21st Birthday of sorts

Turning 21..again!

21 st Birthday… I wish, times that by two and you would be closer to the truth… but today is a 21st Birthday of sorts.

If I’m not turning 21 then whats up?

Today is 21 years since I joined the Fire Brigade…

What 21 years in the same job?

There are not too many “jobs” in which someone spends 21 years (or lot more) in these days. But this needs to be looked at in context, and the Fire Brigade has been far more than just a “job”.

I may have been in the Fire Brigade for 21 years, but I have had a number of “careers” already within this time.

I have spent time operationally on the fire-trucks doing the stuff you see firefighters do in the media and loved every minute of it.

I have spent time in Corporate Strategy and project management, I have spent (a short time) in training. I have done specialisations like Rescue and Hazardous Materials. I have spent time in additional roles like being a member of our Critical Incident Support team.

I have also been fortunate to have progressed  in rank to where I am today, an Inspector (for those looking for an equivalency in rank terms, think Major in the Army).

I gained an education… in more ways than one.

I gained a valuable vocational education, but beyond that I have earned three post-graduate degrees and picked up plenty of “life lessons” along the way.

Twenty one years has provided many great examples of leadership (as well as a few how not to lessons on leadership).

I have been shown the true nature of “the firefighter family” when my own families circumstances have been dire [see how did I get here].

Lessons learned

I have learned how fragile human life is.

I have learned how strong the human body can be, despite what people and circumstances can do to it.

I have learned how indestructible the human spirit is, or can be.

I have learned that there is always someone willing to help (including when you find it hard to ask for help), and some one willing to watch your back, and how to reciprocate such loyalty and friendship.

I have learned that there is strength in unity.

I have learned the truth behind a quote that I have never been able to re-find the source for……“Bravery is a single act usually over in minutes, true courage is putting on the uniform every day knowing what it is you might be called upon to do”, and I thank my fellow firefighters and members of other emergency services for putting on the uniform and showing up every day to make our communities safer for everyone.

I have learned….. that I have never finished learning….. and that….

21 does feel like a beginning again..

Just like a real 21st birthday, today is full of hope. I potentially have a long time and a lot more to achieve in this “fire brigade” life, just like when I was turning 21.

I hope the next 21 years (if it lasts that long) is as full of fun, friendship, learning and life that the last 21 has been.

How to be right – maybe



all rights reserved

All rights reserved

“being right is highly over-rated, even a stopped clock is right twice a day” – unknown

Remember the last time that you were involved in a “conversation” in which the person you were talking to just had to be right?

Or was that someone was talking to you and YOU just HAD to be RIGHT!

The quote at the start of this post makes an important point…….even a stopped clock is right twice a day…..but what value is a stopped clock to us in living our lives.

The stopped clock only serves to confuse us. Unless we have another time piece to measure it by,  we never know at which two points in the day the clock is actually right, and the sad part is that despite the clock being right for two minutes every day, it is wrong for 1338 minutes a day.

By anyone’s mathematics that is not a great ratio of rightness to wrongness.

The stopped clock does not help us to measure time or to know when to do things, in fact it does not help us do anything except collect some dust.

When we reserve all rights in our interactions with others we are acting like the stopped clock. We are stuck in a place / time /position. The problem with acting like a stopped clock is that we have no way of measuring at which point or points we are ACTUALLY RIGHT? 

Holding our place / time / position means it leads us be wrong for the other 1338 potential opportunities in the day. So being RIGHT for that proverbial two minutes represents a proverbial 1338 minutes of lost opportunity. It also means that we are adding NO value to the interaction, and the dust that we collect is that of lost friendships,  shrinking relationships and a heap of lost potential.

Do you want to be RIGHT, or would you rather have another 1338 opportunities to add value?

image by no3rdw

How to help yourself.

Help for others?

Every man must decide whether he will walk in the light of creative altruism or the darkness of destructive selfishness. This is the judgment. Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, What are you doing for others? – Martin Luther King Jr

What are you doing for others?

That my friends is a very powerful question, and I am asking this question of you because whether you like it or not YOU are a leader.

Sure you might not be the CEO of the fortune 500 company, you may not be the A list blogger, you might not hold a formal leadership position of any kind, but you ARE a leader.

