Tag Archive | Humility

Feeding Frenzy

Rant1 (2)

Depending on the size of your department and its turnover rate, the promotional process may be a bi-annual event or a rare occurrence. Either way, positions will need to be filled at some point. The time between the announcement of an opening and its being filled can bring out odd behavior in some individuals. Even the best team-players can be tempted to undercut other candidates in an attempt to earn the coveted opening.

The ideal fireman presents the attributes of a wolf. Wolves are strong, aggressive, smart animals on their own. Yet, they hunt in packs, as a team. Each wolf plays its role in the hunt, working together to bring down their prey. Wolves know that a successful hunt as a team is also a victory for the individual, as the fallen prey will be shared to feed the entire pack.

Sharks are similar to wolves as individuals; strong, smart, aggressive. However, sharks tend to be lone predators. Their only goal in attacking prey is to satisfy their own needs. A shark’s keen senses will often lead dozens of individuals to a potential food source. This “pack” of sharks may seem similar to a group of wolves circling prey, but their mindset is much different. When the group of sharks swarms a victim, it is brutal and uncoordinated. The sharks are just as likely to eat each other as the intended prey. The individuals are concerned with nothing beyond their own survival.

Turning into a shark may seem like a sound strategy for beating out the other promotional candidates. Pointing out their mistakes and seeking to destroy their credibility. It seems easy enough to turn back to your old self once your new position is secure. However, remember that your actions, and the reputation they create, will not be so easily forgotten by your peers. What good is a shiny new set of bugles if your crew will not respect them?

Ignore the temptation to compromise your character. Successful teams breed successful individuals. Perform your job properly and seek to outperform only yourself. The rest will follow.

Mission, Team, Self.

-Pete

Rule #16

Black Sheep Rebel Club Rule #16

“I’ll remember when it’s the real deal” is a weak and tired fallacy. Building muscle memory through repetition occurs regardless of whether you are building proper or poor technique. Skip the step of donning your hood or grabbing a tool on ninety-nine false alarms and you can guarantee that you will arrive to that one working fire with a naked neck and empty hands. Do your job; do it right, every time.

“We do not rise to the level of our expectations. We fall to the level of our training.” – Archilochus

(Contributed by Dave LeBlanc)

Comfort and Complacency

When we first enter the fire service, motivation is easy to find. As a probie, we are well aware that we are the weak link of the team. We are at the bottom of our department’s ladder. Everyone is our superior. The urge to improve is strong. We strive to become a contributing asset to the company, rather than a liability that everyone must keep an eye on. We are constantly challenged and made uncomfortable as we are outperformed by those around us.

As we gain experience and our skills improve, we begin to rise on the ladder of seniority. New hires come in below us and we surpass the abilities of some less-motivated, senior “employees”. We begin to feel comfortable in our department’s little “bubble”. We are familiar with everyone’s abilities and how they compare to our own. We are safe and secure.

If we remain in this “bubble”, we can easily convince ourselves that we have little room for improvement. This is especially true if we are one of our department’s top performers. Slowly, the challenge to improve disappears. The drive to advance dissipates. Comfort gives way to complacency. We become stagnant.

Step outside the “security bubble” of our department and it quickly becomes apparent that we are not so great after all. There are individuals nationwide who outperform you on nearly every level. Expose yourself to new ideas and methods. Challenge yourself to match the skills of tradesmen across the country. Do your best to maintain a level of slight discomfort in your abilities; the knowledge that you may be good, but you can still be better. Spread this discomfort to those around you. Attack the status quo of mediocrity. Challenge your company and department to overcome the plague of apathy and complacency created by a comfortable existence.

Do not become stagnant. Keep moving forward. You aren’t as great as you think you are and you can always be better tomorrow.

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Weekend Reading Assignment – June 8 2013

A fresh attempt on a variation of the old (and short-lived) “Weekend Update” posts. This regular post will forgo the random photos and viral videos to recap only articles and training videos posted on the Facebook page throughout the week(often captioned as “today’s reading assignment”), as well as some that I may have missed. As my original articles are less frequent, and may be published elsewhere, I want to continue to use this site to share the work of others. With that in mind, you may share your own work here. Article, rant, photo, poem, drawing, or other…send it in.

