Justin Ricklefs


Where Will You Place the Dynamite?

As a kid, some of my fondest memories revolved around a little lake in central Kansas. Milford Lake, to be specific.

“City boy,” as my cousins affectionately called me when we’d arrive after a couple hour drive west on I-70, from KC, was the signal that we’d made it.

It was time for late nights in the tent telling stories, early mornings checking bait lines, endless washers tournaments, blowing up bullfrogs with fireworks, and other jackassery.

If I caught my own kids doing some of the shenanigans we pulled there, I’d be livid.

But it was boyhood adventures and freedom at its finest.

I’m sure I’ve over-dramatized this story in my mind throughout the years, but the way I recall it went something like this.

Most of us first cousins (on my mom’s side, which is who we’d meet at Milford, I’m one of 15) were near the boat ramps late one night, lighting bottle rockets and throwing them at each other, having Roman candle wars, and lighting Black Cats behind other unsuspecting cousins’ ankles.

All, super smart, obviously.

At some point, one of my older cousins thought it was time to pull out the good stuff. Like a good dinner party that extends into the early hours of the morning, when the host brings out the top shelf liquor.

He ran back up to the campsite, and brought back M-80’s.

This is where my memory gets fuzzy.

But essentially, the older cousins started lighting M-80’s, and tossing them in the lake. In hopes of doing some dynamite damage on the bluegill, I suppose.

I’m sure our parents were all back at the campfire drinking Busch Lights and talking about how nice it was to have a break from our dumbasses.

Until, one of my cousins lit the M-80, then threw the punk in the water, not the firework.

Not realizing her error until it was too late, the punk never blew up in the water. But the explosive did, in her hand.

That broke up the party at the campfire real quick, as we all tore back from the water, attempting to have some parental perspective to get her hand taken care of.

Where it’s fuzzy for me, is I can’t imagine an M-80 not doing more damage, but besides some pretty bad burns, she was OK after a couple days. So maybe she was tossing something a little less explosive.

But regardless, it was terrifying. And terrible.

Fast forward about 25 years, and after about blowing up my own life, I jumped on a call with our financial planner, not expecting to get deep life wisdom, well beyond money.

He knew parts of my story. He knew lots of my dreams. He knew exactly what to say.

I was burning the M-80 at both ends.

I had a full time job that demanded a lot from me. I had a big family that deserved a lot more from me. I had a side hustle that was becoming bigger than I thought it would be. And I had my own soul to tend to that required more attention from me.

“You’re playing with fire, man,” he started in on me. “You have a stick of dynamite in your hand. That’s the bad news.”

He had my attention, immediately bringing back that scene from Milford Lake in my mind.

“The good news, though, is you get to determine where you want to place it before it blows up. Place it on your side hustle, and kill that dream? Place it on your family, and destroy that structure? Place it on your job, and end that chapter? Or keep trying to hang on to it all, and blow your self up in the process?”

Thought you were going to review our bank accounts, college savings, debt, and retirement plan, bro?

Luckily, I didn’t allow my defensive thought to surface, instead I made room for the gratefulness to emerge.

“Man, you’re so right, I can’t do this all anymore…”

Two weeks later, I handed in my two weeks, preventing the dynamite from self-implosion, dream crushing, or family erosion.

And providing the space for the safety of a new pursuit.

I wish I could say the one detonation did the trick forever.

But four plus years later, I still pick up new sticks of dynamite, burning them too close before throwing them in the lake.

A few of my go-to’s are: busyness, distraction, workaholism, anxiety, new ideas, fear, control, planning, avoidance, and many, many more.

We’re all playing with fire.

If not named, if not dealt with, if not detonated, the dynamite will eventually explode.

So, make a conscious choice on where to lay it down, lovingly.

Just be sure you don’t throw the punk.



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