We are at the beginning of yet another new year. Was it not just Jan. 3 1, 2011? As I grow older, I begin to see the wisdom imparted to me by a senior buddy years ago. He told me that in many ways life is like a roll of toilet paper. He told me that the closer you came to the end, the faster it always seemed to roll. If it is going this fast now, I shudder to think that lies ahead as I move toward signing up for Medicare in April.
I have often heard it said that the Global Positioning System (GPS) device is one of the greatest of all modern inventions. This little tool allows you to navigate the streets of an unknown area with a certain degree of confidence and security. It allows you to find your way through strange and challenging new places. It has been lauded as a tremendous tool.
However, I want to suggest to you that an increasing reliance on the direction and guidance provided by the GPS has caused some of the skills which allowed us to succeed in the past to deteriorate, atrophy and die off. What I am suggesting to you is that we have eliminated a lot of the thinking which we once used during our travels and replaced it with just doing what the GPS tells us we should do.
Are we still teaching people how to read a map? Are we teaching our folks how to navigate through the crowds streets of our response districts? Are we asking our people to go out and actually learn the street network in their response district? In many cases, I think not.
Rather than thinking for ourselves, we are merely obeying the commands of an inanimate object. Just look at the number of negative situations which have arisen from trying to do what the GPS tells us to do. Wrong turns down one-way streets and u-turns in busy intersections are two of these missteps which come into my mind's eye.
My friends, it is my hope that the Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, and the military forces of our great nation are still teaching people how to read a map and use a compass. But Harry, you might suggest, they do not need those skills because they have GPS at their disposal. The same holds true for the military forces of our nation. How much of what our war-fighters do is governed by the screen on their GPS?
My friends GPS is an electronic tool. It is subject to malfunctions and power failures. What do our people do if the tool fails and they are left to their own devices? It is really simple. Somebody has to pull out the map and the compass and then lay out a course for success in mission accomplishment.
It is my strong suggestion that we all need to maintain certain thought-based skills in the face of a rush to replace thinking with tools, toys, and machines. There are certain timeless attributes which you must possess, maintain, and enhance. Whether it is map reading, the rote learning of the streets in our response district, or the core moral values which guide us as ethical people, we need to work at maintaining these skills. These are the elements of what I have come to call the personal "Moral Compass" which each of us needs if we are to succeed in this life.
This holds especially true for each you when it comes to taking care of the folks entrusted to you by your fire department. What I am suggesting to you is that you need to understand that you have a moral compass at the heart of who you are as a person. As you move through life on your leadership journey, you will need to review it, maintain it, use it, and enhance it. Let me also suggest that you occasionally have the need to reset it.
Even the best of can stray from the centerline of the right road. We take shortcuts. We take personal journeys of convenience. Or it might be that we actually do stupid things. Heck each of us is human and you know what the philosophers have said about that. I like to use the phrase, ".to err is human." It sets the right spirit for our journey through life.