I grew up in the Boy Scouts.  We went camping several weekends per year and had a lot of first-hand experience with surviving in the outdoors.  I met mountain men, Indian skills instructors, and experienced survivalists.  All-in-all, Boy Scouts was a blast as a kid.

One of the coolest things about Scouting is that they let you play with fire.  I always had at least 2 boxes of matches on me.  When I finally got a lighter, I had it with me all the time.  Fire was fun ... and even easier to use.

One of the tricks of fire, though, was starting one without cheating.  Without using a chemical fire starter.  Without using a lighter.  Without using a match.  To be honest, I couldn't use a flint and steel until I was almost out of Scouting.  It took a long time to master, and it finally took an expert to teach me how to do it.


He sat down with his ball of tinder and pile of fuel.  He took out his flint striker and boot knife.  Put the striker against a piece of char cloth.  Struck once, and had an ember.  About 10 seconds later, we had fire.  I had spent 3 fruitless hours trying to light a fire before that.  I wanted some of this char cloth; it was amazing!

Now, almost a decade later, I'm taking a new crop of Boy Scouts camping.  Like when I was younger, they have no idea how to start a fire.  Unfortunately, char cloth is expensive, and I'm too cheap to buy a heap of it for the Scouts.  So ... I made my own.

I cut up an old pair of blue jeans and cooked it over a fire.  Now I have my very own tinder box of the secret fire-making ingredient.  As a kid, I always saw char cloth as the secret sauce to fire-making.  You didn't really know what it was, where to get it, or how to make it.  All you knew was that the cool guys had it ... and you didn't.

There's a market leader, a "cool guy," in every industry.  Who is yours?  Is it you?  What is the secret sauce that makes them (or you) so successful in the face of everyone else's efforts?  Is there a way you can replicate this ingredient on your own?