Goal Conflicts – The Time I Almost Set My Apartment on Fire

Let’s roll back to Sunday evening, right around what some people might call “the dinner hour.” I was sitting in my apartment listening to one of my favourite podcasts when, very suddenly, the smell of smoke struck my nose. And it wasn’t the kind of smoky sensation that you encounter on the street when you walk by someone working through a cigarette: this smell reminded me of a campfire!

Snapping my head to check my oven, my eyes were greeted by a rapidly growing plume of haze. Imagine your stove top as a four-pronged smoke stack (my heating elements have holes coming out from the oven) – that’s the best visual statement I can give you!

Opening up the oven door, I quickly found the cause of the problem. Sitting in my oven, which had been preheating for the cooking of a little homemade pizza, was my mixing bowl containing some bread dough that I was proofing. On top of the mixing bowl was a once-damp towel, which was now starting to catch fire. The act of opening the oven door was maybe a mistake: combustion equals flammable stuff + heat + oxygen…and I had just brought a lot of the latter to the table.

I was able to get the towel out onto my balcony, where it burned up and disintegrated peacefully. No more fire, no more immediate threat!

There was one more issue though. The giant white cloud in my room triggered the master fire alarm of my building (my own smoke detector had already gone off so many times that I had disconnected its battery to shut it up). My building is a 200+ unit apartment complex…meaning that at least 500 people were now getting ready to abandon their dinners due to my negligence…not a good feeling.

You’ve got to love life: just when you think you’re on the path to becoming Master Chef, you find yourself holding a flaming metal bowl in your hands and wondering whether you’re going to turn into ashes along with it.

As usual though, there is a lesson to be learned from all catastrophes.

Why did the fire start in the first place? “Carelessness” is an excellent one-word answer, as is “stupidity.” But the bigger message from the whole event is this – my two simultaneous goals (making pizza and proofing bread) were in complete and utter conflict with one another! Clearly, they couldn’t be carried out at the same time!

(For those wondering, I did in fact make the pizza after the fire department sent five guys into my 300 square foot apartment to make sure that there was in fact no longer a blaze).

I bet we can all think of times in our lives when our goals have conflicted on extreme levels. In my fourth year of university, I made a decision to stop pursuing serious house music DJing at the onset of the football season. There was no way I could have been even a part-time university student, work like crazy for the football program, maintain the relationship I had at the time…and go to nightclubs three times a week. (As it turned out, I couldn’t maintain my relationship either – it broke apart a few weeks after the season wrapped up).

One of the more intriguing recent developments taking place in my life has been in the shift away from these goal conflicts toward greater goal harmony. The last couple of years of my life have been intense to say the least, but they’ve also been some of the most productive and very rewarding.

Since leaving the cozy coaching confines of an English CEGEP (Champlain St.-Lambert) to go and learn French at a French CEGEP in an almost all-French town (Trois-Rivières), I’ve managed to discover new things about my abilities and goals in life.

I’ve learned that frugality and early financial independence go hand-in-hand, and my life is now structured to make significant advances in both of these key areas.

Personal concerns for the environment and the way I consume food are also much more in line with one another, with my goals of leaving a small footprint on this earth and eating a healthy diet working in tandem.

My dream to coach football on a full-time basis is exponentially more possible now that I speak the official language of what is still probably the best region for football in Canada. It took me a while to come around to the importance of the French language, but once I did, living and coaching in it in the same intensive manner advanced me in an incredible fashion – it even led me to my very first head coaching interview (en français).

What’s interesting about all these changes is that they are not overly spectacular on their own, but in their various combinations they have completely transformed my life and driven me forward in all areas of living. Killing two birds with one stone (easy pun!) over and over again is basically the definition of life hacking. While the individual acts mentioned above aren’t that impressive on their own (at least in my view…), their cumulative effect on my life is what’s really impressive.

Sunday’s little kitchen disaster was a great reminder of what can happen when you are pursuing goals that cannot be fulfilled at the same time. Sometimes they just all go up in smoke! While it’s not a bad thing to have many interests in multiple areas of life, it’s important to not underestimate those awkward goal conflicts that can creep into our lives. You can just ask my local fire department…



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