Burning Down The House

Note to readers:  I am not a pyromaniac.  This story is full of metaphors.

Last year my house burned to the ground.  I set the fire several years ago and it got out of control.  I didn’t realize how destructive the fire could be until the damage was already done.

Sometimes the flame blew out, but I would just light it up again with whatever I had available; a match, a lighter, a blow torch. I wanted to be smoking hot.

I started playing with fire after I graduated from law school.  With my new identity of attorney at law, I felt very empowered.  I lit a candle at both ends and started to burn.  It was bright, exciting, dangerous fast-paced and hot.  Most of the time the candle burned steadily. Sometimes the flame blew out, but I would just light it up again with whatever I had available; a match, a lighter, a blow torch. I wanted to be smoking hot.  I wanted to share my light with everyone else, so I got more candles and tried to keep the fire going non-stop. I felt compelled to have the biggest and best candles all the time. I hired hardworking assistants to help me keep the flames burning.  Maintaining the candles became all-consuming. I know a lot of my clients benefited from my candle burning, but it wasn’t all good.

What I failed to do was maintain the fire alarms.  I never stopped to check the batteries or put in new ones.  So, when things started to get dangerous I didn’t hear any alarms.  A few people who got too close to my candles got burned.  I also burned a few holes in the furniture and carpeting. I’m sorry for that.

Eventually, the flames from both ends of my candles met in the middle and my whole house was on fire. This was a five-alarm fire and I was about to be homeless – or so I thought.  However, what happened was I found my most valuable possessions in the rubble and I’m building a new house. I’m using my experience with my previous house and all those candles, to do things differently this time.

My new house has:

  • a better foundation; i.e. I’ve learned to be in touch with my feelings, emotions, and values
  • more windows and doors, i.e. I am taking the time to enjoy, appreciate and participate in the world around me.
  • lots of room for company, i.e. I am spending more time with friends and family and making new meaningful connections regularly
  • intermittent internet, i.e. I am cutting back on my online time
  • working fire alarms, i.e. I am purposely managing my life to avoid any more fires
  • a comfortable library, i.e. I am committed to ongoing personal growth and development
  • a fully stocked wine cooler, i.e. I’m taking the time to experience simple pleasures

Lesson learned and shared – A high-powered career can be exciting and fulfilling or it can burn you out.  Check your foundation, maintain your fire alarms and don’t overdo it with the candles.


Susan Goodkind Wideman, J.D.
Susan Goodkind Wideman, J.D.
Elder Law Attorney/Entrepreneur/Midlife Mentor/Founder, Goodkind of Life / From Estate Planning to State of Mind Planning. In May of 2002, I founded my Elder Law & Estate Planning law firm, The Wideman Law Center, P.C. In August of 2013, the firm was renamed Wideman Filizetti P.C. The focus of my law practice was to provide compassionate and high-quality legal services to my clients, their loved ones and my community. Seventeen years later, drawing on my legal knowledge, professional training, personal experiences, lessons learned from my clients, and my education in the school of life, I have founded Goodkind of Life; a startup focused on State of Mind Planning. Goodkind of Life provides information, inspiration and ideas for a midlife without strife, through social media, print publications, blogging, podcasting, mentoring and transformational coaching.


  1. WOW, Susan! After our talk this morning, I knew I had to see this article you mentioned, and it’s a cautionary tale for many, many of us! As John Dunia wrote, the analogy is an excellent one, one that you and I agreed needs to be considered.