What type of leader do you want to be?

A dictator? A benevolent dictator? Autocratic? Participative? Paternalistic?Free-rein?

Or would you rather be a servant leader…..

Servant leadership involves the skills of listening, empathy, healing, awareness, persuasion, conceptualisation, foresight, stewardship, growth and building community.

In whose interests?

When we are making decisions related to our family, our work, our team, our club etc and we need to ask ourselves this question “in whose interests am I making this decision?”

If the honest answer is mine… then it is not servant leadership, and the decision is more likely related to your own need for power, or possessions, or to prove a point of some sort.

If the honest answer is theirs only…then it is not servant leadership, servant leadership is not about being a slave…. and serving only the interests of those around you. That would make you a floor mat to be walked all over.

If the honest answer is OURS… then it is likely that it is servant leadership.

But…how do you DO servant leadership?

Servant leadership means having your eyes, ears, heart and mind open to those around you. It means looking at what their needs are, and what the needs of the family/workplace/team/club etc are and finding a way to fill those needs.

Servant leaders are systems thinkers who are looking at the bigger picture and all of its components and using that vision to grow others. Servant leaders are good communicators, who put people first.

Servant leaders lead in order to serve others, and place an emphasis on trust, empathy and the ethical use of power, not on efforts to increase their own power for their own sake.

The concept of servant leadership has been around since time began with references related to it attributed to Lao-Tzu in the 500’s BC, to Chanakya in the 4th century BC, to Jesus, and to many recent authors like Stephen Covey and others.

Someone, somewhere is watching you.

Think of the all the circles you operate in, your family, your work, your social network, your sporting or community clubs. Someone, somewhere is watching you for clue as to how they should behave.

Are you going to set a leadership example that demonstrates selfishness, or will you accept Martin Luther Kings challenge to walk in the light of creative altruism and set an example that leadership is really about how you serve others?

So to close with the opening question…..what are you doing for others?

How to be courageous


You remember the lion in the Wizard of Oz…… he was in search of courage, because he saw his fear as a weakness, he was timid, BUT he wanted to ROAR…..

The Lion had to go on a long and adventurous trip with Dorothy to meet the Wizard of Oz to ultimately find his courage.

When he meets the Wizard of Oz (depending on which book/movie version you remember) he is given a drink labeled courage, or a medal labeled courage that emboldens him.

I’m sure you don’t want to go on a trip with as many twists and turns as that legendary journey in order to find your courage (or heart, or whatever else it is you are looking for). So is there another way to find your courage?

What is courage?

Courage is defined as the state or quality of mind or spirit that enables one to face danger, fear or vicissitudes with self possession, confidence and resolution.

Did the Lion possess these things all along without knowing it? Of course he did. If you remember the story there are a lot of things that the Lion does long the way that show courage (even if he is inwardly fearful whilst doing them).

Far too often we see courage disguised in public discourse as bravery. It is spoken of  in terms of those (hopefully) once in a lifetime instances where someone has to face and overcome a life threatening event were someone is required to do something they did not think that they were capable of.

I remember a quote about this from a fire chief  (I can’t find the original source) that said:

“Bravery is a single act often over in seconds, courage is putting on the uniform every day knowing what you may be called upon to do”

Those moments of bravery are what people often mean when they talk about courage, but what  the lion, and most of us, do not understand is that

“Courage doesn’t always roar. Sometimes courage is the quiet voice at the end of the day saying “I will try again tomorrow” (Maryanne Radmacher)

What the Lion ultimately realised is that the courage that the Wizard of Oz gave him was only temporary, and that in reality he had the courage within him all along.

Like the Lion each of us has within us the courage to do what needs to be done (even if doing it scares the living hell out of us). Often it is an element of self doubt that prevents us from exercising our courage and stops us from trying again tomorrow.

So how do you be courageous?

I will let author and publisher William Feather tell you;

“here is the secret of inspiration: Tell yourself that thousands and tens of thousands of people, not very intelligent and certainly no more intelligent than the rest of us, have mastered problems as difficult as those that now baffle you”

and when it is put like that…… do you need to roar, or can you quietly whisper to yourself “I will try again tomorrow”?