As 2009 Ends

Hilton Head Island Engine 1I took some time to be with my family over the holiday so I have a little catching up to do.  I hope everyone had a very Merry Christmas and now we continue to ready ourselves for a New Year.  Since this might be my last post for 2009, I thought I’d leave you with some thoughts toward something we all seem to do at the end of the year; that is, set goals for the upcoming year.

While we may not necessarily care for the structure of a goal-driven life, our lives demand some organization in order to achieve the things we desire.  If we wanted to get to a destination, we would reasonably choose the best route to get there depending upon what it is we hope to achieve.  If we wanted to get there in the fastest, most expeditious route possible, we should choose a straight route with little to distract us.  If we wanted to take a scenic route and experience the drive, we could look to see what way might provide a view of the scenery.  In either case, the route is of your choosing, but regardless, it still exists as a route to get from Point “A” to Point “B”.

Having no course is a choice we make sometimes as well, but the goal might just be to relax a little while, which is a goal in itself.  Just letting things happen and striking out on the road, in my much younger days, was something I’d do with a few days off.  I’d just get on the ol’ Suzuki GS750E (she was a beautiful bike) and just drive.  But to say there is absolutely NO goal would not be very accurate.  At some point I had to return home and go to work (thus, the goal would be to have fun until I had to go back to work).  I guess if I had no job, no home, and no family or friends, I could go aimlessly anywhere, but short of pushing around a shopping cart with my life’s possessions in it, I think you can understand that in order to have the things you want in life, at some point, a goal will be required.  Even then, the goal is to survive.  You may choose to simply exist (in which your goal might be relatively easy to fulfill, if say, someone was supporting you), but even if you chose to do nothing and die, it’s still something you are in pursuit of and as a result, is the target to which you aspire.

Since most of us have a computer on which we are reading this, and a requirement to pay the power bill to keep it running, or at least have to buy the coffee at the free internet cafe, you probably need to help others achieve their goals as part of a job.  While personally, you can choose the route that fits your needs, your goals must also fit the needs of those who are around you (spouse, family, friends, employer, community) .  If your spouse has a need (like replacing the car, or taking courses to advance their career, or anything, really) and sets goals to achieve that need, and you continually undermine those goals, I can reassure you that it won’t be a matter of “if”, but “when” your spouse ditches you.  Likewise, your team has needs as well, and those needs must be factored in whenever setting our personal goals.

Wandering aimlessly through the highways of America may be romantic and very appealing to you, but at some point, someone is going to have to put gas in the bike, lest we end up back at the shopping cart scenario again (And, yes, shopping carts require no fuel, so it’s a very achievable goal).  This all is meant to reinforce to each of you that while you may have personal goals, those around you have goals that involve you as well, and require you achieving your part of the puzzle for them to finish theirs.

Being part of a team defines you as being someone who is part of a group with some common goals.  How you get there from here may not be the same as your teammates, but your goals should not interfere with the achievement of their own goals; that’s called being selfish.  If you can’t mutually agree on how to get to the destination, then someone needs to get out, but it is always an act of assessment, negotiation, understanding, and cooperation, ending with commitment.

As part of a team, we expect you to want to do what you need to do to make your life fulfilling and we understand that as individuals, you have your own way of getting there.  But in setting goals for 2010, you each must consider strongly what it is you want in life, how you expect to achieve it, and how these decisions affect those who surround you.  Just as you need others to fulfill your goals, others depend on your reciprocal efforts as well.  In fire and emergency services, those team goals should revolve around committing to a willingness to serve others, as well as showing compassion for the people we serve.  There are many ways for us all to achieve that.  More importantly, however, as a leader, you should demonstrate to your team that the best way to get there is to always seek to do the right thing, to maintain dignity for our personnel as well as for our customers, and to excel at what we do.

All of us in the emergency service community should agree that it is never okay to just mail it in; we must agree to be THE BEST at doing our jobs.  Not only do the lives of our customers depend on our excellence, our own lives do as well.  I hear so often among our brotherhood a desire for the profession of “firefighter” to regain the trust and respect of the community that we had in the “old days”, but there must be a return to the values we held dearly then in order to regain that feeling.  So long as we allow immature and irresponsible individuals to continue to join our ranks (and be the visible face of our profession), WE CAN’T EXPECT A RETURN TO THAT SENTIMENT.

So the short form of it is this: we can all expect that we will be setting goals in our lives, in one fashion or another, so why not evaluate your needs and formalize those goals so you have a concrete vision of what it is you care to achieve in a month, a year, or five years.  After doing so, look at the people whose lives you touch, and determine whether your goals help them to meet their own goals as well. Then, set a goal of helping others, not just your families and friends and employers, but our entire profession, in an effort to bring honor and pride to our ranks again, through cooperative and meaningful pursuit of excellence.  If doing so means that you just stay out of trouble for a year, or if doing so means that you come up with a new way to fight fires, in either case, our mutual efforts toward keeping the good name of our brotherhood just that, will make us all the better.

It is my most earnest hope that each of you have a successful and blessed New Year, with health and happiness to all of your friends and family.  In any case, I hope we can all work together and re-establish our profession as one which takes the little bit that we get and uses our ingenuity and work ethic to solve the problems of our neighbors.  But we need everyone on board to be, well, on board.  Have a safe New Year.

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