Treat People Right

By Mark vonAppen

If you subscribe to this blog, it’s no secret to you that I am a bit of a rogue at heart.  I am driven by passion,  I talk to myself,  I have a short fuze, I live for my family, and I live for the craft.  I have little tolerance for apathy. If my passions don’t receive much needed exercise I start to chew on things, dig holes in the yard, and get myself into hot water with those in positions of management. Note the use of management in the previous sentence rather than leadership.

As a rogue, you can feel ostracized and jaded for loving the job.  Maybe you’ve made enemies and burned bridges to light your way.  If you feel that your love is unreasonable and unrequited, it can lead you to do things that damage relationships and hurt your career.  

How do you avoid self-destructive behavior?  

The most important thing to do is own who you are.  You have to realize that your passion for the job is yours, and you have to accept it.  If you make a big mistake in a fit of passion you have to wear it, make it right, and then let it go.  Mistakes don’t define you, but how you choose to deal with them most certainly will.  I try to remind myself of the core values of FULLY INVOLVED when I get frustrated, one of which is treat people right.  

If you let your passion for the craft turn to anger, you will push away the very people you are trying to reach. Realize that nothing is forever and that not everyone shares the same motivations.  They are not you, and you are not them.  Owning who you are means being true to what you are, an ambassador of the craft.  Ambassadors of the craft care about their brothers and sisters.  They treat people right.  Anger is the poison in this whole process.  Remember that the next time you feel like lashing out at someone for not knowing or caring as much about something as you do.    

“Once you own your responsibility to strive to be the best that you can be, and help others to do the same, your unrest will subside.”

We spend entirely too much time chasing an ideal of what should be rather than focusing on what is.  That type of thinking always leads to disappointment.  Share what you love about the job, not how you think others should be.  Save the highest standards for you and you alone for that is what you control.  Gravitate towards those who exhibit similar DNA.  You can’t control others or make them shoulder your passions, but you can control how you share what you know and love about the job with everyone.  When your energy is positive it is bound to inspire someone in some small way. 

Nothing will ever be perfect and that is the frustration.  We set ourselves up for failure when we shove our desires down others throats.  When they don’t live up to what we want we are disappointed and thus, we are never happy as we constantly seek our definition of perfection in others.  It is an ideal state that they can never achieve because it doesn’t belong to them.  It exists only in our imagination.  Once you own your responsibility to strive to be the best that you can be, and help others to do the same, your unrest will subside.

There is freedom in letting go and there is a difference between letting go and quitting. Don’t quit, but you have to let go.  Mediocre people don’t like high achievers and high achievers don’t like mediocre people, but they have to find a way to coexist and perform at a high level.  Don’t lower your standards, but don’t judge those who don’t share your intrinsic motivations. Accept them for who they are and help them improve. Teach others in a positive manner at every opportunity.

Nothing in this world is permanent.  We are crazy if we think that it is.  The key is to appreciate people and things for what they are in the moment and make the most out of right now because everything before and after is just a story.  Talk to your brothers an sisters and explain the fire that burns inside of you.  If they truly are family, they will welcome their wayward brother or sister home, treat them right, and accept them for who they are.  

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  1. Mark, you hit the nail on the head. It is ok to have a difference in opinion as long as you respect each other. I does not mean you agree or that you would do the exact same thing in the exact same situation. It is a matter of knowledge combined with experience. Once we all realize that there might be other ways of accomplishing the same goals, it could be a much better work environment. The reason I know this is because I myself had to adjust in the leadership position I am in. Apparently others can be right as well……… Who would've known.

  2. Mark, great post. This is a situation that many training officers and fire instructors often face. I totally agree that we shouldn't expect everyone to live up to the drive and passion that we put on ourselves. Everyone is different, and it is not as much about which is better, but instead understanding each other and constantly looking for ways to work side by side. Everyone has things they excel at even if these skills may not be valuable in another persons eyes, we can't let these differences derail our progress. Just let it go, but don't let it make you quit!

  3. Mark, great post , I have been battling with this problem myself , very upset from day to day with the actions and lack of action of my brothers. I find myself so upset because not everyone seem to share my passion , but this has helped me to see things a different way thanks I will put it to good use a little more for my toolbox .

  4. This was a much needed read for me during a point in my career where the anger, disappointment, and expectations finally left me in a meltdown. I have since refocused on myself and my ever shrinking group of brothers who "get it" in our quest to improve ourselves and our department. Thank you Mark for showing us there are so many other that share our frustrations and providing motovation and encouragement to fall on when we lose sight of the mission. Great post!

  5. I have a haunting spot as well. I flash back every time I pass the bridge I waded under to pull a woman from her car and perform CPR on. Sadly, she did not live. I have made deals with myself to stop this ritual torture…to just drive by like I use to do 10 years ago. Alas, she is always there. I fear she always will be. I feel for you.

  6. Wow……seems I deal with this a lot. A gentleman in a leadership class a few years ago said, " you can't expect everyone in your organization to be on the same level." That caught my attention and I have tried to remind myself of that often, although it still seems to be a constant fight. I needed a fresh reminder of this. The anger only hurts and stifles us. Most of the time they don't even know…..Thanks brother

  7. God bless you sir. I am only trained thru work as a red cross trained 1st responder and have only used that training twice in real life. The most recent was last summer I drove upon a head on collision. The young guy that crossed the center line still had his phone in his hand when paramedics arrived. The mid 30 ' s Husband and father on his way to pick the family up to go to their boys ball game. I stood with him till paramedics came to take care of him. As he complained of burning in his hips. I wonder a few days a week how he is as I pass over the stains of car fluids on the road….This is minor compared to your visions but I know what you are saying. It's in you mind and you can't erase it. I pray God's peace and love over you. That's the only way I make it through this harsh world. Love and a hug……

  8. 40 years, here, up to my elbows in it. I've seen the smiles and the tears. I've gotten and given the hugs. I've tasted their dying breath, I won't be sharing your post, though. I am the insulation that gives them their blissful ignorance. I just tell them I'm really good at checkers and walk away, smiling to myself.

  9. Searching through the smoke of a structure fire. Finding 2 dead bodies, husband and wife. Stabbed to death. The murderer set fire to the house to try to cover it up.