especially in innovation where you will fail many more times than you will succeed.

Use failures as learning and fuel.

I don’t want my fire to just be sending energy out into the dark night. I want to use those Joules (unit of measurement for energy.. thanks Physics!) to make myself, my prototype, my blog, my quilting club better.

A furnace puts your fire to work.

Envision a furnace door mounted on your stomach. When you pull the door open, your internal fire can be seen. This is where you are going to toss in the successes and failures of your work. As a side note, I’m not saying to ball up your failures deep inside so that no one can see them. Hardly. I’m saying let those failures burn in your internal fire so that you have more Joules and you burn brighter. Then every one can say “Wow! You sure are glowing today!” to which you can reply “THAT’S BECAUSE I AM EMPOWERED BY THE EMBERS OF MY OWN FAILURE AND SUCCESS!” Or, you know, something to that nature.

Feed your furnace

When you feed your furnace, as Casey Jones did, you pick up steam and momentum. When your furnace is heated, your purpose starts to percolate. Purpose is one of the key components to motivation and when its is vaporizing because of the heat of your furnace, everything you do becomes more powerful. Sure you may need to pivot and persevere, here and there, as you fail and succeed with your innovations. However, neither one will be able to slow you down. You are an iron horse pulling 85 tons of ideas down the track of tomorrow. You’ve got a full head of steam and nearby towns can hear your whistle coming.

Just keep feeding the furnace.


Identify some places that you may have failed or succeeded.

How can you leverage them as fuel and keep moving forward?

2 thoughts on “Feed the Furnace

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