Monday, July 23, 2012

FSW Article

Well, I have officially put out my first post on the Fire Service Warrior Website called "We Don't Stop". It is an article that really describes how I try to live life everyday. Please read it, and join in the FSW movement. Here is the article:

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

The Passion for Excellence

Last shift, during my free time I decided to start a new book I had heard was excellent titled "Fearless" and is written by Eric Blehm.  This book chronicles the life of SEAL team six operator Adam Brown.  This book is good on many different levels, but it tells the story of a passionate man with a huge heart and the love for a career.

To summarize the book very briefly, Adam started out as the kid in school who was driven, passionate about success and a knack for being helpful and compassionate.  He slowly progressed into a very dark place and became dependent of alcohol and drugs to survive.  Adam slipped away from family and friends, went to jail, and then met a woman who changed his life.  She reignited the passion for success he had during grade school, and then there he was a Navy SEAL, a member of the most elite military unit in the world.  Throughout his career up until his death, Adam earned life, learning every day and soaking up all he could in all aspects of his life.  Adam learned to be a great father, husband, and warrior and carried out all three until his was killed in action.

This book brought forth some thought to me that directly relate to the fire service and how firefighters should be through their careers.  We all come in the door, ready to go to every fire in the world if they would let us.  Each of us wants to learn everything we can from everyone to make ourselves the go-to guy in our department, station, or company.  Passion is all over the place for most new firefighters, you can see it in their eyes when they are excited about running their 5th call after midnight.  These folks are loving life, so what happens a few years down the road, when these same energetic firefighters stop taking outside classes that are required but may offer knowledge that will make them better firefighters?  Why do they let passion disappear into the dark caverns of their mind possibly to never be seen again?

I offer forth an answer to those questions, it is because you let them bury the passion away.  Firefighters are great at pointing fingers and playing the blame game amongst other things.  Rarely, do you hear someone admit that the reason the rookie isn't doing well is because they as a mentor failed.  Passion breeds passion and it can spread like a wildfire or being extinguished like a cigarette in a bucket of water if you let it.  The new firefighter is as impressionable my 17 month son, they take in everything everyone around them does, both good and bad.  It is imperative that we as firefighters realize this is the time to keep the rookie momentum rolling on.  Firefighters come out with a minimum level of training, and many have that unmistakable passion for the job.  To me all that is missing is the experience, and mentoring of the senior members for this rookie to become the best firefighter your department has even seen.  We need to quit playing the blame game about the rookie who sleeps all day or is better at Xbox than he/she is at throwing a 24 foot ladder.  It all boils down to we can make a difference as long as that rookie has the passion to take it all in.

I'm sure if anyone could figure out to gauge passion in an applicant firefighter in a valid and reliable way, they would make improvements to our service that we can only dream of today.  It is hard to gauge the passion of an applicant, but I feel those who have found some sort of fire service role prior to the application to either a career or volunteer department are the most passionate.  Sure, someone had to give them their first chance, and some people wake up one day and decide the fire service is for them, but how did they approach it?  Each department looks for different styles of firefighters, but one common theme exists, the Chiefs everywhere want someone who they will be proud to pin with a badge, and someone who will exhibit a positive attitude of public service and caring

"Fearless" showed me that a passionate person will always have it somewhere inside of them, it may be active, or it may lay dormant.  Either way as I said before in my post "The Best Advice", passion isn't something that comes in the Sunday mail with the chief.  People have it or they don't, but our job is to bring out the passion that may lay dormant inside someone.  Adam Brown lost his way for ten years of his life (if not more), but he got into the Navy and did anything and everything he put his mind to against all odds, simply because of his passion for his career as a SEAL.  He learned everyday, and never took no for an answer.  He often struggled just as we all do in our own way, but his passion for life, not just his career carried him through it.

Passion can seemingly disappear from someone if they let it.  An individual may suffer a setback or a hardship in their career that may affect their passion for the fire service but a moments notice it can be reignited.  Additionally, it doesn't take a company officer to bring that passion out in someone.  It can just as easily be a new rookie to a department or station that brings the passion for the profession back into a station.  Passion is a fire never extinguished, it may smolder, but it will never go out unless you let it.

If you haven't already, go out an read "Fearless", it is a great story about a true American hero.  Adam Brown made mistakes in his life, but as one of my friends shot over in a text the other night, Adam earned life.  His story should teach that everyday may be your last to make that difference in the fire service so why wait to address something or to do that training you know you need?  Get out there and be the change today, its up to you and your passion for fire service excellence to make it happen. 

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Keeping Your Eyes Open

I apologize for my lack of posting over the past few weeks, but I have quite a few irons in the fire and this was last of the list of things to keep up.  I did complete and submit my FDIC class proposal, so I am proud of completing that and hopeful that I will be chosen.  The best part is, even if I'm not chosen, I'll be submitting again next year.

Well, onto the stuff you are here for.......

While carrying out perhaps my favorite fatherly duty of reading a bedtime story to my young son, I read a line that sparked a flurry of thoughts in my head.  The line came from Dr. Suess's book I Can Read with My Eyes Shut.  As with most Dr. Suess books, there isn't really a plot to follow just some good rhymes.  However, one line struck me that I related to the fire service, here it is: "There are so many things you can learn about, but you'll miss the best things if you keep your eyes shut."

There are no shortage of articles, posts, and rants about learning and training but here is another one to add to that list.  What the quote says to me is that we have to absorb all that is around us at all times.  If we keep blinders on, or ignore some great experiences, mistakes, or lessons we will miss all of the good stuff.  A few weeks ago, Chris over at Fire Service Warrior wrote a great article on entropy, or closed systems and how that relates to the fire service.  It brought forth the idea that we must reach outside of our own department at times to learn skills to use within.  His article discussed how closed systems move towards disorder without any outside intervention.  Think about some of the departments around you that "don't get out much" where are they headed?  I can name a few near me that are quite simply setting themselves up for disaster. 

To relate it to the Dr. Suess quote, we have to keep our eyes open to the big picture of the fire service as a whole, not just our little part or island.  Most of the excellent post-certification knowledge that I have gained have been from classes offered outside of my department.  The different perspective that is offered can be beneficial so we don't create a closed system within our department.  Too many firefighters fail to take advantage of free training that great fire service leaders post in various training communities throughout the internet. Some of these videos, posts, articles, or comments hav changed me as a firefighter. Take for instance Aaron Fields' hose videos, or various videos posted on Fire Service Warrior or Chris Huston's Stuff on Engine 22 . These are just a few examples of the fact that some of the best fire service minds are out there passing on their knowledge daily on websites everywhere. If you keep your eyes shut as Dr. Suess says, whether it be by sleeping all day at work, ignoring the knowledge around you, or failing to take advantage of some of the trade journals and publications that are out there, you are failing yourself, your organizations, and most of all the citizens that you serve.

So go out there with your eyes open and take it all in. There is knowledge everywhere around you so go out and take it in. Don't ignore what's around you and all the experiences that you could miss with your eyes shut. We have all told the new folks "God gave you two ears and one mouth for a reason", so lets not forget he gave us two eyes to take it all in around us too. Combine those two eyes with the two ears and an open mind, and you will soon find a knowledgeable and genuine firefighter. Ensure that you combine these elements to make your self the best you can be.