I was talking to some old friends that I had worked with when I had originally got hired as a career firefighter. We were discussing the “good old days” and having a good laugh. We all have moved on to different departments and districts since then, but we all agreed that those were some the best times of our careers. The pay and benefits weren’t great, we had our share of issues with the city, but we were a tight group and we had a blast on duty.
Most of us have moved on to bigger jurisdictions with great pay and benefits with more resources. But, we all agree, that although we don’t have any regrets, it just isn’t the same as it was back then. It’s easy to know why this is the case, we all came up with the same conclusion; we genuinely cared about each other and we loved the job, no matter what.
As we rehashed past events and stories, we all came to the same conclusion, it was a real family atmosphere and the group had two common goals while at work; learn as much about the fire service as we could and have a great time while we were doing it. It was a group of guys with like-minded ideas and beliefs.
Testing hydrants every summer was not high on our priority list and we did not look forward to doing it every year. But, as we learned, we could always manage to make it fun. Typically we would bet on which truck that day would be first to bust a main and shut down the whole operation. The water department didn’t like it, but it made things interesting. (We didn’t bust ‘em on purpose!)
We knew that we were all in this place together, with the bad, the good and the insane things that came along with that particular organization. We have all agreed that since moving on, although we have the same motivations and intentions and desires, that same culture did not follow us to our new jobs. It made me stop and wonder why that was the case. I thought long and hard and came up with some possible reasons.
It is possible that our own possible passion has slipped. And, in some cases, it may have been dashed by outside influences, but only we can control what we are passionate about and shouldn’t let outside forces change that. Don’t stop loving the job. If your organization doesn’t have the same professional goals as you, keep plugging away and you will be a much happier person.
It is also possible that the organizations that we went to, for whatever reason, just have and have had a different culture from the beginning and don’t know how to handle someone who is different. This is where you need to rub off on others. Take time to be enthusiastic and excited about the job and pass it on to those below and above you. Be persistent but not pushy and things will slowly change. You will be joined by those like-minded people in your organization.
The bottom line is this, don’t change just because the new organization your in hasn’t caught up with you yet. Be the guy who helps to initiate that change and molds a new culture in your department. It wont be easy, but you will be better professionally and personally for it in the end. You will also likely create new family-like friendships that endure anything and that you will be able to cherish now and in later years.
We all have that spark in us, it just needs some prodding sometimes. Some people need the sparks of others to light their own. When a group of those sparks gets together and is driven by a common purpose, look out, they are powerful and good times will be had by all. That kind of positive attitude and gumption is contagious, pass it on.