Here’s your weekend reading assignment:

  1. Don’t Kill Yourself – Christopher Brennan, Fire Service Warrior
    An honest and timely article from Chris on a topic that is all too common in our community, yet is often avoided in discussion: suicide. Read it, and if you know someone who is in a dark place, talk to them…starting with those three, most important words.
  2. Close the Door! Were You Born in a Barn? –  Ed Hartin, CFBT-US.com
    “Coming and going as a little kid, I frequently would forget to close the door to the house and my mother would say; close the door! Were you born in a barn? What does this have to do with firefighting operations? As it turns out, it has significant impact!”
  3. Throwing Ladders – Jason Jefferies, Fire Service Warrior
    “A good training program should consist of progressive learning so that as a task is learned and then mastered, the difficulty is increased.  We cannot expect a firefighter to see a technique that is new to them and expect perfection in performance right out of the gate.”
  4. Sick Days – Mark vonAppen, Fully Involved
    “The old days are gone.  If we wish for the past, worry for a future that might not happen, the present goes by and we don’t live the days that are right in front of us.”
  5. What Research Tells Us about the Modern Fireground – Steve Kerber and Timothy E. Sendelbach, UL
    “Applying water to the fire as quickly as possible—regardless of where it is emitting from—can make conditions in the entire structure better.”
  6. Finally, two things in the wake of the Houston LODD’s –
    A post on the Fire Service Warrior Facebook page had this to say:

    Risk does not recognize rank. Collapse does not recognize rank. Fire does not recognize rank. Heart attacks don’t recognize rank.

    There is no experience required to access information, no prerequisites to get in the gym. If there is a fire engine in your station you have all the equipment you need to drill. It just takes the will to do and the soul to dare.

    Stop waiting for someone else to take care of you, to show you, to prepare you.

    Your life is your responsibility and has been since the day you were born. The lives of those you serve are your responsibility and have been since your first day in uniform.

    Enough with the dependance, avoidance and laziness. Pride and ownership isn’t a book, it is an internal drive, a different standard and most importantly it is hard work. Dig in and start now.

    You answer to yourself and your duty. The critics will not be there for you at the moment of truth so why let them influence the outcome. We have lost enough this year.

    Put down your phone right now or log off the computer and go to the bay, the gym or the book shelf. When the voice from the lazy boy asks “What are you doing? Don’t you know it is the weekend?”

    Just tell them “unfortunately it is a weekend that too many are missing and I choose not to be one of them.”

  7. Secondly, the following WOD was posted in honor of the fallen in Houston:

    The Houston Hero WOD

    Captain Matthew Renaud, Station 51
    Engineer Robert Bebee, Station 51
    Firefighter Robert Garner, Station 68
    Firefighter Anne Sullivan, Station 68

    1 mile run
    68 Push-Ups
    68 KB swings
    51 Sit-ups
    51 Burpees
    1 mile run

    Many Brothers and Sisters have posted times for the workout over the past week. I completed it on Wednesday with a time of 37:04. Denver area firefighters organized a fundraiser workout at Crossfit Ken Caryl in Littleton, CO this morning. Knock it out and show your work here or on the FSW Facebook page.

    Remember the fallen.

-Pete

Reflection

“Speak the truth, even if your voice shakes.”

These words caught my eye in a recent blog post, one of a few which struck me deeply in the past 24 hours, stirring a period of serious reflection. Reflection on myself, my ideas, my actions, and my writing. Reflection on this site and ELAFF as a whole. It has been nearly one year since I moved the ELAFF movement to this standalone site. I used to hesitate to call it a “blog”, as I tried to steer away from the personal posts commonly associated with that term. This was due in part to the anonymous nature of the posts, but it was also an attempt to maintain the universal, ambiguous nature of the topics which any agency or individual could relate to. As you well know, the anonymity is no more. So, the occasional “personal” post can be expected…and this is the first. Stay with me, though. I might stumble on something of use to you.

The removal of the “anonymous” barrier brought a question to my mind. If he isn’t the mythical “Fire God”, who hand-carves door chocks out of oak trees using his Leatherman multi-tool, then who IS Lt. Lemon? Who AM I? I found that it was much easier to answer the inverse question. Who am I NOT?

I am not anyone special. I am not an expert. I am not an instructor, trainer, teacher, nor professor. I am not a philosopher. I am not the definitive voice of reason on all or any topics.

Who am I? I am a guy with a keyboard and an interest in stringing words together into sentences. That’s all any of us(bloggers/writers) are. I am simply sharing opinions and ideas, not undebatable facts. So, how does this relate to you?

This serves as a simple reminder to take everything with a grain of salt. Don’t automatically believe anything you read online or see on t.v. This is not a training site, but a forum for discussion. Read critically and question the material presented. If you disagree, feel free to rebut with your own opinion. If you agree, add your own thoughts to the discussion. I never fully cover any subject which I write on and there is always room to elaborate. I’m sure most other fire service writers would ask that you do the same and I am striving to become more involved in the posts which influence me.

My status as a member of this forum, rather than a teacher, affects me even more. This site isn’t really about spreading my ideas, but more about gathering the ideas of others. ELAFF has allowed me to network with firemen from beyond the county, state, and regional boundaries which usually inhibit growth in the fire service. It exposes me to varying ideas, tactics, theories, and equipment which I might have missed if I remained isolated within the comfort of my home department.

