It’s Time to Embrace Your Burning Platform
I was recently having coffee with a friend, telling her some successes I’ve had in advocating at a provincial and national level. She quietly listened as I excitedly shared how an excerpt from a blog post I wrote was included in a report to Canada’s House of Commons. My wise introvert friend quietly nodded her head and said – you’ve found your burning platform.
As I stared at her, she explained the origin of the phrase burning platform and why it’s key to making a change.
On July 6, 1988 the Piper Alpha oil rig in the North Sea exploded, killing 167 people. As the fire raged, three men made it to the platform. There they had a tough choice to make. Either stay where they were and hope to be rescued, or jump into the cold, rough ocean.
Two men chose to jump and one remained on the platform. While the two men who jumped broke their legs upon impact, they were rescued. Sadly, the man who remained on the platform died.
This story is often used by change management consultants to show the need for taking risks. The two men who jumped, analyzed the situation and determined action was needed. They decided they needed to be the ones to take the action, not wait for someone else to help them. Whereas the man who remained on the platform decided the best action was no action – waiting for someone else to save him.
After telling me this story, my friend said the reason my work gets noticed is because I have found my burning platform. Instead of waiting for someone else to take the lead on issues I’m passionate about, I’ve decided action is needed and am prepared to ignite the action.
So, what is my burning platform? It’s advocating for an often-invisible population – children with special needs.
As a mother and sister of individuals with special needs, I know first-hand the challenges adults and children with disabilities face on a daily basis, often with minimal support. Having watched my parents struggle to get services for my adult brother, I also recognize how little has changed over the years. It is not a future I want for my child.
Now add a global pandemic to the mix, and what has been my passion has become my burning platform.
Through my advocacy work, I’ve fought to get my child some basic services when everything was pulled back. However, I know many parents do not have the energy and resources to fight. And their kids are suffering.
Immediate action is needed to ensure kids aren’t forgotten in this pandemic. By sitting back and hoping someone else will do something, I am not confident this action will happen. That’s why I’m taking a leap – with a desire to spark action.
So, what does my story have in common with the men on the oil rig? I recognize action needs to be taken if I want my current circumstance (and that of others) to change.
Passion ignites change
Going back to the conversation with my friend, she explained to me that people listen to what I have to say because my passion comes through. I’m not accepting status quo and am pushing for immediate change.
She said very few people act upon their interests. Sure, many people have a cause or issue they care about. But how many go beyond complaining or saying “someone needs to do something” to being the person who actually does something?
This is why those of us who act upon our passions, turning them into burning platforms, fight for the change we know is needed, taking action and getting attention. Because honestly, if our cause doesn’t get attention, we will just push harder, not walk away.
Push for action
I continue to reflect on the conversation with my friend. It has propelled me to push even harder on my burning platform.
And I’m not alone. In the last few months, I’ve seen many people act on their burning platform.
The Black Lives Matter movement is a powerful example. The status quo is not acceptable. Change needs to happen to protect lives and create a society where everyone is treated as an equal. Those individuals who have embraced their burning platform will not rest until the much overdue change is made.
As you read this article, I hope it gets you thinking about how you can transform your interest or passion into a burning platform. Think about what you would like to change and what action YOU need to take to make that change.
Don’t wait for someone else to rescue you as we saw how that story ended on the oil rig.