Our profession is comprised of three distinct elements, the department, the crew and the indiviual. All three must synchronize to get the best results. When walking into the firehouse or responding from home, if you are not bringing your personal best the hierarchy will fail to a have foundation for success. We all must play our own game.
During grammar school, I dreamed of being a big league baseball player, more notably a second baseman. The Chicago Cubs were my team and I admired Ryne Sandberg. Every jersey number I wore was 23 as I mimicked his batting stance and his perfect fielding abilities. Tuning into every televised game my posture would follow his as he stood at the plate, to ensure my movements flowed with his. When it was time for practice and our games I stood ready with my equipment that he endorsed or used. At the plate in my "Sandberg Stance", a swing and a miss, and another, followed by another. What was I doing wrong? Surely, if this was the way #23 saw results it must be the best way for me as well.
In the years to come, my dream shifted to music. The guitar became my life and playing in a band was all that mattered. Just as I mirrored the greatest Chicago Cub while playing ball, I desired to play guitar just as my favorite bands. Learning every solo and riff I practiced for hours and hours until the calluses’ on my fingers were raw. When it was time to write songs for our band, the magic did not happen. We sounded just like what we had practiced- someone else.
Each of these stories are the exact same, results were not produced. For both my baseball and musician dreams, the fundamentals were exercised and understood. Baseball and playing guitar were activities I was good at, but my potential was not unlocked until I started to play my own game. In each situation, it took a mentor or coach to open up my understanding of my abilities. Swinging the bat like Sandberg was not how I needed to hit. Playing guitar like Metallica was not how my emotions came through. Being a mirror image of something or someone you are not, will find you minimal success. We all have strengths and weaknesses that must be identified and used to bring success to the team - our crew and department.
Many great Fire Departments and Firefighters exist in our country; they are great because they are the best at what they do. Repeatedly I speak of best practices. The reasoning behind this is because we all must be the best at what we do, where we do it. Our circumstances, abilities, education, experience and perspective are unique. We may share similar situations but they are still not our own. Right and wrong cannot be used to define what works for some and not for others. Some may say that some wrongs are global; a few may exist based on universal truths and pure science. It boils down to every situation is a situation and we must use our best practices to deal with what we have in front of us, play your own game.
A few weeks ago, a junior Firefighter asks me "What can I do to be the best firefighter?" My reply "Be the best you can be for the department." One must look at what can be done so that every time you walk into the firehouse you bring your best. When each of us does this, our crew will be at its best, which translates into our department being its best. Learn from others their best practices and apply those skills, knowledge and experiences to your own game, because when its 3 am and your faced with a working fire are you going to impersonate Sandberg - then swing and miss or are you going to hit it outta the park as yourself?