Stay with it My Friends

Life teaches a great many lessons to those who will pay attention. There was a time when I felt that good things should happen to me just because I was a good guy. My parents taught me to do the right things; to be honest and hardworking. Guess what? Things did not always go my way. It seemed to me that a lot of folks who were not raised like I was were getting all of the good breaks. Do not get me wrong. I had my share of success, but it bothered me that others who did not seem to work as hard as I did often came in ahead of me.

Thankfully I was raised before today's 'touchy-feely' philosophy, which tells us that 'everybody wins, all are treated fairly and equally, and everybody gets a trophy', was developed. I think that this philosophy has had a great deal to do with the problems we are facing in society today.

Face it my friends. The reality of life is quite different. Let me suggest that once you hit the cold, cruel world you quickly learn that not everybody wins and not everyone succeeds. Attending my high school class reunions for the past 40-some years has proven that old statement to be true indeed. Other discoveries which may be made are that honesty may not always be the best policy and that might makes right.

The old philosophy, at least as I recall it today, was really a lot easier to understand. It went something like this: "You win some and you lose some." They key lesson which came from my parents was that you didn't give up in the face of failure. It took a great many years for my dad to be promoted to Colonel is the U.S. Army Reserve. I learned this after taking well over a decade to ascend to the rank of Battalion Chief. I guess that another way of describing this philosophy would be to use the poker phrase of 'doubling down' when the opportunity presents itself.

Many folks will tell you that education is the key to success. I have had my share of education and I want to let you know that this is not the whole story. Many have been the people with a great deal of education who lost out to some hard working, innovative, and persistent individual. Many of the classic success stories in history involve people who just did not give up when faced with adversity.

In a recent church sermon, Pastor Brown spoke of the many afflictions faced by Job in the Old Testament. As I listened to all of the bad things which happened to Job, I began to understand the foundation of that old philosophical statement which speaks of, "…the patience of Job." No matter what curve balls he faced, Job knew what he believed in and stayed the course. Let me suggest that there is a real lesson here.

Think about the successful fire departments you have seen. Why do they achieve success that others never see and seemingly maintain it year after year? What things did they do that others did not?  Let me suggest that they have worked to master the details and then continually and consistently worked to improve their skills and abilities. 

Did they always succeed? No. Did they always win? No. But they kept learned to keep their eyes on the prize. They developed a vision of where they wanted to go. They set goals and worked toward them. They developed a set of objectives and then worked to perform the tasks which moved them toward the achievement of their goals. When they faced a setback, they stepped back, assessed the problem, discovered the cause of the problem and then worked to create a solution which got them back on the right road.

This is not brain surgery my friends. It is the actual, practical use of what some people call common sense. Sadly, common sense is no where near as common as many people would have you think. To me common sense means asking simple and direct questions and then being able to work your way through the BS that some people will provide as the answers to the questions you have asked. 

It has been my good fortune to have been accused of having common sense. My wife loves to hear this statement because she knows the real at-home me. However, I go back to my statement about asking questions to gain a situational understanding of what is going on around me. My late buddy Jack Peltier of Marlborough, MA, taught me about this skill. He was the master of the simple, direct question. His questions taught me a great deal over the years. 

Let me assure you that you will need to develop patience to deal with the circumstances which surround the delivery of fire protection in this the 21 Century. In this era of diminishing resources, you need to step up your efforts to operate in a reasonable manner. Reasonable means, to me, that you must understand that your team will not always win.

However, they are still your team and you will do all you can to support them and their efforts. My pastor is a New York Mets fan and serves as a living, breathing exemplar of this philosophy. He takes a lot of flak from the New York Yankees fan who are quite abundant in our area of New Jersey, but he is consistent in his support of the gang from Queens, NY. 

That is the point of this visit with you. Success is a goal and you must understand that a great deal of hard work, sweat, and tears lie between you and the goals which you hope to achieve. Worse yet are the people who have taken it upon themselves to see that you never get to enjoy the organizational success that you seek. These are the organizational roadblocks that can create real havoc. 

I have never been able to explain why some people choose to place themselves at cross purposes with the very organizations they have chosen to serve. So not only must you work hard but you must outwork and outthink those who are working at cross purposes to you. This is a particularly tough thing to do. It is an area where perseverance and patience are most necessary indeed. 

My friends, there is no guarantee of success in this world. Like my dear, departed Dad used to say, "…you win some and you lose some." But I can guarantee you one thing. If you fail to keep trying, when others about you are surrendering to the pressure, you will fail. Let me assure you that I am not a fan of failure. 

In our line of work, failure has some extremely serious consequences. Let me suggest that the conclusion to this visit with you was set down a long time ago. The statement which follows is simple, but quite direct. If at first you don't succeed, try, try again. Please consider adopting this as part of your personal and organizational toolbox. You will do better.