The Fire Service Pyramid of Success Part 1

Fire station success has nothing to do with your arm patch, your fire chief, years of service, how many firefighters or fire stations your department has, or how many alarms your department responds to. Fire station success has everything to do with...


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Many personal and organizational quick-fix programs are developed without roots in reality. In other words, the creator never used the program to change, develop and improve an actual organization. There is no history of success to validate their philosophical package. Many of these consultants have never run an organization, let alone try to improve one.

Organizational and personal change do not happen by reading a book and later referring to a wallet-size card. Even Stephen Covey cannot boast that: "For 20 years, The Seven Habits helped me and my associates become the greatest company/team/school/group in history. I'm here to share the secrets of our success."

On the other hand, Wooden achieved unprecedented success with his program. He had a single altruistic and focused purpose: he wanted to provide his players with a roadmap for a full and productive life after basketball (success on the basketball court would be icing on the cake). The furthest thing from his mind was selling books and profiting from the Pyramid. His goal wasn't to retire and hit the road as a consultant promising organizational six-pack abs.

Because overwhelming evidence exists that prove the validity and reliability of Wooden's principles, the power of the Pyramid of Success transcends academic smoke and mirrors. His Pyramid worked for a decade before a Pyramid book was published and for decades before his principles hit the corporate lecture circuit. Because he believed the principles of the Pyramid should be shared freely, Wooden chose not to have the Pyramid of Success copyrighted.

Wooden didn't create the Pyramid of Success in a vacuum or in an ivory tower. Nor was the Pyramid of Success an overnight success. During the 14 years it took Wooden to develop the Pyramid, he was in the trenches testing his principles. Once Wooden's Pyramid was finished, it took another 15 years before he and the Bruins won the first of 10 NCAA national championships. Wooden summarizes this 29-year period with two words: faith and patience. Even today, decades later, Wooden's players will tell you that their personal and professional success is a direct result of Pyramid of Success principles. These players include Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Bill Walton, Sidney Wicks, Gail Goodrich, Walt Hazzard and many others.

Building the Pyramid Of Success

The Pyramid of Success is comprised of 15 blocks arranged in five levels. (To fit the fire service, I've taken the liberty of changing the top-level and final block of his original Pyramid.) Wooden believes that it is impossible to experience true, lasting success without having each block of each level firmly in place.

As with all structures that have endured the test of time, the Pyramid of Success is supported by a strong foundation. This foundation is comprised of five blocks. Two of the five blocks serve as foundation cornerstones and are crucial to the Pyramid's strength and stability: at one corner is Industriousness and at the other corner is Enthusiasm. Between the foundation cornerstones are Friendship and Cooperation. Positioned at the center of the foundation is the keystone: Loyalty. The second level is comprised of four blocks. These four blocks serve as the character level of the Pyramid: Self-Control, Alertness, Initiative and Intentness.

Level three is the preparation level and is comprised of three blocks: Skill, Condition and Team Spirit. Level four, the leadership level, is comprised of two blocks: Poise and Confidence. Wooden believes it is impossible to demonstrate true poise and confidence before the first three levels of the Pyramid are firmly in place.

At the top of Wooden's Pyramid of Success is "Competitive Greatness." At the top of the Fire Station Pyramid of Success is a single block: Professional Excellence. In the context of the fire service, the Fire Station Pyramid of Success is intended to establish a legacy of personal and professional excellence.

Peace of Mind

Wooden's definition of success is simple, yet profound. According to Wooden, success is about peace of mind and self-satisfaction. This peace of mind is the direct result of knowing you made the effort to do the best of which you are capable. That is all Wooden asked of his players.