Dismiss the Gloom Merchants

Aug. 8, 2006
Home is the traveler, home from the road. After several weeks on the highways and byways of America I am back home and attempting to get into some form of work mode. Heaven knows there is a lot of work waiting for me.

Home is the traveler, home from the road. After several weeks on the highways and byways of America I am back home and attempting to get into some form of work mode. Heaven knows there is a lot of work waiting for me. However, I return to my desk enthused and ready to roll. I owe this renewed attitude to the many people who have expressed their support for my writing and my love and support for the fire service.

However there are those who would disagree with my love and optimism for the future of the fire service. I am afraid there are far too many people in our midst who wish to claim the grumbling rights on every aspect of our fire service operations. These are the folks I have come to call the "gloom merchants."

These are the folks who never seem happy about anything. They complain about the heat and the sun on sunny days. Then they turn around and complain about the dampness and dreariness of those cloudy days when the Lord nourished our fertile soil. Life is never beautiful for these boorish boobs.

Do you realize that there is even a nursery rhyme that describes the method of operating for these doom and gloom salesmen? Surely you have read the story of "Chicken Little" who ran around yelling that the sky was falling. It isn't totally my idea my friends. What I am suggesting is that you need to adjust your perspective to understand that life does not always go your way. It is like football. There are all sorts of wins, ties, and losses in life.

Perhaps I have identified one of the problems that is affecting some of you. Many among you have never been challenged. You have been spoon-fed success and treated like kings and queens by your parents. Your egos have been nurtured and your expectations have been set inordinately high. You moan and groan that if only life was more responsive to your desires it would be so much nicer. Bull! Get over it.

My late mother-in-law, Margaret Miller, had a saving that covers this sort of scenario. When I would wish for something she could be heard to say, "if wishes were horses, beggars would ride." It took me a lot of years to understand what she was saying. Wishing for something in the absence of acting on that wish is an empty endeavor. You must take steps to make things happen.

Oh that this were the case. If only you could wish problems away, many of my friends and me would be one heck of a lot thinner. Since this is not possible, I have adopted a unique perspective to help me deal with the dimensions of my volumetric dysfunction issues. I now realize that it is not that I am overweight it is just that I am a bit too short for my weight.

If only I was 7'1" tall, I would be just right. Yes that is the ticket my friends. Lie to yourself. Create an empire within your mind where you are Prince Charming and the world is yours for the asking. But think about this for a moment. Hiding from the truth is useless. No, it is not the same as attacking it head on. That is what I am suggesting that you do.

Life Stinks was a Mel Brooks movie that brought home the fact that there are many layers to life that are far worse than the reality of your daily existence. As bad as you think you have it, others have it far worse. My friends I am sick and tired of hearing of the nonsense about how bad life is being spewed out by the "gloom and doom merchants" that populate far too many parts of our fire service.

During the course of my recent road trip I met a great many people who are laboring against intense odds every day of the week. They are delivering fire protection to their communities under circumstances that I would generously call quite difficult indeed. Yet on they battle, attacking each challenge as it comes.

These dedicated folks would never think of quitting, and neither would I my friends. Many folks that I met were operating vehicles that would have been on the scrap heap in any area of my home state. However, since that was all they had, they just kept soldiering on.

I can even recall one chief in Alabama who mentioned to me that their FIRE Act funded pumper was the first new vehicle ever seen in his county. Yet this man, and his associates, keeping pushing forward to protect their communities. These dedicated people just take each new problem as a challenge and move on to the next day and the next. Oh they may grumble, but they don't crumble.

It would be my suggestion that you do not allow yourself to become bogged down in this world of crying and complaining. This action leads nowhere. You need to spin your complaining around and make it into a positive force. As a buddy of mine has often said, when life hands you lemons, make some lemonade. Just be sure to use enough sugar and water to make the mixture right for your folks.

There is one major problem which usually arises from being a complainer. You are so busy bitching and moaning that you are unable to do anything of a positive nature. You are so busy living inside of the cloud of funk you create that this in turn makes you a part of the problem. I know this because there have been times when I succumbed to the lure of the "gloom merchant".

