I was recently granted the opportunity to help instruct a forcible entry class for the new recruits at our fire academy. After a long eight hour day of teaching hands-on skills and answering questions, I was picking up equipment when I was presented with the hardest question of the day from a student. One of the new guys approached me and asked, “What does it take to be successful?” At first, I was flattered, I must have laid it on thick and sounded like I knew what I was saying if he is asking ME this question. As I was composing a reply that was just short of genius, it hit me; I didn’t have an answer.
See, it wasn’t that long ago I was walking out of the interview with the Chief of the department I now work for thinking, “Man, if I could just get my foot in the door and get hired, I would have it all.” At that time, just getting a job was the true definition of success. A few short months later, I was in the thick of my academy. Late night studying and trying to perform at my best physical condition, day-in and day-out. My thoughts were the same, “Boy, if I make it through this, I’ve done it.” This led into a year of probation, which seemed like an eternity, and yes, I again thought if I can make it through, I’ll be successful.
See, in our ever changing job, success is such a hard thing to label. It is a mark that often changes, even sometimes daily. Each person sets their own bar for what success is and only they know when they achieve it. Throughout my short career, my goals have changed drastically, and I have yet to figure out what I actually consider success. At times, success is looking ahead to try move to the next level in the department and promote. That being said, I would have no problem being a firefighter my whole career and trying my hardest to perfect the trade. That to me is equally successful. I think after every call that doesn’t go well, or if I make a mistake that I can prevent from happening again; that is success.
I’m not sure as of today what I must do in my career to be successful. In terms of actions, I think that’s something we must all figure out for ourselves. I will say, that when you go home at the end of every shift, you will make it to retirement and even enjoy a healthy life after your career. That is successful in every sense of the word. Take care of yourself, and give 100% every day to put on the uniform and you will have a successful career no matter what you think success is.
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