True forgiveness is when you can say, “Thank you for that experience.”

— Oprah Winfrey

Each spring ranchers burn pastures on purpose.

In our area, the practice of controlled burn is reserved for the wooliest of fields. The ones that have gotten so out of control, they’re not easy to mow. Further into Kansas and out west, as well as for some of my neighbors, the practice is rather routine on even regular pastures.

The fire is all consuming.

When you’re burning 40 or 100 or 1000 acres, the fires offer monumental flames. The orange mass moves across the field like a conquering horde, a super heated, inferno driven mob. And like all good battles, it often draws a crowd. The bigger the blaze, the more people work their way toward it, drawn like all creatures to both the light and the destruction.

Every spring, some pastures go rouge and catch themselves on fire — wildfire.

Regardless of the intent, when the fire is finished the pasture is left scorched, black — and devastated.

In my life, I have had moments like this — moments where things in my world have become so overgrown and out of hand that I lit the whole mess on fire on purpose. Sometimes, another person threw the match that summoned the flames.

“The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong.”

— Mahatma Gandi

Sometimes the fire was wild — a cleansing only Spirit knew I needed.

For a few hours after the fire, the pasture looks defeated. The crowd leaves, the wind prods at the last few spots of black smoke. The field looks alien. It feels out of place. Even the birds don’t quite know what to do with it. Deer avoid it. The life that it has always sustained moves away.

But then something amazing happens — within just a few days (depending on the time of year and the weather), the most beautiful, tender, impossibly green grass begins to appear.

The black begins to fade and life returns. It does so rapidly and without hesitation. Birds, deer, all things that creep and crawl.

In a few weeks, the pasture is clean — more vibrant than its unburnt friends. The life that it supports is teeming with new energy. Scars fade, even those that seemed deep, over time. The things that needed to die energize the new life.

I’ve found that in my life — and my business — I can choose to be like the pasture. I can choose to immediately forgive and nourish new life.

It takes total forgiveness.

“Forgiveness is the fragrance that the violet sheds on the heel that has crushed it.”

— Mark Twain

How many times are we offered this opportunity in life and business? How many times do we ignore the opportunity to shed the fragrance of our experience and enlighten ourselves and the world around us?

When I was 25, I bankrupted my business.

I can remember sitting in the court room repeating over and over to myself that I would never, ever, never own another business. That I would immediately go back to work in corporate America and happily serve my days in my cube with no regrets. Day by day.

It lasted six months. I was stagnant in that cube. Absolutely stagnant. There was no oxygen, no sunlight, no life, no passion because I would not let it grow.

Another wildfire swept through my life — and when it finished, I allowed the new growth, tender and soft to come through. It resulted in the birth of the business I still operate 20 years later.

I have not spent one single day in a cube in those 20 years. As a matter of fact, everyday I look out on the expanse of nature, fill myself with country air and sunlight and rain.

Nature forgives. It moves on. It may take weeks or months — or eons, but it moves on stronger and more brilliant. It becomes what it needs to become.

Businesses and the people who run them work the same — if the human part of us can allow it. That takes forgiveness — true forgiveness. The pasture does not hold on to the past, it releases it, allows and encourages its passing to feed the new growth.

New growth can be as scary as it is beautiful. Just remember what appears fragile is really stronger than you can ever imagine.

“The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong.”

— Mahatma Gandi