Move with a purpose. A phrase we’ve all heard and most have uttered at least a few times throughout our careers. Moving with a purpose does not mean rush or hurry or try to accomplish something quickly. It means to accomplish your task with intention, to get from point A to B with a defined, driving purpose. It means don’t waste time, utilize it. Moving with a purpose doesn’t keep you from tripping along the way, but it does allow you to learn more from those stumbles.

We must keep this perennial phrase in mind as we emerge from a year of uncertainty, abnormality, and stagnation and move into 2021. Move with a purpose, with pride—pride in yourself, your job, your station, your department—and with passion. Let 2021 be the year we stop complaining about things outside our spheres and start making the biggest positive impact we can, when we can and where we can. Let this be a year of progression and action. Aim to be proactive, no reactive. Leave everything better than you found it. Seek to bring together, not tear apart. Take responsibility, embrace accountability and urge others to do the same. Don’t worry if you stumble along the way, we all do. What matters isn’t the stumble, it’s the purpose driving the motion.

”Follow the energy. Work as hard as you can, with all the quality you can manage. Make an impact. Just don’t take things so seriously. Be free to make a few mistakes. Embrace the errors and take pride to admit when you’re wrong.” —Chris Moore

 

Failure. Defined by Merriam-Webster as: “lack of success,” and “falling short.” Most people fear failure. In fact, many fear failure so much they never even try. But this is misplaced fear. If you’re going to be successful at something—anything—you have to try. And to try generally means to fail at least once or twice before you get it right, before you succeed.

The amateur believes he must first overcome his fear [of failure]; then he can do his work. The professional knows that fear can never be overcome. He knows there is no such thing as a fearless warrior… — Steven Pressfield

Rather than fear failure, we must embrace it. Fear of failure shouldn’t stop you, it should motivate you. We must commit to experiencing failure on our terms: on the training ground instead of on a scene or in a classroom versus on an EMS call.

What we should fear, however, what should keep us up at night, is not failing but being stagnant—failing to progress. I’m not referring to progressing through ranks, but rather the idea of progressing as an individual. Failing to learn, to grow, to get better, to become more well-rounded.

“That is the horror. That is the nightmare. That is what you really need to be afraid of: Being stagnant.” — Jocko Willink

Call it what you will: complacency, comfort, contenment. It’s all the same thing: stagnation. We get to a point where we stop developing. We stop pushing ourselves, stop challenging our ideas and our limits. We think we know enough, we think we’ve done enough. We’re good, right here. This is comfortable. At its worst, this mindest could get someone killed. On a less dramatic level, it could lead to waking up one day and realizng you’ve wasted your life, that you’ve sold yourself short.

Embracing failure keeps you motivated to succeed. But a deep-seeded, gut-level aversion to stagnation will drive you to success beyond what you think is possible. If you’re going to be afraid of anything, be afraid of becoming complacent or too comfortable. Be afraid of being in a position where you realize you don’t know your job as well as you should. Let this fear motivate you to be better, to learn more, to train harder, and refine your knowledge as you prepare yourself and those around you to succeed. Push yourself, push your crews. Fight stagnation. This is how we get better, this is how we become more effective.

 

Note: This Post originally appeared on my other site (brandonsdouglas.com) which is currently out of service due to a poor decision in web hosting. As such, the links in the text to previous posts may not work.

I have been a creator in one form or another throughout my life, mostly in drawing and painting. About 10 years ago, I got serious with my artistic pursuits and even experienced some modest success in that realm. These pursuits culminated in 2016 with a gallery show with my friends and mentor Seth Haverkamp and Kat Haverkamp. While creating my paintings for the show, I realized I wasn’t enjoying it anymore. I had gone from a place of wanting to share my work to creating work to share. This is where a creative pursuit becomes a side hustle; the perceived value of the goals begins to outweigh the value of the process itself. Some people can do this successfully, I could not. I all but quit painting after that show was over. I was unable to just enjoy the process. Since then, I’ve only completed a handful of pieces. The same thing happened with this blog.

Exactly two years ago I uploaded my first post on this blog. A few months later, I posted my last. I started with intentions of sharing what I was learning but I quickly lost sight of those intrinsic reasons and focused on page counts and clicks. I started trying to turn out posts as quickly as I could to keep people interested and coming back. I wanted my work to get shared, I wanted to be known. I was writing for extrinsic rewards, not personal progress. I was writing to share, not sharing what I wrote. So I stopped.

Over the past eighteen months, I have gone through a lot of changes. Not the least of which was being promoted to battalion chief. That promotion initiated a big shift in how I think and that about which I think. I’ve become less focused on fire service-specific endeavors and have instead focused on pushing myself to grow as a person, knowing that becoming a better person overall will make me better not only in my role as a leader but as a father and a husband as well. During this season of change, I’ve all but disappeared from social media and haven’t shared much of anything. This is partially due to not fully trusting myself to do so; I’m afraid of getting into the same old bad habit loop. But then I read Show Your Work by Austin Kleon which pushes the value in sharing what you create but coming at it from a deeply personal place. He urges the reader to share as a means of holding yourself accountable, refining your knowledge, and contributing to your community. This is the idea of learning in public. If I’m going to post something on here, I better know about what I’m writing about.

Soon after that book, I stumbled upon Derek Sivers and his idea that you should try to “get famous” not as a means of personal gain but to be useful to others. He points out the opposite of sharing is hiding, “which is of no use to anyone.” Like most people, I want to be useful. Therefore, I should share what I’m learning and what I’m thinking, even if it seems obvious and ordinary.

So that’s the goal this time around: use this as means of sharing what I’m learning in hopes that I’ll learn and grow more while being of more use to others. I’m not here to make money or gain a following. I’m here for myself. If you enjoy it and get something from it, that’s simply a bonus. While my career in the fire service will certainly color that which I learn and write about, this will not just be about being a fire officer as that is but one facet of my life. Instead, I aim to document how everything in life feeds everything else; how seemingly unrelated ideas and concepts come together to stimulate growth and improvement. Hopefully, it’ll be of some use.