I have added some information since my original posting of this. Given the current political and social environment, and that I seem like I am always having to preface what I say by clarifying what I am about, I have finally (after how many years?) writing a stock piece that I can always refer you back to, instead of cluttering up a post with all the disclaimers. So, from the emergency services perspective:
1. I am a fourth-generation American white male firefighter, brought up in a firehouse, who grew up and began my firefighting career in the Northeast (Philly to be specific) and have a total appreciation for what it means to be a firefighter.
2. I was a paramedic for 25 years and an EMT-I on the front end. Let’s put it this way; the first cardiac monitor I trained on was the LifePack 3, the one with a car battery and an oscilloscope. I was an instructor in all things EMS until around 2002, when it just became too much with my other projects.
3. I took Rescue 1 and 2 in 1981. We were using hemp rope and making a-frames and gantries using timber. My first rescue book I was trained with isn’t even in print anymore. Confined space rescue was just “rescue”, as was rope rescue, collapse shoring, trench, auto extrication, and everything else. If you were in rescue, you did it all. So while I am an administrator and strategic planner these days, I was a rockbreaker first.
4. I got my first “certification” for HAZMAT technician in 1988. What was that, during maybe the first or second drafts of 472? I took HAZMAT Chemistry at a technical college, as I did pesticide handling, hazardous waste management, and all those other things, because at the time, there weren’t many places you could go to get training in hazardous materials.
Where am I going with this? I was a progressive emergency service officer before it was even considered to be vogue. And then I taught it all because I knew that teaching lent to knowing, and teaching lent to credibility, and teaching meant leading. So let’s segue into the next category, leading:
1. I have led my whole life. Literally.
2. Out of school, in my career, I took part in every committee or special project I could get my hands on. I wrote SOPs, I wrote proposals, I wrote reports. If there was an opportunity, I took it. I didn’t wait for someone to ask me, I engaged people and made a difference.
3. As an adult in the community, I became active in local boards. We founded a 501c3 to support the arts and I learned all about how to set up non-profits, so over time, I have helped set up and run quite a few.
4. I have a special place in my heart for kids, having been one, and arguably, still am one.
So finally, there are my religious and political beliefs which seem to confuse a number of my readers (or people who flocked to the site and saw a keyword they wanted to chase):
1. I was raised a Roman Catholic and I take pride in my Catholicism. However, I struggle with the rampant hypocrisy of organized religion these days, which seems to be more about lifestyle than belief. I find it hypocritical that many “religious leaders” push down the very people who are the most devout, and while calling upon us to “vote our faith”, oppose candidates who support social programs and aid for the most vulnerable.
3. I am not in favor of either of the American major political parties. I am squarely independent and pick who I want to lead me based on their merits as a leader. I don’t judge and if you have gotten your shit together and have the qualities of leadership, I’m in your corner. I do, however, reserve a special place of contempt in my heart for those who make political battles out of issues like these, only to be found exhibiting the same behavior themselves.
4. I have no expectations and therefore, am rarely disappointed. My cynicism keeps me sane. All religion has good and bad, as all politics and government has good and bad. One drop of water does not spoil the whole ocean, but when you have “leaders” out there dumping barrels of toxic waste, it doesn’t make for a healthy environment.
So where does “Firehouse Zen” come from? Well, believe it or not, my nephew had a similarly named blog that I guess insinuated itself in my subconscious (Lowbrow Zen). In fact, when I realized what I had done, I was mortified, but he said he was okay with it, so I continued on. The whole issue was that when I was coming up with a name for my site, I was seeking something to reflect my appreciation for a lot of the Taoist literature I had been reading, since it lent to my understanding of a “middle way” to leading.
My reading of classic eastern texts like the Tao Te Ching and Sun Tzu’s Art of War (this link is to my favorite version of it), Paul Carus’ The Gospel of Buddha, Muller’s interpretation of The Dhammapada, and other works led me to a curiosity of how human behavior can be better influenced using different philosophies than the standard western doctrines. After all, many of these cultures have been around long before our traditional cultures and have endured many changes, so there must be some validity to their beliefs and values.
I believe in transformational leadership, but I am pragmatic and realize you can’t just get there in one giant leap. I believe that strong, value based leadership is imperative to the survival of organizations, nations, communities, and incidents. I believe there is something you can take away from every experience, good or bad, and use it to grow. I am in favor of change, not for the sake of change, but when change paves a path to doing things better, safer, or more productively.
As an amateur sociologist (amateur in that I have no credentials in sociology), but experienced in the leading and development of high-functioning teams, I want to know and expose best practices for those who are in the path of growing into leadership and change management. As a manager, I feel that there are way too many horror stories associated with bad leadership and I desire to eliminate that way of thinking, if possible, from my own working environment. And as a fellow human being, I want nothing more than to be able to live out my life in a peaceful existence with an end to needless suffering for others.
That all being said, I hope you enjoy the blog. Please comment and share frequently. I’m not doing this for the money (believe me), I’m doing it because I want to engage others in making our world a better place to be.