Last shift, during my free time I decided to start a new book I had heard was excellent titled "Fearless" and is written by Eric Blehm. This book chronicles the life of SEAL team six operator Adam Brown. This book is good on many different levels, but it tells the story of a passionate man with a huge heart and the love for a career.
To summarize the book very briefly, Adam started out as the kid in school who was driven, passionate about success and a knack for being helpful and compassionate. He slowly progressed into a very dark place and became dependent of alcohol and drugs to survive. Adam slipped away from family and friends, went to jail, and then met a woman who changed his life. She reignited the passion for success he had during grade school, and then there he was a Navy SEAL, a member of the most elite military unit in the world. Throughout his career up until his death, Adam earned life, learning every day and soaking up all he could in all aspects of his life. Adam learned to be a great father, husband, and warrior and carried out all three until his was killed in action.
This book brought forth some thought to me that directly relate to the fire service and how firefighters should be through their careers. We all come in the door, ready to go to every fire in the world if they would let us. Each of us wants to learn everything we can from everyone to make ourselves the go-to guy in our department, station, or company. Passion is all over the place for most new firefighters, you can see it in their eyes when they are excited about running their 5th call after midnight. These folks are loving life, so what happens a few years down the road, when these same energetic firefighters stop taking outside classes that are required but may offer knowledge that will make them better firefighters? Why do they let passion disappear into the dark caverns of their mind possibly to never be seen again?
I offer forth an answer to those questions, it is because you let them bury the passion away. Firefighters are great at pointing fingers and playing the blame game amongst other things. Rarely, do you hear someone admit that the reason the rookie isn't doing well is because they as a mentor failed. Passion breeds passion and it can spread like a wildfire or being extinguished like a cigarette in a bucket of water if you let it. The new firefighter is as impressionable my 17 month son, they take in everything everyone around them does, both good and bad. It is imperative that we as firefighters realize this is the time to keep the rookie momentum rolling on. Firefighters come out with a minimum level of training, and many have that unmistakable passion for the job. To me all that is missing is the experience, and mentoring of the senior members for this rookie to become the best firefighter your department has even seen. We need to quit playing the blame game about the rookie who sleeps all day or is better at Xbox than he/she is at throwing a 24 foot ladder. It all boils down to we can make a difference as long as that rookie has the passion to take it all in.
I'm sure if anyone could figure out to gauge passion in an applicant firefighter in a valid and reliable way, they would make improvements to our service that we can only dream of today. It is hard to gauge the passion of an applicant, but I feel those who have found some sort of fire service role prior to the application to either a career or volunteer department are the most passionate. Sure, someone had to give them their first chance, and some people wake up one day and decide the fire service is for them, but how did they approach it? Each department looks for different styles of firefighters, but one common theme exists, the Chiefs everywhere want someone who they will be proud to pin with a badge, and someone who will exhibit a positive attitude of public service and caring
"Fearless" showed me that a passionate person will always have it somewhere inside of them, it may be active, or it may lay dormant. Either way as I said before in my post "The Best Advice", passion isn't something that comes in the Sunday mail with the chief. People have it or they don't, but our job is to bring out the passion that may lay dormant inside someone. Adam Brown lost his way for ten years of his life (if not more), but he got into the Navy and did anything and everything he put his mind to against all odds, simply because of his passion for his career as a SEAL. He learned everyday, and never took no for an answer. He often struggled just as we all do in our own way, but his passion for life, not just his career carried him through it.
Passion can seemingly disappear from someone if they let it. An individual may suffer a setback or a hardship in their career that may affect their passion for the fire service but at a moments notice it can be reignited. Additionally, it doesn't take a company officer to bring that passion out in someone. It can just as easily be a new rookie to a department or station that brings the passion for the profession back into a station. Passion is a fire never extinguished, it may smolder, but it will never go out unless you let it.
If you haven't already, go out an read "Fearless", it is a great story about a true American hero. Adam Brown made mistakes in his life, but as one of my friends shot over in a text the other night, Adam earned life. His story should teach that everyday may be your last to make that difference in the fire service so why wait to address something or to do that training you know you need? Get out there and be the change today, its up to you and your passion for fire service excellence to make it happen.