The Empty Room

One of the great joys of my life revolves around the act and art of communications. Each day, I look forward to reading the newspaper, watching the television news channels, and interacting with my friends and fellow firefighters. Like many among you...


As a writer, I am chasing this ghost all of the time. As I am creating this message for you, I am comfortably seated within the air-conditioned comfort of my home office. There is no one here to stimulate me. My wife has gone shopping so there is no one to agree or disagree with me. In essence, I am literally preaching to an empty room, or at the very least, an empty screen. This does not stop me though. It is up to me to preach to the empty room of my computer screen.

Experience has taught me to work through the normal feelings of loneliness and angst. As a writer, I can have no meaning until my words are seen, evaluated, and weighed. They then take on a meaning of their own and are accepted or rejected by you, the target of my efforts. As I have written many times over the years, my mission in life revolves around sharing knowledge and experience. To do this involves operating in two distinctly different theaters of life.

On the one hand, I write for you. I create thoughts, turn them into a series of connected words, and then try to make sense out of them for you. I can only dance up to the end of the communications model. I create the message and send it out to you. You have a responsibility to evaluate what I am saying and then determine what degree of relevance my words hold for you. That is the end of what I can do as a writer. You then must accept the burden of doing something. You must first evaluate my words. It is up to you to then ignore, reject, or accept what I have said.

On the other hand, from time to time I serve as a public speaker in various venues around the country. Within this role I do the same basic tasks as in the previous example. I create thoughts, turn them into a series of connected words, create a PowerPoint program and then try to make sense out of them for you. However, as a public speaker, a whole series of extremely exciting and interesting things can happen.

It is my good fortune to have the privilege of sharing my thoughts with you in a personal way. I can add emphasis to certain words. I can demonstrate emotion in the way I present my words to you. I can make you laugh or cry. I can laugh or cry along with you. I can respond to your enthusiasm. The one thing I cannot do is make you understand. Only you can choose to take my words and give them a personal meaning.

In spite of this, it is the interplay with fellow travelers on this big blue marble of ours that allows me to have a better shot at stimulating you and the others within the hearing of my words. I see you as living, breathing human beings. Like me, you have hopes and dreams; joy and fears. As you respond to my words, I am better able to respond to your actions. All-in-all, it is much nicer to share my thoughts with you within the confines of a classroom.

Unfortunately, there are only so many of you who can afford to travel to the places when I teach. Given the poor economy and the lack of proper funding, it is my prediction that this number may grow smaller. Similarly, fewer groups and associations have the resources to bring me out to you. That is just a fact of life in this the 21st Century.

However, thanks to the Internet, I am able to come into your computer and share my thoughts with you. That is what I am doing at this very moment. Let me suggest that there are a few things which you must incorporate into your communications bag of tricks.

Let me start by suggesting that it is critical for you to know as much as possible about the topics which make up your areas of responsibility. You need to be informed and aware of the latest developments within the field of fire department operations. In order to accomplish this, you must develop a database which has the classic fire department operational components. You need to develop credibility among those with whom you labor.

Another concept which is not widely involved among many in our younger generation is that of paying your dues. No one ever starts at the top (unless they happen to be the bosses' son, and the boss is a dumb-ass). You need to leave your job, do your job, and build an ever-growing reservoir of knowledge and experience as to how to do your job. In addition, you must build a reputation based up a rational approach to doing your job. No one likes to be lead by a crazed, wild-eyed, hophead of boss.