Many have been the times when I fell into a funk and was unable to be a positive player for my team. Having your brain lock up is a serious problem. In my case I have suffered through periods of time when I suffered from what is generally known as "writer's block."

Let me tell you this. When a writer loses the ability to be creative, they might as well go out and get a job at a car wash. The same thing holds true for every member of an organization. We all have roles to play and if we suddenly find ourselves unable to think, our ability to function is greatly diminished. It is at this point that we become mere ciphers.

If you are unable to think you run the risk of doing something stupid. In our business that can have fatal consequences. The exact same thing happens when a person falls under the spell of a nay-saying "gloom merchant". They are so busy agreeing with them that you miss small opportunities to turn things around which pop up from time to time.

In the midst of the other person's negativity why not try being positive. While you run the risk of getting into disputes, you also may have the opportunity to turn things around. At the very least you will confuse the living daylights out of them with your cheery outlook. Many of life's great successes have come as a result of serious failures.

Think about the Lisa computer developed by Apple. It was supposed to be the next great leap forward when it was developed in the early 1980's. It worked very well unfortunately it was so expensive that many organizations could not justify the leap into such new technology.

Did this stop the company from moving forward? Not in the least. It led to the development of the Macintosh family of computers that became extremely successful. The development team kept forging forward and the result is, as they say, history. There was a case where a "doom and gloom" merchant could have halted a project that became an outstanding success.

I have often stimulated productive discussions by playing the role of the idea monger. There are times when a person simply has to keep spouting ideas. That is what I try to do. Some of my dumbest ideas have turned into great things when massaged by a group of productive listeners and thinkers.

That is one of the aspects of brainstorming that is frequently overlooked. Just because something initially seems dumb, do not dismiss it. That dumb idea many not be all bad. If properly recorded and used, it has the potential to serve as a jumping off point for some really productive idea. Then you can sit back and know in your heart that you played a part in the success which occurs.

Let me offer you a bit of advice. Do not grumble: plan. Do not let the winds of change blow you about like a leaf in the midst of the autumn gales. When you feel like grumbling about the hand that life has dealt you stop and take stock of your options.

What are your strengths and talents? What are your weaknesses? I am suggesting that honesty is the only way to deal with this. Once you have done this I would urge you to work from your strengths and downplay your weaknesses. Better yet I would urge you to find someone whose strengths play well against your weaknesses.

This is why my buddy Jack Peltier and I get along so well and work so perfectly together. I am the big-picture idea guy. Jack is the nuts and bolts common sense guy. Let me give you an example of how this works.

If you were to hand me a base ball I would probably tell you what a nice ball it was. On the other hand, if you hand that same ball to Jack, he would look at it, count the stitches, assess the condition of the horse hide, inspect it to see if it was damaged, and then check to see if it has been smeared with the proper sort of mud from the right part of our nation.

Where I am weak he is strong. That is why we are a good consulting team. On our recent road trip, I provided the words and Jack took the pictures and provided hands-on advice to the many people we met. I would create the screwy ideas and then Jack would tether me in and return me to the land of reality. What you read on my blog was the product of the Jack and Harry team.

What I am saying here is that you need to view life in a productive way. Do not make mountains out of life's molehills. Oh, I am not saying you should ignore the molehills, just accord them the appropriate amount of concern. Do not lavish the full problem-solving method on life's trivial issues.

If you need help, ask for help. Suffering in silence is never a good idea. You can build some terrible issues within the concaved confines of your cranium. Reach out for help and deal with issues in a realistic manner.

Lastly do not demand things from other people if you are unwilling to bring something to the table yourself. No one likes a complainer. Worse yet is the complainer who wants someone else to take care of their problems. That is why I dislike "doom and gloom merchants" as a group.

I actually believe that these depressing mopes expect someone else to step forward and handle their gripes for them. This is not how it works in life. Each of us has to take the responsibility for our own actions. Just remember that the only actions you can control are your own. So if you want to be happy and enjoy life, go for it.

This is how you can dismiss the gloom and doom merchants in your world. Tell them to lighten up. Life is good. Step out from the darkness of their cloud of doom and enjoy the bright sunlight that life has to offer.

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