To Get Ready For The Future,You Must Learn From The Past

One of the primary forces at work in the fire service today is the movement toward embracing change. We are all being asked to reveal what it is about us that prejudices us in favor of the status quo, what it is that causes us to fight change. This is...


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One of the primary forces at work in the fire service today is the movement toward embracing change. We are all being asked to reveal what it is about us that prejudices us in favor of the status quo, what it is that causes us to fight change.

This is an extremely serious matter. Unless we can change to meet the new imperatives of the future, we will be condemned to repeat the mistakes of the past. In many cases we have been boxed into some terrible positions by our defense of the past.

Before we can evolve organizationally, we must come to know who we are as individuals. By knowing ourselves, we can then begin to take the steps necessary to assume control of our own destiny. And when we are comfortable with our personal fortunes, we can move on to assess the future success of the organizations we populate.

I have spent a lot of years working in a wide range of fire service-related ventures. My background also includes a number of years spent working to institute improvements in a number of distinctly different environments, both military and fire service. All of these have afforded me the insight to postulate the following gems of wisdom:

Change can be convenient. Change can be commendable. Change can be good. Change can be bad. Change can be necessary. Change will occur, whether we want it or not.

Having said these things about change, let me now state that there are some things I hope will never change, for you see, their loss would diminish us, both as a society and as a fire service. In this Command Post, I will ask you to accept the six statements listed above. They are of such manifest simplicity that they are not really open to challenge.

However, it is the seventh statement, in the paragraph that followed, that I want to offer to you today. There are certain attributes, traits and beliefs which are so basic to our society that we refashion them at our own peril.

Each and every one of us is an average person. None among us is truly spectacular. However, each of us has stepped forward to do a dirty and dangerous job: firefighting. The reasons for our choice are not important, for the virtue of the very act itself speaks volumes about us as individuals.

Firefighting is one of those special pursuits which only a certain few can follow. I would like to compare us to those people at the Alamo who stepped over the line to join Colonel Travis back in 1836. We have stepped forward to accept the challenge of protecting our communities. We have announced to the world that we will protect our friends and neighbors from the ravages of fire.

I want to motivate each of you to become the very best firefighter or officer that you possibly can be. We want to assure you that you must be well trained and properly prepared. These attributes will become increasingly vital as we approach the new century. Times are tough, money is short and expectations for you are growing.

But what will the future really demand of you? Will it be some high-tech, Buck Rogers approach to doing business? Or will it be more of the same, just piled higher and wider? Now for a bit of theory. It is my assertion that every tomorrow you will ever face is just one day away from a really comfortable today. Research into the past indicates that time is one long continuum. It is my contention that there were no distinct breaks or artificial junctures, except for those added later by historians. You know, like the Dark Ages or the Renaissance.

Do you honestly think that people tramped through the streets of Europe grumbling about what a "bummer" it was to be stuck in the Dark Ages? Or perhaps you have thought that people in Italy danced in the streets, happy with the knowledge that they were living during the Renaissance? I don't think so.

These people got up every morning. They ambled off to work. They returned home, ate supper and went to bed. It was only at a later date, perhaps in a dusty college study hall or library where someone studied those olden times, when to put things in order they labeled those periods for the ease of historical research.

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