I think it does us good to be a little of everything. One of the best parts of the fire and emergency services is that although it is the same job each day, for the most part, the challenges presented to us each day differ. Conversely, one of the problems with fire and emergency service is that we enjoy it so much, we are reluctant to leave that part of our world behind from time to time and appreciate other aspects of our lives.
Months ago a plane landed on the beach near my house, striking a jogger and killing him. In terms of emergencies, this is a pretty big deal in our code-enforced, fire-protected community. It is within a short walk from my front door. Yet I had no desire to go see the scene, to go join in the bands of gawkers, or to show my relative importance by going down there in a uniform and stepping authoritatively through the fire line tape. I’ve seen a plane crash before; I have the t-shirt.
Unless I am compelled to do so for official business, or intend to engage in a learning session in which I can take away lessons from the event, I’d just as soon avoid hanging around to look at the carnage of someone else’s bad day. However, in the fire service, we have among us a considerable number who have bought into the whacker lifestyle wholesale. They are the thrill-seekers, or the egomaniacs, or the wannabes, people who aren’t motivated by helping others, but for the “glory” and the adrenaline. One of the complaints I have against that mentality is that it seems to lend credibility to the theory that some of these people are suffering from low self-esteem and they lean on the title of “firefighter” like a crutch. There is a certain thrill in responding, everyone is looking at you, everyone is happy to see you.
The biggest problem with that is that we just don’t run that many calls that are that thrilling. This isn’t Emergency, where each new episode brings an exploding chemical plant or someone dangling from a crane. We don’t run two or three workers in a day; chances are that if you do, there won’t be much fuel load left in your jurisdiction before long anyway so you’ll be back to not running calls again shortly. So in real life, where most of our calls actually involve solving a relatively mundane problem and interacting with a customer, and the people who work for you aren’t motivated by helping others, conflict arises. When frustration sets in, the result can follow one of a number of courses.
The mature find alternative methods to focus their energy. On the other side of the spectrum, along come the individuals with the emotional intelligence of a fourteen year old. Among other issues, these folks act out their aggressions not so constructively, by engaging in destructive behavior. I’m pretty sure all of us can describe this kind of behavior, ranging from burglary, to arson, and other things. Just read Dave Statter or Bill Schumm’s blogs for the reports if you doubt that. Somewhere in just left of the middle of this range there are those who develop behavior that is not destructive in the physical sense, but doesn’t help them any; the constant devotion to one issue to the exclusion of all else.
Everything is good in moderation, and even the good things in life can become bad if we do them all the time. Spread the time out a little and smell the roses. Take some time for yourself. Sharpen the saw. But don’t think that focusing exclusively on any subject is going to bring you happiness, and if you keep at it, it could also burn you out. Stay safe and keep a healthy mental attitude.
Also on Firehouse Zen …
- Leadership That Matters, Part 10: In Someone Else’s Shoes – May 8, 2012
- Reminding You of Why We Are Here – April 15, 2013
- The Measuring Contest – April 22, 2013
- There’s A Secret To Success – January 26, 2012