“Preparing New Members For A Growth Mindset”
by Matt Beakas
Becoming a firefighter takes poise, stamina, physical strength and more importantly, mental toughness. Some of the best mentors and leaders I ever had were all proud advocates of that one single message, mental toughness. How long can you keep pushing? Going beyond the breaking point of mental and physical exertion?
The greatest groups I ever mentored, coached, or lead were not the most talented, skilled, or physical. On the other hand, our team chemistry and their mental toughness were second to none. We soon became the “giant slayers.” Our competitiveness, mental attitude, and our ability to fail together, bonded us together like success never could. We overcame obstacles and challenges because of our growth mindset. That single word, growth, became the driving force in improving ourselves, our crews, and our department. We became thirsty, self-seeking sponges. Furthermore, we became saturated with knowledge and experiences. The words “perseverance” and “grit” are at the heart of all great firefighters. It’s often said one of the greatest compliments one in this service can bestow on another is, “he or she is a great firefighter.” Great firefighters are gritty, prepared, filled with that blue collar mindset to work harder and longer than others.
The question becomes how do we as mentors and leaders handle adversity and breed an attitude towards perseverance? Losses can build character. They can teach us the realistic and emotional side to our business. It teaches us that no matter how much we strive for perfection, we sometimes fall short. There’s the constant reminder that we are human and designed to fail, and fail often. However, in contrast, a station or department that emphasizes grit and perseverance can use failure to breed success. That same growth mindset can be a determining factor in work ethic and self-reflection. Hence why we in the fire service train so hard. We know that any point in time things can go wrong, and given a long even period, they eventually will. For us, the anguish of losing helps create the internal drive to overcome future obstacles, even if that motivation to overcome obstacles is met with further failure and resistance. Remember, failure should be motivating, not a driving force towards negative attitudes, personal confidence, or team chemistry.
Managing failure allows you to handle life's successes. The failure, obstacles, and adversity you’ve encounter throughout your life should in turn make you a more humble individual. Achieving success should remind you of your failures and your attempts to correct your weaknesses. Lastly, success should remind you that failure is still a future possibility. Remember, your periodic or short term growth is not indicative of long-term success. Your long-term growth is based on your ability to maintain a consistent path through the ups and downs. Staying humble provides a leadership base, a leadership base which offers others the support needed to navigate their own successes and adversities. Measure your own personal success by the contributions made to your department, teammates, community, and your family.
Matt Beakas currently serves with Middleton Township Fire & Rescue in N.W. Ohio. He holds a Master’s Degree in Administrative Leadership and his passion rests with developing leadership skills to improve and strengthen volunteer departments across Ohio. He is the founder of Enlightened Leadership, a leadership program of passionate instructors dedicated to improving skills of current and aspiring officers. Check out his group page, Enlightened Leadership on Facebook and Twitter.