Small Deeds Done Are Better Than Great Deeds Planned

Lately there have been a number of days spent by yours truly enjoying a pursuit that my children have come to call "chilling out".


Ken and I have been buddies for more than 20 years now. I first met him during a two-program series of courses I taught for the National Fire Academy at his fire station back in 1985. Over the years, which have seemed to have passed all too quickly, we have shared a variety of ideas, thoughts, and concepts about being with others and leading people. It has been my experience that Ken has always worked to put the needs of his people ahead of his own.

During our telephone conversation he shared a critical thought with me. He said that he believed he had accomplished all that he could in his department and felt that it was time to move on to a world filled with new challenges. He had worked hard to prepare his troops and felt confident that he left the department a better place than he found it. Knowing as much as I do about what a great department Lisle-Woodridge is, I suggested to him that he could rest well knowing that he had done a good thing.

According to Ken the key to his success involved living according to a philosophy he had developed during his rise through the ranks. He told me that it was important to stress that every person has their place in the world and that everyone has a calling. He worked to learn as much as he could about his team members and then he employed them in a manner that used their strengths and played against their weaknesses.

What a tremendous philosophy. It was Ken's thought that while you may not be Einstein, you could be considered a great success in being the person who kept Einstein's lab clean and running smoothly. Think of how much harder Einstein's work would have been had there not been people to keep his world neat and orderly.

As we chatted, Ken started me thinking. He and I agreed that success did not come from achieving great rank or acquiring great wealth. We agreed that the setting and achieving of goals that make a difference in our daily lives is the key.

Let me share a few words about a friend from my days with the Newark Fire Department that tells of life lived according to the tenets Ken's philosophy. Robert Langevin was a swift boat veteran of the war in Vietnam. He joined the Newark Fire Department in the same 1974 recruit class as my brother Bob.

Bob Langevin lived to be a Newark fireman. He never aspired to be an officer. I do not recall him ever sitting for a promotional examination. His goal was to become the best fireman on the job. He spent almost his entire career in one of the busiest companies in the city. He held a wealth of knowledge on a wide range of firefighting skills. As a matter of fact, had the city not eliminated the position of Chief's Aides, Bob Langevin would have been my aide.

He was the best truck company fireman with whom I ever worked. He possessed an instinctive ability to be at the right place at the right time, doing the right thing. Bob also shared what he learned with the new men as they came on the job. He was that type of informal leader that men followed naturally. On one occasion Bob even saved me from getting my butt kicked by preventing a fight.

He set his goal. He met his goal. Bob was a fireman's fireman. He left the Newark Fire Department a better place than he found it. Bob's life was the personification of Peter Marshall's prayer, and Ken Folisi's philosophy. Bob had a place, he did his job, he loved his job, and he was really good at it.

As was stated earlier, Marshall died before his final prayer was read. However, before he died, he asked another pastor to deliver his words for him. They were delivered and have worked their magic for quite some time now. Think of the effect that this one small deed has had. Here we are, more than 55 years after his death, learning from the legacy he left for us.

A great deal of my time here on Earth has been spent thinking about those things that I can do. While it might seem like I have done a lot, a great road still stretches out in front of me. There is so much that I want to do.

Many of the things that I would like to do are controlled by other people. Some of those folks share my thoughts and beliefs, while others do not. As you know, I have written many times about building bridges. I have also written about those people who take great job in tearing down the work of others.