Parting From Tradition

My eldest daughter Emma got a Furby a few years ago.  For the uninitiated, a Furby is pretty much a plastic and synthetic fur housing designed for maximum cuteness and has a silicon chip that lends it the capability to provide feedback, both negative and positive.  It's a fucking toy, for Pete's sake, and to me, an annoying one at times.  And as an aside, Emma's Furby is named Mae. Yep.

Mae quit working the other day.  Of course, we began the troubleshooting and it appears batteries are not the issue.  But little Mae has gone the way of most electronic devices these days, developing some kind of incurable glitch that condemns it to obsolescence or the recycling bin, whichever is more apropos.  Mae is right this second staring down on me as I write, her electronic eyes dark and expressionless, lifeless.  I could attempt resuscitation, but I'm not that emotionally attached, I'm afraid.

This isn't a pet.  It has more in common with my laptop and my smart phone than Rudy, the stupid dog lying at my feet.  Regardless, Emma is beside herself, or at least she was until I told her my viewpoint on this issue, at which point she declared my heartlessness and stormed off to her room.

So while anything that happens in my life ends up being a lesson, thus does this little incident as well, causing me to reflect on the reason I wanted girls instead of boys. Yes, this sounds sexist, but I'm being honest.  It is my nature as an ENTJ (the Field Marshal) that a reaction like this would have probably drawn a different reaction of my own, not likely to be a positive one.  However (see, there is a good side to it), what it did, and what so many of these situations do,  was to force me to consider a different perspective of the issues.  Getting in touch with my 12-year-old girl side, I suppose. Definitely NOT Field Marshal behavior.

This narrative is probably amusing, but let's put it in the context of tradition.  Tradition isn't really a rational reaction to how we do things.  It is doing something a certain way because that's we way we do things.  We use tradition because it reminds of of better times, we use it to honor our emotions and those who go before us.  But there are sometimes very good reasons why tradition must be put aside from time to time.  You can argue that tradition has merit, and it does, as a force multiplier when it comes to morale, another emotional issue.  But the reality is that tradition may or may not actually contribute to the bottom line.

We hold on to tradition because the acts of honoring tradition are a solid rock in a stormy sea.  They are actions that speak to the bond we have together.  They are comforting.  But there are traditions that are more harmful than honorable, those that usually fall into the category of hazing. The tradition of having a red fire apparatus or a leather helmet aren't necessarily harmful things, but the way in which we treat others negatively out of a "tradition" of doing so has no bearing on the increased production of lower ranking personnel aside from letting them know who the biggest bullies are and thus to avoid those individuals at all costs.

A standard of aggressive interior attack in a structure fire isn't tradition.  It is a choice in tactics.  You could argue that going over Niagara Falls in a barrel is tradition, but there's not many of us that see the merit in it.  We'll take the elevator, thanks.  Attacking fires inside of a building is a choice in approach.  Sometimes its a great idea.  Sometimes its not.  Stating that we are going to do the same thing over and over again when the situation might warrant otherwise isn't tradition, it is stupidity.

There is a time for tradition, just as there is a time for invoking rational decision making over emotional. As sad as it is to me right now that my daughter is grieving her Furby, I also realize that just like grieving anything else, we have to allow our souls a chance to process the changes.  It is our brain giving us a chance to change gradually instead of in a rush.  I have to give Emma an opportunity to wrap her head around the loss, as irrational as it may seem to me as a 49-year-old male with no heart, and to embrace a future without her cherished toy.  And likewise, as leaders, when we invoke change, we have to allow our people to do the same.

  • Peter Lupkowski

    As ESTP myself, even I was surprised about your mini rant. So for my sake (Pete’s sake) I thought I might just chime in here.
    Push reset button?
    Google Fix a Furby?
    Youtube Furby repair?
    Contact Tiger and ship it?
    Substitute something else?

    It’s the same with change and tradition.
    Make it like it was
    Find out others are doing something different
    Try it
    Maybe we need professional help
    Eventually acceptance and good stories

    I agree we need to get rid of “Static Tradition,” the just because stuff. But the “Dynamic Tradition,” incremental change seems to serve us well as we continue to learn.

    Thanks for the thoughts.

    Pete

    P.S.
    Trust me on this, by the time you recognize your inner 12 year old girl she’ll be 21 and will be creeped out by you.

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Michael "Mick" Mayers

Deputy Fire Chief - Operations Division for Hilton Head Island (SC) Fire Rescue and an Emergency Response Coordinator with the United States Department of Health and Human Services  National Disaster Medical System Incident Response Coordination Team.
Recent Posts
Comments
Colin Fanning
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One of the most important facts we reviewed when deciding on the roto ray purchase was this; With the speeds of traffic on SC 278, by the time people heard the sirens on our fire trucks our light bars (on top of the roof) were out of sight. The roto ray, with its mounted location…
2014-07-25 15:07:00
Mick Mayers
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Thanks, Bryan! I genuinely believe I do and they tend to reward me with professionalism, innovation, and compassion to our citizens daily. That's something I am happy to facilitate.
2014-07-15 04:10:00
Bryan G. Riebe
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Chief, appreciated in your response to Geoff that you work for the FFs. Believe if more Chiefs lived that philosophy our fire services would be bastions of honor, ethics, and human potential.
2014-07-15 00:05:00
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Geoff, EMS, as its own service, does not have a strong voice and in turn, does not get the respect in the media/public that it does deserve. I do hope that changes. EMS doesn't have a home either, and that doesn't help. There are so many different delivery methods in this country that its probably…
2014-07-14 23:49:00
Mick Mayers
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Although I am affiliated or employed by certain entities, I in no way speak in this forum or others on behalf of those entities unless I have specifically stated such. Any implication otherwise is doing so contrary to my agreements with those entities. The result is that the observations and opinions by myself or on behalf of Firehouse Zen are not sanctioned by any other entity other than Graffiti Train Sherpa Publications and are protected by the copyright laws of the United States of America.

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