Firefighter or t-shirt collector?

Are you “doin’ it?”

Nobody gives a shit that you’re tired, hungry, in a bad mood, just had a fight with your significant other or any other number of excuses. We are here to perform a job that requires our full effort regardless of any other bullshit. Can you imagine the swing of opinion in regards to firefighters that would occur if the public knew how self-centered, lazy, and indifferent many of us are? Is it possible to be too prepared for a job that can kill you? Absolutely not. We all want to be considered by others to be the guy who’s “doin’ it,” but I’m not sure that everyone actually follows that thought to its logical conclusion.

holistic: adjective ho·lis·tic \hō-ˈlis-tik\ : relating to or concerned with complete systems rather than with individual parts

If you asked the average firefighter if they want to be the best they possibly can be, the overwhelming majority would answer without hesitation, “Yes!” But how many guys out there do we see dropping the ball in one or more of the big disciplines? The fire service is without a doubt holistic. This is a concept that many Facebook warriors seem to conveniently overlook. We need to be aiming for proficiency in our skills, learning and studying, diet, and physical training disciplines. If you can’t be troubled to excel in all of those areas then let me throw this out there: you are not meeting the standard. If you are ok with not meeting the standard in one or more of these areas I would suggest taking your IAFF stickers off your truck, getting rid of your, “fight what you fear,” t-shirt, and refraining in the future from calling me your brother.

Consider the analogy of stairs when it comes to your disciplines. If you want to progress in your career it will only get harder and more intense. Once you take the next “step,” that becomes your new level of performance. Subsequent training and studying will only take you to higher and higher, be prepared for once you step onto this path the majority will be waiting for you to fall.

Burt Group

Going along with the analogy of stairs, holistic discipline, and no one giving a shit about your problems, prepare to be uncomfortable if you want to be someone who’s, “doin’ it.” You may have to sacrifice some coffee breaks, spend some free time reading, train after five, or maybe even train when it’s hot outside (since, you know we do occasionally work when it’s hot). You may even have to pass up the safety naps. You might even have to *gasp* watch…what…you…eat. Should you find yourself frequently choosing to do things that are more difficult than their alternatives you very well may be making the right decisions.

Another inconvenient truth about the fire service is that if you want to rise beyond the employee level you will have to spend some of your free time being involved with the fire service. I once heard a coworker at a career department proudly proclaim, “When I leave here I don’t think about fighting fire at all until I get back.” Bullshit. While it is possible to leave behind your garbage from work, I believe that if you truly are a firefighter, you will be just that no matter what time of the day you are asked. This same individual who made the above statement also has accused those who disagree with him in that area of ignoring other home responsibilities. Everyone has their own personal things that they enjoy spending time on, even when those things do not directly benefit our families or those around us. What I have seen in most successful people I know is the ability to slash and burn the time stealers that do not aid their goals. My captain gets his reading in while he poops. I often bypass my deep desire to nap with my 2 year old and 2 month old so that I can get my own reading in.

Burt OMF


Mastering all of the disciplines that come with being a real, “firefighter,” takes time and effort–like, a lot of it. Seek out fire service mentors, surround yourselves with people who are better than you, always be introspective, don’t ever stop learning, and don’t forget your oath or who you serve. I was once told by a great firefighter that you don’t want to be known as a good guy, in this job that’s an insult. Be known for being a great firefighter, when I am done with this I want to be known as a great firefighter not as a great guy who collected t-shirts!

Strive to be a person who is “doin’ it.”


Guest Correspondent

Firefighter Burt Roberts

One comment

  1. Excellent point. It is so easy to become complacent in any job and find reasons why moving to the next level is unimportant (promotion or skill set), the difference is this job there are dire consequences. You do realize you have inadvertently created the next t-shirt… DOIN IT. Stay safe.

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