In an uncharacteristic Firehouse Zen moment, I’m going to share some not-so-heartwarming news with you: If you fail to evolve, you will die. It’s not all about cheerleading and mentoring. Some of this motivation has to come from the subject themselves. If you are not intrinsically motivated, you can only be kicked in the head so many times before it’s time for us to move on to someone who genuinely WANTS to succeed.
I am inspired by this post from the New York Times that discusses what is known as the Dunning-Kruger Effect — our incompetence masks our ability to recognize our incompetence. In essence, some people are so stupid, that they don’t even recognize that they are that stupid.
It’s like the contemporary fire officer who continues to discuss his or her lousy computer skills. Do you know one? While twenty years ago, it might not have been a big deal, but virtually everything we do these days as a company or chief officer requires a certain understanding of how to complete forms, create documents and memos, and to analyze data.
I don’t know of a single department in the nation who is still using a typewriter to perform these tasks, although I’m sure someone will pipe up and claim that distinction. Unless you are some superstar fireground tactician, I don’t know anyone so gifted that they can forgo the skills required to cover the administrative requirements of the job, and those skills include basic computer use. Claiming you can’t work a computer just doesn’t cut it in the 21st Century; if you are so confused by a word processing program that you can’t manage to put out a coherent memo, it might be time for a career change.
But this isn’t a rant about not being able to use a computer. The point is that as times evolve, so do our jobs. You can complain about it and moan about it all you want, but the expectations placed on us as leaders require us to understand and manage change. You may not be an early adopter, in fact, you might be the last one dragged kicking and screaming to the next level, but at some point, you must make the change or expect to become irrelevant. As a company officer, your redeeming skill might have been that you could last the longest in a smoky room without puking your guts up, but now that we have methods to skip that desired attribute, you’d better polish some of your other abilities up soon else you will be yesterday’s news.
We must constantly evaluate our knowledge, skills, and abilities and determine what we can do to evolve. If we fail to do that, we are dooming ourselves to obsolescence. If retirement is within your sixty-day window, that might not matter to you, but if you plan on hanging in for the next few years, I suggest you learn more. You have to be smart enough to realize you don’t know everything and certainly not so stupid that you think you do.