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Motivation…where is it, where did it go, was it ever even here? A lot of us as fireman like the idea of saying we’re motivated. In some cases that may be true. We’re motivated to go to a working fire, motivated to go on vacation, motivated to get up in the morning (well maybe not that last one.) Motivation in the fire service is just as crucial as leadership. Let’s pull up our chairs at the one place where your opinion has value, and we solve the world’s problems…the kitchen table.

Here we are sitting at the kitchen table and a discussion gets brought up about motivation. One of the guys says “these guys just aren’t motivated anymore.” Another says “well how can you be motivated in this place.” The answers to these questions are hidden in them, sure at points we feel passionate about why we have simply “given up” because the wind has been taken out of our sails. The reality is we are our own worst enemies. We can sit all day long and blame upper management, or bad leaders. Those blame options are all true, however we are the only ones in control of our motivation. Motivation is a real thing, it lies inside of us. Look at your lives right now, obviously at one point you were motivated, whether it was to fill out the application to volunteer, take the civil service test or attend every class you could to build your resume to get a job. Something inside of you on that day, on those particular days sparked you, drove you, made you make a choice and follow through with it, that’s motivation.

Unfortunately we lose our sense of motivation along the way. Some of us are so eager, so involved that when something goes wrong we tend to shut down... we give up. We become dysfunctional, not productive and we become the very person who we swore we’d never become. One of the guys at the table says “you’re right, but…” There’s no but, we can agree all day that there is a possible disconnect with managers, whether they’re not inspiring you, or setting up a proper incentive program, these things are all true. The problem is that you are letting their bad habits ruin you as a person and a professional. You know why you chose this business, you know that not everyone you grew up with can do what you do. You were once motivated and driven enough to be where you are today, why throw the rest of a career you worked so hard for away all because someone else demotivated you. Let those who choose to be miserable; be miserable, that’s their hang up you can’t change them. Change you, dig deep and find that kid that wished he was where you are right now. That kid who used to hang his gear up on the rig when he was volunteering “cause that’s the way the paid guys did it”, that kid who dedicated so much of his life to getting the job and hoping to one day be a captain or chief. Now I ask you all of you sitting at the table, do you think you’re a good role model for that kid?

Abraham Maslow said that in order to survive we need air, food, sleep, security, stability, love, affection, belongingness, achievement, prestige, respect, etc. Maslow also believed in self-actualization, he suggested that when we realize our full potential, and seek personal growth that is when we will have self fulfilment. Sadly a lot of us don’t make it to that point in our lives. We experience failure or trauma and we give up “throw in the towel.” We lose focus on the goal that we set a long, long time ago when we were just some dumb probie who had big dreams. Here we are sitting around this table, each of us has enough years under our belts to know why we are here, if you say you’re here for a check, you’re lying. You like the rest of us got into this business for another reason, something was in us that made us want to serve, want to help, want to be bigger than anything else we’ve even done. We are tragically creating a toxic fire service. It happens way too often, we allow others above us to rain on our parade, disagree with our ideas etc. I’ve heard the expression, “when your chief you can do it that way, but for now it’s my way.” You know what, they’re right, one day we will be able to make a difference, but not if we give up now. If we give up now, what are we doing here in the first place? If we give up now, we set the tone for an ever eroding environment for our future fireman and our future leaders.

Let’s get up from this table, let’s find that kid in us and promise him we won’t give up, because he worked too hard for us to do that to him and his dreams. Calvin Coolidge said “Persistence and Determination are Omnipotent.” He was right, let’s take back control of our lives, and let’s get back to business. Stay the course my brothers and sisters, there will be rocky waves and the occasional storm, but you know your destination, stay the course. In all that you do; God bless, stay safe and take care.

Dave McGlynn

Passion in Leading, LLC

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Comment by Dave McGlynn on June 8, 2015 at 10:21pm
Thanks brother Jeff!
Comment by Jeff Rothmeier on June 7, 2015 at 7:00am

Well stated

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