9 Steps to Being an Improved Person and Manager

CarolinaFireJournal - By Ken Farmer
By Ken Farmer
01/10/2015 -

It’s that time of the year! We are starting a new year with fresh ideas and new ways to improve our lives. We all make those famous New Year’s Resolutions to lose weight, to love everyone more and to do the right things. We all know what happens in about three months — we give up on all those resolutions and fall back into the normal pace of life and forget all those new ideas. I truly understand! I have bought at least one or two exercise machines that seem to work well as a plant stand!

With this article, I wanted to give you some thoughts and ideas that may work for you in order to give you a new perspective on life and put you in a better frame of mind. Hopefully, this article will help you to deal with this ever-changing world. I can tell you, from my own experiences, of the ups and downs of life. I have started many a project with the best of intentions with high and lofty goals only to realize that the pace and demands of life, along with daily routines, have smashed my good ideas.

Life has a way of challenging you. We all face losses that change our perspective on life. It may be a job, a change in fortune, the loss of a special loved one or just things that did not work out as planned. These life stressors will put you flat on your back emotionally. They will cause one to question his or her personal worth and value. These stressors can drive some people into a very dark place in their life and may lead them to have thoughts about the value of their very existence. For others, it can become a dark cloud that they cannot shake. Holiday periods do that to me. I am the original “Bah Humbug,” as the Christmas season reminds me of better times and happiness that has long since been gone. The great news is that, for most people, all holidays are a time in their lives where family, fun and friendships shine. It is interesting to see the many ways people enjoy and celebrate life events. I am not a major user of Facebook, but it does give me a lot of insight into how many friends enjoy life and find those things that make them happy. That’s a big part of life. You must find some things that make you happy and get you to smile. Others can help us on that journey but we must make a conscious decision about what makes us happy and take some strong and positive actions to pull ourselves up by those proverbial bootstraps and get on with life.

We cannot let life take us down. Doing the “dirt face plant” solves nothing. We have all been there at some point. Instead of going down this path, I want to share nine different ways that might help you take a new view at life. They work for me. I don’t ask you to warmly embrace all nine! Try a few. Write some of your own. Remind yourself of what matters most and why. Choose the things that work for you!

1. Watch a TED talk at least once a month.

TED is a live program that features some really “out of the box” speakers on a wide range of topics. They have free online videos of all their speakers. The talks are usually less than 20 minutes long and are simply amazing. As they say on their site “TED is a nonprofit devoted to spreading ideas, usually in the form of short, powerful talks — 18 minutes or less. TED began in 1984 as a conference where technology, entertainment and design converged, and today covers almost all topics.” Look for their most viewed and trending talks. Two I recommend are by Mark Bezos, a volunteer firefighter, and Simon Sinek, author of “Start with Why.” The site is http://ted.com.

2. Find a mentor.

Do you have someone who is older and been down the same road you are on that you can just talk to about anything? This is not a person who is just a friend, but someone who will be your confidant. It may be a buddy, a relative, a business associate or anyone you can trust with your innermost thoughts. If you don’t have a mentor now, go find one immediately. I can speak from experience and say it will benefit you both.

3. Maintain your credibility at all times.

This is a very simple issue, but a very difficult one to maintain. When I get with one group, their ideas make perfect sense. But when I get with a different group I can begin to see their side of the coin as well. The main difference here is that you should remain in an information gathering cycle and not make up your mind or pick a side until you have the full picture of the issue. Don’t play your hand until you have all the facts. When you do play that hand, stick with your values and the facts. We all live in a world of opinions and issues. Your credibility should never be wasted and it should be something you value highly.

4. Ask why.

I just finishing reading the book, “Start with Why” by Simon Sinek. It gives a really good series of questions to ask about any situation. His first question is always “why”? Why should we do this? Why is this important? Why should anyone care? Why does your company exist? Sinek says, if you cannot clearly spell this out to others, you may not have a reason to do it in the first place. He believes that inspired leaders ALWAYS know the “why”! Read the book. It will give you a new perspective and a great starting question.

5. Stop making excuses for your mistakes.

Mistakes are human. I know as I make them often. Simply stop saying “I am sorry” and do your best to fix the issue. There are times, however, when it’s better to walk away and not fix the issue. The bottom line is to not be sorry for your actions in the first place. I know that I say I am sorry too much sometimes. I think we all need to work to a place that we take the right action the first time and not have to make excuses for our actions.

6. Remember you must first survive — for your sake and the sake of your family.

We all like to think we are invincible. We all think that no matter what, we will be here tomorrow. I work about 100 yards from the location of the National Fallen Firefighter Memorial and drive by it each day. Do you realize the United States loses a firefighter every three? The current count of line of duty deaths in the American Fire Service is near 90 per year. It’s getting lower, thank goodness. What it means to me is that our memorial flags are lowered to commemorate the line of duty death of a firefighter in our country every THREE DAYS! Don’t take undue or unnecessary risks. Don’t drive too fast. Don’t move too quickly during an incident. Don’t go running into any building until you are ready and have properly donned the proper personal protective equipment. Don’t go anywhere until you can safely assess and measure the risks of the situation. As the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation says; ”Everyone Goes Home!” If you don’t go home and survive, your family will pay a huge price.

7. Always have your business card with you.

You know how simple this is? You know how little you can spend and still look and act like a pro? You can purchase top of the line business cards for about $16 for 100 cards. You can make business cards using your computer for almost nothing! Regardless, your reputation and your name travel far using a simple low-tech card! Get some printed and ALWAYS carry them with you. It will make a lasting impression.

8. It’s your ship and it’s on your watch, so take responsibility.

Another book worth reading is called “It’s Your Ship,” and is was written by Navy Captain D. Michael Abrashoff about his command of the USS Benfold. The book was written in 2007 and he now has two other books published on the same theme. I think it’s a fitting book for the emergency services, as it relates to shift work and the unique aspects of living and working together as a cohesive work group.

9. “Use your personal values as a steering wheel and not a spare tire.” — Corrie Ten Boom

Cornelia “Corrie” Ten Boom was born in Amsterdam, the Netherlands, and died 15 April, 1892 in Placentia, California. She was a Dutch Christian who, along with her father and other family members, helped many Jews escape the Nazi Holocaust during World War II and was imprisoned for it. Her most famous book, “The Hiding Place,” describes the ordeal. She is noted for many quotes. I have taken the liberty to paraphrase the following quote from the book that I particularly I like. Regardless of the paraphrasing the point is the same and very simple! Don’t wait until you have a flat tire or a major breakdown to use your personal values! Use them every day to drive your life.

I hope at least one of these nine ways helps you to take a new view at life. Each one has meant something special to me in my life.

Ken Farmer is Section Chief, Leadership and Fire Risk Reduction at the National Fire Academy, United States Fire Administration in Maryland. Email him at [email protected].
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