Grow where you’re planted

Grow where you’re planted

My children love stories as much as I love being a firefighter. Since many of my nights are spent at the firehouse, I make sure that any night that I’m home I read them a story just before bed.

Now, there’s nothing particularly special about this customary nightly ritual other than the glow in my children’s eyes as I deliver the words in the best voices I can muster up. But recently, one of the stories really grabbed me. In fact, I couldn’t help but think about many of my fire service brothers and sisters when I later reflected on it. In short, it was about a boy who lived in the desert with his father and brothers, not far outside the capital of his country. As a young man, he was in charge of keeping the family livestock, and he did his job very well-so well, in fact, that his brothers became jealous of him, attacked him one day, and sold him as a servant to a high-ranking military commander in the city.

It was unimaginable, being forced into a different way of life. But, instead of feeling sorry for himself, he embraced his new role and quickly became highly favored by the commander and was named the head of the commander’s household.

Unfortunately, a few years later, the young man inadvertently found himself in the wrong place at the wrong time and was accused of a crime he didn’t commit. He was ultimately sentenced to prison; however, what might have seemed like the end for this man was actually just another opportunity to make the best of where he was.

It wasn’t long before he earned the favor of the warden and was put in charge of all the prisoners and the daily management of the prison. He became well-known for his intuition and ability to help other people. His reputation was so solid that one day he was brought before the king to help him with a dilemma he had been facing for weeks. None of the king’s officials were able to help him, but this man could. Because of his knowledge and willingness to serve the king, he was pardoned for his accused crime and appointed overseer of the entire kingdom. Only the king himself was held to a higher degree than this man. Through this man’s leadership and influence, the kingdom enjoyed some of its greatest years of growth and prosperity. He died an old man and was buried in a great tomb in the city to be remembered forever.

This sounds like nothing more than the synopsis of some epic bedtime tale. But there is a great lesson here. No matter what happened to this man, he made the best of where he was in life and excelled. No number of setbacks or disappointing circumstances allowed him to lose sight of his purpose. No matter where he was planted, he grew. He made the best of every situation and learned to thrive.

Ultimately, he modeled what each one of us in the fire service should do anytime we’re faced with a set of circumstances that seems to set us back. When we get reassigned to a different company, when we don’t get that promotion, when we don’t get the raise we want, when the department medical evaluation comes back with poor results-whatever we’re facing, we should remember the man in the story. Don’t have a bad attitude about being reassigned. Don’t gripe to everyone that you should have gotten the promotion. Congratulate the promoted member, who is part of your professional family. Figure out what you could have done better, and start working on it. Prove to yourself and to the department why you’re going to be the next promotion.

If you don’t like your company assignment, tough it out! Focus on your job; make the best use of your time. Study more. Clean some equipment that doesn’t get a lot of attention. Read something new and interesting about the fire service. Work on that degree you’ve been putting off. Become a true student of your profession. When things don’t go your way, go back and remind yourself why you joined the fire service in the first place. Besides, you won’t be working with the same people forever. If you give it enough time, you might find you actually like your new assignment.

If you didn’t get the raise you wanted, first consider that many of our fellow firefighters haven’t seen a raise in years! If your raise is performance-based, did you give your absolute best effort? Be honest with yourself. Can you do better? Can you perform at a higher level and improve your next performance evaluation? Instead of focusing on what everyone else makes or what you didn’t get, what can you do to make your next evaluation the best one yet? What are some things you can do to make yourself more valuable to the department and your coworkers?

If you don’t like the results from your medical evaluation, change them. Don’t blame the process. You might find out something vital about your health. More importantly, are you eating the right foods and fueling your body the proper way? Are you exercising regularly and taking advantage of the gym? Are you staying hydrated while on duty? Many departments even incorporate physical fitness training into the work day. Are you adequately using that time? Is it the department’s fault for setting the physical expectations too high, or are you choosing to underperform?

All of us can think back on times when we didn’t get what we wanted, even though we thought we deserved it. We can all remember times when things just weren’t working out for us and we didn’t understand why. The truth is, you are planted where you are for a reason. Embrace it. Circumstances will change. Your department will evolve. But whether or not you excel is largely up to you. The man in the story didn’t let his circumstances determine his outcome. He was forced into servitude, was wrongly accused, and became a prisoner. In every new circumstance, he found a way to excel and become the best in that area. Because of his willingness to embrace each new role, he was elevated to a position of power and influence over his kingdom in the prime of his life and left a lasting legacy. How might your professional career be different if you choose to grow where you’re planted?

Eric Pope
Mooresville (NC) Fire & Rescue

Appreciates technical content

I have been subscribing to Fire Engineering for many years. The February 2016 issue was one of your best. I subscribe because of the technical content. The articles on truck operations, the engineer’s role, and tactics were great. Keep the practical information coming.

John Wedge
Engine Co. 21
Sarasota County (FL) Fire Department


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