Harry Carter's Basic Rules For Life: Volume I

Many times I wonder who taught me what I know today. I am happy with what I have learned, but dismayed that there is still so much that I need to learn. Like many of my fire service buddies, I believe life to be one continuous journey in pursuit of knowledge. I also believe that friends are important. Evidence to the contrary, I do not think that nice guys (and gals) have to finish last.

It is my belief that my lot in life involves sharing my core beliefs with you. I prefer to do it in a way that allows for my experience and that of my associates to shine forth. I have long believed that there should be some sort of mechanism for sharing the tacit knowledge that we gain through the living of life. Far too often these insightful little gems remain bottled up in the head of the person who thought them up.

I have grown old in the service waiting for someone else to start the ball of tacit knowledge transmission rolling in the world. Times up. Let me start a new trend in the world today. Let me share some thoughts on how one?s life should be lived.

Since none of us can divorce ourselves from our lives and our working careers, it is critical to make the knowledge we have gained through the living of life widely available. One of the things I have learned in this life is that there are no absolutes. Nothing and everything are meaningless concepts. No one and everyone are far too broad to be of any value.

However, there is a wide range of flexible guideposts that provide a sensible approach to handling life?s little dramas, comedies, and tragedies. It is my intention to create a list of rules to help you live your life. I can recall times in my life where I would encounter a situation where there seemed to be a lack of rules to govern the situation I was facing. I dearly wished that someone had created a list of rules for the roadblock I was facing.

Let me share some of my background in rule creation, just to let you know that I have a bit experience in this area. I am a parent. It has been my job over the past 24 years to attempt to create the boundaries wherein my children could grow as adults and enter the workforces as honest, upright, and productive people.

All of you who have children of your own know how hard this task is. As H. Jackson Brown, Jr. (1991) so succinctly stated, ??it is not the responsibility of parents to pave the road for their children, but to provide a road map.? I would like to report the results as so far so good. Some rules worked and some did not. New rules were created for unique situations. Old rules were modified or discarded as the circumstances warranted. So it will be with my rules for life.

I used this same approach in my text, Firefighting Principles and Practices - The Eight Step Method, from Fire Protection Publications. I created a series of firefighting rules. I called them:

  • Carter?s hoseline hints
  • Carter?s engine company hints
  • Carter?s truck company tips

In order to increase their impact and make them more easily recalled in a time of crisis, I kept them simple. My favorite is BIG FIRE = BIG WATER ? Little fire = little water. Another one of my favorites is be sure you have a source with enough water for your needs. Yet another that has great application in everyday life is, never pass a fire. Thoughts like that allow you to fix a simple, guiding operational principle in your mind. When the time comes, the right thought will pop right into your mind.

This is what I wish to do in this week?s commentary. I want to give you a simple list of rules for living a good and decent life. Like all credible researchers, I shall attempt to list the genesis of my thought whenever possible.

The first rule on my list is one of Biblical proportions that I have invoked on many, many occasions. It is the rule that has come to be known as the Golden Rule. The Book of Matthew lays it out far better than I ever could. ?Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets.?

We have come to accept the common, modern version of this foundation for life as reading ?do unto others as you would have others do unto you.? If you look at this rule from a modern management terms, I think you can see that there is a certain proactive aura in the phrasing of this rule. You are urged to make the first move, to do the first good. That is what I am urging you to do.

How many of us are guilty of waiting for the other person to make the first move? I know I have fallen victim to this tendency on more than one occasion. Heck, this all goes back to my days in the Boy Scouts when I was urged to do a good deed everyday. Let us all resolve to make rule number one a part of our daily lives.

My second rule involves the way in which you actually choose to live your life. Let me suggest that if you believe something within your heart, begin to live it in your life. Samuel Johnson wrote back in 1775, ??Sir, Hell is paved with good intentions.? Don?t just think about something, do it.

How many of you have meant to do this, or thought about doing that? I would urge you to remember that actions speak louder than words. Let people see that you believe in something by the living of that thing in your daily life. Be the example that causes the change in the behavior of others. People are watching you every day. Do not disappoint them.

Rule number three is fairly straightforward. Ignorance is not bliss! Things that you ignore do not go away. If a problem creeps into your life, devote the necessary time and talent to attacking that problem.

Remember that a problem never goes away just because you choose to ignore it. It just gets worse and worse. Here is an area where preemptive strikes are a good thing. Attack them problem, work toward a solution and then move on to the next part of your life. The area of dealing with problems offers me an opportunity to paraphrase one of my favorite firefighting tips in a way that might help you deal with life?s travails.

Rule four is also fairly straightforward; BIG PROBLEM-BIG SOLUTION::Little problem-little solution. Your response to a problem should match the magnitude of the problem. No need to roll out the big guns to decide where to eat lunch, who to get to unclog your toilet, or how many rolls of toilet paper to buy for your station. However, when it comes to such weighty issues as who gets a promotion, where should we build a new station, or how to handle a troublesome employee, you should roll out the big guns and attack the problem in an honest and open manner. No body likes a gutless boss.

Rule number five is a bit more difficult to get your arms around. I am recommending that you treat every one around you as a unique individual. This is a tough one my friends. It is so much easier to group people into categories and treat everyone in that category in the same way. Sadly, far too much of this goes on in the world today.

Your first differentiation usually breaks down into two basic categories: friends and foes. For some of you it breaks down by ethnic group, race, or physical characteristics. Speaking on behalf of overweight people everywhere, I want to tell of the damage that is done by saying that all fat people are dumb, lazy, or unproductive.

Each individual that you will ever encounter is a unique entity. Their entire set of life experiences is different from everyone else?s. Value the potential for each person?s contribution to your life and the life of your organization.

Rule number six is perhaps one of the hardest of all tasks to perform. Start with the truth, stay with the truth, and close with the truth. Man oh man is this one tough. No one is perfect, least of all me. I try to stay with the truth, but there will be those sins for which I will have to answer come Judgment Day. I try to live a life that has truth at its core, but I know when and where I have failed. The thought that keeps me going involves pondering how much worse of a person I would be if I did not try to work with the truth.

I would suggest that my rule number seven is one of the easiest and most pleasurable practices that you can indulge in every day. It is not illegal, nor is it immoral or fattening. Quite simply you should vow to say thank you a great deal more.

People cannot tell what you are thinking. There is no window into your brain that will allow your friends and coworkers to know how much you care for them. They will never know how much you appreciate their help if you fail to speak up. You must verbalize your feelings.

Try to start the day with a thank you, and close it in a similar fashion. In spite of the court rulings in our country, it is still permissible to thank God for all that is good around you. Thank you Lord for allowing me the privilege of having good and loyal friends like Bruce and Jack. See gang that is just how easy it is.

This week I have chosen seven of my personal beliefs to share with you. Learning is best done in reasonable, bite-sized portions. Take the time to review each of the seven rules for living a good life. Let me know what you think.

To all of you tough guys out there in the world, who quake in their boots at the thought of having to act nice, get with it my friends. The days of the barbarians who destroy everything in their organizational wake are numbered. Maybe it is time that the nice people join with the meek so that they can both inherit the earth.