Some don’t realize the potential of these differing ideas and tactics. They immediately jump to bash and scrutinize others for their differences, falsely perceived to be mistakes. They react with the same fear as the townspeople to Frankenstein’s monster. Frankenstein’s “turtleshell” wearing, fireground sprinting, roof cutting monster. However, they are not fearful of the literal differences which they see, but of the theoretical change which those ideas could bring to their department. Oh, “change”. That double-edged sword that we’re all SO scared of..even positive change(a.k.a IMPROVEMENT). Perhaps what scares us most about improvement is that , in order to improve, we must expose our weaknesses. Admitting the need for improvement is admitting that you are doing something wrong or, at the least, not as well as you potentially could.

I try to take a different approach to these “differences”. I’m intrigued by them. I see them as a chance to learn, grow, and improve…and that’s a good thing. Obviously, new tactics must be evaluated, just like online articles. Will it be useful in OUR first due? If not, can we modify it until it IS useful? In this same manner, we should also evaluate our CURRENT tactics, ideas, and equipment to see if there’s a need for improvement.

This is the benefit of the site, and the network it provides, for me. A chance to discover new ideas and re-evaluate my current ones. I get more out of this experience than any of the readers will…and that’s the point. This is an experiment in self-improvement. The cycle of discovery, evaluation, and improvement is both humbling and enlightening. Expanding my knowledge, while shrinking my personal pride.

As much as I enjoy the satire of ELAFF’s roots, I require more accountability in my material. I long wrote as “Lt. Lemon”. Since the “Big Reveal” I’ve simply added my first name, in parentheses, clinging to that alter-ego. However, it’s time to separate that persona from myself and set it on the back-burner. I’m Pete Sulzer…this is my “blog”…and these are my words. Thanks for reading them.

-Pete Sulzer (Lt. Lemon) 

I was driven to write this after reading a number of articles, namely the following:

Working the Job – “Awakening”

Fully Involved – “Stay Hungry”

Engine Co. 22 – “Culture of Self-Improvement”

Go read them now…

Lessons Learned…..

The fire service has taken a few hits over the past couple weeks. Asheville Fire Department lost a veteran captain and brother to a fire in a medical building. Dallas Fire lost a brother as well when the roof collapsed below him as he was making the roof in an apartment blaze. Lt. Krodle, and Capt. Bowen along with their families, both blood and fire, are in our hearts and minds. Love you guys. I titled this blog as lessons learned, but the lesson has yet to be taught. I’m not talking about the lesson to be learned from the tragic loss of two brothers in the service we all love. I’m talking about the lesson that needs to be learned from pointing fingers, naming names, and playing the blame game ( or monday morning quarterbacking as I like to call it ). Its time for some hard words my friends. Theres nothing more infuriating to me, when I read other blogs, and listen to other firefighters when they sit back in their chairs and give their  assessment on exactly what they feel was the cause of a tragic LODD. How can you sit there and play the blame game? Who the hell do you think you are? I PROMISE you that you’re not all that and a bag of potato chips when it comes to the fire service. Go ahead and listen to the Mayday from Asheville on youtube. Read some of the awful things some of our own brothers are saying about the situation. Can something be learned out of the ashes that we must sift through in order to try to make sense of what and how and why something went wrong? Yes. Can something be learned from pointing your dirty little fat sausage fingers at the men and women who worked that scene and took charge of that scene? Actually yes….. I’ve learned that there are a bunch of sorry ass firefighters out there that need to learn a lesson in humility, or maybe just a lesson in being a decent human being. You know NOTHING of what happened, how it looked, how it felt, smelled, or tasted. The ONLY piece of information you have, is excerpts of radio traffic you listened to over the internet. Its one thing to sit at the kitchen table, or in the watch room or out in the bays and talk about what MIGHT have happened, and what MIGHT we possibly do to adjust our own tactics and strategies incase something like this happened today. Knowing what we now know, what little that might be, what can we take away from this today to make sure that we go back to our home and families tomorrow? To me…. that’s how we make sure that someones tragedy does not go in vain. When you get online and spout ridiculous rhetoric out of your un-educated mouth ( well, typed from your un-educated fingers) for all to see, including im sure from those who actually were THERE, all you’re doing is spitting on the memories of ALL those loved and lost. Imagine the impact of your words on the people who were there. Walk a mile in THEIR bunkers for a while. You Dishonor yourself, and your profession with your filth. You should absolutely be ashamed of yourself, because im ashamed for you. Ashamed to call you brother or sister, and that you’re a member of MY family. Take a lesson from me right here, and right now. Keep your ridiculous assumptions to yourself, hang your head in shame, and get your ass on the rig when the tones go off. This is an honorable service you are being privileged to be a part of, so start acting like it.

R.I.P. Brother Bowen and Brother Krodle

Fraternally, and in Solidarity

-Chaos

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