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     Having been blessed to attend FDIC 2019 last week in Indianapolis, I’d like to humbly offer some takeaways that can be applied to most any situation in life.

1. It’s important to get out of your comfort zone

     I think it’s safe to say that humans are creatures of habit. We are generally content to stick with what is familiar to us, especially the more introverted we are. As firefighters, we like being in control of things and have an intense belief that our system is best. It may be. But that closed mindset often inhibits us from seeing and experiencing many things.

Get out of your comfort zone by taking a chance. Stick out your hand and introduce yourself. I introduced myself to a guy and ended up having dinner with him and his friends, a group that extended from the East coast to West. (Ok, so really I creeped up on him while he was tying his shoe and almost ate the famous Buffalo knuckle sandwich for my troubles, but that’s a different article!) I put myself out there and was greatly rewarded for it in the form of Brotherhood.

     Firefighters pride themselves on being aggressive or willing to take a risk. Yet, why do we so often avoid taking personal development risks by sticking with what we know or find familiar? Talk to someone new. Smile at strangers. Ask a question in a training class. Be the FIRST to perform a drill. Take the risk. If you fail, learn from it.

     You never know what you might learn or what opportunities might arise by getting out of your comfort zone.

2. People are different

     Ok, you didn’t really need a blog post to tell you that but let me explain. I saw young and old, tall and short, thin and well not so much. I saw people from big cities and others from 1 stop-light villages. There were attendees who spoke my language and many who did not. Each of them brought knowledge, skills, and abilities that I don’t have. And that’s ok.

     Actually, it’s refreshing.

     When dealing with people, it’s important to remember that they are wired differently. They have a mindset about life that causes them to think or act in a certain way. They have a passion for things that we don’t. Their work ethic varies from ours. Whether you’re doing station chores or interacting with a citizen on a call, realizing the differences in people can go a long way to solving problems, creating harmony, and improving the situation.

     Be mindful that differences often lead to improved ways of doing things that enrich life's experiences.

3. Soak up the knowledge

     SPOILER ALERT: you will never know it all so just admit it and become a student of life! Learn from those around you. Don’t get hung up on name recognition or department notoriety. Members of big organizations often have a good amount of useful information and experience that will benefit you. Terrific! Attend their classes, read their articles, follow them on social media. But never discount the ones from a small area either. Their experiences can be just as worthwhile to you and may, in fact, be more applicable. Everyone you meet in life has something to offer if you will only take the time to find out what it is.

     Technology has changed and it’s imperative for us to keep up. It wasn’t that long ago that this article would have downloaded to a desktop monstrosity at a blazing 56kbits/sec, now you can blow through it by flicking your thumb on a mobile device! Soak up information on what is trending and determine how (or if) it should be applied to you. See what others are doing and emulate them if appropriate. Don’t be a collect caller in a hot-spot kind of world.

     Seek out others from whom you can learn. Listen more than you speak. Ask them how they draw their conclusions. Read publications or listen to podcasts from a variety of sources, not just the ones that pertain to your own occupation, region, or personal belief systems.

     Just as importantly, remember that others are learning from you, which can either be good or bad. Set positive examples in conduct and speech. Offer your KSA’s to others humbly and graciously. Give them support and encouragement as they try to soak up knowledge from you.

     Be a sponge of knowledge.

Call to action:
     1. Describe how you got out of your comfort zone and what benefits did you identify?
     2. What did you learn from people who are different than you?
     3. Explain what you learned from others.

Please email me at with your responses or comment below.  I’d like to learn your applications from FDIC 2019.

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