While carrying out perhaps my favorite fatherly duty of reading a bedtime story to my young son, I read a line that sparked a flurry of thoughts in my head. The line came from Dr. Suess's book I Can Read with My Eyes Shut. As with most Dr. Suess books, there isn't really a plot to follow just some good rhymes. However, one line struck me that I related to the fire service, here it is: "There are so many things you can learn about, but you'll miss the best things if you keep your eyes shut."
There are no shortage of articles, posts, and rants about learning and training but here is another one to add to that list. What the quote says to me is that we have to absorb all that is around us at all times. If we keep blinders on, or ignore some great experiences, mistakes, or lessons we will miss all of the good stuff. A few weeks ago, Chris over at Fire Service Warrior wrote a great article on entropy, or closed systems and how that relates to the fire service. It brought forth the idea that we must reach outside of our own department at times to learn skills to use within. His article discussed how closed systems move towards disorder without any outside intervention. Think about some of the departments around you that "don't get out much" where are they headed? I can name a few near me that are quite simply setting themselves up for disaster.
To relate it to the Dr. Suess quote, we have to keep our eyes open to the big picture of the fire service as a whole, not just our little part or island. Most of the excellent post-certification knowledge that I have gained have been from classes offered outside of my department. The different perspective that is offered can be beneficial so we don't create a closed system within our department. Too many firefighters fail to take advantage of free training that great fire service leaders post in various training communities throughout the internet. Some of these videos, posts, articles, or comments have changed me as a firefighter. Take for instance Aaron Fields' hose videos, or various videos posted on Fire Service Warrior or Chris Huston's stuff on Engine 22.net. These are just a few examples of the fact that some of the best fire service minds are out there passing on their knowledge daily on websites everywhere. Consider how much knowledge there is to gain from this community on FE alone. If you keep your eyes shut as Dr. Suess says, whether it be by sleeping all day at work, ignoring the knowledge around you, or failing to take advantage of some of the trade journals and publications that are out there, you are failing yourself, your organizations, and most of all the citizens that you serve.
So go out there with your eyes open and take it all in. There is knowledge everywhere around you so go out and take it in. Don't ignore what's around you and all the experiences that you could miss with your eyes shut. We have all told the new folks "God gave you two ears and one mouth for a reason", so lets not forget he gave us two eyes to take it all in around us too. Combine those two eyes with the two ears and an open mind, and you will soon find a knowledgeable and genuine firefighter. Ensure that you combine these elements to make your self the best you can be.